When it's time to teach my child (she's 4 months old right now) her ABCs and 123s, I'm interested in also teaching her the building blocks of music. Intervals, scales, triads, etc. My thinking is, in the same way that we can from sentences and do simple math without thinking about it, I want to give my child the gift of being able to form simple melodies and songs "without thinking about it". With this foundational knowledge, if she chooses to pursue music as a career or as a hobby or w/e, I feel that she'll have an easier time.

As an example, I was taught to read, write, and perform simple arithmetic in grade school. Ultimately, I prefered math over language arts or social sciences, and eventually went to school for engineering. I didn't reallt enjoy or appreciate my english and history classes all that much. Today, however, I find myself going to to read classic texts, as well as seeking a more detailed understanding of history. I am greatly appreciative that I, a) know how to read, and b) have a basic enough understanding or literature and history to know what to look for. With music, however, I've had to start from the ground up and I've found it difficult (despite my few years learning saxophone in middle school). To that end, i'd like to provide my daughter with the tools she'll need in order to appreciate and understand music, and ultimately create it (if she wishes). If she ends up not caring for music at all, I don't think she'll be any worse off with this knowledge.

My question is, what are some resources I can use for establishing an age-appropriate curriculum along these lines?

  • I've removed the last sentence from your question, as it was essentially a shopping request, and therefore off-topic.
    – user420
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 13:46
  • What language is MajminDim? What does it mean? Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 14:03
  • @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun I believe the Majmin refers to Major/Minor chords. I'm not sure about Dim, but I'm sure its something musical (I have no real education in music).
    – user420
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 14:13
  • 1
    Dim is Diminished
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 16:39
  • To further Matt's explanation, diminished is also a musical term but less common than major/minor. I'll hang in chat if you guys have more specific questions.
    – monsto
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 18:11

7 Answers 7


Take a look at Daniel Levitin's book This is your Brain on Music. It's a great read about how your brain processes and responds to music. There's a part of the brain that actually will activate and respond/mimics the dynamics of the music...If you were to graph the response, it would probably look like some of the music visualizations that you see out there.

I also think that hearing real music from real people instead of stereo/TVs etc. will engage your child even more and perhaps help with development of the brain to handle music better. This is me extending something that John Medina's writes about in Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. In the book he says that having parents speak to kids has a stronger affect on children's linguistic abilities than from hearing it on the radio/TV, etc. According to studies he cites, this also increases their IQs.

The gold standard is 2100 words per hour. The variety of the words spoken (nouns, verbs, and adjectives used, along with the length and complexity of phrases and sentences) is nearly as important as the number of words spoken...Remember, it takes a real live person to benefit your baby's brain, so get ready to exercise your vocal cords. Not the portable DVD player's not your television's surround-sound but your vocal cords.

All of this is to say that I think by just exposing your baby to a variety of music often sung/played by real people will help stimulate the brain and help it create neural connections for dealing with music. I also think what Meg says above is important too...to associate physicality with rhythm, etc. I think that it will help the performance aspect of music later...perhaps helping to develop rhythm for playing instruments, etc.

Remember, your baby's brain is like a sponge and am constantly absorbing and organizing information/stimulus from the world around her. :)

Here's to a musical world in our babies' lives.


I think first and foremost you should concentrate on exposing your child to a wide variety of music, and encouraging her to explore what types of musics she enjoys.

It's never too early to start with music.

Participation is more important than skill, by the way. Even if (like myself) you have little-to-no talent for singing, sing to, and with, your daughter. Make it fun. Turn music into a game. If you can make music a fun and enjoyable concept for your child, you've created the most essential foundation for an education in music.

For the next step, I'd suggest encouraging musical play until she's old enough to start learning an instrument. There are a wide variety of toddler-friendly musical instruments available. We have an assortment of instrument/toys for my son, including clackers, shakers, bells, tamborines, and a piano. If you're particularly patient, and have the resources available, encourage your toddler to play around with real instruments. Our son is 18 months old and loves banging on the keys of our real piano, in addition to the toy one we've provided him. Our nephew's three-year-old plays with his collection of guitars and a drum set.

Once she's old enough, consider actual music lessons. I believe most teachers want the children to be around 6 years old or older (at least for piano), but some may be convinced to take younger children. My wife was 4 when she started piano lessons (her mother begged the teacher, as their piano had no cover on the keys, and she was tired of listening to my wife bang on them constantly!).

I think being able to use an instrument to replicate music is an important foundation for learning the building blocks of music that you are referring to. Being able to convert the concepts to actual practical examples is a great way for most people to really grasp the concepts.


Encouraging your child musically is great! Since she's so young, now is a great time to help her understand such inherently basic concepts as rhythm and pitch. Clapping her hands in time to singing or music on the radio, clapping her feet together when you change her diaper (my kids LOVED this when they were little), or patting her back in rhythm when you're burping her or settling her down for the night are simple ways to introduce rhythm. Reading books with rhyming words frequently have their own natural rhythm to them because they're poetry. Let's be honest, you can teach her all the music theory in the world when she gets older, but if she lacks a natural sense of rhythm, she's not going to be a very successful musician.

Singing to your child simple tunes so that she learns about pitch, and singing the songs over and over again (my husband and I turned "Rubber Ducky" into a waltz because we got tired of singing it over and over and over again). As your daughter grows and learns these songs, she'll learn naturally about matching pitch (at least, vocally).

If she seems to be interested in music as she grows, then you can teach her about scales using The Sound of Music and the solfege syllables (do re me fa sol la ti do), teaching her about chords in general rather than triads specifically would be easier at a younger age as it would allow her to explore combining different keys to hear how they sound together (I'm thinking piano here, I don't know what you would do with, say, a guitar). Major/minor scales and diminished/augmented chords might be a bit over her head at age four, but if she's interested in music still at age six or seven she could certainly grasp the concept of a major versus a minor scale and probably recognize some chords if she has a firm knowledge of chords and scales in general.

I agree with the other posters who have said that finding a music teacher to take a child younger than probably 6 would be difficult, but some of that depends on the instrument. We have a friend who teaches piano who would probably take on my son now as a student and he's four, and I know when I took violin that my teacher had students who were probably 4 and 5. Sometimes a child is not physically developed enough to start an instrument at a young age (my son has decided recently he wants to play the trumpet...sigh...which he is not physically ready for).

But pushing her, or pushing her in the wrong direction, will only backfire. My mom desperately wanted me to play an instrument so I suffered through both piano and violin lessons. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy music, but I am a much more talented and accomplished vocalist than I am musician. My violin teacher was actually the first to recognize my vocal ability and encourage me to go in that direction.


It is never too early to start singing songs, including the ABCs to your child. In terms of letter recognition and the like, that will come naturally. Read books to your child, even at that early age, sing to them, play with them, enjoy them. More important at this age is a sense of well being and therefore interaction with you, if you choose to use academics as a way to bond more power to you. I used to read Anne of Green Gables (I love the book) to my kids while I was nursing. Did it effect them academically who knows but it gave me a sense of well being and kept me from being annoyed that I wasn't doing other things when they took longer then I wanted them to. This sense of calm quite time certainly effect them.


To answer the question, I think piano or vocal lessons when they reach an appropriate age (4-5) is not out of the question. I started my now 18 yo on piano lessons when he was 4.

However, that being said, I question the motivation of steering a child towards a goal of yours, as opposed to giving them the tools with which they can make their own decisions.

Good idea, teaching music early, but doing it in an attempt to shape the future of the child in a highly specific direction that you like (much like an arranged marriage) I believe is ill advised. True, it could become much more a labor of love, but if the individual has different interests, even as a child, it could be problematic at best.

My 18 yo took lessons for almost 4 years and hated it. At 18, he couldn't tell you jack about playing piano. These days he's into theatre with no penchant for music at all.

  • I agree with your sentiments that imposing one's own interests/desires on a child is ultimately detrimental. However, my aim is not to have my child be a musical savante where I wasn't. Rather, I want to provide her with a certain level of music 'literacy'. In the same way that we're expected to know how to read and perform basic arithmetic, I want to emphasize the equivalent of this for my daughter early in her life.
    – wesanyer
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 1:20

Excellent suggestions so far about exposure to music. In terms of specific resources, I learned piano using books published by Alfred Music. They divide the material into practice/lesson books, theory books, and recital books, each focusing on an important aspect of musical skill. These books (or any similar resources), in combination with a healthy exposure to a wide variety of music, is probably your best bet. These aren't tailored for 4-month-olds--recommended ages are provided, but you may be able to adjust these based on your child's interests and/or skills.

The fact that you're asking this question means you're thinking about the right things--providing your child with the right foundation. My opinion is that a good foundation in music relies on theory. I remember my first few years of piano lessons had a lot of theory. I much preferred the practicing and performance parts, but a wise mother encouraged me and I (somewhat grudgingly) endured the theory. However, I was still young when I started seeing the results of this pay off. My understanding, ability, and appreciation for music were all augmented (no pun) as a result of the time I had put in.

Of course, you have to balance this against @Beoffett's excellent suggestion that you make music fun. Focusing too much on the foundation (theory) and not enough on the payoff (casual play, performance, or listening) can quickly stifle a child's enthusiasm for music. And of course, it's always important to consider the child's interests when determining the correct balance.


By exposing your child to a range of rich musical experiences right from the start you increase the liklihood that your child will be interested in the language of music when the time comes.

The solfege method has already been mentioned (Sound of Music, do re mi . . .) and stick notation for rythm can both be introduced around the age of five pretty easily, but you can introduce rythm games and melody matching even before that as well.

This doesn't specifically address your question, but I would caution, If you become too concerned or formal about this too soon, you are likely to "push" an interest on your child instead of letting him/her explore his/her own interest. If it is truly important to you that your child learn to read music, I see no difference in that from feeling any other skill like ball handling or dancing is important for a child to learn. Make sure your child has some sort of choice in the matter (choice in instrument for example) and you are much more likely to have a child enthusiastic about the matter even into adolescence than if you make all the decisions.

You might also check out these similar questions: How do you determine when to start a child on music lessons without pressuring them?

How do you teach a toddler rhythm and melody?

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