Musical Mailbag - November 23, 2013
Here's a recent exchange I had with a friend about getting the young ones off to a good musical start, with a side note about continuing musical education for mommies. Thought I'd share it with you, too!
Hello, Lisa! Hope you are well! Hoping for some free advice from a musician and awesome mommy. I played violin for 15 years. I love music and want my daughter to have a love and appreciation for it as well. I hate toy instruments--none sound or feel right to me! Can you recommend any real ones that are inexpensive and safe for a 9 month old's first Christmas? Also, how realistic is it to self-teach guitar? Am thinking about buying a cheap one and trying to teach myself. Is it realistic to think I can pick out a couple songs so I can jam with my baby? Or would I need lessons? Thanks so much—A Friend
Hope you are all doing well, too! Isn't Christmas a whole new level of fun with a baby? I'm so glad you asked about music things... We have a tenor ukulele that Zoe has enjoyed playing with for a long time. It's great because it wasn't so expensive that I hold my breath every time Z. bangs on it, and it has nylon strings so no pointy metal ends to poke tiny fingers. I like that it's a real instrument that we can play, too. There are chord cheat sheets and instructions online and on youtube.
I absolutely think you can have great success teaching yourself guitar, especially since you have a musical background. Maybe start with the uke and if you like it, go for a guitar. Try to find a good used one on craigslist (I found Chris an amazing Taylor for under $300 - usually they are $1000+). In my experience, cheap guitars are frustrating to play and tune and therefore won't get played!
We've had mixed luck with the toy instruments. We have the Melissa and Doug band in a box, which is nice but definitely feels like more toy than instrument. The simplest plastic egg shakers have had the most staying power so far. They can be shaken, thrown, chewed on and I believe they are too big to be a choking hazard.
I'm working on slowly building a collection of real instruments for Zoe to play with. We have a little kalimba ($30) that she likes to play with. It makes a lovely sound and is fun to hold. The tamborine has also gotten played with a lot. Next up for us is a small bongo drum (about $12). You are already giving Baby a great musical beginning just by enjoying music together. I'm sure you sing to her a ton and really that is plenty! Babies and young children can only concentrate on one element of music at a time, so anything beyond the voice is just extra. You'll also be setting such a wonderful example by continuing your own music education. Just wait til she's pulling up and moving to the beat! Zoe is now actually dancing, twirling, trying to jump and it is the cutest thing ever to me.
Yay for babies and music! I hope that this helps and that you have so so so much fun with all of it!