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Book Review

Kids Make Music: Clapping & Tapping from Bach to Rock! By Avery Hart and Paul Mantell.

A Williamson Kids Can!® Book (Williamson Publishing,1993).

Ages 6-11

     If you want your kids to be musical, experts usually recommend that you create a musical environment for them - play recorded music, have instruments around for them to play, take them to concerts, and set an example by playing instruments yourself. When, with all that, my kids weren't showing much interest, I started looking for resources for parents on making a musical home. Guess what - I didn't find much of interest. There was the book about how to explain quarter notes and other notation to your children, and the book about how to help your kids get the most out of their music lessons. For kids, there were books about musical crafts - like how to make a plate with pretty pictures of instruments on it. I couldn't see how any of this would bring out their innate musicality.
     Kids Make Music is different. Written for kids who may not have started formal music study yet, the authors never let go of their message: "everyone's a music maker!" They bring this message across with the substance typical of books in the Kids Can! series.
     The first third of Kids Make Music gets kids using their own bodies to make music - with voice, clapping, and stomping - even while brushing their teeth. The fun, body-based activities bring out what the authors call the "magic three" parts of music - melody, beat, and feeling. Activities include making up a melody for your name, making up a rap, and repeatedly singing a song, with different feeling each time. How would "I've Been Working on the Railroad" sound if you sang it anxiously, threateningly, or ecstatically? Since most activities require nothing more than hands and voice, they make great car activities.
    In the second third of the book, kids explore sound and sound production, using home-made instruments and found objects like a blade of grass. The book go es beyond telling kids how to make the instruments; it suggests interesting things to play on them. For example, after explaining how to fill crystal glasses to eight different levels to produce the eight notes a major scale, the authors have written out songs for kids to play on the glasses and even harmony parts they can add by striking two glasses at once.
     The last part of the book is about experiencing music out in the world. It explains the idea of musical genre and introduces classical, country, rock, and other styles with activities to get kids interacting with the music. For example, when introducing classical music the book explains the basic motions of conducting and suggests that kids play conductor while listening. The book closes with ideas for home-made performance events. The "encore" section contains ideas for getting started with "real" instruments like piano and guitar. It even covers how to make three-chord music, an amazingly u seful idea rarely covered in material for beginners. The book even shows kids how to tune a guitar (with open tuning) so that three-chord music is easy to produce.

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