A Holistic Approach to Learning Music

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The Rainbow Songs approach to teaching and learning music comes from the belief that there is interconnectedness between music, movement and language that support each other through the learning process.

 

Let’s briefly define the three points on the triangle:

  • Music – The structured organization of sound made up of melody, rhythm, and harmony.
  • Movement – All types of purposeful motion from small hand gestures to jumping and leaping including: actions, signs, dancing, crawling, running etc.
  • Language – The organization of and use of words through speech: Lyrics, poems, names, verbs, nouns etc.

These three systems define the points of the triangle. In between each pair of points there are sides that are created. Each one of these sides is a combination of the points:

The three sides of the triangle become:

The side between movement and music gives us dance.

The side between music and language gives us song.

The side between language and movement gives us sign language.

The things all sides and corners have in common are inside the triangle:

Time: Language, music and dance all happen through time.

Rhythm: Language, music and dance all move through time following some sort of rhythm and organization.

Structure: Language is structured by metre of poetry, grammar, conventions and metre of song. Dance and Music are structured by their own forms.

How this works in practice:

I often use the example of “The Eensy Weensy Spider” in my classes to demonstrate this connection between music, movement and language. I do the hand actions for the song without singing the song and then ask the group what song I am performing. Without hearing a word from me the group immediately knows what the song is. How do they know this? The physical actions for each part of the song trigger the memory of the text, melody and rhythm of the song.

Children’s songs are such incredible tools for learning language. First, songs are poetry. Learning these lyrics enriches the language skills of those who learn them. These poems are set to melody and rhythm which supports the learning of the text. The contours of the melody remind the singer what words are next.

Adding actions or movement to the songs adds another level of reinforcement. The actions are usually the first element of the song that is performed by children. Long before they vocalize the song the children will follow along with the actions.

 

Why is teaching with this method so effective?

Simply put the more ways you can represent an idea the clearer it will become to the student. Teaching music, movement and language at the same time reinforces each part of learning. Actions/movements convey meaning and reinforce the text. The pattern of melody supported by rhythm helps the memory of lyrics. The goal of this method is to create adaptable learners, people who can sing, dance, speak, read, think and live equally well.

Most importantly, this provides a musical whole body experience which is a more profound representation of the music. You understand the music with your mind, emotions, voice and body.

Learning Styles

Different people have different learning abilities and strengths. The different approaches to learning are called learning styles. There are three basic types:

Visual learners: These people like to see what the teacher is doing and learn well from diagrams, symbols and text. In our system this type of learning is supported by the interpretation of actions and signs that go with music.

Auditory learners: These people learn from hearing the teacher and through discussion and listening. This is the most important method for learning music as it is at its most basic level an auditory experience.

Kinesthetic learners: These people learn from tactile experience and doing things actively. This type of learning is supported in our approach by the performing of actions, signs, dance, clapping, stomping, signing etc.

The goal of the holistic approach to learning music is to support all these learning styles at the same time with the hope that the student will become a better all round learner.

At Rainbow Songs we teach children as well as their families to make music together. The classes we run have adults and young children singing, playing and dancing together. It would not be surprising to most that I see huge improvements in singing, fine and gross body movements and language skills by the children taking part in the programs, however what might be a surprise to many is the improvement in the adults as well. We encourage all the adults to sing without worrying about what they think of their singing. I have seen many adults who when they first come can not sing in tune and through listening and doing learn to sing as adults. This has been an unexpected satisfaction for me as a teacher.

This fact, that all people can learn to make music, is a fundamental truth that bonds the holistic method together. We can all get pleasure, become more human, and improve our mind and health through the simple act of making music.

To enroll and sing in music classes click here.