Today we’re going to talk about whether your child can develop musical talent or if it’s hopless if they weren’t born with it.
My son came out of my belly singing. He could follow a tune by the time he was a year old. My second was the same and seemed to have a knack for rhythm. My daughter, however, was NOT.
What?! We thought. How could it be that our child isn’t musical?! How will we harmonize on road trips?
But it was undeniable. When she sang it sounded sort of monotone, as if her voice was cutting corners and moving only slightly higher or lower from her speaking voice.
We wondered – could she hear the difference in notes but wasn’t putting in the effort to match them? Or maybe she couldn’t hear the contours of the melody and was singing what she heard?
Was she simply not born with the music gene? We hadn’t changed our behavior from one kid to the next as far as we knew. In fact, if anything, we sang even more because of the other two.
The question this week is this: Is musical talent innate or not? And – Can musical talent be learned?
Many parents who don’t feel musical wonder about this question. I remember a couple in one of my classes saying – we’re not musical and can’t sing. Is it hopeless for our baby?
Let’s dive into the research and see what we can find.
Is musical talent innate or can it be learned?
First of all, we’re ALL MUSICAL, especially your baby
Music is innate for ALL humans. We all respond to rhythm, melody, and pitch and have always done so through history. Here’s how we know.
Research shows that infants are born with a wide range of musical capacities. For instance, they prefer listening to music that is harmonic rather than dissonant, they can recognize the omission of a downbeat in a simple rhythm, and they prefer bouncing to the rhythm of the song they are hearing rather than out of rhythm. They also have a memory for music that is stored long term.
What about musical talent? Is that innate too?
The short answer is yes. But that’s not the full answer.
The growing consensus among scientists seems to be that people are born with varying degrees of musical sensitivity and proclivity.
But that’s just the beginning. It all comes down to who STICKS with it.
It’s true that those who are born with a greater aptitude toward music may have an easier time learning how to play an instrument or how to sing. That ease and comfort may encourage them to continue.
But ALL kids can get to the same point if they put the work in. We now know how plastic the brain is. This study showed that with long term and repeated rehearsal of a musical instrument we can alter the brain’s gray matter.
Think of it like a marathon – imagine all kids standing at the start line. They are all about to run the same track. The kids born with musical sensitivity are given a head start. For them, playing an instrument will be easier at first. But throughout the race, some may drop out and some may persevere. And it doesn’t always have to do with musical talent. It may even be more related to GRIT (to learn more about that check out this post.)
So what is the biggest factor in my baby becoming musical?
The fact is, whether your baby learns and sticks with music largely depends on YOU.
This study of 257 children showed that the successful music learners were the ones with musically involved parents.
Why? Because musical development is a result of genes interacting with environmental stimulation.
I’ve got the proof to go with all this. Let’s go back to my daughter.
We’ve been working hard with her. When I sing to her I accentuate the melody and her brothers sometimes do too. A few months ago we were singing You Are My Sunshine and she had the rhythm down but wasn’t matching the pitches of the melody.
When she didn’t make it to a note of the song I’d repeat that note with gusto a few times patiently letting her try it. Eventually, she started catching on. And then she started singing full melodies on key!
The other day she sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow and was able to sing all the hard notes on her own.
It all came down to the fact that we kept rooting her on in the marathon, no matter where she started and how far she had to go.
Now, she can run on her own and she’s in line with all the other marathon runners.
So what should you do to give your baby the nurture to compliment their nature?
- Keep making music – singing, drumming, playing instruments together. The more you do it the more your baby will associate music with fun and togetherness and will start to develop that head start that the musically talented had.
- Listen to music – lots of it. In the car, at home, sing with it, dance to it. Let music be a part of your baby’s every fiber. And if you’re looking for easy to sing along to music, listen to mine!
So how about you dear Tunie? Do you feel musical? Are you concerned that your baby might not end up musical if you aren’t? COMMENT below and let us know.
Do you have a friend who’s always been afraid to sing at the campfire and is now wondering about whether her baby will to? Send her this post and tell her to sign up for more Tuesday Tune ins.