Teaching children to play the harp
“Life without playing music is inconceivable to me. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.”
The Benefits of Children Playing a Musical Instrument
Wellbeing: playing music requires positive focus and is a distraction from worries and concerns – the effect is calming, soothing and relaxing.
Memory: research shows that playing musical instruments improves memory and mental performance.
Self-Expression: music encourages the player’s unique style, inspiring creative expression and self-confidence.
Coordination: using the fingers, hands and arms, helps refine motor skills, which improves coordination.
Posture: maintaining optimum posture while playing instruments helps develop musculature.
Integration: research has demonstrated that musicians have faster reaction times, allowing more effective integration of multi-sensory information.
Discipline: a regular practise routine improves disciplined time management.
Listening: playing an instrument requires listening for pitch, tone and timing, enhancing listening skills generally.
Mathematics: music involves pattern recognition, assisting mathematical skills in a creative, enjoyable way.
Reading: common neural and cognitive mechanisms in the brain govern musical skills and reading, encouraging comprehension.
Friends: playing music together is an enjoyable communal activity, promoting socialising and group interaction.
Music and Health
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of
Music has been used to improve emotional, psychological and physical health since ancient times. Pythagoras, the 6th century BC Greek philosopher, was known for his ability to cure ailments, including grief, anger and depression through ‘musical medicine’. In the Bible, David played the harp to relieve Saul’s depression. It has been reported that the sanity of Alexander the Great was restored by music played on the lyre (4th century BC). The harp was used in the court of Queen Elizabeth I (16th century), ‘to soothe troubled nerves’.
Modern studies have demonstrated the positive effects of harmonious music both psychologically and on biological systems of the body. One study demonstrated that harp music helped 71% of patients to breathe more easily, 84% had reduced anxiety and 63% noticed a reduction in pain during live music sessions.
Various teaching techniques are incorporated into lessons, adapted to suit individual requirements. The teaching style involves muscle memory, which is linked to motor learning and is a form of procedural memory, with tasks remembered through repetition. The muscles remember the sequences of repetitive patterns, movements and finger shapes, enabling the child to repeat actions without having to mentally think about them. This method encourages students to feel the music they are playing (rather than thinking about it), relaxing the mind and creating an enjoyable experience.
One of the biggest barriers to playing music confidently is the fear of making mistakes, which form an important part of the learning process. Lessons will provide a safe environment in which errors are allowed without criticism and children will be encouraged to play through their mistakes.
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