Take a group of kindergartners to a piano and ask one of them to make angry sounds on the piano. You will immediately get loud, low, deliberate banging sounds. Ask another one to play happy sounds. The child will instinctively play light, high-pitched, fast notes. Ask yet another child to make sad sounds and you will hear slow, mid-range to low, soft notes. These sounds will be created by children who know nothing of piano playing, much less traditional music theory.
What is their secret? How do they know what the music is saying?
Children innately understand that they can make sounds which mimic a person’s physical and emotional reactions. A person who is angry, for example, will make big motions, will talk in low, harsh, loud tones, and move about in a very deliberate manner. Recreating the emotion of anger on a piano then becomes simply a matter of doing the same things.
Take this exercise a step further, and you might be shocked at how proficient these small musicians are at using music to communicate. Ask a small child to think of an animal and portray that animal on the piano. See how quickly the other children can guess what the first child is thinking. In my experience, usually within 1 or 2 tries, the other kids know what animal was being “played” on the piano.
Music has the capability to communicate on so many different levels. It can communicate the emotions of anger, happiness, sadness, loneliness, joy, satisfaction, discontentment, and any other feeling you might experience. Music communicates physically, mentally and spiritually. And children are very much aware of this.
Years ago, when my children were very small, probably 2-4 years old, I played a CD for them of John Phillips Sousa marches, played by a marching band. Their response was obvious and immediate. They merrily started marching around the house in a perfect parade line, waving flags and stepping in time to the music. This was not something I taught them.
Children innately understand how music communicates.