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Music is powerful.
We have all been hearing about how classical music can enhance memory and learning for years now. Have you seen those amazing videos going around social media of the elderly with profound memory and sometimes mobility loss regaining their abilities? Pretty interesting stuff. When I was in college, before I knew music therapy existed, I and many of my friends studied to Mozart to help us through veterinary school. I don’t know of a book that had a bigger impact in this area than The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell. Campbell was certainly not alone in researching the amazing power of music: Did you know that one study showed that 66% of music majors who applied to medical school were accepted, but only 44% of biochemistry majors?
Our story (so far):
After my great experiences studying to classical music, I thought it might be interesting to try playing quality music for our first baby before she was born, using prenatal speakers, similar to these. Babies have fully developed hearing very early in the womb, and many people recommend reading to babies, in as many languages as the parents speak, before birth, so I thought, WHY NOT?!?!? Music is a language!
I played some great classical music for her every chance I got, when I could tell that she was moving and awake. (We also took her to a Doc Watson concert, bluegrass fans!) We continued playing classical music after she was born and taught her about composers and reading music using Dr. Doman’s methods. She was playing the melodies from a few children’s songs on the keyboard, which we kept on the floor for her, before she was 3. By 5, she could play many songs and hymns by ear, and that’s when we started lessons in piano. Now at 12, she plays piano, guitar, mandolin, violin, and banjo. This same child was reading at 16 months, and while there’s no way to prove, or disprove, that her musical exposure enhanced her learning abilities, common sense tells me it did absolutely no harm.
One of her music teachers is a 16 yo prodigy, and in conversation recently, her mother told me that she also played Mozart and other classical music for her using a prenatal speaker system before she was born. Micahlan is a pretty amazing and gifted young woman.
So, what should you use with your special little one?
- Check with your prenatal healthcare provider first, just to be on the safe side! I limited the music to 30 minutes or so twice a day, as Don Campbell recommended in The Mozart Effect for Children, but your doctor will know best.
- When to start? Any time, but it seems like the end of the first trimester would be best. Again, check with your doctor.
- Don Campbell recommended playing music when your baby is most active and awake (babies need their sleep!), and he suggested a couple of hours or so after a meal.
- Check out the prenatal speakers – this is just one brand, so you might want to look around and find the best option for you. There are also speakers that work with your phone that are a good bit less expensive, and these may work with some CD players, too.
- Play only the highest quality music for your little one. There is no need to “dumb down” music for even the tiniest of babies. They will certainly be exposed to mediocre, at best, music later in life, everywhere they go! The cds I used are all no longer made, but a couple of great options are here and here. If you have Amazon Prime and can plug your prenatal speakers into a computer or phone, the Baroque and Classical stations are hard to beat for convenience and variety, BUT because whatever you play will become a familiar comforting voice to your child, having CD’s or playlists that you can use over and over after birth is really a good thing. And make sure to play your favorite music in your church’s tradition.
- If I could only recommend one album (downloadable mp3), it would be Air by Per-Olov Kindgren. This gentle collection of classical guitar music by a true master is absolutely beautiful. This is an album that you can use for years, in many ways, from before birth to bed time and then as background music for school and enjoyment. This is NOT an affiliate link: I’m just a huge fan!! (True story: I listen to his music when I am working out – it’s MY little bit of time to take care of me). I can also recommend his sheet music, tab, and teaching materials for beginning guitarists, because we own and use some of all of those! He is a wonderful, warm, straightforward, and encouraging teacher. Here he is playing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by J.S. Bach:
So what about after birth? Stay tuned…
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