Observing your child's musical development

Research by Music Together®

Article written by Carey Youngblood, Director of Heartsong Music, Jan. 2021

Here are the musical development stages of a child, tonally and rhythmically, for you to take a look at from time to time. It's interesting to see what your child is musically doing as they take the journey toward achieving Basic Music Competence (BMC) (singing in tune and keeping a steady beat while singing). It is not necessarily a linear expression. They can fluctuate back and forth within these developmental stages. 

Music Together believes it is every child's birthright to achieve Basic Music Competence. And through the Music Together program and our fabulous Heartsong teachers guiding you along the journey, and with parents bringing the music making into your own homes, then the children WILL achieve BMC!!

TONAL Development:

  • In response to music, a child sounds or briefly intones around a one-pitch center (usually the resting tone or the 5th in the scale). 
  • Child purposefully intones more than one pitch with melodic contour. 
  • Child sings some parts of the song correctly, often the ending phrases or beginning phrases.
  • Child sings those parts of the song correctly and/or in tune below "the break," usually B flat (above middle C).
  • Child sings an entire song correctly and in tune. 

RHYTHM Development:

  • In response to music, child moves with a characteristic gesture and/or sings with a characteristic pattern of rhythm that is short in duration. It usually doesn't synchronize with the beat of the music the child is hearing or creating. 
  • Child beats or sings an accurate pattern of rhythm at the end of phrases.
  • Child moves or sings with a consistent tempo (not necessarily the tempo the child is listening to). 
  • Child's movements may coincide with the macrobeat of the music they are hearing or creating if there is prominent visual, kinesthetic, or auditory stimulus. 
  • Child's movements coincide to the macrobeat of the music they are hearing or creating, with their upper AND lower body. Child moves or sings to an entire song in the correct tempo and meter without relying on external stimulus.
It is so exciting to witness your child’s musical development in these most important early years when your young child is most open to developing their musical skills! And remember parents - it's all about supplying your child with a musical environment! With lots of singing and dancing at home throughout each day, your child will naturally develop these musical skills in their own timing!