Early musical education

Music is a big part of my life. I play three instruments, and only lack of money is preventing me from buying a harp, hangdrum, dijeridoo and one of the more expensive African finger pianos (the ones that resonate) and learning them, too. I have a growing collection of tin whistles. My electric guitar is rarely used, but I get withdrawal symptoms when I leave the acoustic behind on trips.

I’m only 13 weeks into pregnancy. I’ve read that babies start hearing sounds around 20 weeks, but that they react to sound by 16 weeks only, which I’m guessing indicates that they can feel sounds – or the vibrations of sound – through the amniotic fluid. This is my own theory, and I admit I’d like very much for it to be true because when I have something to look forward to, I lose all patience and go back to being six years old. I can’t wait to start my baby’s musical education. So I’m not waiting, I’m starting now.

I started by creating a playlist of Future Baby Lullabyes on Grooveshark. They’re not necessarily songs that would send you to sleep, although of course I’ve included several that would work on me. Rather, I’ve picked music that has a regular, reassuring beat, like a heartbeat, and while I was listening to them, I patted the rhythm on my belly.

I won’t just be exposing him or her to soft music, though. Right now we’re listening to Linkin Park and Marilyn Manson, and they have regular rhythms, too. This baby’s going to be exposed to metal, hard rock, punk rock, pop, britpop, indie, classical, paganfolk, Irish and African traditional, 90’s R’n’B and 60’s soul, all before its born, and that’s just on my side. Bf will expose it further to chillstep, triphop, transe, electro, chiptune, and more metal.

When it’s born, I’ll sing to it the songs I play on my guitar now. When it’s old enough to coordinate its movements, I’ll sit it in front of my piano and let it bang on the keys (and hope it doesn’t break them, I only have an electric piano with plastic keys). This baby’s getting drums and xylophones for christmas. Our rainy day activities will be making musical instruments out of tissue boxes and elastic bands. We’ll send it to music lessons if it wants them, but we will privelege experimentation and self-teaching.

At least, that’s the plan. By the time the baby’s actually here, I’ll probably be too exhausted to play, or sing more than a few verses of any typical lullabye that enters my head. My piano will gather dust, my guitar remain untouched in its case, and I’ll savour every moment of silence in the house.

But that won’t last long. I told you, I get withdrawal symptoms when I don’t play enough, when I forget to sing. Whenever my life gets too hectic, there always comes a time when my fingers start to itch, and I get this unexplained lump in my throat like I need to cry, but which tears don’t relieve. I’ve learned to recognize it.

On that day, when the baby’s relatively calm, I’ll leave the laundry till later, put the baby on a rug on the floor, take out my guitar and sing. And watch the music connect us.

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