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Composing, improvising and doodling

What might children's own music sound like?

As children become more experienced as creators, the complexity of the music may develop (structurally, melodically, rhythmically and harmonically). Most noticeable is the coherence of musical ideas, particularly as these are adapted, refined and either selected or discarded. This comes through in the organisation of the musical ideas and material. Generally, with careful questioning, children become more able to critique the creative decisions made and justify the choices, going beyond merely stating that they 'like it'. As children’s technical/physical skills to manipulate sounds also become more developed, they have more ‘tools’ with which to experiment, although ironically some children can find it very hard to develop their ‘own music’ as they become more experienced instrumentalists and become accustomed to the ‘right and wrong’ they may encounter in their instrumental lessons, where the focus is perhaps mostly on reproduction of someone else’s music. There is plenty of scope for creativity when learning a musical instrument but it unfortunately isn’t always encouraged, leading to a lack of flexibility and musical playfulness.

It is difficult to identify exactly what children’s music sounds like at different ages and stages; obviously progress is not linear. You need to keep in mind that the music students create is experiential-related, rather than age-related.

Dialogue is crucial; without this narrative, we do not know the ideas and thoughts behind any work, and can only base our own judgements and perceptions on what we hear, which is perhaps missing the point. It is difficult to avoid ‘judging’ the quality of their music on what we hear, but we must resist this temptation and make sure we hear what children have to say too.