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How to Teach Music

Music is at the same time a gift from God and a gift TO God.

He gave us music as a way to express and communicate our emotions. We give music back to Him as praise.

Learn to sing. I know that sounds like a tall order. It isn’t really.

Put on music you are familiar with and make your voice sound like the voices in the music. Than try to sound like the different instruments.

“OK everyone, now make the electric guitar sound! Mowrworwworwoo!”

This is very informal learning, but it IS learning how to control your voice. If you have a keyboard of some sort available, (check Wal-mart. My mom found one for $20. Not the best sounding one in the world, but good enough) practice hitting one note at a time and trying to sound like it.

Most of all learn to enjoy singing. Everyone can sing. Maybe not like an Opera Star, but we can all “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

Learn to keep the beat. This is pretty easy, also.

March, clap, dance, and beat the steering wheel. You will get the hang of keeping a steady rhythm.

Count to three or four with the music over and over; (Some songs need one, some the other. With a little practice you can hear the difference). “The Beat” is essential to all music, so get this down and you have accomplished a lot.

Music reading is simple and if you can read music you can teach yourself to play just about anything as well as making it easier to sing along when using a hymnal in church.
Here is how it goes; on a sheet of music you will see five horizontal lines, a space and five lines connected by bars.

The space between the bars is called a measure. Each space and line has a name, but musicians are into repetition. They only use eight letters of the alphabet; A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. They just repeat them over and over.

The bottom line on the top set of lines is called E. The first space going up is F. The second line is G. The second space is A. The third line is B. And over and over until you run out of lines and spaces.So in #7 above you see F A C E while #8 shows E and B.

The top line of the bottom set of lines is A. The first space going down is G. The second line is F. The second space is E. the third line is D, and so on.

If you start with the third line on the bottom set and go up you would have D (line), E (space), F (line), G (space), A (line), B (resting on the top line), D (hanging from the bottom of the top set), E (the first line), F (space), G (line), etc.

Wait a minute; we skipped the C in the middle!

Middle C is on the invisible line between the sets of lines. Sometimes it drifts towards the top and sometimes toward the bottom. What difference it makes depends on the instrument you are using. It sounds the same either way.

At the beginning of a piece, you will see a fraction (4/4, 3/4, 2/4). The top number of the fraction tells you how many beats each measure will have.

An empty note (called a whole note) gets four beats (You can clap your hands four times before you go one to the next note. On a piano, you hold the key down until you count to four).

An empty note with a stick (called a half note) gets two beats, (hold the key down until you count to two).

A dark note with a stick (called a quarter note) gets one beat and a dark note with a flag gets half a beat (the direction the stick goes in doesn‘t matter on any of the notes).

So, a song with 4/4 at the beginning may have four quarter notes, two half notes, two quarter notes with a half note, a half note with one quarter note and two eighth notes, or a whole note between each set of bars.

Which line or space the note is on tells you which note on your instrument to play.
If you see several notes on top of each other it just means to play those notes all at the same time (if you can on your instrument. Pianos you can, flutes you can’t so you just pick one line, such as all the top notes, to play. Most wind instruments specialize in a certain row of notes).

Hymnals usually have four notes, one on top of another. This is for four-part harmony.
  • Sopranos sing the top row,
  • Altos sing the second row,
  • Tenors sing the third row, and
  • Basses sing the bottom row.
The top two rows are female; the bottom two are male.

Soprano is like Alison Kraus’s voice, but most women are altos.

Base is like Trace Atkins or Johnny Cash, but most men are tenors.

Sing where it is comfortable. 
Singing too high or too low sounds strained and unnatural and may damage your voice. Take a good look at a hymnal or some sheet music and you will begin to understand.

A quarter rest, which looks kind of like a fancy 3, in a piece of music means to not play (rest) for one beat.

A half rest (#9), which is a little box sitting on the line, means to rest for two beats.

A whole rest (#10) means to rest for four beats, (Poor thing. It is so full of beats it fell off the line).

The piano or electronic keyboard is the easiest instrument to understand music theory with.
On a keyboard you will see a lot of white keys and sets of black keys.

Some sets have two keys and some have three.

Between each set you see two white keys together.

The white key before the set of two black keys is C…always.

The next white key (in the middle of the set of two black keys) is D, the next E and so on. 

Remember to start over with A after G.

What do the black keys do? 
If your music has a tic-tac-toe board in front of a note than you play the black key to the right of that note (This is called a sharp).

If there is a baby b by a note you play the black key to the left of the note (this is called a flat).

You continue to flat or sharp every note on that line or space for the rest of that measure.
Some black keys have two names. The one between the C and the D, for example is both a C sharp and a D flat.

If the sharp or flat is by the time signature 
(the fraction at the beginning of the music), then you flat all of the notes with the same name as the line or space it is on.

For example, if there is one sharp, it is always on a line named F. So you sharp every F in the whole piece.

One flat is always on a line named B, so you flat all B’s in the piece.

There is another symbol you will run across called a natural. It looks like a box with sticks sticking out of opposite corners and cancels the flats and sharps. So even if your song is written in two sharps, (you would sharp all the F's, and C’s) if there is a natural in front of a C you would not sharp that C until the next measure.

On a piano, your right hand plays the keys to the right of the C in the middle of the board (the keys the women follow) and your left hand plays the ones to the left (the ones the men follow).

You will see something that looks like a handwriting capital S at the beginning of the top row of lines. This is called a treble clef and means, if you are playing a piano, to use your right hand, or for voice, the women sing.

A handwriting, capital F (looks a lot like a C) is the bass clef and on a piano means to use your left hand or the men sing.

This is, of course just the beginning of music theory, but it is all you need to get started. With a little practice you could now play any child’s song and even some simple hymns (Check your library for music!)

I like to start people learning with the piano. 
A good piano sounds like a good piano even if it is a two year old at the keyboard.

Some other instruments don’t sound right until you have had practice forming your lips or hands correctly. This can be discouraging to a beginner.

If a keyboard of some type is out of your reach
you can start with a recorder (German flute). They are very cheap and often come with instruction books.

Wal-mart occasionally carries them; however, the ones I have used from Wal-mart were, well, cheapy. They sounded horrible even in my semi-experienced hands.

A professional could not have made them sound good.

This may have just been my bad luck, but it would be worth it to get a little more expensive of an instrument ($5 instead of $1) from a music store or Amazon than to discourage your beginners.

Another good instrument to start on is a zither, also called a Lap Harp or Music Maker. It comes with its own music that you put under the strings.

You just pluck the strings where the notes are, following the order on the paper and you have a song. Uhh, ok, it is a whole lot easier than it sounds. Trust me.

Musical instruments, 
like foreign languages, get easier the more you learn them.

Your second instrument will be easier than the first; your third will be easier than the second, and so on.

The enjoyment alone is worth learning to play and sing for, but music is a “language” of logic. It is good for the brain as well as being fun.

It is a way to communicate God to other people, and of course God loves to hear us play and sing in worship to Him.