Tonal structure and children’s early learning of music

W. Jay Dowling

in Generative Processes in Music

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780198508465
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191687341 | DOI:
Tonal structure and children’s early learning of music

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This chapter explores the strong links between perception and production in the development of musical competence in young children. It reviews the literature on developmental aspects of song production and reports two new empirical studies. The first shows that children as young as three years old can reliably discriminate tonal from atonal melodies so long as their song performance is relatively advanced. The second study explores the structure of nursery songs as opposed to folk songs and art songs. The analysis shows that nursery rhymes very rarely depart from strict diatonicity, and this chapter argues that such songs are optimal for children extracting and internalizing rules of tonality. The chapter notes that children's song has elements of reproduction and improvisation inextricably intertwined.

Keywords: children's music; tonal structure; music learning; atonal melody; art songs; adult encoding; nursery rhymes

Chapter.  6746 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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