Disclosure – the products mentioned in this post were provided to Blog of Dad free of charge. The views expressed about the products are my own and based on my experiences with the products.
Toddlers are funny creatures.
It wasn’t so long ago that Hannah was a lump. An adorable, wonderful, intriguing lump who I loved with all my heart, but a lump nonetheless. She ate, pooped, cried (not much), babbled, and slept.
Then a funny thing started to happen. She started to grow, and change. She began to crawl, then stand, then walk. Now she runs or jumps. EVERYWHERE. She began to find her voice, and with that voice came OPINIONS.
Much to my amazement, in just two and a half years, the little lump has developed into an incredible, complex little human being.
One thing that I didn’t expect to see at such a young age was clear interests in certain things. We have tried to provide Hannah with a wide range of activities, toys and books, but she has her favourites that she comes back to again and again. Some of those are things that I can definitely see my influence in (did someone say DUPLO?), but others are things that she has taken a liking to because… well… she just likes it. One of those things is music.
My Musical Past
Hannah has grown up surrounded by music. Thanks to Spotify and devices like the Sonos One, she has been able to listen to the whole world’s inventory of music. But as far as playing music goes… let’s just say she doesn’t have parents who are blessed with natural musical ability. Take my singing for example, I’m no Freddie Mercury.
I also have a chequered history when it comes to playing musical instruments. In late primary school I had a short, but turbulent, time as a pianist. To cut a long (and reasonably boring) story short, I thought that playing the piano would be fun, then I found out it was hard, then I didn’t practice very much, then I failed my first grade exam, then I tried again but still didn’t practise, then my father put a rocket up me two weeks out from my second attempt when he couldn’t differentiate between my version of The Entertainer and the next-door-neighbour’s cat on heat, then I actually practiced hard for two weeks straight, then I passed the 1st grade test with honours, then I gloriously retired from playing piano at the top of my game.
Okay, it was still a long story.
My point is that I’m hardly an expert when it comes to identifying musical ability.
People Who Know
Thankfully for Hannah, I know people who are extremely talented musicians. One of these people lives, eats and breathes music. He is good enough to have made a profession out of it – performing, conducting and teaching in some elite settings.
Over breakfast one morning, I was telling him about Hannah’s love of mimicking. One of her favourite games is to copy the tone of my voice. If I’m speaking in a deep voice, she speaks in a deep voice. If I speak in a high voice, she speaks in a high voice. Sometimes Hannah will remember one of these games weeks later. She will come wandering over to me and in her deepest voice she will repeat the obscure, silly thing that I had been saying.
We then started talking about the things Hannah did as a little baby. Hannah was an expert at mimicking the sounds in her environment – we often used to laugh as we would hear the sounds of fire engines and barking dogs come over the baby monitor while Hannah settled herself to sleep.
Apparently these are signs of a musical ear. It shows that Hannah is listening intently to the sounds around her, and that she is able to reproduce tones fairly accurately (unlike her father).
Further evidence can be found in Hannah’s love of day care music lessons. She has them weekly, and on that particular day of the week it is all we hear about (except for the time Tyler kicked a tree, we heard all about that).
I love being the parent of a toddler. The conversation is amazing!
Me: “How was day care today?”
Toddler: (thinks for a moment) “Tyler kicked a tree.”
— dad (@blogofdad) October 23, 2018
Again, more evidence is present in Hannah’s lightning-fast mastery of using Alexa to access Spotify. For a kid who couldn’t properly pronounce the “sh” sound, she sure was quick to figure out how to make the damned thing play Baby Shark. On repeat. Loudly.
The final clue about Hannah’s interest in music is her singing. She loves to sing (although she hates it when I sing… possibly because she can already tell that I’m not doing it right). Hannah has been singing from the moment she could talk. In fact, she was picking up tunes and attempting to copy them from before she was able to talk. At night and during nap time, the animal and fire engine sounds over the monitor have given way to the adorable tunes of a toddler trying to settle herself to sleep with song. She doesn’t always get the words right, but the tunes are bang on!
Nurturing a Toddler’s Interest in Music
Hannah has a clear interest in music and naturally I want to encourage her to explore anything she is interested in. What advice did an expert in all things music have to offer?
Get her a keyboard.
He believes that now is the perfect time to nurture that intrinsic love of music in Hannah, and that the keyboard is an excellent option for this. Toddlers appear to have an openness to learning challenging things (like languages) that is unparalleled at any other stage of their development. At its core, music is a language. And as with any language, the earlier one is exposed to it and practises it, the more natural it feels.
I thought this was great advice, so I got to work researching keyboards. It wasn’t long before a compelling option caught my eye – the Yamaha PSR-E363. I wanted something that would be perfect for learning on, but that wasn’t a kid’s toy. It had to be a keyboard that could go the distance as Hannah grows from enthusiastic toddler into (potentially) keen musician. Yamaha agreed that the PSR-E363 was a great choice for a budding musician. They sent one over for Hannah to use.
The Yamaha PSR-E363
There is a lot to like about this keyboard. First and foremost, it is a legitimately excellent-sounding musical instrument. I thought that was really important, because instruments are (obviously) all about the sound. The sounds produced by the Yamaha PSR-E363 are clear, crisp, warm and authentic.
Best of all, the PSR-E363 features a comprehensive library of 574 instrument voices. I can imagine that this will only enhance Hannah’s interest in all things music as she explores the different sounds that a wide range of instruments make.
The voices really do sound realistic. I had an extensive play around with them and was impressed by how good they sound. The tenor saxophone was particularly pleasing to my ears (I may or may not have had an even more brief, and less successful, period as a saxophonist…).
Coming back to the primary purpose of the keyboard, the Grand Piano voice is beautiful. Yamaha have done an excellent job of reproducing an authentic piano sound, so learning on the PSR-E363 should feel like the real deal, rather than just mucking around on an electronic toy that sounds vaguely like a piano. It will also be far easier on my ear as I sit with Hannah and we explore music together.
Speaking of playing together. The PSR-E363 comes with yet another feature that makes learning that much more engaging. It is called Duo mode. Duo mode allows two people to play together by creating two middle C notes. Essentially it splits the keyboard in half, allowing two people to play exactly the same thing on each side. It is such a simple, but brilliant idea, especially while Hannah is so young. We can sit side-by-side and begin by learning some basic tunes on a restricted number of keys, before Hannah takes on the full 61 keys of the instrument.
The final, brilliant feature of the Yamaha PSR-E363 that greatly attracted me was the on-board lessons. Through the Keys to Success lessons that are built in to the PSR-E363, Hannah can begin to learn a variety of songs. These are broken down into step-by-step instructions that are displayed on the Yamaha’s LCD screen.
Time To Learn Again
When the Yamaha PSR-E363 arrived, I felt a sense of excitement. Part of that was about watching Hannah and the possibilities that the PSR-E363 holds for her. But I also felt excited for me. I have some regret that I didn’t appreciate the skills that I was learning as a primary school kid. Now that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and a whole lot better at sticking with difficult tasks, I’m ready to give the ol’ keys another crack.
By some fortunate stroke of serendipity, my famous (infamous?) performance piece, The Entertainer, is built right in to the PSR-E363’s Keys to Success function. If that isn’t a sign that I should try again, I don’t know what is!
It’s fair to say I am a little bit rusty, but after a solid ten minutes of practise it was beginning to come back to me. I started to remember what it felt like and where my hands were supposed to go. It was hard, but it felt (and sounded) so good when I got it right!
Music is a key part of Hannah’s life and I’m excited to see what happens over the coming months and years. She now has her hands on an amazing instrument that may be the catalyst for a lifetime passion. Or, it may just give Hannah a few extra skills – another string to her bow. Whatever happens next, I’m positive that the Yamaha keyboard will be a cherished part of Hannah’s childhood.