Monday, 16 January 2012

Is your child musical? Is mine?

Gosh, it's all happening today. I got my flute out a while ago meaning to see if I could still produce any sound at all, and while we were waiting for cakes to bake (a subconscious impulse as I'd completely forgotten that I need them for I Fagiolini tomorrow!) Anyway, there's a tuning fork in the case and Sasha was playing with it, so I played an A and asked if Sash could sing it. Sash didn't want to. (I wonder if the pitch was too high? When we were singing this morning, I was asking for higher notes but Sash seemed only able to use chest voice.)

Anyway, then I played an A on the flute, asked Sasha which note was higher and which lower, thinking as I did that I've never had a very acute ear and I couldn't actually tell myself. But small confident person said without hesitation "That one", pointing to either the flute or the fork, I can't remember which - anyway we tried a few more times and Sash did the same each time, giving the answer as though it was *really* easy. And you'll have spotted, of course, that I had no way of I telling whether the answers were right or wrong as I didn't know! When I went from zero to grade eight flute in eighteen months in 1979 to 1981, tuning it was the only bit I was rubbish at. You can imagine what my violin playing sounded like.

Anyway, it's a funny little miniature tuning fork I bought in Switzerland, and Sash was having trouble getting it to sound, so I went and got the full-size one. That was bought in the same shop, and I'd always wondered whether the titchy one might be a bit gimmicky and not actually in tune, so I sounded them both at once and asked Sash which was higher and which was lower. And lo... Sash said something about silly mummies - "They're both the same sound."

Then pointing at the smaller one - "I can't hear that one." I think that meant the two notes were so blended you couldn't tell the difference. So maybe that interference thingy you're meant to be able to hear when two notes are different (and that's the thing I've never been able to hear, so no wonder I can sing so flat without noticing) wasn't there and so there was no way of distinguishing the two sounds.

I'd love to hear what other musicians think. Have you tried this on your kids? Have you found any other fun things to try?

Oh, and the other big question: now that we know (unless that's changed?) that it's caused by early proximity to a keyboard instrument and isn't inherent, are you going to make an effort to give your child, or an effort to not give your child, perfect pitch?


Anonymous said...

To me it doesn't matter if my kids are musical or not, in my house they learn music just like they learn to read, to recognize smells, to name countries, to write, to know a reggae song from a rock song. Music has been on the agenda from day 1, and now, at 4 and 5, they both have structured weekly lessons (violin for 4-year old, drums for 5-year old) and practice daily. I also let them noodle around on piano, glockenspiel, melodica, recorder "for fun". My oldest daughter is very obviously talented; the youngest, not so at the instrument, but surprisingly adept at reading the music and using her memory. But violin is a hard instrument to learn, so maybe it'll come. If not, at least playing and learning the notes will have broadened her mind a little. I'm all for letting kids do extra-curricular stuff; even if they're not talented, they'll get something from it. My girls both do gymnastics too; it's been amazing for building up their muscle strength, stamina, and confidence, though mini Olga Korbut's they're not! In short: get that boy in music lessons!

Anonymous said...

stop using your child as a social experiment.

Beck said...

It doesn't *matter* to me either - I just wondered. Which seems to be just the same as what you're saying. All we want is to make sure that they fulfil their potential - don't we? S doesn't really need lessons as both of us are musicians - and I started a babies and toddlers music group in the village, with a friend, to try and share that with other kids.

FxS said...

I hope you are reading the comments on Yahoo! News. They are some sound opinions.

Jack said...

Sincerely hope your son grows up to be an emotionally healthy, confident and well adjusted man.

Templar said...

Sick sick people. For most of us, our gender is an important part of who we are. They are projecting their own mental illness onto an innocent child. These kindof freakshows and cases of highly debatable child endangerment(of normal psychological development) is what you liberals have created in giving the homosexuals more rights. Homosexuality is NOT a genetic condition - its a perversion just like sadomasochism, pedophilia, rape, erotic asphixiation etc. And these freaks are being given the blank slate minds of the innocent upon which to scribe their dysfuntion. It should be criminal.

TipGuy said...

Saw the 'gender-nuetral' article on yahoo about you. What a joke! You're doing more harm to this poor kid than good. No skull shirts, but a sparkly pink girls swimsuit is ok?

Do this kid a favor and go get therapy so you don't wreck his whole life. I know you think you're right, but listen to the masses here. You are soooooo wrong here!

This kid is going to rebel as soon as he's old enough to realize how screwy you are.

As a parent myself, I'm literally appalled at how you're stuffing your whacky beliefs down your own kids throat! he's a freakin' boy, so let him be a boy. It's not a matter of conditioning, it's hard-wired. Estrogen vs Testosterone!

It amazes me how someone who is so wrong can actually think they are right. Charles Manson thought he was right too, so did Hitler, but they weren't!!!!

Tillmanator said...

I taught elementary school music for 21 years and was a National Board Certified music teacher in early childhood music. I would encourage your child to sing more often that identifying differences in pitch. Children who sing are often better readers as singing leads to fluency and vocal inflection. Children who sing are much more interesting speakers.

You mentioned Sasha was having issues with using only chest voice. The fact that you used a tuning fork (which produces and A) and also played an A on your flute may be the cause. A is pretty much the jump between where children have to make the break between chest and head voice. Granted you CAN sing in head voice lower than an A (that's actually desirable in young children) and you can belt out chest voice above an A (not so desirable). But that A is about where the natural cut-off mark is between the two.

To get your child in head voice, pretend that you are looking at puppies or baby birds or something cute. Model first and say "how cute" in that high voice parent use when talking to small babies. Have Sasha repeat. Have the child make owl sounds, train sounds and ghost sounds. Model for the child if you can hear that chest voice is being used. Play roller coaster with your finger. Have Sasha move a finger or hand up and down. You follow the direction with your voice: higher for when the hand goes up and lower for when the hand goes down. Take turns... then you move your hand up and down and the child moves the voice up and down.

Hope this helps. Sing, sing sing!

Ellie D said...

I don't believe "pitch perfect" is necessary for a child to be well-versed in music. I sing and play the piano (and have done so from a young age) and while I can easily tell you which note is higher or lower on the scale, I'm by no means pitch perfect. It's far more intricate than that (such as pitch perfect people being able to tell you what note a car horn makes when it beeps).

JG1234 said...

Hi. I read an article ("Couple Finally Reveals Child's Gender, Five Years After Birth")on Yahoo news which led me to your blog.

I would like to send you an email, but I can't seem to find your email address on your blog. What I am about to say is not said to intend to hurt you or offend you, and I apologize in advance if it does, but these are simply my thoughts and opinions on the matter.

Personally, I believe that raising a child the way that you do with regard to sexual identity contributes to the downfall of society.


1) Male children are born with penises and gain their secondary masculine traits for the purpose of attracting females. Baby making is only possible when a man and a woman copulate.

2) Sure, you can have a sperm donor or a surrogate, but I think it's more mentally detrimental for a child to find out later on that he or she has half-siblings scattered all over the globe.

3) There's a reason that a man has a penis and a woman has a vagina. A man and a woman should copulate -- NOT a man and a man should find a surrogate or a woman and a woman should find some sperm.

4) With your idea of raising children, this world will eventually have many many people who sway with the barley in the fields however way the wind blows.


Male children should be raised embracing their sexual identity as MALES! There's a reason they have ample amounts testosterone -- so that they don't dress like females, smell like females, look like females, and act like females!

Males are born with innate traits that females will never have or will never come close to having as good as a male does. Therefore, in order for society to function optimally, males should be raised to be Men, and females should be raised to be Women.

It's obvious when I say that a female who is raised in the very same environment as a male will always be more nurturing and motherly than her male counterpart. And it's obvious that a male who is raised in the very same environment as a female will always be stronger, more assertive, and in general, more manly than the female.

I'm not saying gay and lesbian relationships are bad. I'm just saying that when it comes to raising children for the optimal benefit and future of our society, leave it to your men and women counterparts.

Oh yeah. I read that you are a radical feminist. I believe a radical feminist is a woman who embraces domesticity and feminine characteristics -- gentle, soft, loving, nurturing, motherly. Other feminine characteristics include the desire to tend to a home and make it welcoming for her husband to come home to after a long day's work. I encourage you to read GK Chesterton's "The Emancipation of Domesticity." You might like it!

islander said...

I just read about what you're doing with your child on Yahoo. It's so hypocritical. You won't allow him to wear cargo pants and skull-print shirts yet you let him pink girly stuff. It sounds to me that you're more of a man-hater than anything. Poor kid is so confused and you're using him as a platform for your own ignorance and issues. I can see you really don't care about his emotional needs.. poor kid is going to be so confused and can't decide on a gender.. you've just set him up to fail for the rest of his life.. what a horrible parent you are.

drewby said...

Human beings have gender, its intrinsic. Gender can be complicated and confused but humans have one. What is the consequence of using the same gender identification for a person as one does for a chair? What is the effect on the parent who constantly calls their child "it"? Martin Buber talks about the "I/thou" relationship. As I remember it is an issue of learning from the intimacy of parent and child, how to relate to the universe. A parent that treats a child like a blank wall or a block of wood for five years might well be removing that intimacy. A child should be able to identify with at least one of his or her parents. That is the basis of love.

lifeisfree said...

You should not try to push your BOY to sing high pitched notes weather you are gay or you really wanted a girl you should let your child be the gender they want to be! Furthermore you should be ashamed for trying to force your child to be what you want. Let HIM grow up in the role he was born with, if he chooses a different role as an adult let him don't force him!

bones084 said...

I just read a story about your raising of your son. I just have a thought, you claim to raise him gender neutral but say he can not wear a masculine skull shirt and cargo pants but then let him wear a girly pink swimsuit. It doesn't seem like you are letting him decided but forcing more female attributes upon him. Which is not gender neutral raising. It is if you are trying to use him to make a statement when you should be making the statement yourself. This will only lead to hard times for him in the future, such as I fear he may be the object of bullies. As a guy, I would not want to be known as the weird boy who wears dresses, that is simply wrong for you to force his life into a style that will only cause him heartache. I am also a parent. I have two bachelors: psychology and communication. I also am about to finish my masters and begin my Ph.d. So I think I may know something about the subject at hand. Of course I imagine you will discredit me because you claim to be a radical feminist considering I am a guy. He is the thing, I also have a son who has been a boy ever since he was born. I am a man so I raise him to be a young man. Why, because naturally he came into the world with man parts. So for him to be an well adjusted guy, I raise him in a way that reflects what a man should be.

What would have been wrong with you raising your son as a son? Why does it have to be a gender neutral world? What benefit is in that? Why can boys not be boys and encourage to be boys? Same for girls? When we adopt the lifestyle and expectations you have, I believe our children are robbed of being children. I guess the difference is, your son will spend more time asking the question, who and what am I, possibly hindering his cognitive growth. My son will know he is a son and be learning what boys are to do and act. Never questioning who or what he is but actually developing who he is. It would seem that a boy that knows he is a boy would be more stable. I will pray for your son, because your parenting will for sure make his life much harder than it has to be, with no huge benefits coming from it expect your pride.

Sue N said...

2 in our family have perfect pitch - my husband and my 4 year old daughter. Its a distraction to both in their day to day life and I wish our daughter didn't come by it naturally as she doesn't understand her 'gift' yet and its nothing more than a burden to her at her age. Being a musician myself, I have a decent ear, but by no means perfect pitch. Its 2 completely different things and I 100% believe that you either have it or you don't - you can't train or learn to have perfect pitch. Let him explore his love for music on his own terms and he'll grow to love it.

JP said...

You're a typical British freak.

Peter said...

Question from a random reader who caught your interview in the Cambridge News: at what point with your son do you believe it's appropriate to "let him make his own clothing decisions" vs. you dressing him, for school, in pants with a blouse? A difficult question, I'm sure - just curious if you have a line you won't cross. Also, are you worried that it may turn out that nature plays a bigger role than you anticipated, and Sasha grows to resent the choices you made for him in his formative years? Or do you see it differently?

C said...

Take a look, it's a psychiatrist's account. I've met his blog these days:

DCT said...

You are a sick human being, and your child will grow up confused and injured by you DENYING him a gender identity...GENDER is NOT a Stereotype!
You should not be allowed to raise children, since apparently you want to force some kind of bizarre gender neutrality on him...why do you hate your child so much?

Unknown said...

I pray that Sasha accepts Jesus at an early age and is not damaged permanently by your choice to hide his identity for so long. Jesus died for your sins and mine, whether you believe it or not. If you believe in Him, then die and find out he doesn't exist, you have lost nothing. But, what if when you die, you find out Jesus does exist? You will have lost everything and be doomed to an eternity in Hell since you chose not to believe in Him on earth. I will keep you and Sasha in my prayers.

Unknown said...

Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is simple.
1. Admit you are a sinner.
2. Ask for forgiveness of your sins.
3. Ask Jesus to become your Lord and Savior.
4. Find a bible believing a church attend it regularly.
5. Read the Bible daily and live for God to the best of your ability.
6. Ask for forgiveness when you sin, so that no sin will come between you and God.

For more information, go to

JG1234 said...

So basically,

You're a horrible parent. You are using your child just to prove yourself right.

You are being so narcissistic.

Your poor child will suffer from your bad parenting. Let the poor kid be a boy! Stop trying to deny him his childhood just because you hate men!

Oh my goodness. People like you don't deserve to have/raise children. Leave the poor kid alone and stop telling him to be gender neutral. You're essentially forcing him to be a freaking transvestite.


Beck said...

So JG, if Sasha proves me right, doesn't that mean that I was right? And I am letting him be the boy that he is, I'm just not letting other people's ideas of what boys as a category are. Oh, and all that 'gender neutral' crap was made up by the tabloids, just to annoy you.

Oh, and I LIKE men. You've got some very odd ideas... Oh wait, did you read that nutty site that thought I was a lesbian because of my partner's name? Sorry, he is actually a chap. Many of my best friends are men.

Beck said...

Dear bash33, I am very impressed by the coherence of your list. Have you considered information design as a profession, or even just editing?

Beck said...

To DCT and many, many others: you have muddled up sex and gender. Sex is what you are born with, and depends on whether you have two X chromosomes, in which case you are female, or X and Y, in which case you are male. Gender is society's construct around that sex. It is by definition fluid, and influenced by environment. Unless any scientists want to tell me I've got this wrong?

Schrale said...


Interesting you say that gender stereotypes are not result of conditioning and that they are in fact, hard-wired, I question the veracity of that statement.

Did you know that in the early 20th Century that pink was in fact a boys colour and it was seen as a gradient of red, which was considered to be a strong masculine colour. Blue also used to be a colour that was associated with feminity (Virgin Mary)

Girls are hard-wired to love pink stuff and girly things and vice-versa? Think again.