Musicograms for children

Musicograms for children are trendy, but are they really useful? Discover what they are, what they're used for, and their benefits.
dedo señalando símbolos de un musicograma para niños

What is a musicogram?

Musicograms are graphics that attempt to represent music in a visual form. They are drawings, shapes, or symbols that provide us with structured and comprehensible visual information. It is formed by the words “musico” – related to music (that sounds), and “gram” – related to writing (that is seen). Some people use musicograms as pre-musical notation before introducing conventional musical notation, although there are many other ways to use musicograms.

What are musicograms for children?

Musicograms for children are aimed at the young audience, therefore, they must be adapted to their comprehension and action capabilities. They pursue the same objective as any musicogram, which is to facilitate musical understanding. Being directed at children, they must be playful, simple, and of a measured length. Children should be able to follow and memorize them easily. They may include differentiated colors, eye-catching shapes, and actions that can be performed in a short time.

What are musicograms used for?

Musicograms are used to graphically represent the elements of music, such as its structure, pitch, rhythm (rhythmograms), dynamics, timbre, textures, etc.

Generally, musicograms are used to facilitate the understanding of music. Therefore, they tend to be simple, with simple shapes, colors, and distinguishable sizes. The Belgian composer Jos Wuytack, a disciple of Carl Orff, created and popularized their use to improve the ability to appreciate classical music in boys and girls without musical knowledge. Today, musicograms have spread and are used for all kinds of music, without exception.

What positive effects do children’s musicograms bring?

Musicograms for children are an ideal complement to auditory work. Here are some of the benefits of their application:

  • They provide a global vision of the musical structure
  • Help to understand music
  • Represent musical elements such as articulations, accents, timbres, rhythms, glissandos, tempo changes, etc., in a simple way
  • Sense of pulse
  • Stimulate rhythmic coordination
  • Direct attention from the abstract to something “tangible and concrete
  • Serve as pedagogical material as pre-notation

In short, children and also adults can take advantage of the visual channel implicit in musicograms, to remember, compare, and differentiate more tangibly how music is constructed.

Why should musicograms be used wisely?

There is a significant pedagogical mistake in thinking that to understand music, visual support of a score or a musicogram is necessary. Although they were designed to help understand music and as a resource to encourage active listening, it is entirely possible to dispense with musicograms to fully understand music and the elements that make it up. The widespread visual dependency in society and even in the field of musical education leads many teachers to believe that notation and the graphic elements representing music are synonymous with musical understanding. But as music is primarily a sonic medium, the experience, knowledge, and understanding must be predominantly auditory. Musical structure, to give an example, can be perceived, retained, compared, and transformed without any visual support, solely through listening. And the same goes for any element that makes up sound and music. All without exception, including tonality, harmonic relationships, textures, timbral combinations, rhythm, and even the slightest change in pitch and dynamics, can be understood auditorily. Exactly as it was done before the existence of musical notation.

IMPROVE Tip: An excess of visuals can detract from movement and auditory memory.

From this blog, we always want to direct attention whenever possible to the potential of the ear to enjoy and understand music, without the presupposed visual dependency. Musicograms, which have great pedagogical value, should never serve as a substitute for a rich auditory experience formed by its aural, oral, verbal, and symbolic stages, among others.

What extramusical benefits do musicograms for children provide?

Musical development is already a great stimulus for children. It motivates them for life, helps them improve while having fun, and is one of the most complete artistic activities in which any human can engage. But, in addition, music, and in this case, musicograms for children, provide a series of extramusical benefits, among which are:

  • Synchronization of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic planes
  • Fine and gross motor skills: are favored when children’s musicograms include movement
  • Coordination: the movements required by the musicograms pose a great challenge for children at a motor level
  • Understanding of the concept of structure: thanks to musicograms for children, the abstract concept of structure is simplified. On the other hand, children will have, at just a glance, the possibility to appreciate the global vision along with the parts of these structures.
  • Comparison and differentiation of elements
  • Reading: help to focus vision from left to right

What types of musicograms exist?

Musicograms are visual representations of music. They visually represent what sounds, but in very varied and abstract forms. Unlike notation, they do not aim to be exact or as faithful to the sound as possible. There are many types.

Some types of musicograms include:

  • Musicograms of shapes Musicograms made with shapes are very varied. They try to create an association between image and sound, hence they adopt varied forms, such as lines, dots, circles, spirals, etc. Currently, this type of musical resource is in vogue for the child audience because one can easily follow the course of these shapes with the fingers, linking the tactile and motor process with the musical.

If you want to see an example of a fun shape musicogram, here you can see our proposal for a children’s musicogram “Jumping Finger“. You will find several different sections with which to interact actively. It’s super addictive, test yourself and your children and/or students.

Music specifically composed for the musicogram "Jumping Finger" by Eloy Lázaro Rico

Ah! By the way, if you liked the musicogram “Jumping Finger,” and you want to acquire the music along with complementary PRO activities, take a look at our store. You’ll find it there.

  • Action Musicograms

Action musicograms display a sequence of movements that need to be executed in order. They are represented by icons of basic movements such as steps, jumps, turns, crouching, etc., or can be specific actions like clapping and other body sounds as a form of body percussion.

  • Rhythm Musicograms

Rhythm musicograms or rhythmograms specifically focus on the rhythmic aspect of music. The images used are also movements or actions along with the associated rhythmic notation.

  • Classical Musicograms

Classical musicograms are descriptive. Sections are represented with differently colored lines, and images of the instruments playing in each section are shown. These were the first musicograms used with great success by Jos Wuytack and became widespread in the 90s.

ejemplo de musicograma estilo Jos Wuytack

Conclusion

Musicograms are great as complementary activities, but we must not forget that they should not replace pure auditory work. Remember: when making music, we must be “all ears.”

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