Why Is Commercial Kids Music So Poor?Article Published at 11:53pm on Thursday, 7 July 2011
When my son was small, I decided to buy him a CD of kid's songs from the Early Learning Centre. When I got home and played it to him, what I heard was a set of poorly produced, soulless and artless recordings. Thinking that this was, perhaps, a one off, I went back and bought another CD. Not only was this more of the same, it sounded almost exactly the same as the first CD.
It was obvious that the company that produced these CDs were churning the recordings out as quickly and as cheaply as possible, with little thought going into the arrangements.
I don't want to wallow in nostalgia, but the kid's LPs that I had as a boy seemed, from a distance of thirty years or so, to have been so much better.
And here's why: Modern music is produced using a piece of software called a MIDI sequencer. That's no biggie in itself - people have been using sequencers in one form or another since the late 1970s. But the problem with sequencers, if they are not used properly, is that they play everything exactly to the beat. All the music they create is mathematically perfect. Artless. Lifeless in exactly the way that a group of real musicians all playing together is not. In a word: dull.
There is a particular kind of sequencer, known as arrangement software. With this software, all you have to do is feed the chord sequence of the song into it, and it will churn out a full arrangement in as long as it takes to play it. A full arrangement certainly, but with all the artistic integrity of a dot-to-dot puzzle.
Armed with the arrangement software, a book of sheet music of kids songs, lullabies and nursery rhymes and something to record it on, any idiot could churn out fifty sets of backing tracks a day.
And to cap it all, whoever had recorded these kids CDs was using what sounded like the cheapest set of synthesiser sounds they could lay their hands on - probably the set that came installed with the arrangement software.
But they're just kids - they're not looking for artistic integrity or the latest sounds, they just want something to sing along with! I agree, but there is more to it than that. Children need stimulation. It helps their brains to develop. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to music regularly are more intelligent and cope better at school.
But if all of the songs sound the same, and if they are predictable, the child's brain will learn to filter them out and ignore them. They will not get the stimulation they need.
When creating music for children, it is important that all of the instruments are played by real, living breathing humans, not by computer. This means that, even if the same arrangement is played for each verse of a song, it will be subtly different each time. It is these subtle differences that provide the stimulation for the child, and make the music come alive.
What I don't understand is why a company like the Early Learning Centre, normally so dedicated to children's education, allows this rubbish into their stores when there is so much better available to parents online. No parent would feed their child on fast food morning, noon and night. So why should we settle for the musical equivalent?
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