If you’ve ever been toy shopping for an infant, toddler or preschooler, you’ve probably noticed that many of the toys are to some degree, musical.
From the simplest baby rattle, to kid-sized acoustic guitars, to light up musical puzzles, and to “oh-my-god-please-get-this-thing-to-shut-up” keyboards, most children end up with some kind of musical instrument or toy at some point in their childhood!
Many of these toys are really interesting in their look, their design, their features or their price (“a guitar for 30 bucks… no way!”) many of them are more toy than they are instrument.
And that’s okay! These toys teach kids about the timbre of different instruments, give infants a way to make music with a simple click of a button and they light up to teach kids cause and effect.
But if you have a child who genuinely loves music…
… and you’re looking for a real instrument to get your child playing music in a meaningful and intentional way…
then I’d like to introduce you to the unsung hero of the early childhood music world, the C Major Deskbells.
Colorful, Durable and Individual Musical Objects
Because the bells are color coded, they are SUPER EASY TO IDENTIFY.
Most kids learn to identify and recognize colors before letters, and certainly well before they can read music or count the pattern of black and white keys on a piano.
This obviously makes getting kids to play a song much easier. You can use the colors they already know (and that they enjoy trying to identify) instead of having to teach them a whole new set of skills to get started.
What’s more is that the bells are color coded with a system called Chromanotes.
While there are many color-coded music methods out there, Chromanotes is arguably the most common thanks in large part to the global popularity of Boomwhackers, which we’ll come back to in a minute!
What is important is that the colors make it very easy to engage kids in musical play because it removes the barrier of needing to read letters or sheet music. Singing the name of the colors (red, orange, yellow) is also a lot more effective than singing the note names (C, D, E) because many of the letters sound so similar, especially to a young child (B, C, D, E and G are all pronounced with a long ‘e’ sound).
The Bells Are Durable
Ever bought a guitar for a young child?
If you have, you’ve probably experienced it being consistently out of tune, dealing with a broken string, or even with a broken guitar (kids aren’t the most careful with their toys).
And those small kid-friendly pianos are even worse (not the digital ones, but the small acoustic ones). My niece has one and it sounds so bad that I was legitimately angry. What company thought it was okay to sell that thing?
The durable nature of the Deskbells means they:
- Stay in tune (no strings to detune and tune)
- Are very difficult to break (when my nephew isn’t throwing his set, he plays them with drum sticks and they’re still in tune)
- Make a good $60 instrument, because they will stick around for a few years (as opposed to sounding terrible after day 1)
The Bells are Individual Musical Notes
Arguably, the BEST 2 features of the bells are that:
Each bell is an INDIVIDUAL musical note
They are ridiculously easy to play
Because the bells are individual notes, you can limit your child’s options and increase their chances for having meaningful and memorable play with pitch. In short, you can create a more errorless musical play setting.
It is important for the child to have minimal chances for error so that they do not begin to make incorrect associations. For instance, If there is no B in a song, a teacher can simply remove that bell in order to ensure success!
One of my long-time students is deaf and blind, and many of my students have some degree of autism or downs-syndrome, and being able to focus their musical play to just a few notes is everything. This helps us play simple melodies, accompany ourselves with chords while singing, or play along with popular music.
The mechanics of the Deskbells are super easy as well! All you have to do is hit the top of them with your hand and RING! Music time!!
This is significantly easier for kids than swinging a stick and trying to hit a key on a xylophone styled instrument!
This is also the key difference between the bells and the piano, that the bells are MUCH easier to play. For a young child to play piano, they need fine motor control over their individual fingers. They also need to find the right note amongst a sea of black and white keys.
You can also hit lots of keys on the piano at once, which results in a lot of dissonant musical play when children free-play on the piano.
With the bells, it’s a lot harder for a child to get it wrong. Because the bells are in the key of C Major, most of the notes sound great together. You can further improve your child’s chance of consonant musical play (musical play that sounds good) by removing the F and B bells (arguably the most dissonant notes) or you can zoom in and focus on just one or two notes and the relationship/harmony of the two notes.
One cannot talk about the Deskbells without mentioning Boomwhackers!
Boomwhackers are inexpensive and durable percussive tubes that educators and performers around the world have fallen in love with.
Because of their popularity in the classroom, getting your preschool child a Chromanotes instrument will help to make their elementary music experience more congruent with their early childhood music experience.
While the Boomwhackers are totally awesome, they have a very short percussive sound (as opposed to the bells which ring out) AND you need to pick up a different tube to play a different note. This works well for older kids or fast-paced adult percussion ensembles, but not so well for preschoolers who don’t have that kind of motor control yet.