Many of us hold a deep seated belief that we aren't one of the musical ones, that we somehow missed that gene and need to keep our singing voices firmly hidden away.
The number of times we have heard a parent utter "I don't know where my child gets this from! It certainly isn't me!"
The thing is - once that belief takes hold, and we start to truly believe that we aren't musical, it very quickly becomes the thing that holds us back from developing a stronger sense of musicality and enjoying music making in the way that other people seem to be able to do so easily.
It could be as simple as a comment from a parent, a teacher asking a child to sing quietly, a challenge that meant a child needed time to find the beat which was noticed....what we know is that it is incredibly easy to let a child know that music "isn't for them" and the damage this does can be incredibly long-lasting and profound.
Some of the most moving moments we have experienced in our teacher training workshops involve teachers revealing that they do not think they are musical and expressing what this has meant for them in their life. It is not unusual for there to be tears when this comes out, it is something that seems to be felt deeply and profoundly and the promise of being able to reclaim musicality is something that can be life-changing.
So how can you start to reclaim musicality, if you too feel that you have missed the "music gene" and want to find it again?
Like anything, it comes down to two important things:
The more you allow yourself to hum, sing, tap along, dance, play a note and sing it back to yourself, join in with the radio, start a song with a child, sing in the shower & drum on your knees to a song you love: the easier it becomes.
But it needs that other vital ingredient - belief that your musicality CAN be reclaimed and that everyone has the ability to tune in, to find the beat, to hear the melody and to participate in something that is innately human and yours for the taking.
Our Top 10 tips for starting to challenge your belief and reclaim your musicality:
1 When you are at home, turn up some music and sing. Choose songs you love and don't worry about the neighbours. Try listening to a chorus - can you hear where the notes go higher? Can you hear how some notes are harder to sing? Even professionals find some songs hard to recreate! Listen out for songs that feel comfortable for you to join in with and play them often.
2 Try singing just 5 notes up the scale, from 1-5. If you have a piano on hand you can tune yourself in, but this isn't necessary. Sing slowly at first and start on a note that feels comfortable to you so you aren't too low or high. Sing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then down again. Use your fingers if it helps. If you have a child's instrument, like a xylophone around, start on C and use the notes to tune yourself in.
3 Understand that when we sing, we often start too low (or high!) meaning it can be difficult to continue a whole melody. Choose your notes carefully, it can be discouraging for us (and also children!) if a whole key is out of range.
4 The shower provides great acoustics! Practise your 1-5 scale here or hum a melody gently and slowly that you know really well.
5 Using our whole bodies to find the beat supports relearning rhythmic capability. Recite a chant or the words to a story or song in your head when you walk down a footpath to help you get in sync with the beat. Use the opportunities as they arise to add a strong beat to what you are doing - such as walking, wiping down a bench, cleaning a window pane, hammering a nail - these small moments add up when we take the chance to deliberately add rhythm to them.
6 When you walk up stairs, sing your way up (in your head if you like!) to help your brain process the upwards movement matching the pitch shifting upwards as well. The more we tune into singing a scale the easier it is for our brains to remember and do it again (use numbers 1-8 or do re mi if you know that version!)
7 Use opportunities to play musically with children to develop your own musicality as well. Introduce simple clapping games, use hoops to keep the beat together, march to recorded music together or play instruments, hold hands for songs such as Row Row Row.
8 Start to visualise the notes in the scale and tune yourself into notes 1 and 5. These are pivotal notes in the scale and in understanding music - if you can hear these two notes easily many melodies will start to become easier to sing. If you have a piano or xylophone, find notes C and G (1 and 5 in the scale) and practise hearing which is lower and which is higher. Sing the interval over and over (5 1 5 1 5 1) and hear where the higher pitch is placed in your voice - do you feel your throat or tongue move? Do your eyebrows go up when you hear or sing that higher note 5?
9 When you find you are automatically saying to yourself that you shouldn't sing too loudly or that you won't be able to find a beat, stop yourself and reframe what you are saying. You are learning to find the pitch and the rhythm. You are re-learning and practising and refinding something that is hidden in there underneath. You will get better.
10 Listen to music you love, often. Sing often. Dance when the opportunity arises, or create it if it doesn't - even if you are all on your own. Tap your hands on the steering wheel, sing nursery rhymes and made up songs to the children in your life, hum along to the song you hear at the supermarket - music is all around us and it is something we are ALL welcome to participate in.