Home > Brandenburg, Children, Education, Music > The Foundation for Teaching Music to Children: Why Music?

The Foundation for Teaching Music to Children: Why Music?

Let me start with credentials. I’m sure there are others with loftier ones, but I have some. I have four children, first, male, 17, then three females, 14, 11, and 7. All of them play two instruments and sing. We don’t sing as well as we play and I’m hoping to work more on that with the last three. Each plays piano, then my son plays trombone and the three daughters play violin. The middle girl plays violin and viola. The oldest three are in symphony orchestras. The oldest two last year played in Young People’s Symphony Orchestra. The third child played in Berkeley Youth Orchestra. The two oldest played this summer at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, featured orchestra in the Australian International Music Festival. My son has been principal trombone of three different orchestras and presently is at YPSO. He has a call-back audition at the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra for later this month. The oldest three play in our church services every Sunday morning and evening. I’m on the board of the two before-mentioned orchestras. My wife teaches piano lessons and each of the four children started with her before moving to another teacher.

Now that you know my credentials, I also want you to know that none of them matter. What matters is that God is obeyed and worshiped. And this brings me to the purpose of this first post on teaching music to children. You need to have a good reason for your children to play instruments or you will likely fail at teaching them music.

The Reason for Music

The reason for musical instruments is the reason for music. To understand that reason, I ask you to consider Psalm 150.

1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

Praise the Lord. That’s our purpose for music. Here you can see in Psalm 150 that He is praised with musical instruments: stringed—psaltery and harp, wind—trumpet, and percussion—loud cymbals.

Directed to God

In the Bible, music is directed to God.

Psalm 33:2-3:

2 Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.
3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

Where is the music directed in this text? The harp is used to to praise the Lord, so the instruments by themselves can be used to praise the Lord. Then we have “sing unto Him” and “sing unto Him.” God is the audience of our praise. We’re playing to and for Him.

Psalm 98:4-6:

4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.
6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.

We sing unto the Lord with instruments. The composition of the song is offered to the Lord, the actual notes, not just the words. All of this considers how great He is and what He deserves with praise.

Psalm 146:1-2:

1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.
2 While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

We sing praises unto our God. The praise is directed toward God. Our only consideration is whether He likes the praise. We adjust our “tastes” to His.

Ephesians 5:19:

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

The singing (vocal) and making melody (instrumental) are “to the Lord.” This is New Testament too.

In every single instance that we are given a direction of music, which is 90 or so times in Scripture, it is to the Lord. We direct it towards Him. This is one reason that it doesn’t matter how big your church is, you should sing to God. You shouldn’t be embarrassed to produce the best possible music with a crowd of 25 there. It isn’t being directed to the crowd. Granted, they are taught and admonished as a byproduct, but it is offered to God as worship. Hebrews 13:15 is another great New Testament verse on this:

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

This is a quote from Hosea and there it is translated from the Hebrew the “calves of our lips.” What we offer God in praise is as much or more worship as an animal sacrifice that was presented to God in the Old Testament sacrificial system.

The Quality of Music that Goes to God

With that purpose, we have in particular quality of play that we must gain.

Psalm 48:1:

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised.

God should be praised greatly, immensely, that is, in the best way humanly possible.

Psalm 30:3:

Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

We should play skillfully to God. That means we have to become skilled on the instruments. The best music should not be played for entertainment, but out of praise and worship.

Psalm 150:2:

Praise him according to his excellent greatness.

The nature of the music we play to Him should be in fitting with His greatness. That means it should be great music, the greatest music in the world should be written for Him, not to get a grammy.

What Knowing the Purpose Will Do for Teaching Children Music?

Practice

To become good, children need to practice. Most children don’t like practice. They often don’t practice well. As parents, we know why they are playing, so we are motivated to discipline them in practice. No one should allowed to be horrible at music when the music is about God.

Motivation

Your children will get to glorify God with music, which is why they’re even living. As they are converted and grow as Christians, they will want to glorify God themselves. That will give them a motivation to get better. It will also guide their decision making about music.

Discernment

Since the music is for the Lord, that will guide their choice in music, even in what groups they will become a part of. None of my kids will go the jazz route. They don’t want to either. Pop rock doesn’t fit the purpose of the music. Discernment also means balance. To worship God, you don’t practice your instrument for five hours, but not read your Bible, pray, or evangelize the lost. God will allow you to be as good as He wants you to be in your praise to Him.

Conclusion

If you have this purpose for music, it will change the kind of music you will use, perform, sing, and play. We don’t play the goofy entertainment oriented music around the house. It doesn’t fit what music is about for us because it isn’t what music is for. We almost exclusively listen to the kind of songs that will give us a taste for the greatness that God deserves. We want models around to spur that kind of quality in our play as well.

If your children become really good at playing an instrument or singing, they might be able to make money through the music. That is not why they are playing. It’s OK to make the money, but the child who isn’t as talented will still have the same reason to play well as the super gifted player. When we play in church, we take it more seriously than symphony. God deserves our best.

If you have the right purpose, you can be the best player in the world and still be humble. You are very small compared to the One you are playing for. You are humbled to even be allowed to send music to His presence. You also have a reason to be the best in the world. God deserves the best. You might not be the best, but why not try for Him?

Before you set out on some path to teach music to your children or others, you better stop first and find out why you are doing it. If you are not doing it for God, then I suggest you stop and do something else. Don’t be another musician that is in it for himself. Don’t train your children to be that way either. Like everything else, God gave us music to enjoy. He didn’t give us man’s perversions of what is right. When the going gets tough, what will help you keep going is the glory of God. Always keep that at the forefront of everything that you do.

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  1. August 6, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    This is a very helpful, concise, philosophy of music. I enjoyed reading it. Hopefully, I can help people with my contribution later this week.

  2. August 6, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Isn’t anything we do in life to be done for and to the glory of God? I would think so.

  3. August 7, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Hi Patty!

    I appreciate that thought. Yes, everything is to be done for the glory of God! So often it isn’t and especially with music.

    Thanks Jeff.

  4. August 7, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Hmmm. “especially with music”? I wonder where you have found that fact. I would venture to guess that most everything isn’t done to the glory of God, truth be told. In fact, if I am thinking of only Christians in this, I would guess more music is done to the glory of God than, say, plumbing or selling cars.

    I just can’t agree with the idea that musicians are the least likely to do their job to the glory of God. (Again, I’m only speaking of Christians here.)

  5. August 7, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Guess we still somehow managed to snatch debate out of the jaws of serenity. Thanks, Patty.

  6. Cathy
    August 7, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Very enlightening contribution. I always loved music and had a desire to play, but never had the opportunity to learn. I do encourage my daughters to play and love hearing my husband play as well. Playing instruments should be a vital part in every child’s education.

  7. August 7, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Patty,

    Thanks for coming by again.

    Several points:
    1) We are writing about music this month and we look at subjects from a biblical viewpoint, so yes especially music in this context.
    2) Music in a special way in Scripture, in a unique way, is for the glory of God. We have the longest book in the Bible, Psalms, written for this purpose. We could argue that our lives are to be interminably worship, but music in a more technical, scriptural sense is worship, a means by which God is to be praised and reverenced. If you are someone who reads the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, you can’t help but see this.
    3) Because of its unique nature as worship, Satan has an interest in offering God music that does not conform to His character—fleshly lust, entertainment, sexual, trite, profane, worldly (in the spirit of the age), etc.—so this is increasing exponentially in churches.

    I’m talking about music and what musicians do in this article, not plumbers. Because of the unique place in Scripture with music for worship, we have a more serious situation with perverting music than we do with not getting the car sale correct. Yes, all is to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31Open Link in New Window), even the most mundane activities, but Satan does not attack tennis playing, for instance, as much as he does music because of the place of music in Scripture.

    Patty, we rarely hear today in churches whether God will like it. We almost exclusively in churches hear about what people will like. In many instances, and especially with children, there isn’t a consideration as to whether the music is to the glory of God, which is why so much insipid stuff is being written and played today. Do I think there is more in music than there is in other activities? I think it is about the same.

    So Patty, do you believe that music is amoral? I’m not talking about the words, but the composition, the sound.

  8. August 7, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    I can’t really go into this as much as I’d like: I’m an oboist, not a brilliant mind!

    I think God uses anyone and anything he chooses. Including some of the most corrupt people ever. (Many composers weren’t exactly the most moral of men, and yet I believe the music they wrote can still glorify God.)

    But anyway, I’m not really going to get into a debate. No time. Not enough brain power. And I’m not really all that confrontational.

    Thanks, though.

  9. August 7, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Patty,

    I do believe in the sovereign will of God, where everything that happens He either causes or allows. And ultimately everything will be to the glory of God. There are a couple of Greek words translated “will” in the NT and so we do have different understandings of the word “will.” For instance, God is not willing that any should perish, but some will perish. There is the moral will of God that is essentially His holy standard as seen in Scripture. People can play awful music and God will still be glorified, but that doesn’t justify awful music.

    Regarding evil men playing some of the most beautiful music in the world, I agree with you. They composed music in a style identical or similar to that by people who were writing a music in fitting with the nature of God. This is actually a huge discussion, and it is true that I don’t want to take this thread into that discussion because it would go way off the path of my post. I did click on your name and saw that you were an accomplished oboist, very skilled. I’m sure anyone that plays oboe as well as you must have some brain power. I’m sure you also have worked really hard.

    Thanks for commenting!

  10. August 8, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Bro. Kent, I was wondering if you could please email me with the prices for Sound Music or Sounding Brass and THOU SHALT KEEP THEM? I am from Canada, so I realize there will be a higher cost for shipment. Can you email me the total price for those two books and the address to mail payment to. I do not have a credit card, so I cannot order these books through the Internet, and I am limited to paying for these books by money orders or personal checks – please let me know which you would prefer (if you are willing to accept payment by one of these two means). My email address is jbouey@hotmail.com Thank you.

  11. August 8, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Jerry,

    I will email you with that information.

  12. August 16, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Pastor Brandenburg,

    I apologise for going off-topic, but I just wanted to announce that I’ve finished the revision of Ten Myths About Islam, for anyone who is interested. It can be accessed at http://www.studytoanswer.net/islam_myths.html

    Cheers,
    Tim

  13. Doyle
    August 18, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    God never commands the use of instruments in the New Testament, only the Old, and that was for specific purposes. To do it now is more for entertainment than for worship, and it’s as good as offering strange fire. Why do it? Nobody did it in the first century Church, so why do it now? Peter, Paul, Jesus, and everybody else- nobody used instruments! Nobody! It’s ok for musicians to use them in rock and roll, jazz, etc. but not for the church. Why would God tell us, “What I gave you isn’t good enough to worship me, so how about you make a bunch of stringed boards and pluck them for me?” That’s ridiculous! Use what God gave you to worship him. If you have a voice, praise him with that. If you can’t talk, praise him with your actions and thoughts. If you can’t do anything, praise him in your heart. God doesn’t like it when people do the things he never commanded- just look in your Bible.

  14. August 18, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Doyle,

    There are two Scriptural arguments that devastate your no-instrument position. If I believed what you said was true, I would gladly take the position.
    #1—In Ephesians 5:19, “making melody” is the Greek word psallo, which means: “to pluck on a stringed instrument.” So Ephesians 5:19 says that when believers are controlled by the Holy Spirit, they will either sing or play an instrument unto the Lord.
    #2—In both Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19, we have the teaching of “psalms” to be sung. When you go through the psalms, in so many places we are commanded to play instruments to the Lord. Since God wants us to sing the psalms and the psalms repeatedly mention playing instruments to the Lord, we couldn’t sing them “in spirit” (John 4:23, 24), that is, sincerely or honestly, if we had no plan to play instruments to the Lord.

    This debunks your “strange fire” comment.

    With regards to the rest of the comment, instruments are found in the psalms, so God has already endorsed using man-made instruments to praise Him. Since Paul told us in the epistles to play instruments, as shown above, Paul did actually teach this.

    On the one hand, you don’t want instruments to be played in church for the Lord, but you do commend instruments to be used to play for the devil in jazz and rock music groups. This violates all sorts of NT teaching, including “be not conformed to the world.”

    By the way, I got all of this by looking in my Bible.

  15. Bobby
    August 19, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Now if Doyle is humble he’ll react to the clear Scripture Kent has given by acknowledging the error of his way and stating a change of mind on the matter. I hope you do it, Doyle.

  16. August 22, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Thought you might find this interesting, a quote about music from Michael Knox Beran in National Review Online today. In describing five areas where Obama is explicitly secular, Beran says,

    Five: The poetry of liberal celebritydom is characterized by a rhythmic primitiveness evident in the monotonous backbeat of the bass drum (that primal, Jupiter Tonans thumping that often emanates from passing cars). Pope Benedict calls this music “Dionysian” both because of its “cultic character” and its power to enslave the soul to the “elemental passions.” Yet in spite of its brutish qualities, the new music has to a great extent replaced, as an educative force, the West’s older poetic culture which, before it was scrapped as a teaching tool by liberal educators in the last century, provided for the intergenerational transmission of artistic and spiritual culture.

    If the pope gets it, why can’t the Young Fundamentalists?

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