What It Means to be Musically Inclined – A Few Signs!

Author: Brian Campbell | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

As a parent, you want the absolute best for your child. You want them to have a great childhood. You want to prepare them for a good future. You want to teach them good values and how to be responsible.

For most parents, this involves discovering and fostering their children’s talents. And since we are a music-centered website, it’s only natural that we help you determine if your child is musically inclined!

Music is powerful because it can help with all the categories I mentioned earlier, plus more. In this article, I will list several signs of musically inclined children. After that, I’ll ask that ever-important question: what should you do about it?

Let’s dive in!

The Basics: What Does It Mean to Be “Musically Inclined?”

According to numerous professional sources, being “musically inclined” means that a child has a natural inclination and ability to respond to, and produce, music. That might seem a tad dense, so let’s unpack it briefly.

“Natural inclination” means you don’t have to force/teach your child to be interested in music. Rather, they automatically gravitate to it of their own choice. Pretty simple, and probably what you were already thinking!

The next part is interesting though. It states that they naturally “respond” and “produce” music. When people think about being musically inclined, they tend to focus on technical proficiency and playing an instrument.

But it’s so much more than that! Being musically inclined also means that you respond to music on a personal, emotional, and passionate level. As we will see, not every inclined child has to be an instrument pro – in fact, some of the best musicians in history had very rudimentary skills!

With that said, there are three “categories” of signs for musical inclination: skill with producing music, skill with listening to music, and indicators of passion. We’ll look at each one in depth.

Category 1: Skills with Producing Music (i.e., the “Popular” Skills)

“Producing” and “listening” are very much connected. The better you listen, the better you can produce (even if you’re listening to music in your head). Both of these skills can be lumped into “aural skills,” or the skills necessary to hear and replicate music strictly by ear.

For most people, playing instruments is the most obvious indicator of music inclination. That’s why we’re starting here. I mean, if your child is Yo Yo Ma, Mozart, or Stevie Wonder, it’s not that hard to notice their skills!

Now there’s a lot to unpack, so I’ll list them as succinctly as possible!

Constant Humming

If your child is constantly humming, this is one of the clearest indicators that they are musically inclined. This means they can recall, match, and perform an entire melody – no small feat when you think about it!

Music educators Kodaly (pronounced “coh-dai”) and James Aebersold both insist that singing and humming are the best ways to internalize music. Your voice is intrinsically personal, and as Aebersold says, “if you can sing it, you can play it!”

Match Pitch

Matching pitch means a child can sing the exact note that an instrument or melody is playing. It’s easier said than done. If you can replicate a note perfectly, then it means you are on the right track to performing and internalizing better.

Replicating Rhythms

Many musically inclined students can hear a beat or tricky rhythm and repeat it verbatim. Additionally, they can stay on beat. Kids who focus on rhythm often share a common characteristic: they tap tap tap tap AND TAP ALL THE TIME! It may be annoying, but trust me, it’s good for them 🙂

Since rhythms and beats are the “heartbeat” of a song, they are essential to keeping the piece from literally falling apart. If you can keep them going correctly, then you can perform more naturally.

It’s worth noting that some kids gravitate more towards harmony or rhythm, though. Some kids (like me, AHEM) struggle with rhythm, but are excellent with harmony. This doesn’t mean I’m not musically inclined: it just means I’m better at one musical element than another!

Playing by Ear

This quality won’t occur with every kid, but if it does, it’s a dead giveaway of musical inclination. Many prodigies can play by ear, but it’s not just prodigies who can do it.

If your kid can play by ear easily, then consider introducing them to classic “pop” genres like jazz and rock. Many jazz musicians, like pianist Art Tatum, are legendary because of their ability to play by ear.

Category 2: Skills With Listening to Music

As previously mentioned, performing is just one piece of the musical puzzle. While I wouldn’t call it overrated, I would say it does steal the limelight from other forms of musical talent.

“Active listening” means that someone is consciously dissecting the song they’re listening to, analyzing every element and pondering what it could mean. A kid won’t have the profound experience of an adult, of course. But musically inclined kids will definitely pick up on elements that many adults pass by!

Remembering Melodies

This goes part-and-parcel with humming. If kids are reproducing a song by humming, it clearly means they remember every detail. Again – no small feat!

Sensitive to Differences Between Sounds

THIS one is interesting, and often overlooked. Musically inclined kids tend to be very attentive to the different “timbers,” or sound qualities, of sounds around them.

This extends beyond musical elements like melody or harmony. Rather, it focuses on the “sound of the sounds” themselves.

Classical composers like Ravel were renowned for their ability to bring out the luscious colors of orchestras with their compositions. Others, like film scorer Hans Zimmer and hip-hop producer J Dilla, refused to study music formally.

This doesn’t mean your kid shouldn’t learn music formally. But it does mean that sensitivity to acoustics plays a far bigger role than most realize.

Hearing Different Elements of a Song

This is another HUGE indicator. A kid doesn’t have to know official terms, but it’s enough if they can pick out different instrument parts and describe harmonic changes. This evidence shows an innate ability to pay attention to the various elements of music in real time.

Out-of-Tune Music Drives Them Nuts!

This one’s simple! Musically inclined kids can often tell if an instrument or singer is out-of-tune, and they can tell it doesn’t “fit in” with the rest of the song.

You simply can’t play music well if you can’t tell you’re in tune. Therefore, noticing this means you’re naturally aware of how you should sound.

Category 3: Inclination – the Secret Sauce!

As Einstein once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Maybe he was just being modest, but he certainly had a point. Raw skills can only get you so far – you need a self-motivated drive to pursue music. And he would know – he played violin!

Listens to Music A LOT

Kids who are musically inclined just can’t listen to enough music. They may differ in skills and focus, but every one of them will actively seek out music to listen to.

When kids listen to music a lot, whether it’s new songs or the same song, there’s a lot going on in their brain. They’re analyzing every second, and always learning something new.

Also, this is evidence of something very simple: they love music enough to make it part of everyday life, and they find deep enjoyment in it.

Emotive to Music

Kids who have a passionate connection to music often find deep, emotional connections to it. They may be reminded of personal memories, or simply enjoy being moved by new sounds.

Whatever the reason, musically inclined children will emotionally connect to music in a stronger way than others.

You Can’t Tear Them Away from Instruments

This is another one of the biggest indicators of musical inclination. They’re fascinated by the mechanics of an instrument and the sounds they can produce. Even toddlers plunking around on a piano are learning valuable things!

Some kids may enjoy the process of practicing. Others may enjoy playing what they hear in their heads. Either way, instruments are a powerful tool for them to explore the world and express themselves.

What To Do If Your Kid is Musically Inclined

Perhaps you’ve read through this and realized that your kid fits a lot of these descriptions. That’s great! But now what? What should you do?

It doesn’t matter if you’re musically inclined or not. It’s actually pretty simple.

First, play a lot of music for your kid. Expose them to a lot of different styles and genres. Make memories with it, and talk about it!

Second, perform with your kid! If you’re a musician yourself, just teach them a simple tune. If you don’t play music yourself, it can be as simple as tapping a beat or singing along.

Lastly, if you really want to foster your child’s talents, you should consider sending them to lessons. Piano lessons are a great way to introduce students to instruments and musical elements. Dance lessons are also a great way to get them connected to music.

However, there is something extremely important I have to say about lessons: they are NOT a guarantee that your child will get better with music. As Einstein hinted at earlier, raw talent is not enough to be a great musician.

Rather, your kid needs to practice practice practice PRACTICE! Taking lessons is not about having a certain “status” among your peers. Rather, they teach your child how to methodically improve their skills through responsibility and dedication.

With that said, don’t treat lessons like they’ll magically make your kid a prodigy. Rather, use them to teach your kids important life lessons and explore their musical skills.

Conclusion

Fostering your children’s talents is one of the greatest joys you can get as a parent. I hope my list above helps you determine how to approach your child’s talents.

However, it’s important to put things in perspective. Some of the best musicians in history had parents that exposed them to music every day. But more importantly, they fostered their children’s dedication and passion rather than just praising them all the time.

If your child is musically inclined, think of it as a jump-start to a life of extraordinary music making – not a “free” card to “musical prodigy wizardry.”

Great talent takes great responsibility and dedication. But trust me, it’s worth it. When you’re cheering your child along their musical journey, what could be better?

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About Brian Campbell

Brian has been playing piano since elementary school and started learning guitar in 7th grade. He teaches K-8 students in Columbus, Ohio, and writes lessons covering a broad spectrum of genres. As a child, he moved back and forth between Colorado and West Africa. He credits those experiences with opening his eyes to the cultural and artistic diversity he appreciates today. Several of his favorite musicians include J.S. Bach, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Radiohead. When not doing music and teaching, you can find Brian reading, hiking, traveling, or making just one more shot of espresso.

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