Birth of the beat: 6 months to 1 year

What can babies hear and how do they respond to music?

Your baby is already a musical genius!  You’ll notice how much your baby loves novel sounds, songs and especially when you sing to her or read a rhyming story.  Here’s some evidence-based research so you know what your child loves and what they can do during music J


 Music Perception 


A 6-month-old infant will start to divide rhythmic phrases into“chunks” according to rhythmic pattern, helping her to remember them. She is able to recognize changes in a

rhythmic sequences although changes in foreign rhythmic sequences are no longer recognized without regular exposure.  This is a good reason to play world music for your babies – they will continue to retain this complexity of rhythmic and melodic discrimination into adulthood.  


Your infant will remember rhythms better when coupled with movement which is why bouncing, rocking, instrument play and action songs work so well.  


 Musical Responses


Between 6-12 months, the infant begins to expand her expressive language skills with repetitive babbling and early words such as “dadada” and “mamama”. While this

stage is less creative than exploratory vocal play, babbling contains regular beats and short musical phrases.  Sequences are sung in short structured melodies in which elements are repeated with variation in rhythm and accent.  


Between 6-12 months your baby reacts more quickly to sound and spends time looking for the sound source if it is familiar. Your baby begins to experience the emergence of emotions, and becomes more aware of, and responsive to the emotional nature of music.


Physically, by 6 months of age the infant responds to music by bouncing and swaying, which gradually becomes more rhythmically matched to the music as she ages.  The 6-12 month old infant has a preference for her mother’s sounds, and language experience is increasingly important.  So let’s sing!


 What do Dad’s sing?


Dad’s tend to sing made up songs or footy songs, which is great, even if you’re not into footy.  It’s a great way for Dad’s and babies to connect and as you know baby’s love it when you sing to them J  

 Mums tend to be different though.  Mums tend to sing more traditional nursery rhymes or children’s songs.  There is remarkable consistency in the performance of songs that mothers sing to their baby’s. A research study found that when mothers sang the same song to their 5-7 month old infants on different occasions, their pitch level and tempo were virtually identical. When you sing your baby may respond with matched rhythmical movement in response, a lovely musical ‘conversation’ you can have together.