Does early music exposure help Child Development? Tune in

Jollee’s detailed conversation with Hindustani Classical Music Teacher – Mukta Dharma from Tootly. What does she think about the relation between music and child development? Let’s find out!

What got you into music?

I’m a trained Hindustani musician because my parents were both music lovers and they used to take me to classical music concerts right from when I was an infant. And I mostly sleep off at those concerts, but I remember going to these, and once I was, I think 6 or 7 years old, then they started me off with a guruji. I trained in a very traditional manner for about 14 or 15 years and I used to perform at small concerts.

How did you end up with the concept of Tootly?

I had to move away from Hyderabad and my musical education kind of stopped there and I never got back to learning. After that for a few years, my connection to music was mostly personal and not professional. Later on, I met a gentleman in Bangalore who was starting up a music foundation and at that point, he was looking for someone to head it. I worked with him for 2 or 3 years. We were setting up the organization and I was the CEO of that organization in Bangalore. As the head of the Academy, I used to speak to a lot of students to get their feedback about the Academy. I gathered that there was a lot of disconnect with classical music, even with parents.

So the younger kids or younger adults felt that classical music is boring or something that they could not connect with. That used to hurt me a little bit because as a person who has studied it for a very long time, you not only like it, but you have an emotional connection to it and you understand what it is. I felt bad that young children are getting alienated from classical music.

This was either because of their own bias or biases that their parents had put on them. I think that’s where Tootly was born to make classical music something that is viewed as doable, and engageable which it is, and also shows that it is the basis for a lot of other music as well.

All the music in the world has some very basic principles and as a person who understands that connection, I want to bring that to everybody, especially children and give them a great first impression of Indian classical music. So that was where the idea of Tootly was born and that was before 3 to 4 years and then we started experimenting on how to teach.

Our curriculum, even today, is rooted in how we learn and how I have learnt or how traditional music is taught to other people. So we differentiate ourselves in the way we teach and the pace and the language that we use that is suitable for children.

Is it necessary for children to start that young which is around 3 or 4 years of age?

early child development with music

So here, “necessary” isn’t the appropriate word because younger children have more time on their hands and they are more open to ideas and are less likely to bias something they are taught.

The way they learn is different from adults because adults try to learn through understanding and we tend to bring out logic and try to understand the reason behind it before they learn something. On the other hand, a child is simple-minded and he learns through imitation which is great for a performing art like music because there is no actual theory to be explained to the child, he just hears and sings.

Coming back if they should start from that young age, Tootly offers courses from 3 years but around the world, many courses start from day O itself and even earlier. Music is something very basic to any human being so it’s not any rocket science to listen, hear and sing. Since it is like a sensory input, the younger you start, the richer the exposure is. In the early stages, children have a more growth capacity which should be taken advantage of, especially while performing art like music. 

How does music help in child development?

How does music help in developing the mind of a child?

In the early stages of a child, there are a lot of new connections being made in the brain, which is called neuroplasticity and this happens when there is new information given to the child. Here, the input can be anything.

It can be things that you see, things that you feel, etc. So sound, like any other sensory input, is creating new pathways in the brain of the child. If the child hears different instruments, then the child is learning something new and there is a new sensory input that is going in. Later on, the child stores it in his brain and processes it and then tries to imitate it.

That is one way in which music can affect the child’s brain. Music is a very rich sensory input because it contains vision, listening, understanding, memorising and reproduction along with an emotional connection. If a child is practising music with the mother, there is this emotional connection between the mother and the child in terms of music.

The second part of this answer is based on my experience. So in my experience, I saw the joy that children had while practising music while they are listening to something very clearly because, to reproduce what they are listening to, they have to put their concentration on it.

Tootly conducts a lot of rhythmic training which need not be singing as such, just the way that the child talks. So around the age of 3 or 4 or 5 years old, the child is learning all of these rhythmic inputs, that is when music plays a very important role in actually developing his speech patterns or his fluency. 

Does Tootly offer instrument lessons too or only vocal training for children?

As of now, Tootly focuses only on rhythm exercises and only vocal training because the students are very young and it is their first exposure to music. Tootly creates a sort of springboard for them to learn music and focuses on the age group that has no good quality options.

Another reason for not having an instrument is the minimum age for an instrument is around 6 years because the child needs to have some motor functions, some strength in their fingers to play an instrument or some lung power if it is a percussion instrument for that matter.

Playing the instrument has 2 aspects, the physical aspect is one and finding the right rhythm is one. With vocal training, Tootly helps them find the rhythmic tunes to which they can apply the physical aspect as they grow on as trying to teach a 4-year-old both the aspects would burden them.

What does Tootly have to offer children that other methods of learning do not offer?

There are not many courses available for the very young group of children. Most of it is starting from around 6 or 7 years. But when it comes to tootly 6 or 7, is the older range because it focuses on the primary introduction to music. Another point is that the way children learn through Tootly isn’t followed in any other place in India or outside India when it comes to Indian classical music.

There are available options for Western music, but this doesn’t apply to Indian music so that is where Tootly stands out. So there are very few available options for young children if they want to learn Indian classical music, and even if there are courses available out there, they are not self-paced and it is not at the pace that the child would prefer or the child can cope up with.

So overall, Tootly compared to others is more self-paced it is wider and it is a more rich learning experience for children who are being introduced to music.

What do you think is the most important aspect when it comes to learning music?


The common answer that any music teacher or any musician for that matter will give is “good practice”. It is important to find a good teacher, but the best way to learn music is through continuous practice.

There is a saying which goes like this, “A flower will only bloom if it is watered regularly and a voice will only bloom if it is trained regularly”. Music is a performing art and it is not about understanding music, especially with young children, it is about reproducing what they hear.

Final Thoughts

If one continues to do something regularly and make it a habit, they will definitely improve and excel at that. The second most important aspect would be to find the right teacher who motivates to practice in the right way. It is also important for that teacher to make the student fall in love with that subject through their teaching and make sure the love for that subject keeps increasing as they learn more of it.

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