If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your child that will further his or her love of music, you should consider watching a documentary about music together. There are plenty of films out there that explore a variety of music-related topics, including the history of music, the lives of various musicians, and the effects that music has on our brains.
To get the most out of the documentary you choose, be sure to take the opportunity to discuss it afterwards with your child. Did your child find any scene particularly memorable? Were any parts of the film confusing or surprising?
The following are a few of the best music documentaries that families can enjoy together:
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years
Directed by multiple-award-winner Ron Howard, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years chronicles the four legendary band members from 1963 to 1966 through a series of stories, exclusive interviews, and concert footage. The film describes how the fabulous four created their music and how the group coped with their unprecedented rise to fame.
Actual concert footage gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the group’s most iconic moments. For example, at the very first Beatles concert held in the United States, the band had to perform a 12-song set for about 8,000 fans while standing in a boxing ring. Because the group was positioned in the center of the stadium, the Fab Four had to stop every few songs and rotate themselves and their mics and amps 90 degrees so that everyone in the audience could see them.
The documentary was originally released in theaters and made available for streaming on Hulu in September 2016, a few weeks after the 50th anniversary of Beatles’ last concert, which took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. In November 2016, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years won a Critics Choice Documentary Award for best music documentary.
How Music Works
A four-episode documentary that aired in the UK in 2006, How Music Works explores how every song shares a few common elements: melody, rhythm, harmony, and bass. The episodes are essentially a series of music lessons backed by easy-to-understand explanations. This documentary is a must-watch for those who enjoy listening to music but don’t know much about it.
As composer Howard Goodall explains each component, he provides precise detail on the role scales and tempo play in the musical process. To help viewers better hear the connection between each song, Goodall quickly switches from one genre to another. One of the best things about this documentary is that it flattens out the music hierarchy, reminding people that no particular form is superior to another.
The Music Instinct: Science and Song
Exploring the psychological, emotional, and biological impact of music, The Music Instinct: Science and Song examines how and why music stirs our emotions and details the proven healing power of music. The two-hour documentary, which premiered in 2009, takes viewers on an educational journey that shows exactly how the brain processes sounds and the ways that music is distinct from any other type of sound.
According to the film, a wide variety of factors, including our memories, determine how we interpret music we hear. This explains why listening to a certain song can stir up powerful emotions or elicit thoughts of good or bad times.
The Music Instinct: Science and Song also features renowned musicians such as jazz legend Bobby McFerrin and accomplished cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who provide insight into how music has particularly affected them. During filming, McFerrin teams up with the World Singers in order to demonstrate how tempo, pitch, and melody trigger a variety of brain responses. Yo-Yo Ma plays educates viewers on how musicians use intervals to create harmonies.
Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Elena Mannes and narrated by Audra MacDonald, The Music Instinct: Science and Song is available on pbs.org, Amazon.com, and YouTube.
These are just a few of many interesting documentaries about music, but there are countless other options available for you and your family to watch. DocumentaryTube.com is a great resource for finding free and engaging music documentaries online. Resources like this can be invaluable for music enthusiasts, as well as for teachers and students of music.