The Little Amber music scheme is based on the Sounds of Intent framework, which identifies six stages of musical development:
Level 1 – ‘before hearing starts to work’
Level 2 – ‘sounds interesting’
Level 3 – ‘copy me, copy you’
Level 4 – ‘bits of pieces’
Level 5 – ‘whole songs, in time and in tune’
Level 6 – ‘musical maturity’
These six levels reflect how children develop musically, moving from a stage before hearing starts to work (usually three months before birth – level 1), to a ‘sensory’ stage (level 2), the stage of recognising and making patterns in sound (level 3), the stage of acknowledging and using musical ‘chunks’ (that musicians call ‘riffs’, ‘licks’ or ‘motifs’ – think of the ‘hook’ of a pop song or a short advertising jingle – level 4), the stage of being able to sing or play whole pieces or songs, in tune and with a regular beat (level 5), and, finally, the stage of understanding the social and emotional impact of music and being to perform expressively (level 6).
Children in the early years are usually at levels 2, 3, 4 or 5, and these are the four levels that the Little Amber scheme uses.
Children engage with music in three different ways: ‘reactively’ (by listening and responding), ‘proactively’ (making sounds and music on their own), and ‘interactively’ (making sounds and music with others). These three types of engagement are shown on the framework in different colours: reactive is pink, proactive is blue and interactive is green. Each has a different ‘headline’ at each level: reactive level 1 is characterised by children ‘showing an emerging awareness of sound’, for example; children functioning proactively level 3 will be making ‘simple patterns in sound intentionally’; while those at level 4 (interactive) will be engaging ‘in musical dialogues using distinctive fragments of music’.