The author of the
Christmas Carol Kit
and Piano Is Easy! was asked recently
about his teaching method:
"My philosophy of music teaching is to provide an environment in which
the student cannot fail. Too many teachers have a rigid program which the
student, usually a child, must master or risk disapproval.
Students, especially children, are unique individuals and these personal
differences may mean a radical range of motor skills and intellectual abilities.
I can honestly say that it is my students who have taught me how to teach: I
watched their efforts and devised ways for them to grasp the next step. When
they grasped the next step, I'd try the next step after that, and if they
failed, I'd go back to the last step, all the while entertaining them and
informing them, and most of all, playing the piano for them to show what awaited
if they kept trying.
Music is either pleasurable or it isn't, especially to a five year old. If
you make music fun, students keep trying. A piano teacher, especially of
children, must necessarily function somewhere in between a game show host and a
A music teacher should never express disapproval to a student who has made an
honest effort on a complex problem: when a student fails, it is the teacher who
has failed to present the material properly or in an interesting manner.
One rule I have discovered is that students learn things when they are good
and ready to, and it's up to the teacher to give them the skills that make
them ready to master the next step. Patience to a music teacher may mean months
of strategy. The student is always right; if the method fails, the method is
Reading music by numbers, improvising and studying chords is so natural to
students that they can do it without exhaustion: they feel a rise in
self-esteem. Improvisation exercises allow a student to make satisfying music
outside of the crushing limits of conventional music notation. Anyone can
improvise music, given certain basic skills.
It is better to have a student with limited accomplishments play a simple
tune by numbers or memory, or improvise, and be proud than to have that same
student feel defeated by conventional music notation.
The object of piano teaching is not to create millions of Vladimir Horowitzes,
but rather to allow everyone the opportunity to speak the great language of
music, even in humble dialects such as numbers or basic improvisation.
As soon as a student begins to feel defeated by studying sheet music, the
teacher must shift to the more pleasurable study of harmony and theory. There
are students barely capable of playing a simple piece of sheet music, but who
can play all twenty-four major and minor chords flawlessly because it is logical
A wise teacher plays to the student's strengths while relentlessly
attacking the problem areas a bit at a time.
Deciphering conventional music notation is drudgery, a complex right-brained
chore to even the most diligent child. A brilliant, diligent child will memorize
a piece of music they love so they can ignore the right-brained deciphering
mechanism and engage the poetic left brain as soon as possible. Even much less
gifted children do the same, memorizing a piece they love so that the dreaded
sheet music is forgotten in the pleasure of playing.
Part of the secret is to loosely divide the lesson time into both a study of
the piano (including conventional notation and improvisation) and a study of
In addition, the teacher must make each area of study a living, breathing
experience. The study of chords, for instance, is made exciting by constantly
asking the student's input: is the chord happy, sad, weird? Anything that can
be made into a game should be.
A study of chords isn't dry and boring if the teacher is capable of showing
that within that study are the secrets of a great language, the language of
music. You can't just tell a student that a particular "something" is exciting about piano music: you have to sit down and play that
something for them right there, or it's not real to them. Students
who know what they're shooting for are always willing to try.
This book is the result of what I saw that worked while I was teaching. I
began to see certain patterns of information that seemed to make music theory
digestible regardless of the skill level of the student.
And I observed what information was necessary for each student to progress to
the next level, and this became the core of the book, the set of steps that will
begin to lead anyone to play satisfying music on the piano.
The premise of the book is this: there are certain basic skills that a
student will need to begin studying music, and these skills can be self-taught
if the information is properly presented in a step-by-step format.
This book is intended for adults and children supervised by adults. An
enterprising and intelligent child of six or eight could make their way through this
book alone. A child of six would probably need an adult to help them make apply
the stickers, but the advantage is that the parent and child can learn together.
If your child sees you try to play the piano, they'll try it right away. I've
seen it again and again.
You will be shocked at how easy it is to begin to play the piano if the
information is properly presented. The steps you go through in the book are
almost exactly what beginning students learn in the first few weeks of my
The most basic rule is this: if you don't understand something, go back a
step or two and review. Music is so skill-based that you usually cannot progress
to the next level unless you have first mastered the previous level. Take the
time to try all the steps.
Playing "piano by number"
is a humble dialect, if you will, of the great
language of music. You can't make a better, happier beginning to your study of
music than playing piano by number.
All the skills you use in this book will be valuable to you later when you
learn to read conventional sheet music. It has been my experience that students
first taught by number, and who have a solid knowledge of chords, have a far
higher chance of learning to read conventional sheet music.
Anyone can teach themselves to play the piano if someone gives them the
logical steps. That's all I've done."