CHILDREN'S STRUGGLE TO READ PIANO MUSIC
The struggle to
read music must be prevented, regardless of the piano method. If
it is a struggle for the child, you are going too fast.
You must have a
teaching tool, ready in advance, in case the child flounders at
reading music. The tool can be numbers, it can be colors, it can
be by ear, by eye.
The only real
alternative to reading music is playing music, which can be done
in a variety of ways depending on the age of the child.
In fact, the
ideal ratio of play to work in a child's piano lesson is really
about seven parts playing music and three parts reading music,
and that is the maximum. Kids are usually happier with a mix of
nine to one, but each day is different, each child is different
on a different day. Roll with the punch.
never really learn to read music in both hands but can readily
understand the physical logic of a piece of piano music. Being
able to read music proficiently doesn't mean you find playing
the piano an enjoyable activity.
children only want to read music, and are uncomfortable outside
the narrow confines of the printed page. Improvisation scares
them if they have no idea of what to do.
It is the
children who struggle to read music that concern us, for if the
reading struggle continues the child will become frustrated and
fail to find music making enjoyable. From a child's point of
view, why do all that work if it's no fun in the first place?
teachers simply discard such students, or never take them on in
the first place.
But my goal is
to find the spark inside each child that will allow them to
enjoy the piano in their own unique way. I don't mind slow
starters, underachievers and misfits. All have the right to try
the piano and perhaps enjoy the experience.
guidelines to help prevent the music-reading struggle:
the child does not understand reading music after gentle
initial attempts, but does like playing songs at the piano,
back off from reading music until the child is thoroughly
engaged with the piano. Pretend that reading music doesn't
exist, and let them inhabit the realm of numbers in blissful
ignorance. Build their confidence outside of reading music
the child will be ready to try reading music again. When you
do, lower the dosage. That is, only a minute or two devoted
in each lesson to hammer home the basic concepts in game
form, until you can depend on the child knowing those ideas,
such as middle C, lines and spaces, etc.
dilute, and use any ruse to get the child slowly comfortable
with very basic patterns. If it takes a student six months
to learn how to find Middle C and the next two white keys
above it, so be it. Look at the child's face. If they are
confused, it's no longer fun and it has become a struggle.
Break things down into such ridiculously small bits that
anyone can get the idea.
whatever curriculum schedule you were on. Ignore the
arbitrary standards set by "piano teacher
associations" and the like. Just because Billy learned
to read music in three lessons doesn't mean Sally will do
importantly, do not proceed further with reading music if
the child demonstrates hesitation with the following basic
music-reading skill: finding Middle C and the first five
keys above it without failure. Unless the child understands
this little five-note game in all its permutations, it is
pointless to proceed further.
piano frustrations are caused by an impatient teacher, trying to
move ahead from the five note skill without realizing the child
is insecure in that simple area. Going into more complex ideas
without that skill in hand is a recipe for disaster if the only
tool being used is reading music.
The piano is a
pyramid of complexity that can only be scaled one level at a
time. To a child of average musical gifts, that can seem
eternity, and may well in fact be.
The problem isn't
stupid kids. It's impatient piano teachers.