Piano by number for children's piano lessons

 

 

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Preventing Children's Struggle To Read Piano Music

 

 

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Start with numbers, then read music

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PREVENTING 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.

Some children 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.

Still other 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?

Most piano 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.

Here are guidelines to help prevent the music-reading struggle:

  1. If 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 first.
  2. Eventually 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.
  3. Simplify, 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.
  4. Abandon 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 the same.
  5. Most 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.  

Most children's 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.

By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2011 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved

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TOPICS OF INTEREST TO PARENTS:

"What is a good age to start piano lessons?"

"What are the benefits of playing piano for my child?"

"How can I help my child read sheet music at the piano?"

Piano Lessons: A Child's Point of View

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THE COMPLETE BOOK PACKAGE: 

1. 107 page illustrated THE CHRISTMAS CAROL KIT Book with 44 songs, Play Along Audio CD, and removable stickers   

2. 120 page illustrated PIANO IS EASY Book with 50 songs, Play Along Audio CD, and removable stickers 

3. 50 page I CAN READ MUSIC Book 

4. 132 page TEACH YOURSELF PIANO STEP BY STEP Book, 56 minute DVD Video and removable stickers 

5. 141 page THE BIG BOOK OF SONGS BY NUMBER Book with 130 songs, and removable stickers 

6. 88 page EASY CLASSICAL PIANO BY NUMBER Book with 10 songs, and removable stickers, and 29 minute Play Along Audio CD 

6 BOOKS, DVD AND 3 PLAY ALONG AUDIO CDS 

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