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Hey, Kids, Let's Play Piano With Our Eyes Closed

 

 

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Start piano at home with your child

Start with numbers, then read music

Books for Younger Kids      Books for Older Kids      Books for Adults

 

HEY, KIDS, LET'S PLAY PIANO WITH OUR EYES CLOSED

I often ask kids to play their piece (or a portion) with their eyes closed.

The first thing one must do to play with your eyes closed is have a picture of it in your mind, and this game forces the child to make a mental picture: "where did it go up, where did it go down, oh, yeah, here's that part I have to slide the thumb under."

Be sure to tailor the passage to the child, and make it easy enough for them to get the hang of "making a mental picture." This may be the first time a child is asked to do such a thing, as I find many, especially the youngest, have never tried.

If necessary, make the task to play a very simple pattern with the eyes closed. This will at least start the mental process of forming images of the piano keyboard.

The reason for this game is that there is a huge difference between PLAYING the piano, and READING MUSIC. 

You don't have to necessarily read a piece of music to be able to play it at the piano. All that is required is an understanding of the geography of the piano keyboard, and knowledge of chords.

Professional pianists perform at the piano with eyes on the keys, not a page of sheet music. Any pianist who plays with the music in front of them is either practicing, sight reading, or accompanying, but they are not playing music that comes from themselves. 

You can't be lost in the thrill of a drive with your eyes glued to the map, and that's all sheet music is, a map.

Children only understand the music they are actually able to make at the piano, not your abstract idea of what they OUGHT to be able to play. Asking them for more than they can actually play comfortably will instantly frustrate them unless you have carefully planned how to support them in this uncharted territory.

The evidence for this is that all children, regardless of age, are able to play, by eye and ear, music far more complicated than they may ever be able to read as sheet music.

What does this mean? It means that children learn the piano visually best at first, saving notes for later when they understand many of the host of complex elements involved.

I have child students who can play their own version of FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLEBEE at age 8, when they cannot even begin to decipher the notes.

Why? Because they understand the music as a series of keys to be played in certain finger patterns. Children find these patterns interesting: they do not find the same patterns, expressed as notes, in any way interesting.

As with video games, children at the piano become fascinated with this matrix of information (which has the added attraction of producing beautiful sounds just as video games produce pleasing actions) 

It is from this self-engendered enthusiasm that child pianists are born, not from any method or regime or teacher. You have to love it or it's worthless.

Only this visual fascination will keep children moving forward on their own at the piano. Force, guilt, and pressure will have the opposite effect if they are not interested in the first place.

If you present the same information in the form of sheet music, you will get absolute reluctance. All the fun is stripped from the process because children have no visual tools to interpret what is on the page, and then put it onto the piano keyboard. 

A child's desire for music at the piano is IMMEDIATE, and you had better feed that fire at first if you expect enthusiasm in the future.

The only tool child pianists really have is their wits, and reading music requires less immediate, more subtle, instinctive mental tools that require YEARS to discover, build and refine. 

But basic common sense and a knack for games is inherent in every child. That's why the "visual piano method" works on every child I've ever seen, and serves as a great introduction to the piano regardless of what the child does later in terms of reading music. You have to get them started somehow, and this works better than anything.

When you insist the child look at the page all the time, you rob them of the one tool they can rely on: their eyes, which are glued to the page and cannot see the visual patterns right in front of them on the keyboard.

The obvious solution is to put the musical information visually on the keyboard first, perhaps introducing the sheet music later, if ever.

You say something like, "This finger starts here, and then you play four notes up, to the right, using every finger." Simple visual language like this excites kids, because it is something they can grasp right away. 

Reading music, on the other hand, is like asking children to quickly appreciate rustic German poetry in the original dialect: it isn't going to happen unless, perhaps, you are a rustic German child.

Add to this visual process the element of a familiar song that the child really wants to play, and you will have a child begging you, "What's the next part, the part that goes, doodley doodley doo?"

Once you have a child interested in playing visually, it is easy to spend a small amount of time beginning or shoring up their music reading skills.

The "rule" is to help the child PLAY familiar songs at first, under any means. Then, slowly attempt to start reading music and start refining that skill.

Reversing the order of the above "rule" is a disaster for 90% of child piano students.

If your motto is, "Play a lot, then work a little," a child will follow you anywhere.

Get them to PLAY at first, not READ.

By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2011 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved

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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 

Our BOOK PACKAGE price: $89.95Click here to order THE COMPLETE PIANO PACKAGE

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