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An Effective Strategy for Kids Learning to Read Music

 

 

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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

 

AN EFFECTIVE STRATEGY FOR KIDS LEARNING TO READ MUSIC

"Reading music" is a very large, vague term.

There are levels of reading music. Liszt, the famed romantic star of the piano, was able to read instantly even the handwritten chicken-scratchings of young composers. That's the highest level of pianistic expertise, a level sought and usually attained by modern professional classical musicians.

At the opposite end of the scale is the average adult amateur, with whatever music reading skills they can muster from youth, which are often not well-remembered.

Children, too, have levels. Some learn right hand (treble clef) up to a certain level of complexity. Some also learn the left hand language (bass clef) but rarely with the assurance of the right hand.

Be aware that reading music, in terms of the piano, often involves "speaking" (playing) two different musical languages; right hand (treble clef) and left hand (bass clef.)

To play and read even one clef well is an accomplishment, but a pianist must conquer both simultaneously. 

Here are the steps a child must take to learn to read simple music in the treble clef, that is, for the right hand. Some steps involve finding things on the page, and others involve finding keys on the piano.

  1. Familiarize yourself with and locate Middle C. It is the only note with the "little line." (See below.)

  2. Be aware that there are five horizontal lines.

  3. Look at notes on a page. There are only three locations: Middle C, on a space or on a line.

 

  1. Keep drilling visually the placement of notes, as in the above drawing. The child must know the answer EVERY time before proceeding. Three placements, Middle C, on a space, or on a line.

 

  1. Now put the stickers on your keyboard, as in the diagram below.

 

 

  1. The red sticker represents Middle C. Play games finding Middle C on the page (the "little line.")

  2. Review the skill of finding Middle C on both the piano and the page. This is crucial for success with reading music. Don't worry if it takes four months or longer, depending on the age of the child. This skill must be in place before proceeding. Older kids learn it in a few minutes.

  3. Offer the additional information that Middle C, or any C, for that matter, is the white key to the left of the group of two white keys. Play a game finding all the C's on the piano. You point to a group of two black keys, and the child must find the adjacent white key to the left. After that is mastered, go back to finding Middle C, that is, distinguishing Middle C from all other C's. 

  4. Now play a game with the drawing above (in #5) in which the child must distinguish between Middle C, denoted by the red sticker, and all the other lines, denoted by the 5 blue stickers. Play a key with a blue sticker, and ask, "Is this on a line or a space?" The answer must be "It's on a line." Play Middle C, the key with the red sticker. Ask if it's on a line or a space. It's a trick question. Middle C is on it's "own line," the "little lines" of the drawing in #4 above.

  5. Next use the drawing with the stickers (your keyboard) and play all the keys that have no sticker at all. These are "spaces." If a note is on these spaces, we say it is "on a space."

These steps will prepare your child for reading music. If you attempt to read music without understanding these skills and ideas, you will be confused from the first moment.

If these skills are in hand, it will not be hard to move from one note on a line to the next on a space.

The general strategy is to learn the first five notes above Middle C until they are utterly familiar. Don't stray into other hand positions until the C position with the right hand is solidly learned. That's why it's important to have other things to learn while the weeks pass and the above ideas sink in.

I CAN READ MUSIC contains all these skills, with detailed step by step instructions that make the process into a game.

Lastly, do not make the mistake of introducing fingering at this time. It will greatly confuse younger children.

Find the notes on the page, then find them on the piano. No note naming, no fingering.

Many things are possible once the idea of "note finding" is secure in their minds.

Note finding is a game, with various levels. Play all the levels (the steps above, or I CAN READ MUSIC) before gingerly testing the waters with real music. You will succeed if you are patient and make sure the child has control of the underlying concepts.

By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved

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Piano Lessons: A Child's Point of View

Visit the WALDEN POND PRESS ARCHIVES and read articles about children and piano

Click here to read the entire tutorial HOW TO TEACH YOUR CHILD TO READ MUSIC

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PIANO IS EASY BOOK PACKAGE INCLUDES:

PIANO IS EASY (ISBN # 0-9718936-1-6) Sturdily bound, durable, colorful 120 page illustrated song book with 50 songs such as Jingle Bells and London Bridge, Play Along Audio CD and removable numbered stickers. 

Every book package order of PIANO IS EASY includes a copy of I CAN READ MUSIC. This fun, easy-to-understand music activity book is the best way to start children reading music. Click here for sample pages.

Every book package order of PIANO IS EASY includes a FREE copy of the 56 minute DVD video from TEACH YOURSELF PIANO. This video will have you playing chords (three piano keys played with the left hand) and fun, familiar songs with both hands right away. That's a $16.95 value free!

2 BOOKS,  PLAY ALONG AUDIO CD and DVD 

Click here for a list of songs.    Click here for sample pages.

PIANO IS EASY BOOK PACKAGE $39.95   

 PIANO IS EASY book package includes a 107 page song book with 44 songs and removable stickers, plus a Play Along Audio CD, free DVD and copy of the book  I CAN READ MUSIC.

You can also purchase individual books with CD $24.95

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