The concept of piano by
number is really just the result of numbering the fingers themselves,
first done in the 19th Century.
Most piano teachers will
say that piano cannot be simplified, and that conventional music notation
is the only way to properly start a child at the piano.
Regardless of the truth
of that statement, the statistics support the teacher's grim view, since
9 out of 10 kids who start piano today will quit within a year.
Do kids quit piano
because it is inherently difficult, or because the teachers are following
an outmoded methodology?
Examine the statistics
from piano by number, and you will see the opposite.
9 out of 10 kids who
start piano using numbers are still playing happily a year later, most
having discarded piano by number for the more sophisticated language of
So what is it about
musical notation that kids and almost all adults find so confusing,
especially in the beginning?
The problem is
dimensional: conventional sheet music requires the child to immediately
think in several, abstract dimensions such as left-right, up-down,
time-space, plus a myriad of other conceptual problems, like where do your
fingers go, what finger do I use, what shape should my hand be in? The
list is endless, at least to a six year-old.
Teachers make almost no
allowance for a child's confusion and push these concepts at them,
repeating the ideas again and again until the kids are dazed and confused.
Then, the lesson is over and we do it all again next week.
And you wonder why the
Piano by number is
extremely one-dimensional and easy for even disabled children to pick up
Numbers are the first
system that kids use to order their universe. I get three cookies. I want
two pieces of chicken.
Numbers are also the
basis of all musical constructions. The relationship between one note and
another is expressed as a number: thus the key numbered "1" is a
"fifth" away from the key numbered "5."
All the concepts in piano
by number will be used again when learning how to read music. It is not a
system that is discarded but rather modified so that the child
already has an understanding of the inner workings of music before they
ever attempt to read music which is expressed in conventional musical
start that piano by number affords, children are prone to frustration
and a sense of worthlessness because they simply cannot get the hang
of sheet music quickly enough to please an often impatient teacher.
How does piano by number
work? Just like sheet music, piano by number asks the child to decipher a
line of information, moving from left to right, and play it on the piano
All musical symbols such
as clefs, rhythm, and expression marks are eliminated so that the child
can concentrate on the real job: producing the tones of the song on the
piano, according to what they see on the page.
If you're setting up
the piano for your child to try it, play a few songs yourself so they get
the idea. If they see you doing it, they will want to try it themselves.
Don't worry about which
hand or finger you use. Just start playing. There are no bad habits taught
by this method. I know from experience that every child allowed this finger freedom in the beginning will be able to master real
fingering when the time comes.
In fact, children taught
initially by number will learn fingering faster because they are at ease
about so many of the other elements they have already tried and conquered.
You will start to see the
following in your home: your child will plunk out a little tune when they
pass the piano. They're not practicing; they're just noodling around,
playing as they would with any toy.
Never ask them to
practice at first. Sit down by the piano with a book and ask them to play
you something. No matter how they play it, praise them sincerely. Then ask
for another song.
Here's a trick that
always works: ask them to teach you what they know at the piano. Nothing
will make them feel more important than to teach YOU something.
Children who play the
piano are doing something very difficult and are worthy of praise just for
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