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Start with numbers, then read music

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VISUAL PIANO GAMES

Some piano games are aimed at getting the child to pay attention to the keyboard as a physical entity: a group of colored buttons, if you will, that the child must see patterns within.

Paying attention to anything is often a challenge for most kids, unless it is made into fun. Please don't tell me you've ever seen a child indifferent to fun. Such a child does not exist.

Thus the key is to make the moments when they are looking at the keyboard into memorable moments, largely because they have been presented as fun.

TWOS AND THREES

The first visual game I play is to have a child become aware of the repeating pattern of two and three black keys. You would be surprised at the number of kids who are unaware of the black keys, and who do not use them to find their way at the piano, even after years of successful study.

So every once in a while, start pointing to the black key groups and ask, "Two or three?" Make a time limit for each answer, imitating the ticking clock, and the game show. If they don't answer quickly, laugh, make a losing buzzer sound, call out the answer and move on. This speed will train them to use their eyes quickly, a skill they will need every second at the piano.

WHITE KEY TO THE LEFT

An extension of the above game is to point to a group of two or three black keys and say, "White key to the left" or White key to the right." This extends their ability to make judgments with their eye, and then execute a task with their finger.

PLAY EVERY C

Go up the piano, pointing to the two black keys. Say, "Play a C." They must find the first white key to the left of the group of two black keys. Do the same with F, the first white key to the left of any group of three black keys.

FOLLOW THE LEADER

Play any group of three keys. In the style of Simple Simon, the child must imitate what you do. So if you play 3 2 1, the child does so right after you. Go very quickly from one to the next, barely pausing to get their answer and correct if they are wrong.

This easily becomes a musical joke. Play 1 1 5 5 and ask what song it is (Twinkle, Twinkle.) You are now playing Name That Tune! But what you are actually doing is getting the child to OBSERVE the keyboard, outside of the realm of reading music and even playing music.

This game can be extended to very complex lengths with a motivated and intelligent child.

MIRRORS

Play any simple group of keys. Say, 3 2 1. Then ask them to play it backwards, 1 2 3. This requires abstract positioning skills that younger children may have but in an unformed mode. Avoid anything that they cannot readily grasp, according to age group.

When a child cannot grasp an idea, it is because you are not observing their comfort level closely enough, not because they do not have the ability to comprehend.

All of these visual piano games are useful in building mental skills that are used every moment of playing the piano.

They are, as well, more memorable than dry music reading exercises, not only because they have been made into games, but because the games are explored outside of music, on a level playing field of gaming skills where the child understands all the simplified elements (up/down, left/right, etc.)

Look at the motions necessary to play the piano. Isolate them and make visual games from them. Children at least are then given a preview of what will be expected.

By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved

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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 

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