Don’t Start With Reading Music

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It’s very important that you choose the piano method carefully for your child. This is usually done by the teacher, but you should be aware of what is being taught.

Some teachers use only the conventional method, restricted to reading music. Some don’t teach notes at all, but use colored stickers or animal stickers, or teach the names of the notes.

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Piano by Number was devised because the methods mentioned above are either irrelevant to oncoming music theory (animals, colors) or present too much difficulty in the beginning (notes,letters.)

Numbers, on the other hand, are instinctive, even with the youngest kids, and are entirely germaine to the study of music, and are in fact an integral part of music construction.

Unless a child has the experience, on their first lesson, of making music which brings them joy, you have not really made a start at anything at all.

The only system we found that can do all the above is numbers, derived from the ancient classical music “intervals.”

So why not start with reading music?

The problem is that reading notes is a very confusing system for children.

Yes, for trained adults, musical notation is a perfect system, devised and refined over hundreds of years, capable of showing everything about a musical piece. But this very exactness makes it extraordinarily complex, even for avid adults.

You’re not crazy enough to expect your three year old to solve algebraic equations. Why would you expect a six year old to easily decipher a complex graphic language created hundreds of years ago?

Five lines above, keyboard below
Five lines above, keyboard below

Above you’ll see the tools given your child to start the piano: a system of five horizontal lines on top, and a bewildering piano keyboard on the bottom. Confused yet? Your six year old is.

And then the child is asked to relate circles which will be placed on the five lines (on top) and the spaces in between the five lines, and then be asked to find the location of any particular circle on the five lined “staff, and then find the corresponding key on the keyboard below, a totally different graphic system.

It is an insane way to begin piano for a child.

“It worked in 1835, so if your kid doesn’t understand, they are either lazy and/or stupid.” That’s what piano teachers think.

Kids brains just shut down when asked to solve questions like these without proper preparation.

A piano method based on only reading music assumes your child has the following skills, regardless of age:

1.  You must understand the difference between left and right, hands, direction. The concept must be second nature to you or you cannot navigate even the simplest sheet music.

2. You must have the intellectual acumen to be able to order numerous events and symbols, sometimes in a row, and sometimes simultaneously. Most kids can handle one event at a time, if that.

3. You must be able to memorize dozens of symbols, none of which you have ever seen before. Once again, your facility with them must be second nature, instantaneous, or you won’t be able to read music.

4. Don’t forget fingering. Every note must be played with the proper finger. If you play the correct note, but with the wrong finger, it is an error, and must be corrected then and there. And you must memorize the finger numbers 1-5, an entirely separate enterprise.

5. In addition, you’ll need to be able to name the key (or note) you are playing. Conventional methods are obsessed with the names of the notes. You must know every name at every time. And don’t forget the musical alphabet, which curiously starts on C and goes up to G where it inexplicably (to a child) starts over again at A.

6. And did I mention rhythm? You have to do all thess things at exactly the right moment, with never a slip and never a stumble or it is an error and must be corrected immediately.

Kids are terrified when expected to juggle all these unfamiliar dimensions, especially with a demanding and gruff teacher.

Kids are overwhelmed by this. All they wanted to do is play a fun song.

In contrast, our method, Piano By Number, allows for all of the above but starts kids instead at a lower point, in essence lowing the bar so they can taste success at first rather than utter failure.

PIANO BY NUMBER

numbered keyboard

Our method places numbered stickers on the keys and allows the child to play fun, familiar songs with any finger they choose.

We avoid reading music until the child has comfortably acquired several skills: naming notes, fingering, chords, and playing with both hands. All of these are easily accomplished without the use of reading music.

A child who has learned these four skills is a far better candidate for piano lessons than a child who is simply “thrown into the water” to begin reading music.

Copyright 2017 by Walden Pond Press

REFERENCES

You Say Read, I Say Play

Teaching Preschool Piano Visually

Late Bloomers in Childhood Piano

Pitfalls of Personality in Kid’s Piano

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