From Numbers to Notes

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Many parents want to know, “How long does it take for my child to start reading music, if they start with numbers?”

The answer is that the transition time varies from child to child, and the biggest factor is age.

Younger kids take longer, sometimes months, sometimes years. I’ve seen older kids get the idea of reading music in half an hour, because their brains are more developed.

Part of the point is to introduce various skills without reference to reading music. Fingering, chords, hand position, playing both hands can all be taught before you start reading music, leading to a much stronger candidate to brave the rapids of notation.

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One of the keys to learning piano is longevity: the lessons have to go on long enough (months/years) for the child to develop the huge set of skills required.

Kids who start piano with only reading music have, statistically, a very small chance of lessons lasting more than a few months.

Kids who start with Piano By Number have the option of starting reading music when they feel comfortable, leading to a much longer, more fruitful experience with the piano.

Numbers are still useful, even during the transition to notes. Note reading is exhausting for kids, and a reasonable proportion of notes to numbers is 8 parts numbers, 2 parts reading music.

Thus you can use numbers as relief from the intellectual exhaustion of reading music.

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Another disadvantage of reading notes is the quality of music the child will be allowed to play. Students only reading music are restricted to music which they can read, and this is necessarily simple, even infantile.

No child is interested in these exercise pieces, yet they are constructed so simply to make it easy for the child. But they are not real music, and kids find them boring.

Because the music in notes is so boring, numbers becomes, again, a foil for the notes, allowing the child to play interesting and complex music by number when they are tired of reading music.

You will find that there is a constant switching off between numbers and notes, based on the exhaustion of the child.

As time goes on, kids will abandon numbers when they have enough skill to read music. But many still use both, and in addition are taught visually, where the teacher simply shows a more advanced student the keys to play.

There are several “rules” that apply to learning to read music:

Go slowly. Bait and switch (switch from numbers to notes.) Make the reading sessions short, always followed by games.

While reading music is the goal of all piano lessons, it is a pointless victory if it destroys the child’s interest in the piano.

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