Use Recognizable Songs in Piano Lessons

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You’d be wise to use recognizable songs in the first piano lessons for kids.

The rudest awakening for kids is when they realize that none of the music is familiar, or even “real.”

By “real,” I mean that all the standard piano methods are filled with fake exercise pieces, with titles like UP AND DOWN, or FIVE FINGER FUN.

Every piece in standard methods like Faber, Bastien or Alfred is a made-up composition, meant to show a particular concept of piano pedagogy, but in no way designed to interest the child, at least in a musical sense.

Kids hate these songs, and frankly are more interested in the pictures.

On the other hand, kids have a very positive reaction if the songs they are asked to play are recognizable.

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Kids are delighted to play even the simplest familiar melody, and experience a rise in self esteem from having figured out how to play something familiar, especially something they can show their friends.

All standard piano books follow the same strategy:

Start with right hand, learn the first five notes going up and then down. Then they slowly introduce notes which are not adjacent.

All of this is done with “songs” that are boring in the extreme.

Boring Exercise Piece for Piano
It’s like chess, or checkers. You learn the rules, the moves, and that’s it. You are never asked to make music or even know what that means.

This is all very well, and is a carefully constructed curriculum, except there is one glaring problem: your child will fall asleep and quit piano before they complete one of these “methods.”

There is another problem, which is the lack of music making, the act of plunking out a tune without regard to page or pedant.

Numbered Keyboard
Numbered Keyboard

Here are better ways of presenting these same concepts, using recognizable songs:

I’m A Little Teapot to learn the first five adjacent white keys:

1 2 3 4 5      8      6   8    5

or, Alouette:   1 2 3 3     2 1 2 3      1 5

Mary Had a Little Lamb shows how to start on a note other than Middle C:

3 2 1 2     3 3 3    2 2 2     3 3 3

Jingle Bells shows how to skip over notes:

3 3 3     3 3 3      3 5 1 2        3

In fact, any musical concept is better taught using familiar material that has the added advantage of asking the child to make music, not just read it.

Recognizable songs make kids happy.

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