I’ve given a lot of thought to breaking down the process of teaching music and concepts to children. What most current curriculums do is pile on a lot of information in one lesson – overwhelmingly so. That only leads to confusion, frustration and often, quitting music altogether.
Kids want to PLAY piano, but most teachers want them to learn how to READ music before playing. How boring!
Here’s my overall approach to teaching piano to kids.
- Number the fingers
- Assign colors to the fingers and keys
- Start with playing a simple pattern with 5 fingers on the right hand.
- Now play it on the left
- After a while, play both hands together
- Add a new song (really just a finger pattern in disguise)
After a few weeks of this kind of practice, your child is playing with proper technique and some dexterity and ease.
In a parallel path, I start introducing concepts such as the Musical Alphabet, the Staff of lines and spaces, G clef, F clef and middle C as landmark notes.
After about a month, we can start very basic reading exercises. Meanwhile, piano PLAYING is already at a very high level through the use of simple patterns and a simplified color notation.
Because I’ve had experience as a graphic designer, my insight was that MUSIC NOTATION is really an information graphic. While traditional music notation is an amazing invention, it is extremely ABSTRACT and involves many high level concepts, far beyond the understanding and interest of most 4 year olds. So presenting music visually, is really a graphic design challenge!
This led me to experiment with many types of notational design. What I’ve come up with is working quite well with my students. I will share more about this in coming posts.