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The Basic Piano Curriculum for Kids

The Basic Piano Curriculum for Kids

The basic piano curriculum is a set group of skills that is determined by the method, usually, reading music. But there are other ways to engage a child. What must a child learn in order to have mastered the “rudiments” of piano, regardless of methodology or approach? The following list is not dependent on any time period.

Every child will take a different amount of time to absorb these subjects. If you put a time limit on it, as most piano teachers do, you will have set your students up for an impossible task.

Read And Play First Five Notes

A child should be confident enough to read the first five notes above Middle C with their right hand in any simple piano book, even if they have never seen that particular book. In Piano By Number that is 1 2 3 4 5. Learn to read these five notes first, and hopefully get the child to use proper fingering, but fingering comes after note recognition.

Above you’ll see the tools a child is given to start reading music in conventional lessons. It is extremely confusing. Notice the five horizontal lines above (the page) and below the entirely different graphic system of the piano keyboard.

Kids are expected to instantly see the relationship between two completely different graphic systems, the five lines, and the keyboard.

Now look below and find a numbered keyboard, which is immediately understandable to any child who can count. Try a song on the online piano below:

I'm A Little Teapot
| 1 * 2  | 3 * 4 | 5 * * | 8 * * | 6 * * | 8 * * | 5 * * |


Play Six Basic Chords

There are six chords that I insist on: C, F, G, D, E and A. I allow them to play two note chords, that is, the bottom two notes of any triad (a "triad" is the most basic form of any three note chord). This alleviates fingering problems. It also gets them to concentrate on the essential visual fact: what do chords look like on the keyboard?

It is better to have them looking at the pattern of the keys than to be worrying about which finger goes where in the chord. Thus I allow two note chords, for it is simple to then eventually add a third note to what they already know. They always use the 2nd and 3rd fingers (index and middle.)

Games for the Piano Printed Book

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Play With Both Hands

They must memorize a song with both hands and play it all the way through. You will have to find a song they really like, because they will have to repeat the song a million times to get it right. It doesn’t matter how long they take. It’s not a race. You’re trying to give them a “calling card” so they can proudly let people know that “I play piano.” This has nothing to do with Carnegie Hall, but with how the child feels about playing the piano.

Have A Sense Of Rhythm

Be able to play and count simple exercises that develop a sense of acting within time limits. See the piano game called FOURS. Reading rhythms in sheet music is one of the most difficult tasks you will ever perform, even for musicians.

Don’t expect kids to understand more than the barest outlines of these complexities. If a child can identify a quarter note, a half note and a whole note, you are on the right track. A better tactic is to get the child to speak or say the rhythm. It’s a known fact among musicians that “if you can say it, you can play it.”

How Long Will It Take?

Some children learn this list in a month, and others take years. Your job is to make the kids who take years enjoy the process. Until you accomplish this list, you haven’t really even begun to learn the piano. Most piano teachers rush ahead to cover more ground, but I go patiently over the above subjects again and again, always making a game out of the repetition.

Better to lay the foundation solidly, at the child’s pace, than to rush ahead to prove you’re a great teacher! 


We've turned notes into numbers for happy beginners at the piano!


Our PLAY ALONG SONGS are produced by Grammy Award winner Joe Castellon of Sesame Street. They're such an important element in making the piano fun for kids!



Our books and videos are created by Emmy Award winning composer and leading children's educator John Aschenbrenner. Get your child happily started at the piano!



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