Beginner Piano Books for Kids
Beginner piano books for kids consist of those from four publishers. Kids find them boring. This is reflected in the 90% quit rate these books demonstrate. Faber, Alfred, Bastien and Suzuki (and hundreds more) publish beginner piano books. Kids solidly reject these books. The jaunty pictures and illustrations make no difference.
Rote repetition kills enthusiasm. A steady diet of this fake music will kill a kid's interest in the piano very quickly. Yet there are many teachers, actually, most, use ONLY these texts to attempt to interest kids in the piano.
What Work Should Be Assigned?
I use these standard books (Basitien, Alfred, Faber, etc.,) but only for sight-reading. At every lesson, I pull out an unfamiliar, standard textbook and demand they use their skills to play something they have never seen. That is called "sight-reading" and it is the highest skill in reading music. Five minutes is a full dose for most kids. For my students, the principal assignment is to try to work on a familiar song they like and have chosen.
I never assign pages from the old, tired texts. I use them as a pop quiz, to test their skills. Reading music less frequently avoids drowning kids in the sheet music process. Since the average child begins lessons at about 6 or 7 years, there is a simple reason why these conventional methods do not work: children's brains are not developed enough to handle the complexities of sheet music.
Where Is The Preparation?
All these beginner piano books for kids would work fine. But they must be preceded by proper preparation. Starting a kid out with a standard text at the first lesson is a recipe for disaster. Ask them what their favorite song is. If they don't know, start playing songs until they find one they like. The lesson here is that kids cannot start piano using reading music as their only tool.
The Kid Chooses The Song
Once the child has willingly chosen a song, and likes it, it is easy to inspire the desire to play it. You may have to simplify the song extremely if the child is very young. You have to tailor the difficulty to the child, not the other way around. Most piano teachers shove a sheet in front of kids and essentially say, "Figure that out, even if you hate it." Boring music never inspires kids to action.
There is a "missing step," and that is showing kids that playing familiar songs on the piano is fun. Not reading fake music from a book. Unless you establish the element of fun, the child will almost surely quit. Even if they do succeed at this method, they will only be able to play the simplest of music. If you're willing to play Jingle Bells for 10 years, this is the method for you.
Try A Different Way of Starting
Reading music is not the only way of starting piano. Called "starting methods," there are many ways to prepare kids for the standard beginner piano books. Colors, animals and a variety of symbols are used to avoid musical notes at first. The drawback of these methods, colors and animals, is that none of these devices have anything to do with real music theory, which is based on math. The basis of all musical construction is mathematical.
Simple math is the only tool that can stand in for musical notation until the child is ready. Colors and animals have absolutely nothing to do with further music study, and that is why they are a waste of time. The only other method that makes sense is using letters, and this at least attempts to teach kids the names of the notes.
The problem with letters is that reversing letters is difficult for kids. ABCD is easy but try DCBA, and kids find it almost impossible. Now try 1 2 3 4 and then ask kids to reverse it: the answer comes instinctively, 4 3 2 1. Numbers are the easiest, most relevant, temporary substitute for musical notation.
The Missing Step
Thus numbers are the only relevant "missing step" with which to start kids at the piano.
Above you will see what your piano keyboard will look like with the numbered stickers installed. Kids readily understand and can manipulate numbers with ease. This is not true with musical symbols:
The Complexities of Sheet Music
Reading sheet music properly takes years of careful preparation, and most kids simply don't have the patience to accomplish this. Neither do the teachers. Going from page to page in a standard text is the easiest way to conduct a piano lesson. The child has no choice, and, hence, no interest.
Using musical notation, lessons become an endless parade of corrections. The atmosphere becomes uncomfortable, with the kid presented with task after symbol that make no sense to them.
How Do Numbers Work?
After applying the numbered stickers to the keys, the child is immediately able to play hundreds of fun, familiar songs. Try a few songs on the online piano below. These are songs that a child could never read from sheet music in a conventional first piano lesson.
| 1 * * | 5 * * | 4 3 2 | 8 * * | 5 * * |
| 4 3 2 | 8 * * | 5 * * | 4 3 4 | 2 * * |
STAR SPANGLED BANNER
| 5 * * * * 3 | 1 * 3 * 5* | 8 * *
TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR
|1 1 5 5 | 6 6 5 * | 4 4 3 3 | 2 2 1 * |
First Establish Fun
Instead of starting with the complexities of musical notation, begin by finding songs the child knows, and translate them into numbers. Our books contain thousands of fun, familiar songs. Establish a sense of fun and exploration before you begin the drudgery of reading sheet music. It will allow the child to explore the piano free from the limitations of reading music.