Beginning Piano Music With Numbers
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Beginning piano with numbers instead of reading music prevents early frustration for kids. Reading music is so confusing that children often give up. Most kids are defeated before they have a chance to have any fun at the instrument. Unless a child has fun with a toy, it’s over. You need to establish the toy aspect first before you endow respect for the greatest musical instrument on earth.
Fun Is The Best Place To Start
If a child has fun with a piano, that is respect. It is a good place to start. Let’s examine the difficulties involved for a child who is starting to read music and play the piano at the same time. Here’s MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB expressed in a simplified version of sheet music:
From my experience, the child will be bewildered by the circles, both on and in between the five lines, and the circles connected to vertical lines. We’ve removed most of the symbols that would confuse a child, and have left just the bare bones of musical notation. While MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB is not a difficult song, imagine a five year-old presented with the information in the above arcane format.
Even Simple Notation Is Confusing
The average child will be confused by the notation alone, and that is before the confusion of translating the notation below (five horizontal lines in the graphic) onto the keys of the keyboard (at the bottom.)
When a child sees something too complex, they simply shut down. Adults get out their problem-solving tools, but the child doesn’t yet have those tools fully under their control. Thus you have doubled their confusion by presenting the song in this manner.
Confusion On The Page Equals Confusion On The Keys
Confusion on the page is compounded by confusion on the keys. The effect I notice when music is presented this way is one of disengagement. They immediately decide that this is far harder than they thought. Once they decide that something is too difficult, the teacher’s job becomes practically impossible.
Here’s MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB presented in Piano By Number format with a numbered keyboard:
Since numbers are readily transparent to children, there is no confusion on the page.
Make It Transparently Simple
The piano keys are numbered and the numbers on the page are simply stated. Thus there is no confusion of any kind, either on the page or the keys. It is completely unambiguous. Using Piano By Number, the child is immediately making music, albeit simplified. To the mind of a child. this simplicity is, as Goldilocks said, “Just right.”
It’s easy to take that enthusiasm and add a dozen more songs in a day. This is because Piano by Number songs are easy to navigate both on the page and the piano keys.
Introduce Reading Music Slowly
Once you have established the joy of playing music at the piano, you must carefully start to introduce the elements of reading music, but only a bit at a time, and only later in the lessons when the child is comfortable with the keyboard.
To the child, the lesson is all fun, songs, games and numbers. Then present a short segment where they are asked to look at notes for a minute or two. The child absorbs whatever they can naturally. Then, back to the fun of songs. This two sided approach works with every child.
How Long To Move Past Numbers?
Some children move beyond numbers in a few months. The older they are, the quicker they migrate to the common language of notation. Piano by Number also serves another useful function. Children are able to play piano music far harder than what they are able to read in sheet music.
So if you restrict them to a diet of what they are able to read, they will starve to death, as it were. You can’t build enthusiasm on a diet of exercise pieces and nameless pieces that mean nothing to the child.