Evaluating Preschool Piano Methods
Evaluating preschool piano methods is largely a matter of trial and error. Go on the internet and you'll find a bewildering array of products meant to interest your preschool child in the piano. By color, by animal, by number, by eye, by ear, by tab, Kindermusik, Wunderkeys, Suzuki, the list is endless.
My apologies to the hundreds I've left out. I'm a publisher of a piano product, so I assure you I know the competition. Of course I'd like you to select our product, but I'd rather see your child take an avid interest in the piano.
Carnegie Hall's Not Going Anywhere
Why are there all these methods? I thought there was only one way to get to Carnegie Hall, the old way, you earn it by practicing. That is actually true, if you want to get to Carnegie Hall.
But most six year olds don't know what Carnegie Hall is, don't know where it is, and don't want to go there. Still, the question remains, "Why are there so many piano methods out there?"
The Old Method Doesn't Work Anymore
The reason is, "The old one doesn't work any more." Piano teachers have known this for decades, they've just been taking your money. But some people really do want to see a resurgence of interest in the piano and music in general. It would be a good thing for kids and everyone.
What do I mean by "the old method?" I mean Faber, Bastien, Alfred and a hundred more established publisher brands that purport to interest your child in the piano via reading music. Then there is software, the most useless of all, that is shunned by kids after the first run-through.
What Gets Kids Excited
Piano teachers have caught on that these old methods don't get kids fired up. Because of this, musicians started to come up with other ideas. With the explosion of the internet, piano methods started to come out of the woodwork, not published by major publishers like Hal Leonard or Schirmer's, but rather by small publishers, musicians and other self publishers.
There is a long, noble history of these methods, starting with geniuses like Zoltan Kodaly and Paul Hindemith. There were musicians who were brave enough to attempt to move education forward, out of the 19th century. The method I devised, Piano By Number, was derived from my initial attempts to be a piano teacher, using the conventional methods. It was horrible.
I Try A Different Way
I'm a good teacher, and easily engage kids. But the language of music as expressed through the ancient form of five lines with little circles wasn't making it with my suburban kids. I wanted to see them as excited about piano as I am.
Thus I hit upon the idea of numbering the keys and then having pages of songs expressed in numbers. I think the first song was for a talented 7 year old and it was the JAMES BOND THEME.
Had he tried to read the music for this, he would have failed, even as talented as he was. He loved it, and was able to play this, his favorite song, in a few minutes, not perfectly, but well enough that he was proud.
Now he asked for more songs that he liked, HARRY POTTER, STAR WARS and many more. I translated them into numbers and he learned them almost instantly.
Next Step: Add Chords
Of course, there were still chords to add, and many other complexities, but at least the child didn't feel overwhelmed by the language, and was enjoying making music. I then introduced Piano By Number to preschool kids and those even younger.
They were enthusiastic about it and adopted it instantly. Later I found that these same kids, some of whom had started out with reading music with other teachers, were able to come back to reading music, because they had been allowed to have fun in a simple way with the piano before they were inundated with notation.
From these kids, I learned to evaluate each kid separately, not by age, but by capability. Every kid is different in terms of brain development, so their ability to absorb the skills of the piano varies greatly.
The best preschool piano method is one that interests your child in the piano, and has the capability to take them further into the complexities of music theory, always on their own level, always at their own pace. To a preschool child, piano is simply fun, or it isn’t.