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The Battle To Read Music

The Battle To Read Music

The battle to read music is largely one of speed. If you go at a glacial pace, it is no battle, and the child wins because they have time to sort it out. If you want musical Blitzkrieg, the child will assuredly be defeated. Speed does not work.

There are too many complex ideas to be absorbed by a child's mind. Yet the conventional piano teacher lives on that speed. Their goal is to get through "the book" (Faber, Bastien, Alfred) and onto another, so the student can be called "accomplished."

From One Page To Another

After book 1 comes book 2, after that book 3 and then book 4. It may be interesting to the teacher, but it is utterly dull for kids. A page a lesson, that's the rule, and if your child goes slower, they're a dunce. A page a lesson is an absurd expectation. Success the size of a grain of sand should make you pleasantly surprised.

Don't measure by pages. Measure by skills. You either have the skill or you don't. I'll devote 20 lessons to an essential skill if necessary, no guilt, no shame, no comparisons to other kids. No speed, just patience.

Give Kids Time To Read Music

Some kids never really learn to read music, or only learn the right hand ("treble clef.") It takes tremendous persistence on the part of both teacher and student. Other kids, once introduced to reading music, only want to do that, and build up tremendous skill at it lesson after lesson, the pedant's dream.

But these kids (in my experience) were allowed to delay reading music until they thought themselves ready. No one force fed them Bastien (a popular reading method.) They took up reading music when they felt confident. You have to "listen" to them.

Age Is The Most Important Factor

Children's struggle to read music is largely age-based. Concepts that are impossible at 5 are easy at 9. But from my experience, it is better to introduce the elements of reading music slowly, as soon as possible, on a very reduced diet.

Conventional Music Reading Tools

Below are the tools kids receive to start reading music in conventional piano lessons:

Musical Staff with Keyboard Below

Five lines on top, piano keyboard below.

They get five horizontal lines (most kids are not sure how many lines there are) and a piano keyboard below it. Two completely different graphic systems in different planes and dimensions, and we expect the kids to jump in and play.

Give Reference Points On The Keys

Here's our solution: stickers to tell kids where the five horizontal lines are on the keyboard:

Relating Notes on Page To Keyboard
Red sticker is Middle C

The five blue stickers correspond to the five lines, and the red sticker is "Middle C." By giving kids a visual reference point, we reduce confusion greatly. A "note" can only be on a line or a space. Make the child into a detective: is the note on a line or space? All of this is exhausting for a child, all these decisions and observations. Break it up with a little fun, like the FOURS PIANO GAME or some familiar songs. Abstractions are exhausting for kids, music is not.


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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