Piano Starting Methods
Lesson 4: Piano Starting Methods
Piano starting methods, such as Piano by Number, are an extension of finger numbers, introduced in the 1800s. It solved a dilemma which has plagued the piano teaching industry: How to teach children to read music? “Starting methods” (by color, by number, by ear, by tab, etc., etc.,) exist because the standard, conventional way of beginning piano has failed to interest the vast majority of children. What industry boasts of a 90% quit rate?
Pushing down the keys is not all that hard, if you take a simple tune like Jingle Bells as an example. But as soon as you put Jingle Bells into musical notation it becomes a jungle of mental difficulties for all but a few gifted people. That’s simply the truth.
Reading Music Is Hard
Reading music is inherently hard for almost everyone. Playing piano by ear, or number, or color or some other “starter method” is easy because it divests the player of the task of reading conventional musical notation. It is the fault of our system of teaching reading music that 90% of the kids who start piano today using conventional methods will quit within a few months. No one really questioned these figures until a few years ago.
Yes, conventional lessons account for the acknowledged statistics of the benefits of piano lessons: higher math scores, better handwriting and many others. If those 90% of kids had kept playing longer, they would have reaped even more intellectual benefits from the piano.
What is needed is a piano learning system that has both a high early success ratio, as well as the ability to keep kids playing and enjoying the piano longer, perhaps through and including adulthood. Otherwise, what is the point of taking piano lessons?
Problems That Numbers Solve
Piano by Number solves both of the above problems, and we will show you how. First, there is the problem of reading music. Reading music is a terrible way for a child to begin piano. It gives no sense of how exciting it is to be a part of making music.
Don’t you think a child needs to know that all this work will add up to fun Reading music has no joy for beginners. That’s the simple truth. It’s hard work, especially at first, especially for even the most intelligent and diligent child, most especially for younger children.
Above is a sample page from a Piano by Number book, showing Jingle Bells expressed in numbers. You can see how simple it is. If you wish, you can try the song on the online piano below where you play a keyboard using your computer’s mouse.
Try a simple song on the white keys:
| 1 1 5 5 | 6 6 5 * | 4 4 3 3 | 2 2 1 * |
A Child's First Experience
A child’s first experience at the piano using this method is going to be a success. They know the song Jingle Bells, and they will recognize it when they play it. Having success at first will fuel their demand to play another song, and then another, until they want to play piano under their own steam.
Numbers Before Notes
Once they are launched enthusiastically, the subject of reading music can be delicately broached after a few weeks, as long as it does not diminish their enthusiasm. In fact, all the elements of conventional music can eventually be introduced, but not until the child has proved to themselves that they can play familiar songs without stress. Your objective at first should be to treat the piano as a toy so that a playful and positive relationship is established with the piano.
Definition Of Success
Consider your child a success at the piano in the first year if:
- the child plays a little bit, even a few notes, as they pass the instrument.
- you don’t have to order them to play by themselves.
- they are curious about the piano and music.
If you have success at first, you have a victory upon which you can patiently build. My experience is that 90% of the children taught, starting with this friendly method, are still playing a year later and are ready to keep on playing. This gives you time to slowly introduce the elements of musical notation, reading music and rhythm, all while the child is fresh and enthusiastic. Be careful to never let the child feel like a failure. Ever. No matter what mistake they make, their effort is worthy of respect.
A better tactic, as a teacher, is to take note of the deficiency for later examination, and cleverly plot how this child, as an individual, can be made to understand that element of music. Laugh at mistakes. They are amusing. Be patient, especially in the beginning, and you will be rewarded later with continued enthusiasm.
COURSE ONE: TEACHING TOOLS
COURSE TWO: TEACHING BACKGROUND
COURSE THREE: PIANO GAMES