I often compare baseball and piano chords when I’m trying to give kids an idea of how chords work together in groups.
There isn’t a kid around who doesn’t understand the bases of baseball.
Home plate, first base, second, third, and the final mad dash for home plate again.
Children readily understand the idea of home plate, and see the similarity of home plate, Middle C and the C chord.
That’s the place we always start from, no matter where we go. And that’s where we always end up. In terms of chords, that would be a C chord.
That’s why every beginner’s piano piece starts out with Middle C. It’s like starting the alphabet with A so you know how to get started.
Giving things a familiar beginning makes it easier for kids to start over and try the piece again. They are fairly sure that the piece is going to begin on Middle C.
You have no idea how hard it is for kids to familiarize themselves with the minutiae of sheet music until you have actually done so for hours a day. You’ll begin to see what is possible and what is not. And how long it will take for each individual child.
What I am certain of is that every single child can be taught the rudiments of simple sheet music, if you are patient enough. What I’m not certain of is how long any individual child will take to reach that goal, because every kid is so vastly different, in age, in temperament, in ability, in desire.
Finding Middle C securely in both the sheet music and on the piano can take kids months and sometimes years. Think of it in terms of baseball: some kids can hit and some can’t.
But with piano, those who can’t hit right away can be taught how. In baseball, you seem to have far less of a chance of finding an infinitely patient teacher.
You have to keep trying to find Middle C again and again, just as you did with the ABCs. It is a ledge on which the child can rest, a bit of security in a sea of uncertain notes on the page.
On the subject of learning the notes, see also my game, Mister Notey, in which the teacher uses their head and arms in a comic routine that describes the general shape of notes on the lines and spaces of the five lined musical staff.
Luckily, there are many fascinating things about the piano you can interest a child with while they are learning where home plate and Middle C is.
There are four chords, just like the bases. Home, 1, 2, 3 are the same as C Dm F G. There are four steps to completing the circle, in baseball just as it is in music.
Make a game of everything at the piano, and you will have a child’s interest at all times.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press