There is one game I play with kids that has the power to universally delight them while at the same time solidifying their knowledge of piano chords.
I call it CHORDOMATIC.
It presumes that your child knows how to play the chords C, F, G, D, E and A. I allow the child to play a two-note chord, which is really just the bottom two notes of a triad in root position.
The apparent object of the game is for the child to beat you to the keys and play a chord before you do. All kids love a racing.
The real object of the game is to solidify the child’s knowledge of the six basic chords to the point where producing them is almost automatic.
In general I allow the child to imitate me and play the chords with the second and third fingers of the right hand. You'll find that is the best choice of fingers for "dive-bombing."
My feeling about kid’s fingering for chords is somewhat different from most teachers.
I don’t insist that they play left hand chords with the fingers numbered 1,3 and 5, as most standard texts demand.
The reason for this is that children’s fingers are too weak to find the chords quickly using the "proper" fingering, and they waste time trying to figure out which fingers to use. It's not about fingering, it's about finding chords fast.
Since this is a chord game, rather than a fingering game, I generally allow them to play three note chords (if they are old enough to play three note chords) with their first three fingers, which are their strongest. That is, thumb, index and middle fingers.
But the object of this game is speed, so we use two fingers and two note chords, especially if they are very young or unsure.
First I raise my fingers (the first two) high above the piano and announce that “Chordomatic” has been sighted in the area.
In an ostentatious, robotic voice, I demand, “Chordomatic commands you to play a C chord!” and then I dive for a C chord as fast as I can, inevitably beating the child to the keys. I make a noise like an airplane buzz diving towards the ground for extra theatrical impact.
The child senses that fun is happening, and they will immediately try to beat you.
The next chord, say F, I get to a little more slowly so that we have a tie. By the third chord, I let them beat me.
We then embark on two or three minutes of chord study using this silly game.
Chordomatic (me) sometimes gives more information if they forget that D, E and A chords have a black key, like this: “Chordomatic commands you to play a D chord with a black in the middle!”
After a while all I have to say is the word “Chordomatic!” and the child leaps to the keys to beat me, wildly playing every chord they can get their hands on.
The next extension of this game is to select a chord, say C, and have the child play EVERY C chord on the piano. You will have to show them that C chords are right next to the group of two black keys, but this variation teaches the child the larger pattern of the piano.
Chords are the DNA of music and every child benefits from having the six basic chords at their fingertips.
This game always succeeds in fascinating kids with chords and increases their ability to produce them quickly and happily.
By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved
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