Many homeschooling parents are finding that our "piano by number" books make an excellent basis for a home school music program. If you're thinking about buying your child a piano book, consider this fun series!
In many cases, homeschooling parents become piano teachers in order to get their child started, using a piano by number book.
It's actually not hard to teach any willing child the rudiments of piano using this book if you're patient and kind and are willing to go slowly.
Half the battle is showing kids what can be done with a piano. Once a child has an ideal of what the piano can be, they will pursue this goal even if their talents and abilities are rather humble.
Giving them that ideal can be as easy as playing a CD of a great pianist, pop or classical, and listening to it with them. If you'd like to find good classical CDs, click here.
TEACH YOURSELF PIANO STEP BY STEP (ISBN # 0-9718936-3-2) is a good place to start for parents that wish to prepare themselves to teach a child and need a piano book for themselves. This book will teach you to play simple songs with both hands in a few days or hours. The curriculum is broken down into such tiny steps that anyone catches on.
Still, TEACH YOURSELF PIANO STEP BY STEP is not a book for children to explore alone. The concepts involved in chords (three piano keys played with the left hand) are readily understandable to almost all adults, but kids need help from adults to get the idea of chords.
We suggest that you use this piano book to prepare yourself, and then perhaps return to it when your child has mastered playing many songs by themselves, and are ready to explore chords with the left hand along with some guidance from you.
Here's what I say to every parent: "Start by using PIANO IS EASY (or THE CHRISTMAS CAROL KIT, identical in format but using different songs.) Launch the piano book together, putting the stickers on with your child, and then let them loose after everyone has tried a few songs. (Or, you can start older children with THE BIG BOOK OF SONGS BY NUMBER, which has more songs but no pictures.)
Let them explore the book on their own, and, if they show no interest, you should keep playing yourself, until they come back. And believe me, if you set up a piano book with numbered stickers and let your child alone with it, eventually they will embrace it and try to play. The reason is that numbers are very easy to them, and they see that when they look at the book, so they become curious. It ALWAYS happens.
Do I tell them to practice?
Not if you've set it up correctly. If you have to force them to play, you're already lost. The trick is to get them to want to do it themselves. And the reason they will want to play piano is this: piano by number is so easy that there is no negative emotion associated with it. None.
So let the children find it themselves. My hard and fast rule is: let the piano book sit there for two weeks and see if your child goes to the piano under their own steam. If you don't push and insist, 99% of kids will take a try and end up liking it. But give it a couple of weeks.
In actual practice, about 80% of kids have no hesitation about trying piano by number and are hooked on the first lesson: but that's because we've lowered the bar, temporarily, to let them try it without failure, give them confidence and get them started.
What do I do next?
It depends on the child. Generally, I wait until the child is utterly comfortable with every song they care to play in a piano book like PIANO IS EASY before I attempt to move forward.
This entertaining piano book introduces the use of the black keys of the piano, and is easy to master once the child is comfortable with songs on the white keys (PIANO IS EASY has all its songs on the white keys.)
I'd let the kids try the BIG BOOK for quite a while before I tried to introduce anything else. The following curriculum, chords, will depend heavily on what is learned in the BIG BOOK, so I'd caution you to let them try the songs with black piano keys before attempting teaching chords.
Finally, when I was certain that the kids understood playing one note at a time, I would introduce chords for the left hand, using TEACH YOURSELF PIANO STEP BY STEP. The book and video (free DVD with every piano book package) make it easy to understand chords. Still, kids will need guidance and perhaps a little pushing. Almost all kids like chords, but some don't, and resist the leap to playing with both hands. Don't push it.
Chords are a lot like Legos, and you have to get the child to see it that way. Piano chords and Legos have the same interlocking, pleasing quality. Describe it that way and they will want to play with chords. You can always start with two note chords if their hands are small or they have a hard time catching on with three note chords.
My solution to this ancient problem of getting kids to play with two hands is this: keep trying again and again, so patiently that the child simply gives in because you've repeated the simple elements. I back off as soon as the child shows resistance, because often a child's desire to learn new ideas in music is directly related to their own maturity. In many ways, kids learn when they're good and ready! The worst case scenario is that they play a one note chord (the letter name of the chord, like, "C") which, if that is all they can comfortably manage, is still a step forward into playing with both hands.
You may have to wait it out, but I have countless stories of kids on whom I used this strategy, and who eventually played happily with two hands (many of them "quitters" who would have never continued with the old methods.)
Had I not used this patient approach, and had I defined these students as failures, I would have lost them forever, for they would feel indeed like failures.
The point is not how fast kids learn piano, but that they want to learn piano. Who cares how fast they go?
Once a child wants to learn something, you will not be able to stop them.
PIANO IS EASY and I CAN READ MUSIC have demonstrated far higher than average results in motivating children to continue and enjoy their piano studies.
What about reading sheet music?
I begin sowing the seeds of sheet music as soon as possible. As soon as the child is launched using a piano book such as PIANO IS EASY, I begin, in later lessons, never the first, to show some of the ideas in I CAN READ MUSIC.
But only read music for a minute or two at most, every lesson. As we go along, those music reading minutes add up and the child starts understanding, at their own pace, the elements of reading music.
Children are exhausted by reading sheet music and you have to be careful not to burn them out with it. So when they burn a little too hot from sheet music, I switch right back to numbers, much to their relief. Ten minutes later, when they have had fun with numbers for a while, I try I CAN READ MUSIC again.
If they fail, or get tired, I never let on, I just smile and move on to other things we need to learn. Never express disapproval, ever. Pull out a different piano book and show the child what's inside. Variety.
Using this procedure, I have taught almost every single child to read sheet music. The key is to be ultra patient, never aggressive, and understand how difficult sheet music really is, especially to younger children.
Allow kids the comfort of piano by number and they will reward you by taking an interest in the piano, will go to the piano on their own and will perhaps find piano is something they like.
Push children to the piano and they will most likely reject it out of hand. I've found that almost every child has some interest in piano and music. True, some don't, or are at a stage where they have other interests.
Piano by number using a piano book such as PIANO IS EASY is a logical choice for a child who is home schooled, because it is an activity they can pursue on their own, setting a firm foundation of interest that may later take shape as private lessons and further study.
The object of home music study, in my view, is to spark an interest. The obvious, documented benefits such as rocketing math scores are great in themselves, but it is the childhood discovery of music as a fun and deep activity that is most valuable.
PIANO IS EASY (ISBN # 0-9718936-1-6) Sturdily bound, durable, colorful 120 page illustrated song book with 50 songs such as Jingle Bells and London Bridge, Play Along Audio CD and removable numbered stickers.
Every book package order of PIANO IS EASY includes a copy of I CAN READ MUSIC. This fun, easy-to-understand music activity book is the best way to start children reading music. Click here for sample pages.
Every book package order of PIANO IS EASY includes a FREE copy of the 56 minute DVD video from TEACH YOURSELF PIANO. This video will have you playing chords (three piano keys played with the left hand) and fun, familiar songs with both hands right away. That's a $16.95 value free!