Here are some activities that will interest preschoolers in the piano and prepare them for further involvement with the piano. Games can be used to demonstrate each concept.
1. Distinguish left from right on the piano keyboard.
2. Distinguish up/down on the piano keyboard.
3. Understand the qualities of happy and sad when listening to music.
4. Find Middle C
Until the above tasks are accomplished, there is little point in pushing further.
A piano is a good gathering place for preschool children, for piano lessons or just for musical fun.
In fact, you would do well to make your music lesson or class into a series of fun preschool activities centered around the piano, rather than pedagogical lectures.
For example, rather than try to read music, you might explore the pattern of two and three black keys on the piano. That skill, finding one’s way around the black keys, is a precursor to the skill of reading music.
Just playing a happy tune, ala Chico Marx, draws kids into the warm sound of a piano, and excites them, creating interest.
Try these fun activities with a piano:
March and tramp around the room to a jaunty beat.
Now make the music dark and mysterious, and have the kids pretend they are clouds and rainstorms.
Play a glissando up and ask if it was up or down.
Play a glissando down and ask if it was up or down.
At this point you might try to ask about the two black keys. Ask if anyone sees a pattern of black keys. Let them come up to the piano and look.
Now tell them that the most important note is called “C,” and it is to the left of the two black keys.
Of course, now you must fight a separate battle, which is the difference between left and right, a skill not yet mastered by many preschoolers.
Finding Middle C actually helps a lot of preschoolers strengthen the left/right difference, because it attaches an external value to it, the ability to make a certain musical sound, thus making it more fun.
Now have the kids find the groups of two and three black keys, and make up games distinguishing them, such as, “Is this the group of three or the group of two?”
Adopt the manner of a carnival barker and make them find the answer more and more quickly. I always say, “Hurry up there kid, we got others waiting, y’know.”
Kids love a theatrical conceit.
Now that you’ve got them interested, here are more activities:
Take their index finger and slowly play up (to the right) from Middle C. Explain that it’s like a stairway. “Who’d like to go up the Piano Stairway?” Then let them do it themselves. If they go crazy and smash the keys, gently take their hand and guide them again.
Have them press down any group of two black keys.
Have them press down any group of three black keys.
The standard musical games work well to relieve the tension:
Name That Tune
You can also try making up a musical drama, and divide the kids into characters. Even if chaos ensues, and it will, it will be good musical fun.
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