Piano stickers work for reading music because reading music is an inherently confusing system over 800 years old devised by monks to record the chants, not to introduce kids to the piano.
The system of five lines was actually devised by a brilliant nun in the 11th century, Hildegard von Bingen. It is said that she was dyslexic, as the two planes, page and piano, are in opposition, and very hard to understand.
Expecting a six year-old to understand this graphic mess is madness.
Reading music requires coordination of horizontal and vertical planes as well as a myriad of other elements that make it confusing, even in the simplest explanation.
And that’s before we add the piano keyboard into the mix, an entirely different set of visual elements than the notes on the five lines of the musical staff on the page.
Let’s try to decipher this, and find a relationship between the page and the keyboard.
The Reading Music Stickers
The purpose of the five blue stickers (and the red one) on the piano keyboard is to give a reference point for children, mostly to coordinate the keys on the piano to the notes on the five lined musical staff.
That is where children become confused, trying to associate a symbol on the page with a key on the piano.
The five BLUE stickers define the location of the five lines of the musical staff and the RED sticker defines the location of Middle C. We repeat the drawing so you can see the relationship between the page (the five lines) and the piano keys below:
This is Middle C (denoted by the RED sticker) and is the first note that children learn at the piano:
The first step after applying the removable stickers to your piano is to make the child aware of the circular symbol for Middle C, the circle in the above drawing with the little horizontal line through it. This is the piano key that corresponds to the RED sticker.
You need to look through some pages of music in, for example, a book such as I CAN READ MUSIC, and help the child identify the graphic symbol for the note Middle C (the symbol directly above this, the circle with the little line through it.) Look below for a page with lots of Middle C’s to find:
Make a game of it, saying “Who can point to Middle C on the page first?” and then let them win every time after a few tries. Go through page after page, making a game of finding Middle C on the page.
After the child can easily find Middle C and distinguish it from all other notes, it’s time to find the relationship between Middle C and the piano keyboard.
Specifically, the note Middle C is defined as the white key with the RED sticker. See the drawings at the top of the page.
Play some games in which the child sees the note Middle C on a page, and then has to play it on the piano keyboard, finding the white key with the RED sticker.
Once you have established security with Middle C, it’s time to move beyond it by finding the FIVE horizontal lines and their relationship to the FIVE blue stickers.
It’s really quite easy: the five lines are exactly marked with the five blue stickers. Children understand this quite quickly, but you must be patient and first establish an understanding that the lowest of the five lines is equal to the blue sticker furthest to the left. See the drawings above.
In fact, all that is necessary for quite a while is for the child to be familiar with three basic elements: 1) the location of Middle C, 2) the location of the lowest of the five lines, the first blue sticker, and 3) the location of the second of the five lines, the second blue sticker.
The reason for this is that all beginning piano music concentrates on the note Middle C and the five white piano keys directly above that. Thus there is no real reason to learn the other lines yet, and you’ll find that it is a large enough job simply to get a child comfortable with Middle C and the first two of the five lines.
Some kids take years to really absorb these first five notes, but once they understand, they move very quickly and become, unlike students of the old school, very good sight readers.
Once your child is familiar with Middle C and the first two (lowest) of the five lines, and the blue stickers on the white keys, you can approach the spaces in between the five lines.
All of this is introduced slowly in I Can Read Music, whose actual purpose as a text is to get the child comfortable with the first five white keys, that is, Middle C and the four white keys above it.
It’s not necessary to name the notes, nor is it necessary to make the child use a certain finger to play a certain note: in fact, asking these tasks of a child actually deflects them from the real task, which is to become comfortable with finding the relationship between the notes on the page and the keys on the piano. Once the child knows for certain what note matches what key, adding more complication, such as fingering or almost anything else, is easy.
Once you accomplish that relationship, the notes and the keys, all the rest, names and fingers, falls into place relatively quickly. In fact, one of the main reasons that most conventional methods are a failure for children is because these methods move too quickly into naming notes and assigning fingers, without first making absolutely sure that the child can find the visual relationship between the notes on the page and the keys on the piano.
Thus all the stickers are doing is providing a temporary, initial reference point for the child, helping them find that relationship between the notes on the page and the keys on the piano.
Once you establish this familiarity, start removing the stickers until they are gone. If your child seems confused, put the stickers back until they understand easily the relationship between the notes and the keys.
WHY PIANO BY NUMBER FIRST?
We suggest, however, that you not even attempt the above steps until you’ve first introduced your child to the piano using Piano By Number. The reason for this is simple: it’s easier to teach reading music to a child who can already play dozens of songs at the piano, and the only way to accomplish this immediate confidence and familiarity is to use a method such as Piano By Number first, and then proceed to reading music.
The reason for this is that all children understand numbers, and will be able to immediately play lots of songs by number, whereas as reading music, even using the careful steps above, is not an immediate process, and requires careful guidance to be successful.
You stand a far greater chance of success at reading music, which is, after all, the real goal, if you first make the child comfortable with playing the piano using a simple, transparent and immediate method such as Piano By Number, and then slowly begin to introduce the elements of reading music using the careful steps outlined above.
Copyright 2010 Walden Pond Press