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Welcome to Walden Pond Press Kids Piano Books

Start piano at home with your child

Start with numbers, then read music

Books for Younger Kids______ Books for Older Kids______Books for Adults

 

AGE TO START PIANO

The right age to start a child at the piano depends entirely on whether you intend to use the conventional methods that employ only sheet music. If you intend to use the conventional, "by the rule" piano methods, then don't even think of starting before the age of six. 

If you intend to use a child-friendly method such as Piano by Number, there is no age limit: any child that can identify the numbers 1-12 is a perfect candidate to begin enjoying and learning music at even the youngest preschool piano level.

In terms of maturity, I would suggest the age of four or five as a good age to start with Piano by Number, and soon after perhaps begin to slowly introduce the concepts of sheet music as presented in our book, I CAN READ MUSIC. 

If you encounter any difficulties with sheet music, back off and continue with Piano by Number. Preschool piano should be marvelously entertaining and not too serious.

Remember, there are only a few basic musical ideas (up, down, black, white) that we are trying to get across to our eager audience.

A child should easily grasp the concepts presented in I CAN READ MUSIC, and if they don't they are too young for sheet music and should be allowed to continue enjoying Piano by Number until they are old enough to make the transition from preschool piano to regular piano lessons with ease.

Better to wait than to frustrate.

Age 2 to 3

Kids this age will want to approach the piano if you make it fun. The most you can expect is to establish a friendly relationship with the instrument. Since kids this age have barely gotten control of numbers, only the most repetitious, familiar and simple number songs will work. Try approaching the keyboard entirely visually, not relying on any printed symbols at all. Your pace should be glacial in terms of curriculum, but bright in terms of mood.

Age 4 to 5

Since kids have now gotten control of numbers, you can try actual songs that they read off a page. Numbers will work best, but you might be able to introduce the symbol for Middle C, and find it on the piano. There is no point in homework other than having them find songs they like and recognize, and can navigate at the keyboard. At this age, children are still hazy on what a task is, or an assignment. Better to go with their flow, and keep them coming back to the piano for more fun. Fingering and rhythm really do not exist at this age in terms of reproducing a song exactly. Playing with both hands is usually impossible due to the lack of development of the corpus callosum, the bridge of nerves and ganglia that join the two brain hemispheres together. I would be very careful about insisting on anything other than a cheerful, open attitude.

Age 5 to 6

This is considered the optimum age to start piano, but any age above 5 usually means a child can do a little directed work. At age 6, a child knows what a task is, and has more motor control over their fingers and hands. Fingering can be easily introduced, and the idea of rhythm broached. You still need to keep the game-like feeling to the lessons. Lower the bar to get enthusiasm, and pick your chances for small advancements. Playing with both hands is usually possible, depending on the child, and the arrangement of the hands. You may try insisting on things, but be wise enough to know when to back off.

PRESCHOOL PIANO

I recommend starting children of preschool age playing Piano by Number. Preschoolers are just getting used to numbers and letters.

Many teachers have found that having children identify numbers via the piano keyboard is a fun activity that builds confidence with numbers.

The most important aspect of using piano by number for preschoolers is to first recognize the capabilities of the child: can the child identify numbers if the graphic representation of those numbers (on a page) is presented to them?

It is one thing for a child to recite vocally numbers as high as they can, but quite another to recognize the symbols for each number. Many preschool children can play any numbered piano key you say to them, but have difficulty playing numbers (or any symbols, for that matter) that they find on the page.

Piano by Number slowly builds the abstract skills necessary to decipher musical symbols later, and promotes children's sense of security in successfully deciphering them.

For children who cannot yet identify the symbols for numbers, the piano keyboard is an ideal place to build confidence with those symbols, with the added attraction that music itself produces a "good-mood" effect that is conducive to learning more complex skills.

Seeing the first twelve numbers, 1-12, spread out on a piano helps children to imagine numbers as a sequential ordering device.

Probably the biggest secret of teaching music to children this age is to allow kids to be kids while they learn. If you do this, and it requires unbelievable patience and creativity, they will reward you with constant effort, and humor!

The younger the child, the less I expect. If they only learn that the piano is a fun place to be, you've had a major victory as a teacher and a parent.

KINDERGARTEN PIANO

I recommend starting kindergarten kids with Piano by Number, and then making limited attempts at sheet music depending on the child's sense of security with the piano.

Usually, this is no problem. Kindergarten kids are very ready for games of any kind, and begin to have the skills necessary to put several hand movements together into a group of movements. 

Children of this age still are most comfortable with numbers, but will tolerate more games preparing the way for reading sheet music. But you must make games out of everything. And back off from teaching sheet music as soon as you see their eyes start to show exhaustion, perhaps 5 minutes at most.

Sheet music is fascinating but very tiring for kids this age. Better to expose them 5 minutes at a time than risk exhausting them and making them feel like failures. 

With this age you may be able to teach them chords (three piano keys played with the left hand) but usually I allow them to play 2 note chords (two piano keys with the left hand) until it becomes obvious that 2 note chords are too easy.

I don't insist that children play with both hands at this point, that is, chords with left hand and melody (numbers) with the right hand. It is enough that they can make their way through a few moments of a song that I show them, always carefully chosen to allow them to master a simple-enough task.

For example, a child this age should begin to easily have knowledge of the first three chords (three piano keys for the left hand) known as C, F and G. Any child can do this with enough focused, fun repetition.

If a child does begin to read sheet music, be careful to gain complete mastery of the notes of the right hand, say the first 5 keys above Middle C, before attempting to introduce the left hand.

It is my feeling that merely introducing the idea of "lines and spaces" (sheet music) is more than a victory at this stage.

The reason for this is that sheet music is much more of an abstraction than numbers for children of this age. Children gravitate to what is most comfortable for them, and you can bet at this age that it will be Piano by Number, because it is less abstract than sheet music.

Children who are allowed the room to succeed at Piano by Number no matter how glacial their pace, are perfect candidates for reading sheet music, because they are properly prepared.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL - FIRST GRADE PIANO

At this age, you can start with Piano by Number to build confidence, and readily move on to sheet music a little bit at a time within a few months. 

First graders seem magically wired to try the piano! All the physical perceptions necessary are in place; numbers are no problem, playing with two hands is not impossible.

But if a child has difficulty with playing two hands simultaneously, do not insist, as most kids this age have some difficulty with complex two handed maneuvers.

It is enough to expose them to the idea that two hands are involved, eventually simultaneously.

At this age, you can start with Piano by Number to build confidence, and readily move on to sheet music a little bit at a time within a few months. 

First graders seem magically wired to try the piano! All the physical perceptions necessary are in place; numbers are no problem, playing with two hands is no problem.

But if a child has difficulty with playing two hands simultaneously, do not insist, as most kids this age have great difficulty with two handed maneuvers. It is enough to expose them to the idea that two hands are involved, eventually simultaneously.

With piano by numbers and chords (two or three piano keys played with the left hand) under their belt, first graders are ready to conquer the right hand of sheet music, and engage in a study of chords.

At this age kids are emotionally ready to play the game called "happy and sad" wherein the teacher plays chords and has the child try to guess their (the chords) emotional or dramatic quality, happy or sad.

Kids love this silly game, almost like a game show, and never tire of trying to listen and assess the emotional quality of the chord. Earlier than this age, many children seem to have difficulty grasping the idea of a sound (the piano chord) having a certain emotional quality (happy or sad.)

At this point it also becomes possible to introduce "finger games," that is, games that teach a child to move beyond using the index finger. I always allow kids to start with the index finger, if that's what comfortable.

It may take a long time to get a child to use all the ten fingers properly, but it is worth waiting for, especially if in the meantime you are teaching them other valuable things.

Believe it or not, kids will let you know when they are ready to use all five fingers.

I'll tell you the formula for success. It has three stages:

1. Teach the notes, the numbers, get the kids to decipher the commands and play the correct keys as best they can, with whatever finger comes to their mind

2. Introduce the idea of five fingers, slowly, as a game, as a joke. I always say, when they play with only their index finger, "Oh, you were born with only one finger on each hand! Wait! I see other fingers under there, all curled up!" Try that 50 times in a friendly way and they will start using more fingers all by themselves, I guarantee it.

3. Rhythm is best left to last. The only thing I do at this point is to play rhythm games. I never, ever insist on rhythm in a piece of printed music, numbers or sheet. 

Don't even think of rhythm in the usual sense for first graders. Better to try simple rhythm games like "fours" that give children the idea of regularity, of pattern, of repetition.

To start the process of learning fingering, I begin with a game called "threesies," in which they play, starting from Middle C; 123, 234, 345 456, etc using the right hand thumb, index and third finger in ascending order. Kids love the complexity of this, but if it is too difficult after several tries, then try something else for a while. 

Two more "rules:" 

1. Keep coming back to ideas, again and again.

2. Never acknowledge a child's failure to grasp these ideas, just show comic surprise and move on.

Children at the piano have an uncanny knack of showing you an honest effort if the task is not incomprehensibly difficult. Break down complex motions into easily grasped bits.

By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2010 Walden Pond Press

 

BOOKS

See also: PRESCHOOL PIANO PACKAGE: A selection of books for the youngest kids

See also: CHILDREN'S MULTI BOOK PACKAGE: Includes books for older AND younger children

See also: ADULT PIANO PACKAGE: A selection of books for adult beginners

REFERENCES

See also DISGUISING REPETITION IN KID'S PIANO LESSONS

See also WHY CHILDREN NEED FREEDOM TO LEARN PIANO

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The Piano Is Easy Book Package offers a discount for buying several books at once.

PIANO IS EASY BOOK PACKAGE INCLUDES:

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!

2 BOOKS,  PLAY ALONG AUDIO CD and DVD 

Click here for a list of songs.    Click here for sample pages.

PIANO IS EASY BOOK PACKAGE $39.95   

 PIANO IS EASY book package includes a 120 page song book with 50 songs and removable stickers, plus a Play Along Audio CD, free DVD and copy of the book  I CAN READ MUSIC.

You can also purchase individual books with CD $24.95

Play Along Audio CDs help the child enjoy making music.

Teaching children the piano involves much more than just reading the notes.

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