Help me music my offspring
October 12, 2015 2:06 AM   Subscribe

Where do music and piano teachers of beginners get their goodies - the piano key charts, the very basics for teaching music theory and the scaffolding that enable the path toward reading (and understanding) music?

I have three kids who are of course clever and beautiful and perfect, and I play my kids all sorts of music and talk to them about it (latest iteration was playing and talking about the "Blue Danube" and waltzing in general, including a solo demo which may be the cause of future therapy bills). But I've been a rotten father in that I've never taken the time to systematically introduce them to music as something you do, as opposed to something you merely hear. What do you use? Where do you get it?

Assume I have a solid grounding in music theory and can still sightread music for several instruments in spite of being woefully out of practice. I have a piano and ready access to US and UK markets. Thanks!
posted by Emperor SnooKloze to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an Early Years music teacher and also teach piano (specialising in young beginners). Introducing Kodály-based principals has completely revolutionised the way I teach. The method breaks music right down in a way that young children completely understand and gives a brilliant grounding for music theory as well as all-round musicianship.

It's huge topic that has a lot of literature, some more scholarly, others more practical, I'd suggest a browse and see what appeals to you.

Specifically for piano, Dogs & Birds is a great Kodály-based method. The complete music set includes a grand stave/staff and little tiles that you can use both on the stave and the keyboard, which in turn, ties in with the pupil book. I've used it very successfully with over a dozen kids now, aged 4-8 and they've all responded really well to the books.
posted by dogsbody at 4:16 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Heart and Soul piano duet. This is how I tricked my 8-year-old cousin into learning. Kid could learn a basic melody in one sitting (no scary sheet music needed) and I could help it sound like a real song. Kid's eyes lit up as it bridged that first gap that happens when you know you're no good. The younger cousins were easier. They really loved being able to play nursery rhymes. They all loved when I'd play Disney songs for them to sing to (I think the ones I only had basic simplified scores were the best for the eldest- those looked feasible to eventually learn). Once they had a few songs down and could show off their new found skills, I got them hooked and willing to invest in learning to read music and practice on their own.

Most music stores I've been in have a selection beginner piano books and easy movie scores and pop songs. I was taught with Alfred Music and taught my cousins to play using mostly the same books (they came up on my general Amazon search too, so they haven't fallen off the face of the planet but it's also been 20 years). Age matters, and my cousins started younger than I did, so I went and bought a few beginner books I flipped through before they moved on to my old books. I'm biased as a hobby piano player, but I think the piano is great for learning to read music. Every note on the staff has a corresponding key. There is no need to transpose keys to play any given song.

Once my cousins picked up the basics, I'd go buy a theory book for them- they always reminded me a bit of math work sheets. Since my cousins were less into math than I as a child, I was really conscious of this homework look and I spent a lot of time incorporating the theory into the songs they were learning. I'd create puzzle games with them at the piano and try and connect the written theory with playing and hearing. I bet there's some awesome apps these days to just bypass the homework sheet vibe.

I'm terrible at improvisation, composition, and I have a mediocre ear. I haven't performed since highschool but I still play when my hands aren't giving me trouble. I give that as a caveat, since I don't really know how to foster that side despite loving jazz. My friend was encouraged to write compositions and she'd improv duets with same piano teacher I saw. We were polar opposites when it came to skills in music and playing. She'd transcribe music so she could play songs from video games on the piano. Occasionally, I'd goof around with at the keyboard and I knew enough theory I could at least give her something to run with. Alas, I was really resistant to not having written music in front of me. Good thing there's a lot of sheet music at different levels for duets. Duets are awesome.

Be sure to mess around and play and encourage experimentation. Even if they're young and it is painful to hear the cacophony (The toddler at first! But she'd spend so long focused by herself intently making noise, I just did everything I could to encourage her and she got better). The 6-year-old cousin got a delight out of crafting simple melodies and then playing them for me. She loved when I'd add chords to her songs. The bonus of teaching my cousins was they liked spending time with big cool older cousin. It was totally different from subbing beginners for my piano teacher in highschool.

I wasn't so much worried about teaching my cousins, as I was bonding with them over sitting at my piano and making music. Each cousin got some regular one-on-one time with me pounding the piano for about a year before I moved. They saw me practicing and working trying to master new songs as well as playing my repertoire. We went at their pace and in line with their interests with no expectations, but they managed to constantly surprise me all the same. I was thick on praise and trying to make it fun. Just go play music with your kids.
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 5:22 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would really look into the FABER series of method books, "Adventures in Music" (or "In piano"?) It starts off really slow, groups of two or three black keys etc. But you may know all this already.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:34 PM on October 12, 2015

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