Monday, September 14, 2015

Start With Piano! How Piano Study Prepares You

Does Billy dream of becoming an electric guitar player? Start with Piano!
Is Sally planning to be a violin maestro? Start with Piano!
Is Gretchen longing to jam on a trombone? Start with Piano!


No matter where your child is heading on his musical path, we know what STEP ONE is;  Developing a musical foundation of ear-training, note-reading, and piano-playing for 3 short years is the BEST way to launch on the right foot.
 

Advantages of Keyboard Learning
Want to play clarinet, or trumpet, or sousaphone? Yes, the keyboard is still the ideal first musical instrument.  Spend three years with us and you'll be a star in your orchestra/ marching band/ punk rock club.
   
First, every key on the keyboard relates directly to one note written on the staff. Go up the staff, go up the keyboard.  Step by step and skip by skip, the piano is a miraculous visual and tactile way to make sense of music notation. The keyboard’s arrangement promotes staff reading! Contrast this to a violin or a trumpet: step-wise notes are produced with random fingerings and positions. Ack! 

Learn to Read: the Right Tool
When a child is learning this all-new thing called reading music, let's take away the crazy tricky stuff, please.  The piano is the phonics storybook of the music world: so very logical and easy to deciper.  Extract the sesquipedalian and arcane circumlocution so a novice can decode your verbiage! You would not want that last sentence showing up in a kindergarten reading assignment, right? You would not give a dusty tome to a child, you'd give him a phonics book.

The saving grace for a LPM graduate when the time does come to learn a new and tricky instrument is that she already knows how to read music, and she already knows how it should sound.  Many LPM graduates can truly read the music: look at the notes and hear the melody in their mind. Check out our post to learn more about how we teach reading.  So next, hitting the note with the trumpet is pretty easy-peasy! She becomes the star of her concert band in no time! The foundational LPM years were SO worth it!

Contrast her experience with the student who can't discern any logic for how dots scattered on a paper correlate with fingering and instrument AND simultaneously does not have an inner ear helping him know if he hit the right tone! So tricky!

Part Of the Whole
The second reason the keyboard is a fantastic teaching tool is it gives the player the distinct ability to create all three elements of music – melody, harmony and rhythm – at the same time

Most songs we play in class have a melody played by the right hand, chords (harmonies) played by the left hand, and of course they can each use different rhythms.  Often the left hand provides a steady rhythm for us while the right hand plays something interesting.

When your child plays in the orchestra or band, she'll be playing only one part of the big picture (and for most band instruments, only one note at a time).  If she plays flute, clarinet, or alto saxaphone, she'll probably play melody frequently.  If she plays french horn or baritone, more time will be spent harmonizing. Grasping what makes up the whole before narrowing down into the part is foundational for musicians.  A student who hasn't had practice listening to music and analyzing it for the parts might be frustrated to play a harmonizing part. A pianist learns to piece together all parts.

Multi-sensory Learning
Finally, the keyboard connects a child’s sense of touch and sight to the ear and mind, much like Solfeggio connects the voice to ear and mind and hands.  The student can see and feel the relationship of the melodic patterns he has internalized in Year One as he plays them on a keyboard.  A tactile feel of a step, skip, or leap further internalizes these relationships in the mind and ear.  

When a child sings a SFMRD and sees the notes going down on his staff in baby steps and simultaneously feels his fingers moving downward step by step, musical connections are made – not only in understanding the staff, but in understanding how music works.


The World is Your Oyster
This is a phrase I sometimes use with my students.  It means: You are in a position to take advantage of the opportunities life has to offer!  It's like the whole world is nothing but potential for creating pearls (or awesome experiences).  You've had a great whole-musician training, so NOW you are all set to excel in all kinds of music. Get out there and EXPLORE to find out where your passion may lie.

Here are some ways to expose your child to different instruments and musical venues:


* Take your child to the local symphony (many have special children's concerts and probably play some pieces you know from LPM!) Teacher Emy LeFevre in Chubbuck, ID (studio link) says: Our Idaho state civic symphony has a kid's Halloween concert and instrument "petting zoo". Kids love to try them out.

*If the symphony price tag or time commitment is prohibitive, take your child to the concert band, orchestra concerts, or musicals at your local high school.  If a particular instrument has a solo, quietly point it out to your child and help him identify the instruments.


* Watch parades and football games with a special eye on the band!  I refer to our sporting events as "Band Games."  I tell my son, "I really loved tonight's band game! You played so well!" It's no secret who I'm cheering for out there.  Help your child notice the different instruments as they perform.

* Visit music studios that form and coach youth bands (rock, jazz, Beatles cover, etc.)  Attend the student concerts so your child can see youngsters playing in small groups (and being awesome).  One such nationwide chain is School of Rock, but many independent local music businesses offer lessons in every instrument and help you form up a group! Call up any of these places and say "my child is considering lessons with you in the future, but we wan to check out your student performances/recitals first...when will they be?"

* Don't forget about PIANO! It's very motivational to listen to someone slightly older play something amazing. Kids get the idea "I could be doing that soon, too!"  In your area, google "piano teacher association" to find out if a local group is having contests and competitions- they can be exciting to watch.  Otherwise ask your potential future piano teacher if you can come to the next recital to hear the students perform.


* LPM Teacher Katie Anderson (Anthem, AZ studio link) suggests: Find family-friendly performances in your area. I took my kids to see a cute family of fiddlers performing group and my kids haven't stopped talking about it since.  And I got a ton of practice mileage off that show. Now they are entering a fiddling contest of their own! 


* LPM Teacher Megan Dougherty  in Westminster, CO (studio link) says: This summer we watched a few operas online through the Metropolitan Opera website (the kid friendly ones). I was expecting the kids to be bored but they LOVED them? I believe their puppet shows trained them to enjoy classical music!


* Don't forget singing! LPM Teacher Sarah McKay in Marietta, OH (studio link) says: For several years I have sung in the community choir hosted by the local college; my children would always have a chance to hear our performance. This year the college staged a children's choir and my daughter decided to audition- and she made it!



If you're ready to help your child get the best possible start, find a Let's Play Music teacher near you now!


-Gina Weibel, M.S.

Let's Play Music Teacher

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