Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Traditional Piano Lessons VS Let's Play Music

Perhaps you're one of the many parents who decided long ago that piano lessons would be an important part of Junior's eduction. You may have assumed that he would take piano lessons, just like you did (30+ years ago).  

But NOW, lucky you, you've been introduced to Let's Play Music! This program   helps children get ready for, and transition into, piano lessons as they build musicianship skills.  Let's Play Music has been on the scene since 1998, so it's the relatively new kid on the musical pedagogy scene. 

So...should you sign up for 3-years of Let's Play Music foundational classes, or find a traditional piano teacher right now?  Let's compare!

Note-Reading and Keyboard Technique

When you think of piano lessons, you likely think of learning to read music by looking at notation, and learning to play the music correctly on the piano. These are definitely big parts of taking lessons, and I confirm that private piano teachers have tons of experience, skill, and ideas for helping youngsters master these skills.  No doubt that in private lessons, you will get lots of help with this!

So, how does Let's Play Music teach note reading?  In a very natural and nurturing way:  We begin with exposure to musical notation, then introduce how notes work in relationship to tones (steps, skips). We teach common melodic patterns and relate reading to singing. Students learn white keys and anchor notes when they need them. 
Read our 7 Steps for Music Reading Success here

And what about keyboard technique? Read our post to see that we help little fingers develop strength and form in a progressive way.  We will help your kiddo start to develop good piano skills, but be aware that Let's Play Music is not specifically a piano program. If finger dexterity and strength and technique drills are what you're most interested in right now, you'll actually be better served with an instrument-specific teacher! 

BUT  WAIT! If your child is 4-5 years old, I really really think you have years and years of future lessons to work on technique. Let's Play Music will not teach bad habits or "mess up" your child's technique, but there's something more important you need to worry about for this age group, so read on...


In my earlier post, Are Music Lessons Holding Me Back? I addressed the worrisome problem that some adults experience: they took lessons as a kid, learned to read and play a bit, but still came out after years of work believing that they don't really know anything about music.

One danger that sometimes arises in private lessons is an abundance of focus on notation and executive skills (reading music, accurately playing the music like we just mentioned) and not much balance with skills that are harder to measure: rhythmic, tonal, and creative skills.  

How can you become a musician who understands how to jam? A musician who can write songs and re-harmonize songs and transpose songs? A musician who can play but is also "talented" at improvising music? 

Dr. Chad West gives some advice for choosing your child's first musical experience. "In classes where a focus is on movement, singing, chanting, listening, and creating, students are developing 'readiness' for music that pays off in the long run. Audiating, matching pitch, and keeping steady time are skills that don't have flashy, quantifiable outcomes to measure right away, but parents and teachers who value these skills see that in the long run, students with these skills bring more meaning to the notation. These students understand and create music, not just read and play music."

Does a traditional piano lesson give a foundation for musicianship through movement, singing, chanting, listening and creating?  Let's Play Music sure does! Read a post about what we cover in class.

PLAY is one of the Core Values at Let's Play Music. Fred Rogers summed it up when he stated, "Play is often talked about as if it were relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the 'work' of childhood."

Read the post: We Value Play for four four big reasons play is critical for learning, and how we use play in our curriculum.

Does your traditional piano teacher offer the playful, silly, fun experience that children this age require? Just a heads up: I haven't met a 4-year-old who preferred sitting on a piano bench for 30 minutes over playing silly games for 45 minutes.

One reason private lessons struggle to achieve the environment we're looking for is because they're one-on-one. Research shows that group classes are a big part of creating a playful atmosphere where learning through trials can happen. Read our post to understand why, at this age, children learn best in groups. Let's Play Music has it!


Another core value at Let's Play Music is: We Value Relationships. Read the full article to see how classes are built to encourage bonding between parents and children through an enriching, wholesome, and fun experience.  

In your first year, you'll attend class with your student every other week. In year two and three, you'll attend about once per month. 

You probably already know that with a very young musician, parent involvement is the key factor in making practice happen and helping students succeed. The same would be true with a private teacher, but the difference here will be that you, parent, will have an intimate hands-on participation as your child is learning. You will never wonder what new things she worked on this week, what her favorite songs to play are, or what her challenges are- you will know.

Years from now, your grown child won't focus on exactly which songs she could play at which young age. But the attitudes and feelings developed around her first musical experiences will set the stage for years of hard work to come. We believe that having parents and kids develop happy memories together around music is the way to achieve a true love of music. Let us help you do it.

For most parents, another fantastic bonus in Let's Play Music is learning music theory in a fun way, at an amazing level, and using it with ease right alongside their child. Ever wanted to transpose easily or compose and harmonize your own tunes? You'll get lessons for you as a freebie by attending with your student.

Long-Term Growth

My goal in this article is to convince you that partaking in 3 years of foundational Let's Play Music (you will love these 3 years) is your best way to ensure long-term musical progress. Read our spotlight on Truman Walker, an amazing young musician who started with Let's Play Music.

I don't want you to avoid private piano teachers forever; I actually love them and think you are going to find a fantastic private teacher to help your child soar after LPM graduation. We even have a transition plan, Connections, in place to help you succeed with your private teacher.

Piano teachers will love your child when she comes as a LPM graduate. She'll really be ready to take off with piano-specific teaching, and she'll have tons of musical know-how internalized by then.

For readers with a child who is 3-5, wondering "why should we even bother with  music lessons now...isn't he too young?" Please read my post on the many benefits of getting an early start (in an age-appropriate program).  

For readers with a child who has aged out of Let's Play Music (children must be 4-5 to enroll), this is a bummer! This specific pathway to musical excellence is currently unavailable, but the great news is that a new program for older  beginners (age 6-7) will be rolling out soon, so I will have fewer of you to console.

Whichever route you follow, Let's Play Music classes or private piano lessons now, I honestly believe you've made a great decision to give your child music education in her life. Thanks for being a positive force for something so important!

If you're ready to jump in, find a teacher near you now!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher


  1. As one who taught private piano for 20 years before teaching Let's Play Music, LPM gives a much, much broader musical knowledge base than traditional lessons. It allows kids to hear and participate in complex music almost immediately (chords, Autoharp, intervals, canon, ensembles, classical puppet shows, etc) whereas private lessons are very much simple beginnings (which can be boring to many students) and very gradually introduce each of those elements (usually in a boring way - theory workbooks, notespellers, etc.) and some of those elements may never be introduced in private lessons. Many times kids do lose interest as it gets harder and they don't have the underlying foundation to fall back on. People can have great experiences with piano without LPM, and I believe those kids can excel as pianists, but I feel like this gives kids a much broader and richer first experience with music which often times sparks a life long love for it even when it gets challenging.

  2. The biggest thing for me that made me see the value of LPM: as someone who grew up taking traditional piano lessons but did not learn anything other than note-reading, I love that this program builds the foundational knowledge and theory that makes these kids better pianists and overall better musicians because they understand music as a whole, and not just how to read notes on a page. Even I am learning more about the piano and basic music principles as an adult by going through the program with my daughter, and now preparing for my first year of teaching! This program gives kids the foundation they need to become great pianists and great musicians!