Music help

The arts are sometimes overlooked, but they're a valuable part of culture and history.

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Joined: Sat Oct 21, 2006 11:23 am

Music help

Postby sportsgirl132 » Sat Oct 21, 2006 11:32 am

Hi. My four year old son has been taking piano lessons for about 9 months. He is doing very well EXCEPT we can not seem to get him to understand the logistics of reading notes from a staff. The usual mneumonics don't seem to be helping ( Every Good Boy Does Fine, etc...) .
Connor simply plays a song and then can replay it, apparently , by ear once a melody as already been established. Flashcards haven't helped. I also have a Notefinder that allows you do move a note up and down through the bass and treble clef so that he can see the progression ( alphabetically ) of notes as you go up ( or down) the scale.
After many weeks, nothing seems to let it all sink in for him. He's mastered all the notes on the keyboard, sharps, flats, rhythms ( some rather complex), dynamics...everyting but being able to read successfully from a staff.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? I would be most grateful.

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Re: Music help

Postby Ramona » Sat Oct 21, 2006 10:47 pm

I've been teaching piano for many years. I've taught 4 of my own kids so far as well as several other students. I don't teach kids to read notes on a staff until after they've learned to read (words) at a beginning-second-grade level or better. Before that, students usually learn to play by ear or by rote.

OTOH, at age 4, I wouldn't be surprised if a boy simply needs to grow a little older before reaching the developmental stage of being able to "get" reading a staff. I haven't researched that, but it wouldn't surprise me. My oldest son couldn't figure out how to count on his fingers till the day he turned 5.5 years old. Then it suddenly came to him naturally.

Back to the "first hand," my oldest daughter was reading before she was 5, and also taking piano lessons including reading and writing music on a staff. It isn't necessarily connected to any particular age, but reading may precede reading music to some extent.

BTW--has he tried writing notes on a staff? That usually helps my beginning students read them.

One last comment: how is his vision? My 2nd daughter had strabismus (couldn't cross her eyes; was seeing double) and we didn't find out until she was 9 years old. In the meantime she had learned to read and to play the piano at fairly normal ages of 5 and 6. She struggled to see, but she didn't realize that other people didn't have to struggle that hard. She kept at it and learned to read both words and music. But when she first started piano she kept playing by memory much longer than any of my other students. I could tell she wasn't actually reading the music for a long time, but didn't know why until years later. She was able to do vision therapy for several months once she was diagnosed and can now see normally.

Ramona :)

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Postby Mark » Mon Oct 23, 2006 7:47 am

thanks Ramona,

That actually sounds like something I need to look into for my daughter as well.

As to reading notes from the staff, I agree that it may just take some time.


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Thank you

Postby sportsgirl132 » Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:20 pm

Thank you for the quick reply.

If anything else, I feel at least validated that it's natural for kids to have these sorts of problems. Since I posted, I found a great software program that Connor loves. It's incredibly educational about reading notes, dynamics, etc. He's even been requesting to play it--which has only happened in the past with train simulator games and his chess program. It's "Piano For Kids" by Superstart Music.

Thanks again, Ramona.

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Joined: Sat Oct 21, 2006 11:23 am

One more thing

Postby sportsgirl132 » Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:24 pm

You are spot-on Ramona about checking vision. My husband has atrocious vision and his folks didn't figure it out until he was almost 7. We had Connor tested at 6 months and he was in glasses by ten months. Right now we have to look into special glasses just for the piano. He has bifocals and switching between looking at the music and looking at his fingers has been a big adjustment. Luckily, he is begoming more sure-fingered and doesn't feel the need to look down at the keyboard as much anymore.

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Postby suzie » Wed Apr 18, 2007 12:58 pm

I agree with the comments about his young age and checking for vision. I just have one other suggestion you could try, if vision seems not to be a problem.

I have a couple students who are 4,5,6 years old, and what has really seemed to help them is singing note names aloud and drawing the notes themselves. As we're learning new notes, let's say, c, d, and e, i have them practice their pieces singing the names and counting out loud as they play, (sounds like "e d c d e e e-two") and I also ask them to compose a "song" using those notes. Each of my students has a staff book of blank staff paper and most of the kids really enjoy drawing notes in it and naming their songs. Then they play their songs for me while saying the note names aloud.

I think it's similar to learning a language- we learn to speak, read, and write, and each of those actions reinforces the others.

I also sometimes play a guessing game, where my student and I will take turns asking each other questions. For instance, I could point to a note and ask what it's name is, or how many beats it gets, etc. If the student answers correctly they get 1 point, and if not, 0 points. (first one to reach 10 points wins) Then they ask me a question. Since I know all the answers, I can choose to answer correctly and get a point, or answer incorrectly on purpose. It is the student's job to decide whether I am correct, so he has to figure out for himself what the answer is. If I guess incorrectly and the student doesn't notice, I get the point. If I guess incorrectly and the student doesn't fall for it, and gives me the right answer, he gets my point. The kids love this game and it's a fun way of making them think about reading music.

And if he doesn't learn to read music easily at this time, don't be concerned, he is very young and will catch on when he is ready!

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