Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tip of the Day: Teaching Kids to Play the Piano

Because I love music and love playing the piano, I get anxious by the time my kids are three to start teaching them to play the piano.  Of course, I encourage them to play earlier, but to actually recognize a song, it takes a little longer.

The very first step to get them playing songs on their own is to teach them to recognize the numbers 1 through 5.   Through repetition, seeing these numbers written over and over will teach them what they look like and they are able to name the number long before they are able to write it.

You then assign those numbers to their fingers, both right and left hands; thumb-1, pointer-2, middle-3, ring-4, and pinkie-5.  My kids love playing the game of putting their hands up and I call a number and see how fast they can show me the finger.  This really enforces that knowledge so they don't have to even think or count which finger is which number when it comes time to play.

The kids also like to trace their hands and either tell you the finger numbers while you draw them on the paper, or write in the finger numbers themselves.

The final step in teaching your young children to play a song is to teach them where middle C is on the piano.  Middle C is a good starting point for their little hands because there are numerous nursery rhyme songs that can be played around this note.  (For those of you unsure of where Middle C is, it's the 24th white note from the left side of the keyboard.  Another way to find it is to observe the pattern of keys: two black key, three black keys, etc.  C is the white note just to the left of the set of two black keys and Middle C is the fourth C from either side of the keyboard.)  Until the kids learn where Middle C is, you can put a small piece of tape there to help them find it.

To play a song, I alternate finger numbers for songs with the right hand, and then the left hand, so that they develop the ability to use both. 

For the first song, I always pick one that they recognize.  This adds to the excitement when they can sing it or have other people sing it.

I start out by telling them, "Finger #1 (thumb) of your right hand goes on Middle C."  I then have the numbers written on a piece of paper and they just follow them along, playing the song as they go.  Sometimes it's easier for them if you point to the numbers one by one to help them follow along the first few times.

I have included a song here and have a number of simple songs that kids can play with one hand and then gradually get to the point of playing with both hands just by reading finger numbers.  If you want me to send them to you, just let me know.

And just for fun, let's see who identifies this song and tells me what it is in a comment!

Right hand, finger #1 on Middle C:

3 2 1 2 3 3 3
2 2 2
3 5 5
3 2 1 2 3 3 3 3
2 2 3 2 1.

Be sure to be patient with your kids.  They all learn at different paces.  Have fun!!

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