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Bringing Music Home to Your Children

by Jodi B. Malone

Bringing music education into your childís life without being a musical person is easier than you think. Iíve been to many homeschooling conventions and have been approached with that same question. "I want to teach my child music but I am not a musician or have musical background. How can I do it?" I ask them these simple questions. Which you can ask yourself as you read this.

Can you draw a circle?

Can you draw a stick?

Can you count to at least 4?

Do you know your alphabet at least to letter G?

Sounds really silly doesnít it? But thatís all you REALLY need. The basics of music are those 4 things in a nutshell. You can teach your child basic music theory and even musical instruments, believe it or not!! There are very simple instruction books that many music publishers put out there for you. Many of the books I work with are books that "Teach Yourself" to playÖ very simple books that are self directed or parent directed.

Hereís how you do it. Letís say you want to teach your child piano. The best thing to do is find a method that has a teachers guide. These guides will help you through the method. Some are easier than others so youíll have to find a method that YOU can easily understand enough to teach yourself with. As your child learns so will you. You need to feel comfortable with the instructions of the books. I recommend purchasing a basic lesson book and a theory book in the beginning. The reason for that choice is that the lesson book will bring the concept to the student and the theory book is used to reinforce that same concept through an activity. And like I had mentioned before, the teachers guide will help you with each lesson plan.

There are many piano methods on the market and are suitable for different age groups. I will list the age appropriate books to choose for your child.

1.Primer or Prep Course-Ages 5-7:This course is usually comprised of 3 or more books in A,B,C order. Each book gradually brings the student from rote (playing without notes) to music reading very simplified on the staff. Remember to get the Theory Book for these as well.

*This is what to look for when choosing these books.

Clear Directions

Bright illustrations

Fun Activities

Uncluttered Pages

2. Basic Piano Library Course Ė Ages 6-9: This is the standard young personís piano method. It is geared for the child that has some literary reading comprehension. Musical concepts are introduced at a comfortable easy level and the student will be reading notes on the staff. There will be more songs that are familiar to the child as well. Read through the lesson books to see if the songs are acceptable for your teaching.

If a secular piano method is not acceptable, there are Sacred Piano methods as well. These will cover the exact same musical information but the songs will be in a Christian context. The books usually reference Christian values throughout.

3. Older Students Ė Ages 9-11: This age group can adapt to a few different directions as far as method books go. This depends on the maturity level of the person studying the instrument. Some students can handle information in a basic adult method; some do better with the basic piano books. Itís a judgement call based on how your child comprehends other subjects, attention span, etc.

I HAVE PRE-SCHOOLERS! WHAT CAN I DO FOR THEM?

 

So glad you asked!!

There are also special books for teaching young children piano as well. One really cute one is called "Music for Little Mozartís" By Christine H. Barden. Gayle Kowalchyk. E.L. Lancaster, from Alfred Publishing Co. It is geared for 4-6year olds but my 3-Ĺ year old son works from that book as well and is learning lots! It incorporates a little stuffed bear named Beethoven and a little stuffed mouse named Mozart! They are the main characters of the piano method. The lesson book opens with a story about Beethoven & Mozart and throughout the book the story continues in little story boxes as the mouse and bear learn a new concept on the piano! The child learns right alongside the mouse and bear. The book has workbooks that the child can color, circle, match, etc. and thereís a Discovery book with lots of fun action songs, coloring pages and activities that all coordinate with each book. Even Beethoven & Mozart are available in "beanie type " dolls that are designed to sit on the black keys of your piano! Believe it or not, the dolls are really a learning tool for your child and are drool proof, kiss proof, hug proof, sleep proof but not drool or bath proof. I know from experience on this one! AND, itís a totally parent directed method. Each page has directions for the parent/teacher to follow. REAL cute!

By the way, I donít want to leave Mom and Dad out of this either. There are many really easy books that adults can teach themselves from as well. For the beginning adult I would recommend a "Teach Yourself" type method, since time is always a crunch factor, these books are real flexible. Itís usually extremely simple to understand and make sure that you purchase it with accompaniment via cassette or CD. It ALWAYS helps to hear the examples. Plus the songs in the book always have background accompaniment so you can play along with the music once you feel confident.

See? Itís pretty easy to get started. The best part is that not only will you be able to bring music into your childís life YOU will also be learning the instrument too! As a private music teacher for many years I have been faced with many challenges as well. You see Iím a trumpet player but on occasion I have been asked to teach sax, clarinet, trombone, guitar and piano. My secret??? Well, I did learn these instruments in an introductory methods class but who remembers what they did 10 years ago in a one-semester college class? Well, my secret was to take the instrument (borrowed from a teacher friend) take out a method book and stay one page ahead of my student! Thatís ONE PAGE AHEAD OF THE STUDENT. If you work with your children, that is the safest way to teach them because youíll be prepared for the next lesson! Canít find the time? Just spend 5 minutes. Do it while they nap or are outside playing. Preparation is minimal especially with younger children because they are learning concepts NOT actual music playing yet per se.

I hope this example will be of help. Below I will list instruments that are age appropriate that can either be self-taught or parent-taught.

PianoĖ Pre-school-Adult

Guitar-6yrs-Adult

Harmonica- 8yrs Ė Adult

Recorder- 5-6yrs Ė Adult

VoiceĖall ages. Pitch matching for little ones, familiar nursery songs, etc,Ö

 

The above instruments are the best for beginners and there are fantastic books out there to help you play! The best books to purchase are the "Teach-Yourself" type books. They are written in a clear and easygoing way and usually have play-along CDís or tapes that are a ball to play with!

Any of the wind, string, or percussion instruments (other than rhythm band instruments) should really have a professional teacher or friend who can REALLY play the instrument. The reason for that being, if the child learns wrong mouthpiece placement or hand placement it will be frustrating for the child if they end up in a group sometime in the future. Itís very hard to break wrong habits formed.

I donít want to scare you away from introducing your child to these instruments so, if the child IS interested in those instruments, may I suggest you go to your local community band/orchestra concerts and let them hear the instruments played. Many city orchestras also have what they call a "Petting Zoo" for musical instruments that you can take your kids to and they can actually play the instruments. Itís really fun. Contact your local symphony to see if they offer that. Call your community college and see about going to the concerts, they are usually free of charge. ( plus the students usually teach). You can also take them to your local music store and look at the instruments and have the salesperson demonstrate them. There are also many great videos out there for your family to watch on the instruments of the orchestra. There are hundreds of fantastic books for children and adults on music! The resources are plentiful you just have to know where to find them and hopefully Iíve given you some good ones for starters.

 

Just a quick note on basic music history lessons,

If you desire to bring music history into your childís curriculum rather than an instrument at this time there are a few good resources for you. "Meet the Great Composers" by Hinson/Montgomery-Alfred Publishing Co. Itís a 17 -unit course of study on famous composers from the Baroque period to the Contemporary Period. Each unit is a short but informative lesson about each composer, with activity sheets that are fun and a listening CD of all suggested listening examples. The classroom kits at about $29.95 contain everything for the entire school year including reproducible sheets, CD and book. Check your catalogs for other books on this same subject. There are some wonderful books to be studied that are clear, fun and user friendly. Listen to recordings, they will be a great resource for you. If the cost of buying Classical, Jazz, or other recordings is expensive go to your local record shop of department store and get them in the bargain bins! Iíve found fantastic deals on CDís and cassettes by major groups like the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, etc, for about $3.99!!!

I hope that this article has given you a bit more confidence. The biggest motivator is your love for music and the desire to share this wonderful gift with your child. Music is truly a great gift from the Lord the Creator of all good gifts.

So next time your child discovers Uncle Harryís old guitar in the basement whaddaya gonna do?

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