Piano by Number is really just an extension of the concept of finger numbers, which were first introduced in the early 1800s.
It was developed to solve a dilemma, which has plagued the piano teaching industry almost from its inception: the problem with children’s piano lessons has always been reading music.
Pushing down the keys is not all that hard, if you take a simple tune like Jingle Bells as an example. But as soon as you put Jingle Bells into musical notation it becomes a jungle of mental difficulties for all but a few gifted people. That’s simply the truth.
Reading music is inherently hard for almost everyone. Playing piano by ear, or number, or color or some other “starter method” is easy because it divests the player of the task of reading conventional musical notation.
It is the fault of our system of teaching reading music that 90% of the kids who start piano today using conventional methods will quit within a few months.
And no one really questioned these figures until a few years ago.
Yes, conventional lessons account for the acknowledged statistics of the benefits of piano lessons: higher math scores, better handwriting and many others.
But conventional piano lessons also have that 90% quit rate, which if you think about it, would mean that if those 90% of kids had kept playing longer, they would have reaped even more intellectual benefits from the piano.
What is needed is a piano learning system that has both a high early success ratio, as well as the ability to keep kids playing and enjoying the piano longer, perhaps through and including adulthood. Otherwise, what is the point of taking piano lessons?
Piano by Number solves both of the above problems, and we will show you how.
First, there is the problem of reading music.
Reading music at first is a terrible way for a child to begin piano. It gives no sense of how exciting it is to be a part of making music. Don’t you think a child needs to know that all this work will add up to fun?
Reading music has no joy. That’s the simple truth. It’s hard work, especially at first, especially for even the most intelligent and diligent child, most especially for younger children.
Reading music requires understanding at least four things, all of which are on different intellectual levels. They are:
First, to read music at the piano a child must find the correct note on the page, a monstrous task in itself. In addition, they must correlate that note with a unique key on the keyboard. The keyboard, in conventional lessons, is not marked in any way, leaving the child afloat in a sea of white keys that have no easily visible pattern, and no visual orientation.
Second, the child is asked to memorize the name of each piano key, using the musical alphabet, which, inexplicably to a child just learning the regular alphabet, begins with the letter C.
Third, the child must use the correct finger to play each note. Fingers are numbered, and that must be memorized, too.
Fourth, the child must do this all according to rhythm, which is a relentless, timed schedule of the above three events combined.
Are you tired yet? Is your head swimming? Can you imagine a healthy six year old that would express enthusiasm for such a regime for longer than a few months?
Now let’s examine what a child-friendly “starter method” like Piano by Number expects of a child during the first few lessons.
Piano by Number presents songs as a single row of numbers on the page, the numbers corresponding to the piano keys, which have been numbered with removable stickers.
Above is a sample page from a Piano by Number book, showing the song Jingle Bells expressed in numbers.
You can see how simple it is. If you wish, you can click here and try the song on an online piano where you play a keyboard using your computer’s mouse.
The point is that a child’s first experience at the piano using this method is going to be a success. They know the song Jingle Bells, and they will recognize it when they play it.
Having success at first will fuel their demand to play another song, and then another, until they want to play piano under their own steam.
Once they are launched enthusiastically, the subject of reading music can be delicately broached after a few weeks, as long as it does not diminish their enthusiasm. In fact, all the elements of conventional music can eventually be introduced, but not until the child has proved to themselves that they can play familiar songs without stress.
Your objective at first should be to treat the piano as a toy so that a playful and positive relationship is established with the piano.
If a child’s first experiences with the piano are negative, their involvement is probably doomed.
Consider your child a success at the piano in the first year if:
They play a little bit, even a few notes, as they pass the instrument.
They play by themselves, briefly, without being asked.
They are curious about the piano and music.
If you have success at first, you have a victory upon which you can patiently build.
My experience is that 90% of the children taught, starting with this friendly method, are still playing a year later and are ready to keep on playing.
This gives you time to slowly introduce the elements of musical notation, reading music and rhythm, all while the child is fresh and enthusiastic.
Be careful to never let the child feel like a failure. Ever. No matter what mistake they make, their effort is worthy of respect. A better tactic, as a teacher, is to take note of the deficiency for later examination, and cleverly plot how this child, as an individual, can be made to understand that element of music.
Laugh at mistakes. They are amusing.
Be patient, especially in the beginning, and you will be rewarded later with continued enthusiasm.