Toys for Fun Piano

TOYS AND ACCESORIES FOR A FUN PIANO LESSON

Remember that our first job is make the child like piano lessons, and with that in mind, there are a few toys and accessories that you can bring to piano lessons which will delight the kids.

A delighted kid is easy to teach.

First of all, I use a bell of the sort one might find in a motel to summon a clerk. Some schoolteachers use them to quiet the class, but here we let the child have control and access.

At first I won’t let them ring the bell, and they become intrigued with it.

I ring the bell at important points, like when they have played something correctly. They love the idea of being rewarded with a ringing bell. It’s a kid thing. They love even more when they get to ring the bell.

Sometimes we use the bell as the MISTAKE BELL, which is in itself a fun thing for kids, because the mistakes are accompanied by a sound that delights them in any case. I assume the guise of a stern taskmaster who counts every single mistake with the bell. It doesn’t last long, and, actually, no good piano game lasts very long.

We play a game where I play a glissando, up or down, and the child has to not only play the top (or bottom) note of the piano, but then ring the bell. Sometimes we race and see who gets to the bell first.

While this last game may sound ridiculous, think about it for a moment. Playing the piano is nothing but events, strung one after the other. When I play a glissando up the piano, their job is to play that high note EXACTLY at the moment I finish the glissando.

I am mock-strict and do it over and over until they play the top note of the piano at exactly the right point, and they will try enthusiastically to get that note exactly where it should be. This delights children. Why? Because this is really their first exercise in rhythm, where they not only have to perform a task but must perform it at one exact time. Add the bell and that’s two tasks.

Breaking things down to this minute level is essential if you are to get children’s attention and loyalty. Baby steps were never more appropriate.

Once a child knows that you will not exceed their “comfort zone” in terms of the speed of the lesson, they will give you their full attention and efforts. It really is like magic. There is no child, no mood you cannot conquer with this approach.

In addition, get some Post-Its to make a list of songs for them. As they master even a few notes of a song, write the name on the list. If they ask, let them write the list. This gives them a tangible record of what they have accomplished. It’s not an assignment roster, it’s a badge of honor, really. From this list you will derive the songs for the DICE GAME, described elsewhere.

A pair of dice will be useful if only for the fact that random numbers are generated. We play a chord game called CHORD DICE where the have to play a chord on the step of the scale indicated by the number on the dice. They love to roll the dice and then figure out which chord is the answer. Then they have to say whether the chord has a happy or sad quality. Ear training starts early and never ends.

Once again, you are not a comedian but may instantly adopt that ruse to make a point. Theatricalism works very well with kids to grab their attention. Speaking like a television announcer will simply fascinate them, and any command you give in that tone and vein will be complied with as if they had been asked to play a fun game with their friends.

Piano games are what you do in between bite-sized, easily digestible bits of pedagogy (reading music.) The units of both fun and work are short, to fit their attention span and to allow variety and control of the pace of the lesson.

Never lose the child’s point of view, but have your own agenda for what might be accomplished.

What can be accomplished should be based on the weaknesses discovered during playing. These weaknesses must be corrected before you can move forward to the next musical concept.

For example, it is pointless to teach a child the rudiments of reading music if they cannot distinguish isolated skills such as left from right, black from white, and up from down.

Thus a child stumbling at reading music may need considerable help in these concepts before reading music is attempted again.

The piano games are what you use to work on these isolated skills, up down, etc., in preparation for reading music. You then try reading music again, testing to see what isolated skill they need to learn to succeed at reading music.

Go away from reading music, hone the missing skill again, come back to reading music.

The advantage of this test-retreat-reintroduce technique is the child never feels like a failure, because you always retreat as soon as you see them start to fail a tested skill. They don’t feel defeated by sheet music, but will rather feel good because they will have succeeded at the isolated, easier skill (up-down.)

A salesman-teacher told me once, quite correctly, that you have to have a giant thermometer ten feet long to constantly test the client and find his mood.

I think that salesman sold a lot of cars, and, using his advice, I have made a lot of kids discover that they can play the piano.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

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