-Any suggestions on teaching a very young student?

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I have just been asked to teach a 3 and 1/2 year old little girl. (My youngest student right now is 5.) --Do you have any suggestions? I will most likely use either Alfred or Bastien, but I am wondering if there is anything else I can do that will be fun for her besides using books? --Thanks!

-- Deanne (dpetras@eohio.net), April 05, 2002


Well, just because you've been asked doesn't mean you should do it! I'd really think twice about teaching piano to a student that age. Why not advise the parents to enroll the child in a Kindermusik class (or something similar) as preparation for piano study when the child is older. Consider the attention span of your average 3.5 year old and how much time the parent is going to have to spend with a child that age and especially, what the physical capabilities are in a very young child.

Unless you are a convinced (and well-trained) Suzuki teacher, I'd stay away from it. Most children are not physically and cognitively ready for traditional music study until age 6 or 7.

-- Arlene Steffen (asteffen@fresno.edu), April 06, 2002.

Arlene, Thank you for your very "smart" reply. I am aware that this is not a matter to be taken lightly. I have spoken to a few people who know the girl, and they say that she is very attentive. Also, I have experience in working with young children in a Jr. Choir. I posted this message asking for suggestions. I am not looking for negative feedback in any way. If I thought I wouldn't be able to teach the little one, I would have told them "No". I am not stupid. I live in a small country town, and there is no "Kindermusik" around here. I told the child's parent that we would "give it a try, and see how it goes." I also believe that nothing is impossible. The girl will turn 4 in two months anyway, so she {and her hands} are growing. As for the age group, I started at age 4 1/2, and my 5-yr old student is doing just fine.

-- D (dpetras@eohio.net), April 07, 2002.

My response was not meant to be a "smart" reply and I don't believe I implied you are stupid. I answered your question on the basis of the information you supplied and encouraging caution. Your response provides much more information.

Since you have the experience of working with young children already, I would suggest looking at The Music Tree (quite slow moving, but delightful. You can get CD's or midi disks with accompaniments now). Elvina Pearce has also written and excellent collection of rote pieces called Solo Flight. Many of the first ones are black key. A number of pieces use open 5ths, a really good thing for building the hand and using large gestures.

You might also look at Music Mind Games by Michiko Yurko or the Sing and Play series by Linda Clary.

-- Arlene Steffen (asteffen@fresno.edu), April 07, 2002.

I agree that 3 1/2 is too young to actually begin learning piano, and I'm not as familiar with Kindermusik. I teach Harmony Road Music Course, a group program. Children have to be 4 - 4 1/2 to begin the piano/keyboard program, but HR has a WONDERFUL program for the 3-4 year old that leads right into that course. "Music in Me" uses singing, movement, ear training, and beginning keyboard concepts that prepare children for the older course. There are activities and puzzles for differentiating between the black/white keys, then between high/low sounds. Then notes on the keyboard are isolated (but NO formal fingering, just "pointer" finger). Then there's 'going up' and 'going down'. All of these activities are preparing children for the core program. By the time they are 4 1/2, they are ready to play.

You can check out their curriculum and website: "www.harmonyroadmusic.com"


-- alexandra (alidoremi@aol.com), April 07, 2002.

HI, I am a Kindermusik teacher as well as a piano teacher, so I probably have some built in prejudices, but I thought I would respond anyway. I consider it a given that ALL children should learn to love and use music for their entire lives, for specific skills, for emotional health, and for expression. That is the whole point, however you teach music.

In a program such as Kindermusik, the basic concepts of music are learned and felt; high and low, long and short, and by the time they are older, notes and durations. The children come into contact with lots of different instruments and styles of music, and learn about steady beats and the rhythms of the world. And they do it in a social setting with the parents. Piano playing can be a very solitary undertaking. None of the time spent in the Pre-specific-instrument classes is wasted. All if it is brought to the lessons when a child begins wanting a specific instrument to learn. I was surprised when I began teaching a 5 and 6 year old piano, that the concept of Higher sound and note and lower sounds and notes were really a challenge for them understand, even using Music Tree. Right and left can be new too, and of course, reaching the keys. They tend to stand in front of the piano to go up and down the keyboard.

To me, and this is only my opinion, kids have a great time and learn all the basics of understanding the making of music in Kindermusik or some other program. Then when the are older, it is more fun to sit on a bench for 30 minutes and learn cognitavely how to make music on a specific instrument using what they now know inside out.

-- Mary Jo (mjlewis@magiccablepc.com), April 11, 2002.

Take a look at Music for Little Mozarts, or something close, I may have forgotten the exact title. Also, look at Pianamals, they have a web site, pianamals.com

-- Beth Doyle (stevenbeth@attbi.com), April 12, 2002.

Thanks for the plug. Actually it's www.pianimals.com We have tried to make it really easy and fun for the little ones.

-- Flo Arnold (flo@pianimals.com), April 12, 2002.

I personally have taught a 3 year old with the Music for Little Mozarts series by Alfred. It is simply wonderful!! I love it. It is the perfect mix of singing dancing and piano playing for a child this young. I found that the child is very eager to learn and is excited about the lesson and can't believe it is over. One word of caution though. I've noticed in teaching this method if you don't have good parental supervision and help at home this method will not work. This is because a child this young usually will not know that it's time to practice and be able to carry out this task alone. I'd definately recomment this method!! (Make sure you buy the deluxe starter kit. It is the best buy!)


-- Diana (dstocksd@sbcglobal.net), July 21, 2002.

Hi. You were mentioning about the Little Mozarts collection by Alfred Music, and I was wondering ... I have a 3-1/2 yr. old boy who is extremely, extremely active. In fact, when I ask him if he wants to do something, he says, "No!" hahaha. Well, yet and all he has a wonderful ear. His mother wants to give him the lessons, she evidently doesn't have the time to spend with him, I understand. So ... I am trying to keep him happy. Last time he ran into the piano room and said, "Do you have another toy for me to play with?" (This because I had a toy keyboard for him to look at!) And he AMAZINGLY picks up the concept of up and down the keyboard (in 15 seconds or less...), what is a 'frog' sound, and what is a 'birdie' sound...but now (at last) here is my question -- with the Alfred's Little Mozarts course, although I have not read it all yet -- can I do it one-on-one with him, or would I need to have more than 1 student at a time during the lesson? This is an extremely rambunctious but cute child! (He almost broke the beatup piano the school has when he started drumming on it with the Kindermusik sticks!)

-- Cindi Watters (kybialy@musician.org), November 16, 2002.

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