7-year-olds not ready for note-reading

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I have two 7-yr-old twin students (both boys) who will be 8 in November. They started lessons a month ago. They are really anxious to play songs, but I think note-reading is too abstract for them right now (tried it one lesson). They have good ears - they have picked out a few songs on their own - Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle. I'm afraid to get them going on playing too many songs before they learn to read because I don't want them to end up like lots of Suzuki kids who struggle with going "backwards" in the difficulty level in order to learn to read. I have started some pre-reading exercises like "snake songs" (a la www.serve.com/marbeth/pedagogy.html) They do pretty will with these. Any suggestions on fun ways to teach musical terms, concepts, and pre-reading before teaching note-reading? Or any suggestions in general would be helpful.

-- Laurie (lbrichards@att.net), July 05, 2002


Sounds like these boys are pre-conceptual (Piaget term). You are smart not to push the note-reading when they are not ready for it.

Have you looked at Music Pathways or Music Tree? They spend lots of time on pre-reading. In fact, MT spends almost the entire first book on it.

I would also add that developing their ear is a real asset. You don't have to teach them to play by ear, per se, but anything that has to do with singing or dictating what they hear is great. By dictation, I'm not talking about formal notation. Come up with your own musical symbols (see the pre-reading stuff in Music Pathways) and make up games that work at having them use a language they understand.

Good luck!


-- Arlene Steffen (asteffen@fresno.edu), July 05, 2002.

There is a piano series called Pianimals that sounds just like what you are looking for. Check out www.pianimals.com I have been using it as the core curriculum for my studio and am extremely satisfied with the results. I teach mostly 4-8 year olds and mostly boys. The first book is numbers. A 7 year old would complete it in 2-4 weeks. The songs include the 2 you mentioned plus other familiar melodies. The kids gain muscle control and a sense of accomplishment. The second book does away with numbers and starts calling notes by their letter names. More fun songs. Quarter notes,half,dotted half and whole notes are brought in. The third book puts the notes on line and spaces (no numbers,no letters) and the kids learn to read music with out even noticing that they are doing it!

-- Gloria Peck (ggpeck_99@yahoo.com), July 06, 2002.

This is a common problem with youngsters, I find. They want to play melodies they know, but as you quite rightly say, there is a very great danger of producing "performing seals". I have succesfully taught children as young as 5 to read music. I don't see that it should be a problem - after all they learn to read and write in school from age 4 or less these days. I have found that some children have difficulty in recognising the difference between notes - even something as simple as the difference between middle C and D. This problem can be largely cured by getting them some wide spaced manuscript paper and teaching them how to draw the notes - I figure that when you are learning to read at school (words, that is) you are learning to write at the same time, which I am certain helps with reading. Young children can be encouraged to write a few notes during the lesson and can feel quite honoured to use one of your "best" music w

-- alison dite (alison.dite@ntlworld.com), July 15, 2002.

When I first began piano lessons as a small child, my piano teacher taught me from the John Schaum piano series. The first book starts off with fun little songs mainly centered around middle C, which helped me to conceptualize that note. From there, it became easier to recognize d and b, and then e and a, and so on. Also, the rhythms involved were extrememely simple, mainly in quarter notes and 4/4 time, which helped instill basic rhythm. The songs had silly little couplet-rhymed lyrics which also made the song more fun to play, and also helped with rhythm when I sang along or followed along with the lyrics silently. I'm not sure if those books are still in use today, byt I do think that they helped me progress enough to stay interested as a kid.

-- Lynn Caldwell (dragonflygrrl79@hotmail.com), January 23, 2003.

I have a four year old and five year old student, both girls, who are reading very well. I begin my students in the five finger keys of Middle C, both hands, C to G, and bass F to Middle C, no finger numbers and definitely no looking at hands. I review every week and they do get fun work sheets and theory, and I start the note reading after the third lesson. Why hold them back. My five year old has been through the C scale and is working on the G scale, and they are both working on A Dozen A Day technical drills. I have a five year old boy who is playing technical drills and loves the C broken chord and crossing over with left to right and right to left. There are also some students at this age who do not progress as fast, but they still note read and clap to the beats each week. My older students started note reading also at lesson three and I have to say, the majority are way ahead of the game.

-- Pataricia (Wesa652@aol.com), August 12, 2004.

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