best program to start teaching my 6 year old son : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I plan on starting to teach my 6 year old son piano. He took Kindermusik from age 1 1/2 to 4 years old and loved it. We had to quit because of paying for tutoring, speech therapy etc. We have our own piano, mine from childhood that I learned on. I was looking at some programs like Pianimals, Music Tree. What would be the best for him to learn on? We just can't afford lessons right now but would like to start introducing him to piano. He loves piano and sits down and tries to play.

-- Angel Winter (, February 07, 2005


Are you looking at classical (i.e. "traditional") piano lessons, or are you looking at a more relaxed approach?

"Play Piano in a Flash" is a show that you can usually find on your local PBS station during Pledge month (try looking it up on your station's website), or if you have a friend or family member who lives elsewhere, they may be able to tape it for you. This is a "chord" method, like you would use with fake books.

This is another system you might want to look at--only drawback is that it apparently is not on DVD yet, which would make it easy to go back and forth between chapters when necessary.,benefits.html

All of the individual links featured at this site go to their catalogue (so don't bother clicking on the links), but read the paragraphs to get a good idea of the difference between chord piano method and traditional piano method. While it is true that you don't need to read music to use the chord methods, most people go ahead and learn note reading, etc. anyway, at least the treble clef. Best thing about chord method is that you get much faster results.

This is not to dicourage you from traditional piano lessons at all, but if money is an issue, look into the chord methods--I have not seen any traditional piano courses on video or DVD yet.

Hope this helps.

-- GT (, February 07, 2005.

I wouldn't use a chord method for a 6 year old, unless his fingers are unusually strong and well-coordinated. I've looked at Pianimals and it seems pretty good. Music Tree has a great approach (intervals and landmarks), but I've had mixed results using it. Also, I don't think a lot of the songs sound as musical.

-- Alice Dearden (, February 07, 2005.

Well, I do know for at least one of the systems, which uses full chords instead of the 3- finger variety, it did specify that you be able to span an octave. So that is one limitation.

-- GT (, February 07, 2005.

Angel, What is your personal level of piano playing? How much understanding of music theory do you have? Knowing the answers to these questions would help us to steer you to a method that might suit you best. Some are a bit more user-friendly than others.

GT, Please don't take offense to my questions/comments. Just curious, that's all. I've read several of your posts suggesting the piano in a flash type methods, which most piano teachers aren't too impressed with. Do you teach this method? Are you the same GT I used to email about some of our very talented piano students? If yes, I'm just curious how you came to favor these simplified methods, rather than the traditional approach we used to chat about. annie (pianoannie)

-- annie (, February 08, 2005.


I was at college level theory according to my piano teacher when I took lessons. I am not quite that high in playing. I played for about 5 or 6 years, did competitions, federation judging, the whole thing. I am not interested in a chord method, I want him to be able to play with both hands. But, I am interested in starting him gradually. I don't want to throw too much theory at him right away as he is still just 6 years old. I would prefer to use our piano and not a keyboard/computer program to start.

I have seen programs that put numbers/letters on the keys but I have seen from the postings that it is not recommended. Any tips would be appreciated. We want to start right and not have any bad habits.

Thanks, Angel

-- Angel (, February 08, 2005.

Angel, That info helps a lot. It sounds like you have a pretty good foundation. I start most of my beginners who are 7 and up in Hal Leonard or Faber's Piano Adventures. I start 4-5 y.o.'s in Pianimals. It's the 6 year olds that seem to be "on the bubble" so to speak. You said you want to start out gradually, in which case I'd recommend the first book of Pianimals. (BTW, you won't find this in stores, only online. You can see some sample pages on the website). It is all finger numbers, which some teachers don't like. But it would a great method for getting your son playing songs he recognizes (that's always more fun for kids) while he gets very familiar with not only finger numbers, but also steady beat, posture, hand shape, and other beginning concepts. Since there is no actual note reading, but just "play by finger" he will have enough focus left to develop better technique than if he were really absorbed in just reading the music. That's my opinion anyway.

Now, if your son is a quick learner, already reading fairly well (I mean books,not music), I'd go with HL or Faber. If you start with Pianimals, I'd suggest HL or Faber after the first book (not whole series) of Pianimals. Hal Leonard's music in their first level (1) is, imo, more fun than Fabers first level (primer--the numbering systems vary from publisher to publisher). HL has a teacher's guide that you might want to order, to give you ideas of various ways to introduce new pieces. Also their Piano Practice Games does this as well. The HL CDs are the best out there--such wonderful arrangments for the student to play along with!! Don't skip those! Faber's Piano Adventures is another excellent method, although the pieces in their primer (as well as the CDs don't have quite the same kid appeal as HL--but they are still quite good). The biggest strength of FPA is their "Technique and Artistry" books--really gives clear explanations of how to use the hands, the arms, the fingers. I don't care for any other publisher's Technique books. Another big strength of FPA is their supplemental library--so many excellent books at every level to suit the taste of individual students--hymns, popular, jazz, ragtime, children's favorites, classical, etc.

One last thing about the 3 methods I've discussed, is which books are available for each: Pianimals is all-in-one, iow there's just one book (although you can order supplemental flashcards, wipe-off board, etc).

Hal Leonard has a ton of books at each level: Lesson, Technique, Solos, Popular Solos, Notespeller, Theory, Piano Practice Games (plus CDs to go with each book). I happen to use Lesson, Solos, and Notespeller; sometimes Theory and/or Practice Games if I expect the student to need a little extra help to catch on. The Popular Solos doesn't line up (page by page) with the lesson book; I consider it more as a book to use *after* each level is completed. I don't care for the Technique books. At level 2 and up I use Theory instead of Notespeller.

FPA has Lesson, Technique/Artistry, Theory, and Performance--I would suggest using all 4. Also has CDs available. I always like to use the CD with at least the lesson book, usually not all the books. The supplemental library works well after each level, rather than with.

Sorry if this was too much information--I just remember how confusing it can be to sort through not only the various methods, but then all the different books each method has!!

If you live near a good music store, just spend some time looking through different methods, and see if you understand their flow and their instructions. Or just ask here if you have more questions. annie

-- annie (, February 08, 2005.

Hi Annie!

No offense taken at all, and no, I'm not the same GT.

The reason I mention the chord methods is because many people think that there is one way and one way only to teach and play piano, and it involves years and years of no- fun practice, because that is how it is honestly presented. This attitude truly discourages people (both parents and children) from even looking at it as an option over learning other instruments, because the "payback time" (what I call the interval between beginning to learn anything and being seen as halfway competent) is quite long.

Chord methods change that. I'm sure they've been around for a while, but you just don't hear about them as much, perhaps because they aren't marketed well yet. Instead of kids playing cheap plastic recorders in elementary school, I would much rather see them on keyboards learning a good chord method.

Chord methods do vary. Some are better and more complex than others. The ones I've seen do not use note stickers at all, but they do use a small piano picture of the chord while you're learning (just like many guitar books, especially fake books do for chords instead of just the name of the chord). Note reading is not essential, and not really needed with the chord method, unless you wish to play a melody line, which you can always pick up later. If you already play another instrument, well you already know how to read music to a certain extent, so that wouldn't be too much of a stretch.

I think the PBS (Flash) one is simpler than the David Higginson program (which is much more expensive, but imho you get a better all-around program). I don't think too much of the "Play Piano Overnite" brand videos at all.

I think it would be nice if some respected musician would honestly review these methods (bearing in mind the audience these methods are for) for some major magazine, or perhaps Consumer Reports could get together groups of non-piano players, and have the methods compete against each other, with some respected musician also judging final sound as well as people off the street (Does this person sound like they "know" how to play piano?).

Most pop music (which is really what a lot of people want to play, as opposed to being a concert pianist) comprises a range of a very few chords. That's a fact. Again, the better methods will teach you music fundamentals such as key signatures, reading notes, and so forth. Also more chords so that keyboardists don't fall into the bad habit of simply pressing a button to change keys (although you still might on occasion if you don't use a full-size keyboard).

Chord methods are generally geared for the self-taught crowd, although any regular teacher could of course teach it as well, beefing it up with regular music theory where the program falls short, just as you tweak any other method you teach if you find it is not exactly what you want.. It bothers me to see the reluctance of some to accept and teach this form of piano if someone wants to learn this way. It reminds me of the teachers who think the only way to learn is to sit glued to a chair in public school, as opposed to homeschooling, or unschooling, or private school.

Bear in mind, of course, that this board is titled "Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano". I post about chord methods in this spirit.

And, why do parents want (and often push) their children to learn something? Because the parent tried and failed? Because the parent wants the child to be a major famous whatever and hopefully support the parent in his/her old age? Or because the experience is a good thing for the child to have? These are just general observations here, not directed at anyone in particular. It seems like with traditional piano and certain sports, there is no room for any fun on the part of the child. I knew a woman at work who had her kids in softball (with expensive pitching lessons, mind you) so they'd hopefully get scholarships to college. If you added up all the costs of running around, lessons, injury treatment, equipment, etc, she no doubt spent the same amount of money over the years! How dumb is that?

Sorry for the rant, LOL. I think that there is room out there for both piano systems, and as long as people are honestly presented with the advantages and disadvantages of each one, they can make an educated decision, based on why they are doing this in the first place.

-- GT (, February 08, 2005.

Annie and GT,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write such through e-mails. All the information will really help us make some good decisions. I am so excited I found this forum!


-- Angel (, February 08, 2005.


One book you might want to check out from your library or look at in your local bookstore is "How to Play the Piano Despite Years of Lessons" by Ward Cannel.

You won't go wrong starting out with traditional lessons, but keep the chord methods in mind in case the day comes when your son is no longer interested in piano--he may just want to go in a new direction.

-- GT (, February 08, 2005.

The beginner book I like to start with is John Thompsons easiest piano course part one & part two. There's simple, basic theory as well as easy pieces. Beginner flashcards help as well, or you could make your own. good luck

-- Carla (, February 10, 2005.

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