Monday, July 28, 2014

Toddler Piano Lesson #1

  I am sure you are wondering, "how on earth can I teach my toddler to play the piano when he/she does not even sit still for five minutes?" However, notice I put Lesson #1 in this title. We intend to teach Xavier piano. Formal piano teaching does not start until the age of five. Typically if you look for a tutor or teacher they will recommend  your child be at least five years old. However, we do things differently in our household and if you would like to try out the Arbia method of Piano Lessons you are free to try them out for yourself and even shoot me an email or comment and let us know how it is working for you.
     First, a little background so you do not think you are getting this information from a well intentioned woman who may or may not know about music. I know music. I can play the alto and baritone saxophone, piano and guitar. My father plays the guitar (acoustic, electric and bass), he also plays the piano and the pipe organ. My mother used to sing for our church. I was not only in school band and choir but church band and choir. I also have a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree which means I have countless other years of studying music among other Fine Arts. I will admit to you that I have never formally taught music. However, there were many times we did work with children by teaching them musical abilities. As I said if you think my credentials work for your family feel free to try this method out.
     Around the age of two is when you really want to present the piano. If you do not have a piano, no worries, you may want to get one eventually but do not rush out and get one. You have a few years before you even need it. In fact if you notice in my pictures I set up my keyboard. It is not the most beautiful thing in our living room but neither is the bin of cars, puzzles or stuffed animals. I have a toddler I do not expect my house to be a museum. If you are purchasing a keyboard I do strongly suggest getting one adult size. Even though you have little fingers that will be learning, the more they become accustomed to the large keys the better. Pianos are the best because children also have to learn to put pressure on the keys to make the notes louder or softer, that is something hard to find on most keyboards.

    Lesson 1 Step 1
    Put out your keyboard/piano (for the sake of the post I will be using the word piano from now on) in a room you spend a lot of time in as a family. Keep it ready to be used whenever anyone likes. Be sure everyone in the household uses it. I realize this will take A LOT of patience especially if there are people in your household who cannot play the piano. Do not fret. In fact the best way to start your toddler playing the piano is by playing and learning it yourself. Periodically throughout the day play the piano. Do a lesson yourself. Let your toddler watch you. Let him/her touch the piano, hit the keys, play with the sounds. Xavier loves the keyboard. Our keyboard has the ability to play songs and rhythms on it's own so Xavier loves have it play it's own songs. What works about this is as it plays songs he will then plunk on the keys. As much as he plays the same song over and over and drives me a little crazy I cannot help but laugh and be glad he is appreciating the piano for what it is. You want your toddler to see the piano as a fun thing to do that makes music. You do not want to force them to sit down always to play with it. You do not want to force their fingers on it. You need to let them discover the piano on their own. You and everyone in your household playing in any way shape or form of it will help your toddler understand what it is for. When you use the piano, try to have proper form at least. Sit down to play the piano, open the books and play some keys. If you cannot play at least use two hands and make whatever you think sounds like music. You are learning as much as your toddler is. You will find after time your toddler will model the behavior that you are doing at the piano.

Step 2
   Remember, you are showing your toddler what a fun thing the piano can be. However, DO NOT let your toddler play the piano with anything but their fingers. No cars, sticks, dolls or anything else on the piano. No playing with your feet, head or elbows. Also, no pounding on the keys. Think of your little keyboard as a brand new grand piano. You would not want to have your toddler disrespecting it so do not let them do that to the keyboard.

Step 3
    Invest in piano books. You can find piano books fairly cheap. Remember you need to be learning the piano as well. If you are an accomplished pianist than just playing different music will work, but you will still need beginner books for your child. You want to get a Prep (fingering book), a Solo book and a theory book. Usually you get them as a set of three. I recommend Alfred's Basic Piano Library Level A to start with . For around $17.00 you get the prep, solo, and theory books plus a cd of accompaniments for the lessons. I did not get these as a promotion or anything. I did my research and found that these books fit our family very well. I liked that they are for starting very young children. They have lesson ideas for teaching and also show you how to expand on the teachings if needed. I went through the first level myself already and found it very superior to many piano teaching books. Yet, it was easy to follow and I believe it will be very easy to teach. Now that you have your books, you have no reason not to plunk at your piano and show your toddler just how much fun it is!

That is it! Lesson #1 of Toddler Piano is as easy as it sounds. Of course,  as with all toddlers this is a process not a race. Every toddler is different some may take right to the piano while others not as quickly. Xavier loved it at first, but it is an effort on our part to be sure to play it in front of him in order to draw his attention to it now.
         In order for the next lesson your child needs to learn their left and right hand. Start teaching your child which is their left hand and which is their right in everything you do. For piano both hands are important but you must be able to distinguish between the two.
     I hope this helps you out on the road to enriching your child's life. Arts are a huge thing to teach children, especially toddlers. They are wonderful outlets for them to vent their emotions without even realizing what they are doing.
    I hope you all have homes filled with beautiful music and love!

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