Music Lessons: Progress Report

With Chinese New Year, my parents being in town, and all the other things going on, it’s been really hard trying to find the time to work on the Piano Wizard with Gavin. After asking him several times if he would like to try it and only to receive the reply: “Not today”, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I started to play with the program on my own hoping that it would catch his attention. And it worked. He sidled up to me and watched for a bit while I played. After a while, he wanted to try it for himself.

I put on the first lesson for him and tried to show him how to play it. We had some problems. Gavin had trouble pressing the keys at the right time. He also has a habit of leaning on the keys so it doesn’t respond when he presses them because they are already half engaged. After a while, he got a bit fed up because he couldn’t make the eggs break.

I’ve been trying to analyse what the problems were and this is what I came up with:

  • Poor setup – the keyboard is too high and the chair is too low. As a result, Gavin rests his hands on the keys because he gets tired of holding them up. This is a problem for us because we have limited space at home.
  • Keyboard too big – Gavin has short, stubby fingers which makes it hard for him to position his fingers over the keys. And since his manual dexterity is not great, he finds it hard to press the keys with other fingers other than his index finger.

To help Gavin build up his finger strength and cultivate his music interest at the same time, I bought the following two books from MPH:

This is what is included in the first book Poco Piano:

  • The keyboard, staves, clefs, simple time signatures, note values and rests.
  • Reading encompasses notes to a 5th above and a 5th below Middle C.
  • The first line of the treble stave and the fifth line of the bass stave.
  • Staccato, slurs, ties, upbeats and repeat signs.
  • Tempo and dynamic markings in English.

It is supposed to be used in conjunction with Music Theory for Young Children which covers:

  • The musical alphabet (7 letter names)
  • treble clef and bass clef
  • time names and time values (semibreve, dotted minim, minim, crotchet)
  • line notes and space notes
  • treble clef notes (middle C to treble G)
  • bass clef notes (middle C to bass G)

I started it with Gavin yesterday and he seems to be enjoying it so far. I’ve decided to work with him through these books and bring out the Piano Wizard at a later time after he’s developed a little more understanding of the keyboard.

Gareth, at the moment, is only doing music through his TweedleWink lessons. Each week, they listen to the sound of a new note on the tuning forks, they learn about music timing (semibreve, minum, crochet), classical composers, different types of musical instruments and rhythmn. He appears to enjoy this part of his lesson a lot and I’ve been wondering what else I can do to encourage his budding music interest at home. So far, this is what we’ve been doing at home:

  • I’ve been introducing him to more favourite classical pieces
  • We sing songs (nursery rhymes, Thomas songs, Signing Time, and Hestia)
  • I encourage him to “make music” with various noise makers (drums, maracas, and the piano)
  • We “dance” to music together so he can feel the rhythm

What else can we do with a 15 month old?

Comments

  1. Yes, I agree. My son loves anything about Thomas and friends – even my crappy drawings and lousy hand-made stuffed trains. Children aren’t as critical as we are when it comes to those sorts of differences.

  2. I have seen this video:
    http://forum.brillkids.com/teaching-your-child-music/piano-wizard/195/.

    SM appears to be a very small team struggling desperately with marketing. But I have to say, that they have always come back to me on my queries, although not always very quickly.

    As for the graphics, they are definitely much nicer in PW, but as LM would get bored of any game sooner or later, that wasn’t a major criterion for me. So I was trying to decide which system was more likely to work for her in the long term.

  3. I can’t remember, but I thought there was mention of a video of a 2 year old playing PW. Admittedly, I chose PW because it had a lot more information about it. The marketing is definitely a lot stronger. It looks a lot better – SM reminds me of the old IBM graphics back in the days of the 386. But of course that is a moot point if the children can’t play it and don’t enjoy it. Young children don’t really care about the graphics.

  4. Great Gavin is interested in it!

    The stopping notes was one of the features, although not the only one, which determined my choice.

    Intersting point about PW more suited to older learners. Now that you mentioned it, I haven’t seen many videos of kids under five playing this game.

  5. LM’s Mum – I tried SM recently after your experience. It’s still very early days but Gavin seemed much more interested in it and is actually keen to take out the keyboard to play the games!

    I think the one major benefit that SM has over PW is that the notes only move after your child has played them. So it gives a younger child more time to work it out rather than forcing him to follow a tempo he can’t keep up with. PW looks nicer but I think it would be better suited for older students.

    Mel – haha… I think I approached it from a different aspect. I’ve always felt it was more fun to learn how to play, then when there’s an interest, to build a stronger foundation. When there is motivation to learn, the other stuff comes more easily. Then you know why you’re trying to get the hang of pitch, timing, etc. And what everything else means. I guess that’s just how it worked out for me when I was learning. It wasn’t until I was playing music on the piano that I really became motivated to learn the rest.

  6. mel says:

    hmm… wouldn’t it be better that they go thru the foundation of music prior to starting on instruments? i was made to understand and believe that thru foundation, they will be better equipped with the right skills (hearing, grasping of pitches etc) to get them ready for real instruments.

    nevertheless, thx alot for feedback. appreciate it!

  7. Thanks, Shen-Li. I need to update that. I guess both programmes do work but in different ways, so for me it was a question of figuring which one woud be a better fit for LM bearing in mind her strengths and challenges as well as the way I organise her learning. I have found some differences, which in the end pushed me towards SM.
    I did pay by PayPal, although it doesn’t look like my payment has gone through yet. I hope it is accepted!

  8. Mel – I’m not sure if I can help you with that because Gavin attended Kindermusik when he was 18 months old and was he was only there for a month. I’m not sure what the program for 4 year olds is like.

    Yamaha JMC program is more like an introduction to keyboard. Again, we did not complete the course so I can’t share a lot with you other than that it is a pretty general course. It isn’t intended to teach the children how to play the keyboard, but more like an introduction and to get them interested in learning music. It builds the foundation for the follow up program after that.

    Personally, my objective for Gavin learning music is for him to learn how to play an instrument. I chose the keyboard because I learned the piano when I was young and because we already have a piano in the house. I wouldn’t mind if he wanted to learn another instrument as long as he was really interested in it.

    Therefore, if I were to choose a music program for Gavin, I don’t think I would chose either Kindermusik or the Yamaha JMC. I would want something that teaches him how to play an instrument and I don’t think either of these programs does that. Yamaha has programs that teach instruments but they are for older children. You would have to visit them to find out more about their other music programs though.

    I guess it really depends on what your objectives are. If it is for your child to learn an instrument, there are many other music programs out there. If I had the time for it, I would want Gavin to do the Suzuki music course. There is another music school next to MegaKids in Midvalley that has a music program that incorporates Suzuki as well which might be a good one to try because there have been lots of discussions about the pitfalls of Suzuki in terms of the transition to sight reading because they focus too much on listening. Anyway, that discussion is too lengthy and not one that I am fully versed in.

    I’m not sure if I have answered your question…

  9. LM’s Mum – Oh yes, I remember reading that you’d tried it on your blog. I’m starting to wonder if there are more differences between PW and SM and whether it is worthwhile letting Gavin try SM as well… When I first looked at both programs, I thought they were pretty much the same except for the fact that one uses colours, the other uses pictures for the keys. So I chose PW because they offered payment by Paypal. But after reading your blog post, I get the impression that there are more differences…

  10. mel says:

    hi shen li

    i read that Gavin has attended Kindermusik and Yamaha JMC before. can u pls share in terms of contents / objectives of the course and which would be of more preference for a 4Y? i mean, IF Gavin loves to attend these classes, which one would you go for?

    thx!

  11. Thanks for the update, Shen-Li. After a lot of pondering, I actually went for Soft Mozart…