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#26637 - 08/19/03 02:34 PM Re: What do you use for young young students?
alidoremi Offline
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2120
Loc: California
I started piano lessons at age 8, a la John Thompson method. I do wonder, however, how much further I could have gone in my music studies had I started lessons at a younger age, such as 4 or 5 years old.

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#26638 - 08/19/03 04:02 PM Re: What do you use for young young students?
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
My first piano lessons were at age 11 in the Michael Aaron books. I have the whole set still, though I didn't finish the whole set. I studied two years only and had no more lessons until I was close to 20 years old. I am 46 now and have been studying ever since I as 20, in one way or another. I WISH I had had more and at an earlier age, but it just didn't happen in my house. But it's OK. I still got it later.

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#26639 - 08/19/03 04:09 PM Re: What do you use for young young students?
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
I received 11 years of year 'round lessons, & feel it was enough to meet my goal, which was to become a competent pianist who could play expressively, sightread fluently & perform professionally. Had I started lessons at a younger age, I doubt it would have helped. As far as I know, there is no evidence showing that students who start young are any more successful in piano study than those who start at the average age of 7 or 8. What's more, it seems to me that expecting young children to do things that they are not yet developmentally ready to do is just going to frustrate them & possibly make them hate piano lessons. I always loved taking piano lessons, probably because I'm the one who decided it was what I wanted to do. My parents didn't decide for me. Be that as it may, I think many parents these days want to push their children into doing things they either don't want to do or are not yet ready to do. Why the rush? To keep up with the neighbors? What's the deal?

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#26640 - 08/19/03 05:48 PM Re: What do you use for young young students?
alidoremi Offline
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2120
Loc: California
 Quote:
By Jalapena:
As far as I know, there is no evidence showing that students who start young are any more successful in piano study than those who start at the average age of 7 or 8.


I disagree. Several studies and articles in recent years suggest (or should I say confirm) that formal music lessons can, in fact, be taught to children younger than the traditional age of 7 or 8. One study even went so far as to say that there's a "window" of opportunity (in relation to the brain) between ages 3-5 that, if left 'un-stimulated' (so to speak), will never EVER be developed. That stimulation is through music. While I do take this declaration with a grain of salt, it does reinforce the point that children need not wait until they can read and write to begin piano study.

If you as a teacher have never successfully taught very young children, that's OK. But just understand that there are countless other teachers who are quite successful teaching that age group. Not everyone is cut out to teach ALL ages. I prefer to teach young children much more so than teens or adults. And in my 25 years of teaching, I've seen a few hundred children start at the tender age of 4 or 5, and progress on up to private piano study, with some going on to form their own music bands, or go on to college as music majors, or even begin a teaching career themselves. Would they have accomplished these things had they waited until they were 7 years old to take lessons? Mmm..... maybe, maybe not.

My own kids each took a different musical path. My son was 7 when I began teaching him privately (as I wasn't involved in any group piano program). My daughter was 4 when I put her and three other students in my first HR class in my livingroom. I was the teacher for both of my kids, yet as time went on, I found that my daughter (as well as the other 4-year-olds in the class), were much more musical than my son. By musical, I mean they could sing on pitch, they could identify 3-5 notes I played on the piano by ear, they had a wonderful sense of inner rhythm (which transferred quite nicely to the piano when they played), etc... Not that my son wasn't a good music student, but the class of younger kids seemed to have an 'edge'.

 Quote:
What's more, it seems to me that expecting young children to do things that they are not yet developmentally ready to do is just going to frustrate them & possibly make them hate piano lessons.


It's true that the 'fine motor' skills develop later in young children, and you can't expect them to learn at the same pace as a 6 or 7 year old. But they CAN learn to play. In fact, my PreK and Kindergarteners give 2 recitals a year. They are not doing anything that they are not developmentally ready for. It just depends on how you teach them.

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#26641 - 08/19/03 06:31 PM Re: What do you use for young young students?
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Ali, My guess would be that the Harmony Road type lessons you describe would really not be considered to be "formal" lessons in the traditional understanding of the word. While it's true that there are "critical periods" between those ages that provide open windows that can be addressed, I do not believe that formal piano lessons are the answer for the general population. Harmony Road, Sing and Play, Kindermusik, Musikgarten, etc., DEFINITELY, but not what a lot of piano teachers with no early childhood training are doing out there with wee ones.

Frankly, I've been pretty horrified at some of what I've read on various boards since joining here (not pointing to any recent posts btw!!!) There is a LOT of teacher ignorance out there on ALL sides. I would venture an educated guess that there are far more children who start young in "traditional lessons" who end up dropouts with the musical life sucked out of them compared to child prodigies who missed their ship by waiting til starting until age 8 or so. Frankly, I think some of the Gordonians who climb on the "if you wait you completely lose the aptitude you were born with" bandwagon are a little dotty. Hogwash!!!

The answer, of course, would be for teachers to avoid taking children before age 7 unless they've had very specific early childhood training. I'm sticking my neck out a little bit here, but I would encourage anyone who's thinking about trying out the new PA curriculum next year to get yourself some training before it comes out. Even if you take a general early childhood class with no music involved you will be ahead of the 8ball. The FJH DVD's or any workshops they give on the new method will not even begin to cover what one really needs to know to work with this age group.

JMO, of course, for what that's worth! ;\)

[ 08-19-2003: Message edited by: Lisa K. Studtmann ]

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#26642 - 08/19/03 07:24 PM Re: What do you use for young young students?
alidoremi Offline
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2120
Loc: California
There's a distinction that needs to be made between 'general music programs' like Kindermusik, Musikgarten, and Music Together (where there is no piano/keyboard focus), and programs like Harmony Road, Yamaha, and Music For Young Children (which are keyboard focused). I would consider the latter to be formal music study, but not traditional music study.

And yes, you are right. There are very young students who start out with 'traditional' private piano lessons, only to drop out after a few months, due to unrealistic expectations put upon them (not so much by the teacher, but by the method used to teach them. I know, 'cause they call me.

Training in early childhood development is, IMO, essential in teaching young children. You cannot teach them the same way as you would an older child. I also saw the Faber video of the new curriculum, that featured Nancy and their daughter. I'm sure she's had experience with early childhood music, as she seemed quite comfortable with it.

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#26643 - 08/20/03 05:05 AM Re: What do you use for young young students?
pianoc Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
My personal opinion on when to start out children in piano is primarily based on the child and their interest level. Just as some kids are reading at 4 and 5 - most children are still not really ready to read until they're 6 or 7. I'm against all day kindergarten too!

Anyway, if I have a child that is 5 (that's when I started) and they LOVE the piano - can't keep their fingers off it and are playing melodies, not just banging - I think it's OK to start them. If it's the parents that want them to have an early start - I think 7 or 8 is plenty early enough. There is too much to learn if they still can't read, distinguish up/down, left/right - and don't really want to play the piano either.

I also make sure that parents understand that by the time they're in the 5th grade, they will probably not be all that much more advanced than the child that started in the 2nd grade. So if they want their child to be involved in something they love - let's get them started. If they want a head start so that by the 5th grade their child is playing advanced music - and they don't really want to listen to me, I tell them to go talk to one of the professors at our local college. I also have enough examples of students not starting until 6th grade or above that actually practiced diligently - so they progressed through the elementary books - sometimes in a year what often takes 3-4 years.

Most parents that I've talked with have chosen to wait - the few that have started their children are delighted.

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#26644 - 08/20/03 07:08 AM Re: What do you use for young young students?
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
Thank you to the PT.com teachers who have pointed out the difference between early childhood programs such as Kindermusik, etc. & traditional private piano lessons.

I am not against early childhood music education. On the contrary, I'm all for it. I am, however, very much against enrolling young children (below age 7) in traditional private piano lessons, where clueless teachers attempt to use the same curricula for them that they use for older beginners (aged 7 & up).

There's no harm in waiting until a child is 7 or 8 years old before beginning traditional private piano lessons. However, there is harm in pushing a child to do what s/he is not developmentally ready to do. Please, teachers & parents, do no harm! If you want your little darling to begin music study, by all means enroll him/her in an early childhood program such as Kindermusik; but wait until s/he is at least 7 years of age before enrolling him for traditional private piano lessons.

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#26645 - 08/20/03 08:37 AM Re: What do you use for young young students?
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1573
Loc: Chicago
Pianoc, I agree! The majority of parents who bring young students to me state exactly the same - their chld is fascinated with the piano. Do we approach the one-on-one lessons with the same materials as an older student? Of course not. Don't be ridiculous. Remember? Private lessons are customized to each student. I think too many assumptions (and too often negative) are made. I choose to believe that each teacher wisely evaluates students needs and selects the best approach. I also choose to believe that most teachers read, study, and seek out additional knowledge. Why else are we on this board? Yes, there are some lousy teachers out there. And there always will be, but I'm not going to waste my time and energy focusing on negatives. Let's get on with helping each other, exploring new solutions, and promoting the positives. And now I'm off to the music store to purchase a bongo drum - first for my PA1 Accelerated student who is working on the drum beat for Forest Drums, and secondly for my developmentally slow student who is working beautifully on quarter notes.

[QUOTE]Originally posted by pianoc:
[B]. . .I have a child that is 5 and they LOVE the piano - can't keep their fingers off it and are playing melodies, not just banging - I think it's OK to start them...

[ 08-20-2003: Message edited by: Lilla ]

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#26646 - 08/20/03 09:57 AM Re: What do you use for young young students?
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
Lilla, I don't think anyone inferred that piano teachers use the same materials for young students that they do for older students. What I have been attempting to convey (apparently unsuccessfully) is that many times the parents of preschool-aged children call & ask about private piano lessons, expecting the teacher to use the same materials for their young children as are used for older beginners. Case in point: The mother of a 4-year-old boy told me that she wasn't about to pay a piano teacher to teach her son to sing songs, or to sway or clap or tap to music. She said she wanted him to play the piano. She also said she didn't want him in group lessons, only private. I thoroughly explained to her the activities that I would be doing with her son, showed her my set of Bongo drums & other teaching materials, & made sure she knew that I'd be singing & swaying & tapping & clapping with him. She enrolled him in my studio anyway, but he didn't do any of the activities I asked him to do. He didn't even do the piano activities, which involved learning the names & locations of the keys, etc. I did the very best I could to vary the activities & make them short to fit his attention span (to keep him from getting bored & restless), but to no avail. To make a long story short (believe me, the story is long & you don't want to read it; if you do, check the archives), the boy simply wasn't ready for private music study of any sort. That's not what bothered me, though. What bothered me was the attitude of his stoopid mother, who expected him to learn to read music when he didn't yet know the letters of the alphabet & didn't want to learn the names & locations of the piano keys & expected him to play songs when he wasn't yet able to move his fingers independently (the only letter of the alphabet that he knew how to write was a "C," & even that was not very legible). Also, the mother didn't make her son do anything he didn't want to do, so he came to each & every lesson with an "attitude." Trying to work with that boy & his mother made the hairs of my neck stand straight up. Seriously, I got to where I couldn't look forward to "teaching" him, because he wasn't actively participating in the activities I planned for him. He really would have been much better off in a Kindermusik class or something. I told his mother that, but she refused to consider it.

Here in NM, there's an active Kindermusik program with a waiting list, so if any parent of a preschooler calls me for private lessons, I'm going to refer him/her to that studio. Lisa knows the Kindermusik teacher, & tells me that she's really dynamic & energetic. For the sake of my sanity, I think it's better to send referrals her way & save my energy to work with older children who already know their ABC's, how to write, & how to read a little bit--not because I don't want to teach preschoolers, but because I don't want to deal with stoopid parents who won't listen to sound advice.

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