What will my child learn in their first piano lesson?

Park Slope Music Lessons

When you’re searching for a music teacher for your child, you want to get a feel for the teacher.  What is a lesson like?  What’s their philosophy?  What can I expect?

We have taught hundreds of kids in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn over the last decade.  The secret to our success is in the fun we bring to the lessons right from the start.

If you hated piano lessons when you were a kid, this is not your old lessons.  It’s a complete reversal.  We work using a child-centric approach.  What would a child love to learn in a first lesson?

By focusing on fun while sneaking in technique, we can build technical facility in our students very quickly.  Within 15 minutes, they will be playing a song using all 10 fingers.

Here’s a video of just one part of our first lesson.  We use the Musicolor Method™ which was created right here in Park Slope, Brooklyn and is now being taught by teachers all over the world.  For more info, check the website for Musicolor Method here.

The Musicolor Method™ was originally designed for young children, even preliterate ones.  But it has been used successfully with older students as well even teens and adults.  For the older students, we just explain that these are finger exercises in disguise and the sooner you master them, the quicker we’ll be playing your favorite Taylor Swift, or Imagine Dragons or Stevie Wonder song…whatever.

We’ll be posting videos of all of our teachers soon.  

Inside a music lesson – it’s more than just sitting on the piano bench

Our music lessons are fun!

We not only want our students to learn how to play songs.  We also want them to understand the concepts of music theory which make it easier to transfer to other instruments.  Many of our students have started at the keyboard and then added other instruments like ukulele, guitar, recorder, flute and lap dulcimer to name a few.

In our Musicolor Method™ curriculum, around the 3rd or 4th lesson, we introduce solfeggio, which was invented over 1000 years ago in Italy!  How crazy amazing is that?  Somehow, the French word Solfége has become more widely used.  Most people just know of it from the movie the Sound of Music where Julie Andrews teaches the children to sing using do – re – mi – fa – so, etc.

In our lessons we use the syllables, along with hand signs invented in the 1800’s by John Curwen along with the positions created by Zoltan Kodaly in the last century.  If you’ve never heard of them, it doesn’t matter, but they are iconic figures in music education.

Each student begins to use the solfege along with the hand signs to learn every new song going forward.  It helps to internalize the music through multiple modes:  visual, aural and kinesthetic.  And…it’s fun!

And they each go home with a fun poster to help them remember this along with some fun facts.

Here’s Lilah learning the first phrase of the old folk song Lightly Row.

 

Online Private Music Lessons via Skype or FaceTime or Google Hangouts

Update Jan 2017.  THIS SERVICE IS TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED AS OUR CALENDAR IS FULLY BOOKED.  PLEASE CONTACT US FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.

You can now book a private lesson with me via SKYPE or FACETIME or GOOGLE HANGOUTS from anywhere in the world.

I can work with you and/or your child on piano, guitar, ukulele, songwriting, or music production via the comfort of your own home.

What you will need:

  • your instrument
  • an internet connection – preferably high speed Broadband
  • a webcam with your computer or a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or a tablet (iPhone or Kindle Fire or Galaxy or Surface)

When you register, please let me know what instrument you are registering for and if you have had any experience at all and the age of the student. After booking I’ll contact you via email to schedule a time. Please note, I am in New York City time zone so will not give lessons at 3am EST. 🙂

Roar, by Katy Perry, easy guitar chords

Easy sheet music for Roar, by Katy Perry
Hand drawn sheet music is more fun to read – notice the stick notation

This is very popular with  my guitar students.  It’s funny, I have recently acquired a bunch of young girl rockers who have switched or added guitar to their musical instrument repertoire and this is one of those songs that resonates with everyone.

It seems the new style of songwriting is to use the same harmonic structure, meaning the chords, over and over again.  The only difference between the verses and choruses are in melody, rhythm or the buildup in the production.

I use stick notation with all my students and it really helps them understand rhythms separate from pitch. Here’s a good overview of how I present rhythm using stick notation.

Enjoy the hand drawn sheet music!  Notice the CAPO is on the 3rd fret if you want to stay in the same key as the original recording.

Here’s a video of Melina performing at our Winter Recital on January 25, 2014.

Teaching Kids How To Read Music Using Solfège, Hand Signs & Kinesthetic Learning

Learning Solfege with Curwen Hand Signs

Teaching young kids to read music is quite a challenge.  I approach through a long process of micro-steps.  It’s the reverse of peeling an onion.  It’s a layering technique of building up from tiny kernels of understanding, expanding outwards. The first lessons are always performance focused – get them excited about playing a song!  It’s fun and within reach to play a song in 5 minutes!  That is so awesome! Then over the course of many lessons, we explore basic concepts of music theory through a series of games.  One of these “games” is learning solfeggio (Italian pronunciation), also known as solfège (French pronunciation).  This is the system of pitches with words that was created in the eleventh century by a Benedictine monk, Guido de Arezzo.    

To make it easier, I always look for ways to engage other learning modalities besides visual or aural.  In this case, an Englishman by the name of John Curwen did this work in the 1800s by creating a system of hand signs to go with the solfège system.   This engages the brain to have another way of remembering these pitches.  Kids love it and it certainly is fun! Another great educator (and composer) the Hungarian Zoltan Kodàly took these hand signs and made it easier by associating a height with each sign to correlate the rising of the pitch with each syllable. In my lessons, I teach my students using 2 hands to make it even easier as it balances both left brain and right brain.  Plus it’s easier and more fun!  Did I mention that fun is important?

How to Play London Bridge on the Piano

I’ve started making videos of songs I’m teaching my students as so many of them are visual learners and have the technology to view this at home.  This video is not meant to be a step by step instruction but a reinforcement/memory aid for after the lesson when practicing at home.

Play Piano For Kids, Volume 1 iPad interactive book app is now available

An interactive iPad book for young children with their parents, caregivers
Available now at the Apple App store

As many of you know, I’ve been working hard on an interactive iPad iBook for quite some time.  Today Play Piano For Kids, Volume 1 (Penguins Don’t Play Piano, But You Can!) is officially live in 32 countries around the world in the Apple iTunes Bookstore.  It’s on sale for the next week for only 99 cents after which it will go up to $6.99.  Pleases go and take a look and give a review/rating.

Aimed at parents , home-schoolers and teachers of young children aged 3 to 6 years old, the book is really an app which delivers a learning system including audio, video, animations and my unique color system.  It spans the first month and a half of lessons that in my private lessons would cost over $200!   There is no experience required and no need to read traditional music notation.  In fact, the problem with most music books and teachers try to present too much information at once.  By breaking down the learning process into micro steps, I’ve helped hundreds of kids learn to play piano, (and guitar) whilst having proper technique, and learning music theory, traditional notation and even composition.

For those of you who have been unable to get on my roster, this is a great way to virtually start lessons with me.  There’s even a free sample that gives you the first lesson for free.  And this is just the beginning, I’m already working hard on the next volume as well as a support website PlayPianoForKids.com

Feel free to comment!

Glenn Gould’s Finger Tapping Exercise for Piano Technique

Many of you are struggling with playing cleanly and smoothly. This simple technique can help you to relax your fingers to pay more fluidly. Developed by Glenn Gould’s mentor and longtime teacher Chilean pianist Alberto Guerrero, it aims to retain a relaxed muscle memory. You can learn more about this in the wonderful documentary Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould.

Winter Semester for Music Lessons

The Fall semester is fast coming to an end with the last lesson on Saturday November 20, 2010. We’ll have a break for Thanksgiving with the new Winter session starting Tuesday November 30, 2010 and running until Saturday February 19, 2010.

The cost for the new semester is $550 with an early bird discount of $50 if paid before November 15, 2010.

There will be no lessons the week of

* December 24 – January 2 – Winter Holiday Recess

If you are not currently studying with me, space is extremely limited, but you may register on the waiting list here.

How To Read Music: Rhythm using Stick Notation

When teaching to read traditional music notation, I separate the 2 parts of pitch and rhythm.  Rhythm is easy to teach using stick notation.

[update-12-3-12] Stick notation is taking traditional notes and removing the note-head.  The note-head is the round dot at the bottom of the stick.  The dot is placed on the 5 lines of the staff and depending on where it is, tells us which pitch to play.  By removing the note-head, we focus only on the rhythm.

The use of hand movements, words and sounds enable us to get the music in our body, mind, eye and ear.  Multiple modes of experience!

This method is created by Michiko Yurko and you can find her and her books/games/workshops at MusicMindGames.com.

Here’s a little video I made with the help of Ava.

John Lennon’s Imagine

This is from a concert at Madison Square Garden in 1972.  Essential listening for anyone!

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

I’m starting a songwriting class in September and we’ll be analyzing some of the greatest rock, pop, jazz songs of all time as part of the curriculum.  Stay tuned or get on my waiting list on the registration page.

Buy this song at Amazon

Free Piano Checklist for Beginners

Many of my students have been forgetting some of the basics around technique.  Here’s a handy chart that you can post by the piano or on the first page of your music notebook.  Probably the most important one I’m finding is sitting the proper distance away from the piano.  Many kids like to sit almost with their bellies touching the piano.  This makes it so much harder for their fingers to be in the right shape to play well.   You should be sitting so that your forearms are about level with the floor, elbows bent and shoulders not hunched or lifted.

Curling the fingers can take some time to remember for the youngest students.  I usually tolerate the flat-fingers for a while until they get a few pieces memorized.

You can download this piano checklist as PDF to print out.

Hope this helps.

Enjoy, make music and have fun!

Andrew

The Beatles, Let It Be

Let It Be
By Lennon & McCartney

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, …..

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, …..

Lean On Me by the great Bill Withers

One of the greatest songs of all time by probably my favorite songwriter of all time, Bill Withers.

Lean On Me

Words & Music By Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives
we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Chorus
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things
you need to borrow
For no one can fill
those of your needs
That you don’t let show

Chorus

If there is a load
you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’d understand
We all need somebody to lean on

How To Teach Rhythm to Beginning Music Students

Teaching rhythm using stick notation & hand signs

I’ve been teaching how to count rhythm to most of my students using Michiko Yurko’s genius method of naming note values with easy and fun to say words.  I highly recommend her book Music Mind Games for all music teachers and home-schoolers and interested parents..

  • For example, a one beat (quarter note) is called BLUE.
  • Two eighth notes are called  JELLO.
  • An eighth note triplet, where the three notes are played in one beat is PINEAPPLE.
  • And four sixteenth notes is HUCKLEBERRY.
This is so much more fun and easier to remember than when I was in school learning, “one -eee- and – ah.”

Practice counting the beats of any song you already know and other new ones as well.  It becomes a much easier task to learn a new piece if you have internalized the rhythm already and can then focus on the pitches and fingering.
This past week, I did just that by having several of my students learn “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” by first counting out the song in this Blue Jello way.  Then, by teaching the distinct hand signals for each, which adds another level of kinesthetic learning, I played the melody while the student counted out the piece.  After 3 or 4 times, the melody and rhythm are so ingrained, that playing it on the instrument becomes just a minor technical matter. 

The History of Rock and Roll – 12 Bar Blues

We’ve been doing some great explorations of the roots of rock and roll which began with the basic form of the 12 bar blues.  These 12 measures are like a pattern, a recipe that hundreds if not thousands or hundreds of thousands of songs have been based.  Once you know the “recipe” you can cook up your own or play all of the variations.  Here’s a few of them.

You can view these video clips and read along in the music notation I gave you.

1950’s Early Rock and Roll Clips

Elvis Presley – Blue Suede Shoes

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode

Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls Of Fire

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti

Little Richard – Lucille

Little Richard – Long Tall Sally

A First Lesson for Piano – Video Clip

If you are currently taking lessons with me, you will know this as the Peanut Butter Sandwich or the Mississippi Hot Dog.

It’s a great first lesson for anyone studying the piano, regardless of age, as it builds finger strength, independence and gets your hands in the proper position.  So much of music is based on muscle memory.  So you may as well get it right from the start without all the bad habits that can lead to muscle fatigue or carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis.

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