How To Talk So Kids Will Practice

How to talk to your kids so they will practice music

How To Talk So Kids Will Practice

Just about everyone I’ve talked to has a challenge with getting their kids to practice. 
I too had this issue.
 
When my son Alejandro was young, not only was I the parent, but also the teacher. It was very challenging and we would often end our lessons in tears – his and mine!
It was extremely frustrating! 
It’s like that quote from the film Cool Hand Luke. 
“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
It’s true. Communication is probably the biggest challenge humans face in all walks of life. 
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 
– George Bernard Shaw
At age 9, Alejandro went to camp and became “piano guy” as he banged out requests on the old upright in the mess hall. Now at 16, he seeks out time to practice on his own. It’s become an outlet, a passion and a constant companion. Music has become part of his identity. 

So how did we get here?

Flashback to ten years ago. My brilliant and beautiful wife knows a lot about developmental psychology. Besides giving me a time out! – she gave me a book to read. You may already know about it. 
Reading this book was a major breakthrough for me.

In the book, the authors discuss four key strategies:

  1. Listen with full attention
  1. Acknowledge their feelings with a word
  1. Give their feelings a name
  1. Give them their wishes in fantasy

Listen with full attention

This is a rarity nowadays. I’ve seen so many parents staring at their smart devices while their children are begging for some attention. When Alejandro was a toddler, he would grab our faces and literally turn our heads and say, “Look at me!” Pretty funny and effective.
Getting attention is like getting oxygen. Your child wants your attention, approval and notice of what they are doing. Practice time can be an incredible bonding time. Get interested in what they are doing, and they will do more of it. It’s why I recommend always placing the piano in the center of the living space. It shows you care about this and it’s important to you. 
Did you ever notice how sports-crazed kids usually have sport-crazed parents? It’s the same with music, movies, arts, crafts, dance, whatever. Your children want to share in your passions. In other words, where your attention is.

Acknowledge their feelings with a word

It doesn’t even have to be a full word. It can be just, “Oh” or “Hmm” or just a caring look and nod of acknowledgement. One thing that is also very powerful is to just reiterate what they said. This works wonders when your child is upset. They don’t necessarily want or need you to fix things, they just want to be heard. As a man, I know I have the tendency to want to fix the problem, as the book  Men are from Mars, Women from Venus illustrated for me. My wife sometimes just needs me to hear her, not fix the problem! The same is true for your kids.

Give their feelings a name

This is especially useful for younger kids who don’t have the vocabulary to express what they are feeling. Heck, many adults don’t either! There is a movement towards social-emotional learning (SEL) with full curricula to emphasize this. 
When your child is upset, they don’t always have the words to tell you what they are feeling. Giving them a vocabulary is relieving in that they are acknowledged. 
This chart used to be on my refrigerator. It is a useful way of articulating how you’re feeling.
You can try having your child point to the picture that most describes what they are feeling right now.
Bonus points if you make that face too!

Give Them Their Wishes in Fantasy

This is fun and a way to build empathy and connection. Obviously your child knows it’s a fantasy. But they feel heard and acknowledged. You’ll see what I mean below.
Here’s two examples of how to talk about practicing, one obviously better than the other.

Scenario 1

Child: I don’t want to practice 
Parent (looking at phone) : You have to practice! How are you going to get better?
Child: But I don’t want to!
Parent: It’s not a choice just go do it!
Child: No
Parent: You know you need to practice – why don’t you just go practice?
Child: I don’t feel like it.
Parent: Well I don’t feel like doing many things either, but I have to. Do you think I want to go on the stinky subway everyday? Now go and practice, NOW! 
Child leaves crying and bangs on the piano.
Parent: What did I do?

Scenario 2

Child: I don’t want to practice 
Parent looks directly at child: Hm. You don’t want to practice.
Child: Well…I know I should, but I don’t feel like it right now.
Parent: You’re not ready to practice right now.
Child: No.   I want to go to the beach!
Parent: Well, that would be fun. But I know the beach is over an hour away. I wish I had a magic wand to make us just fly to the beach right now! 
Child: Ha ha….
<Pause>
I’m a little hungry, can I have a snack?
Parent: Ok I’ll make a snack.
Child: And then I want to show you the new song I learned!
There’s so much more in the book. I encourage you to try these strategies out. Also share this with your friends and families.

What is the real reason we send our kids to college?

What if we could be limitless?

 

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?  

 

What projects would you work on?  Where would you go? Would you still be doing the work you do now?

 

In the film Limitless, a pill gives one human the power of all knowledge, and unlimited confidence.  In other words, all knowledge is available and failure impossible.

 

“Not many of us know what it’s like to become the perfect version of ourselves.”

– Eddie Mora, played by Bradley Cooper in the film Limitless

 

It’s a fun idea.  

 

As parents, isn’t this what we want for our kids?  Not with the pill, I mean. But, to be limitless?

 

My son Alejandro turned 17 a few weeks ago.

 

We’ve been touring colleges for almost two years now and I started thinking. Why are we doing this?

 

Everyone knows the stories about billionaire college dropouts like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and others.

 

There’s been a lot of talk in the media about whether college costs are worth it? With some tuition over $70,000 per year and rising student debt that can never be refinanced or forgiven, there is good reason to pause. Especially in the fields of study where jobs are not readily available or not particularly high paying like education, and the arts and humanities.

 

Plus, you can learn all the same skills and use all the same textbooks at your local community college or even just the public library. There’s even free courses from the very same Ivy League colleges and universities online 24/7.

 

So, why do we all strive to send our kids to the same 100 or so colleges? Why have parents committed crimes to get them in?

 

The answer dawned on me as I sat in a recent presentation for Stanford University which I attended with my son.

 

There were wonderful slides and a nice introduction by the Dean of Admissions.  But then, they introduced a panel of recent grads. Not only were they poised and well-spoken, but the sense of confidence without arrogance was palpable.  Here were five twenty-somethings who carried themselves as if they were decades more experienced and were already directors of teams and managing projects spread across the globe.  And they all exuded this single quality…limitless.

 

Going to a good school is not just about the curriculum.

 

It’s more than that. College is an experience. It’s a 4-year version of that Limitless pill. It’s about transformation.

 

As a coach and mentor to other business owners and educators, I’ve discovered growth is more mental than physical. In fact, it’s 80% mental and 20% physical.

 

When I say mental, I mean mindset:  the thoughts and feelings you experience on a daily basis. 

 

The college experience is about transforming what you thought was impossible in yourself and in the world.

 

By surrounding yourself with other like-minded people, you share similar expectations and shift beliefs to  what is possible.

 

You are held accountable for your actions.  

 

That’s the real reason we want the best schools for our kids.  It’s four years of breaking and rebuilding beliefs and lifting each other up.

 

“If you want a new outcome, you will have to break the habit of being yourself, and reinvent a new self.

– Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself, By Dr. Joe Dispenza

 

Education, and all experience, is a path to becoming. If we view all life as this path, we can make better choices. Everything is an opportunity for reinvention. But, only if one is aware of this power. We are all authors and composers of our lives.

 

It’s why we enroll our kids in activities like sports, language and music lessons. It’s why we “make memories” with them every time we take them on a family trip.

 

“…your familiar memories related to your known world ‘re-mind’ you to reproduce the same experiences…the way you think and feel – and then see how the external environment is altered by your efforts…”

– Dr. Joe Dispenza

 

We are the heroes of our children’s lives. We have the power to give this gift of possibility. And it doesn’t require a pill. It only takes a shift in mindset.

 

So, take an interest in your children’s hopes and dreams. Give them opportunities to soar.   Invest in your own coaching and model the limitless mindset.

Feel free to share this with your friends.

Photos and Videos from Spring 2019 Recital Concerts

We had a fabulous set of recital concerts on June 8, 2019. Just over 60 of our students performed. It was a fantastic celebration of all the hard work, focus and practice of life skills through music.

Here’s some photo highlights. Photos by Miles Schiff Stein

And you can see videos here.

Winter Recital Concerts

You can see the joy on their faces and it's awesome!

Excitement is building for the two Winter Recital Concerts coming next week. It's a massive undertaking to produce these concerts and I appreciate your support. Here's some reminder details.

Date Time and Location

  • Where: St. Francis Xavier church - corner 6th Ave and Carroll St
  • When: Saturday, January 26, 2019
  • Time: 10:30 am OR 2 pm

Registration Of Performers Closes Today at 5pm

Reminder to register today as we need to start printing programs and certificates.

Structure Of Recital

If this is your first recital, here’s how it’s structured. After a brief introduction, I gather all the performers and teachers onstage and hand out achievement certificates for all performers. We take a big “class photo” and stand powerful and strong in our “power poses.” It helps overcome the jitters of getting up in front everyone as we are all together looking out at you, our loving and supportive audience.

Your Teacher Will Support Your Child

Then we follow the program and I introduce each performer. Your child’s teacher will greet them, support and assure them. Also, they’ll make sure they have their correct starting positions on the keys! They will also stay near for emotional support.

Video Recordings on YouTube

I will record video of each child. We’ve been pretty lucky with having decent quality in the past -though, I can’t guarantee it! I post these on our YouTube channel with first names only. Let me know if you do NOT want a video taken.

Support All The Performers

Please plan on staying for the entire concert. It’s important to show your love and support of all the performers, not just your child. I know a few of you have told me of scheduling conflicts, so please be discreet if you have to leave early.

Thank you for being part of our musical community!

Photos from our Holiday Party / Music Salon 2018

Park Slope Music Lessons Holiday Party Music Salon

Each year, I host a Holiday Party and Music Salon for our music students at one of our student’s homes. It’s a great way for our youngest and shyest to get over their fears of performing in front of others. And every year it gets better. It also gives a chance for new friendships to be be born and our Music Mentors and Mentees to hang out, each some treats and play for all of us. Wonderful.

Here’s some of the highlights.

Is it too early for my child to learn piano?

At what age can my child learn piano?

Is it too early to start music lessons?

The best part of our curriculum, the Musicolor Method®, is that it enables children 4 to 6 year olds to start exploring their natural curiosity and passion for music.  Most music schools and private teachers will not accept children under the age of 7 or 8. We can, and we have a proven system to do it with fun. By the time your child reaches the age of 8. When their peers are just beginning, he/she will already be playing, singing, reading and understanding great music.

Many parents want to start as early as two or three years old.  How do you know if they are ready?

There is a natural progression of childhood development.  Most kids are ready at around 4 years old. Sometimes a little earlier or later.  Here’s a few questions to ask.

  • Do they know basic colors?

  • Do they recognize and can name the letters of the alphabet?

  • Has fine motor skills developed enough?  Example: can pick up small objects or write their name legibly.

  • Can they count to ten?

  • Can they focus on a single activity for at least five minutes?

But will my child learn to read real music?

Yes.  The Musicolor Method® uses a phased learning process where the skills of making music are taught, only in a different order that other curricula.

We start with playing first.   On a parallel track, we begin introducing technical and theory elements.  After a student reaches a certain level of ability and confidence, we begin to gradually introduce elements of reading on the music staff.  This process can take months or years depending on the starting age of the child.

What we have noticed is that children learning with the Musicolor Method® from the age of 4, flow easily through the stages of development of a musician, artist and person.  We believe learning to make music imparts skills for a successful life. Music as personal development plus the enjoyment and artistic development that goes along with it.

This is why you should not learn to read music first

This is why you should not learn to read music first

Should All Music Students Learn to Read Music?

As a music teacher, I’m often asked about reading music.  Some parents want to know,”Will my child learn to read music?”  These are usually parents who have had musical training and see the benefits of being able to read music from the last 1000 years of music literature!

Music notation is an incredible invention.  It is so concise, brief and elegant in it’s description of what would have been a lost experience.  But that’s the problem.  It’s so concise and symbolic, you need years of training, practice and conceptual development to simply read music.  It’s well worth the effort though.  Learning to read music unlocks the doors to vaults and vaults of incredible music by the masters from Bach to Mozart to Beethoven to Stravinsky to Bernstein to Miles, Bird and Lin-Manuel Miranda, to name just a few.

But My Favorite Rock Star Can’t Read Music

Others want to know if they “have to learn to read music.”  This is usually from parents who struggled with reading music and really did not enjoy the process.

I can see both points of view.  While yes, there is a great value in learning to read music, many of the greatest musicians cannot read standard music notation.  Paul McCartney is just one example.  And no one would ever claim Sir Paul is not a “real musician” or songwriter.

The Old School Traditional Way

Traditional music teachers often start with reading music. They want to do this because it is teacher-centric. It’s easier for teachers as there’s so much music written with traditional notation.

Music notation is over 1000 years old!

Ye Olde Songs…yawn

So, often, this old school, easy way for teachers, is also focused on older music.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But, if you want to connect with younger students, you need to find a common ground.  You need to connect them with their music.  No, you can’t start immediately on the latest songs on the radio.  But you can accelerate the learning to get to that goal much quicker.

 

This is why you should not learn to read music first
This is an example of Bach’s handwritten notation from back in the 1600’s!

 

Accelerate Learning Techniques for Music

At Park Slope Music Lessons, we feel that to present the written music first is backwards. It’s like teaching grammar rules before even learning to say hello!

Our curriculum, the Musicolor Method®, works by giving students an experience of playing first, while building up technique and then gradually presenting the language of music through games and activities. It’s much more entertaining and twice as effective!

By empowering children of all ages to immediately start playing, there’s a huge boost of confidence.  Emotion is part of all learning.  How do you feel if you don’t get it?  Dumb?  Confused?  Frustrated?  But what if you could learn to play a simple song within the first five minutes of your first lesson?

Take a look at our videos, and the rest of our site.  You will see we have helped so many kids here in Brooklyn and now around the world learn to make music in a manner more organic, fun and fast.

Life Skills Through Music

And that leads to building life skills transferrable to school, work…everything!

Can special needs children learn to play an instrument?

Music lessons for special needs children?

If you ask the average music teacher about special needs children as students, you may get a blank stare. There isn’t much literature focused on this. Children with special needs may include those with learning disabilities, developmental issues, as well as those on the Autism spectrum.

At Park Slope Music Lessons, we’ve had several students with special needs. Our Musicolor Method® has proven to be a great way for these children to learn music where other teachers/methods have failed.


Can a special needs student learn to play piano?  

Absolutely!

“I still can’t believe you got my son to play with all 10 fingers in a single lesson! He is so excited and practicing every day on his own. Our previous teachers were all trying to get him to play one finger the whole time. He was bored and frustrated!”
Parent of a 5 year old student

Take a look at some of the videos of our past recitals, music salons and read our blog posts.  You will see we have helped so many kids learn music in a way that is fun, fast and supportive.  It doesn’t matter if your kld is or isn’t a prodigy, we make learning music an organic process.  And it all activates life skills that are transferrable to school, work and life!

How we use the Musicolor Method to teach special needs children to make music with fun and ease.
Musicolor Alphabet Cards, one of many physical games/tools we use to teach abstract concepts of music

If you have any questions about your child and their specific issues, feel free to contact us.

Why I want my student’s “desk” as big as possible

Did you ever go to a library or coffee shop just to have a bigger desktop?  There’s something so spacious and freeing about just having more physical workspace right in front of you.

Last week, I visited several co-working spaces in New York City just for that reason. Having a bigger desktop is incredibly freeing. It opens up your thinking.

And it’s the same thing with your internal mental workspace.  Years ago, I came up with the metaphor of the mental desktop.  This is how I imagine each child learning.  As I begin teaching a 4-year-old, they can only retain one note at a time in their mental workspace.

Over time, we begin chunking that into two and three-note phrases.  Over time, we begin expanding their “mental desktops” to be able to hold complete phrases and sections.  It is incredible to witness!

Each child’s progress is individualized.  

There are no hard and fast rules of how many days or weeks it will take to expand from two notes to two measures.

But sometimes we overestimate how much a particular student can retain.  Sometimes the student will shut down and not want to do anymore.  They’ll refuse to even try!  Other times, it’s as if we’ve gone backwards.

I’ve had some parents complain about their kid’s slow speed in learning how to read music.  But it’s similar to learning to read words.  You can’t skip ahead.  That will only lead to confusion, frustration, and overwhelm.

The core principles of the Musicolor Method include a 7 step framework of teaching and learning.  The first is the Growth Spiral. Every organism in the universe follows this spiraling outward from a central core.  You can see it in the petals of a flower, microscopic cells and the macroscopic like the cosmos.  It’s how growth happens, physical and mental.  You can’t skip from the inner to outer rings.

Another principle is called the Stepping Stone Principle.  Imagine you are trying to cross a stream.  Your guide (the teacher), picks a path and even lays out some stones for you (the student) to cross over.  If the stones (lessons) are too far apart, the students falls in the water.  Some may even get swept away or drown.  Putting the stones too close leads to boredom and perhaps the student also gets stuck there.

These principles are not something taught in music education programs.  It’s my distillation of what I have learned from other effective mentors and reflection on my teaching experiences.

So what if your child is not progressing to your expectations?

Well, the first question to ask is:  Are they practicing every day?

Practice is a learned skill.

You need to teach them how to practice.  It’s not about cramming.  It’s creating a routine that then becomes a habit.  We are all made of our habits, good and bad.  Learning to practice takes effort at first, but quickly becomes a routine.  It’s all about finding even five minutes at the same time every day.  This makes it easier.  Brushing your teeth was not something you just did on your own.  Your parents taught it to you.  It’s the same with music.

If practice is happening, then most issues dissolve. But please be patient.  If your child seems to be going slower than their friends, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong.  Skipping ahead will only make things worse.  Trust the process and practice.

Piano Is Fun! When You Have The Right Teacher.

Do you believe in music?

Music is one of the most fun & effective ways to transfer skills necessary to be a successful, contributing, compassionate human being.

Jobs of the future depend on your child’s ability to think.  Because, when the robots come, and they are coming, we all need to be able to think, grow and contribute beyond AI and machine learning.

Learning a musical instrument is training for life and will help with the educational divide between haves and have-nots and teach thinking skills vital to success, now and in the future.

Register your child for music lessons today.

Music education instills compassionate confidence

Park Slope Music Lessons Spring 2015 Recital

I believe music education is vitally important as it teaches one of the most important skills of childhood…confidence.  But it’s not the egotistical, brash arrogance posing as confidence that is plaguing our society.

Rather, we parents want our kids to be a clear channel for intuition and spirit developed by learning the laws of the Universe so perfectly exemplified in music.

We are all vibrating, resonating beings.  Let’s lift ourselves by resonating with the highest vibrations!

Come join us

This Saturday, June 10, 2017, we will host our Spring concerts at the Park Slope Library on 9th Street and 6th Avenue.

We have an 11am show and a 2pm show in the lower level auditorium.  Free and open to the public.  Come check out what your kids and neighbors have been working on for the last few months.

We have a diverse and eclectic music program including everything from Bach to Beethoven, Folk Songs to Lady Gaga, classic rock to the blues, original compositions and songs and, of course, music from Disney’s Moana.

Ukulele for kids: what size should I get?

What size ukulele for my kid?

There are several sizes of Ukulele.  This instrument, from Hawaii, has had a major resurgence in the last decade or so.

(If you’ve never heard of Jake Shimabukuro – just google him now.)

And why not?  It’s so fun!  And portable!

Plus you can get a really nice one for less than $100.

The four most common sizes of Ukulele are

  1. Soprano
  2. Concert
  3. Tenor
  4. Baritone

There is another now called the Bass Ukulele which is a whole new animal.  It is only possible because of some special string technology.  More on this in a future post/video.

For most kids under the age of 10, the best size is the soprano.  Not only is it small, it’s the most affordable.

I definitely recommend this one from Kala 

I had one and recently sold it to a 6 year old student

And here’s what I got now:

Recital Awesome-ness January 2017

Elias performs Heart and Soul at the Winter Music Recital January 2017

Wow, what a great set of concerts we had on Saturday!

Life Skills

It’s truly amazing to see what our kids can accomplish with some directed focus, guidance and perseverance.
These skills translate into wonderful life success skills and you may already notice them surfacing in areas like school, sports and homework.

But, I think this photo truly captures the spirit and essence of what our recitals at Park Slope Music Lessons are all about.
Can you guess what it is?
Elias performs Heart and Soul at the Winter Music Recital January 2017 Elias with his Dad perform Heart and Soul with a surprise support guest little brother Gabriel.

Joy!

Look at all that joy!  And how fun is it that Gabriel was so moved that he had to join them on stage!  After all, what good is music (and life) without joy?
Music is fun.

Music is social.

Music is therapeutic.

Music is all of these and more!

Grit

I’m so proud of all our students.  Please tell your children how much you appreciate all the courage and hard work that happened this week.
(And continues every week in the lessons and practicing.)

Be sure to praise specifically the effort and the work – not just a vague “good job!”
This is a key component of grit, which I’m sure you have heard lots about.
If not, check out Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED TALK or her new book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Videos of Recital Performances

I’ve uploaded all the videos to our YouTube channel here.
Plus you can always see them at our website under the Videos link.

I’ve included videos by students who could not attend but wanted to document their progress at the lessons.

Here’s Alejandro performing his original song For All The Days.

 

 

Morning recital students - we also had an afternoon show!
Morning recital students – we also had an afternoon show! Photo by Aehee Kang Asano.

Thanks for letting me be a part of your child’s musical magical adventure!

best,

Andrew
P.S. We’ll have a lot of photos soon.  Our photographer is busy editing and as soon as I get them, I’ll start sharing.

Winter Music Recital at Park Slope Library January 28, 2017

winter music recital 2017

Tomorrow is our big day.

We have two concerts scheduled at the Park Slope Library at 9th street and 6th Avenue.

  • 11:30 am
  • 2:15pm

As we have grown, we’ve had to create two separate concerts as the auditorium would not fit us.  Plus, I’m afraid of tiring out our audience with multiple renditions of Hot Cross Buns! 🙂

We’re going to have some great music – everything from folk songs to classic rock from Deep Purple and the Police to newer hits by Rihanna, Broadway show pieces, classical sonatinas and original songs.

Here’s Oliver practicing for the recital as he discovers a new sound he can use!

Mastery

All music should be memorized.  This is all about creating mastery.   With exception of lyrics and duets.

Stage Jitters and Power Poses

It is normal to be nervous and anxious.   One of the most amazing discoveries in the last few decades is the idea of the power pose. It has been proven in scientific studies that by holding the body in a confident pose, you can create the feeling of confidence.   And it only takes 2 minutes! Check out Dr. Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk or her new book Presence.

So when I talk about Power Poses on Saturday, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Get There Early

Another way to alleviate anxiety is to get there early.   It gives time for your child to acclimate to the new room.   He/she will also be able to warm up a little on the keyboard as I set up the equipment. Certificates I print out Award Certificates for each and every performer.

I bring up all the kids to the stage at the beginning.  Please be on time!

This allows for

1) the realization that it’s not so scary on the stage – you’re already there!

2) a wonderful photo opportunity of the entire group

3) a chance to recognize all the hard work and effort of our children

Seating

We usually set up a rug in the front for children to sit together.  We try to reserve chairs for elderly and pregnant parents first.  If you need to ensure seating for a family member, get there early.

Audience Expectations

We are here to support our kids.  Please give them your full attention. Please refrain from talking, texting or leaving early.   No matter how polished or unpolished the performer is, we need to applaud the effort.  It takes massive amounts of courage to perform in public.  Through repeated practice, we can overcome our stage fright.

 

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.  Until then, be sure to register for a free phone consultation to discuss your child’s specific needs, desires and their music experience level.

What makes our preschool piano lessons better?

Our preschool piano lessons are virtually unmatched.  Most teachers will not accept a student until 7 or 8 years old.

Why is that?

There is a gap in most music curriculums that do not cover the pre-literate preschool aged child.

The curriculum we use with our young preschool students is what makes us stand out.  It was developed in house by our founder, Andrew Ingkavet and is called the Musicolor Method.  It is currently being taught to music teachers all over the world through an online training course and curriculum.

What makes the Musicolor Method unique?

musicolor-2000-white-boxThe Musicolor Method is the first music curriculum aimed at teaching piano to preschoolers (aged 3 1/2 to 6 years old) that aligns with principles of human development, early childhood education and information design.  Over a ten year period, the curriculum and method have codified into a dynamic and flexible program that has been used successfully with hundreds of children.

Direct Labelling

By labelling keys, fingers and notation with color, we create a direct labelling that allows children to bypass all the abstract symbolic knowledge required in most other curriculums.

It is the best curriculum for bringing preschool beginners up to a level where they can then begin to read music on the staff and can branch out to other curriculums, methods and styles of music.

Here are some of the key components of the Musicolor Method:

  • It doesn’t rely on the need to read
  • Unique musicolor notation is clutter-free and designed specifically for this age group
  • Begins with piano/keyboard which allows for easier understanding of theory
  • Transferrable to other instruments such as guitar, ukulele, recorder, etc.
  • Puts performance first, thereby building up confidence and esteem
  • Abstract concepts and technical issues are introduced in micro steps
  • Use of voice, all songs have lyrics that are age-appropriate
  • Most music concepts are presented in the form of games
  • Effective for children with learning disabilities
  • Fun!

The curriculum can fill the first three to six years of lessons  and dovetails nicely with many of the other commercial piano methods available on the market.  It’s one of the reasons most of our students stay with us so long.

Our outcome?

Happy, eager students who are playing, understanding and (eventually) reading music with mastery.

How old should my child be for private music lessons?

As parents, we want the best for our children and we are usually anxious about getting it right.  Here in Park Slope, we all know the competition for preschool, day care and elementary schools begins at birth!

You can usually get a sense of your child’s interest in music by around the age of 2 or 3.  They will be singing along with songs in the car or asking you to play a certain song over and over again.   And at some point, they may even ask you,

“Can I learn to play ____?(guitar, piano, flute or whatever).

So when should we start getting our kids into a private music lesson?

As a private music teacher and parent, I recommend the following.

Try out a mommy-and-me type class first. 

My son enjoyed the Music Together classes on the corner of 1st street and 6th avenue though he was usually more interested in putting away the instruments than actually participating!  We also had a lovely time with Juguemos A Cantar, a Spanish language program that includes lots of music and playtime.

There are so many sing-along programs available where general exposure to music,  singing and dancing take place in a group environment.  This is great for toddlers from 6 months to around 3 years old.

Listen To Music In The Home

This seems rather common sense, but you can definitely expose your child to some great stuff.  Be sure to try and include a variety of music.  Also, be aware that certain music and lyrics may not be age-appropriate the same way you do with movies and television.   Folk and classical music are good choices for toddlers.

Take Your Children to See Live Music

Seeing and hearing live instruments is an amazingly different experience than just listening to recordings.  And, because so much of our listening experience is now mediated through compressed audio via streaming services, we really miss out on the true experience of sound.   All the major music institutions in our fine city have programs for children.  PS 321 has long been hosting a wonderful series of concerts for children organized by Simone Dinnerstein, a world renown classical pianist.  Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM and don’t forget the fine performances of students at Juilliard, NYU, Mannes and Manhattan School of Music.  We have no excuse!

Fine Motor Skills

By around the age of 3 1/2 or 4 years, most children have developed fine motor skills to the point where they can write their name legibly.  They may be able to spell it forwards and backwards.  They usually can say the alphabet in proper sequence.  And, they usually start to develop the ability to focus on one activity for a longer period of time, say 5 to 10 minutes.  At this point, we can start to work with a child on piano /keyboard.

Why start with piano/keyboard?

The piano is a very visually and logically designed interface.   It doesn’t require a lot of technical exertion to produce a pleasing sound.  Modern digital keyboards can fit into any sized apartment and have volume controls as well as headphone outputs!   (We have some recommendations here.)

By starting with the piano/keyboard, we can also visually explain abstract concepts of music like pitch being high or low, and the relationship between the pitches as spatial relationships between the fingers and keys.  Using a well-design curriculum like the Musicolor Method, we can coax our young preschoolers to producing quite complex and beautiful music in a relatively short period of time.

Why not violin?

Violin, though often touted as a great beginning instrument, has the challenge of no fixed pitch.  It requires tuning and the ability to play in tune – intonation.  This can drive lots of people crazy hearing a squeaking, out of tune Twinkle Twinkle over and over again.  Piano, or digital keyboard, has the advantage of fixed tuning.  An acoustic piano is tuned by a professional once every 6 to 12 months and that’s it.  Parents don’t have to fiddle with the tuners.

Growth mindset and brain development

By starting your child in music lessons at the age of 3 or 4, you are helping them with so many life skills.  There have been so many studies about the positive effects of music on brain development in young children.  And now, further studies are showing the positive effects of participation in formal private music lessons.  These studies are showing that music, above all other activities, fosters the very skills that are needed for success in life.  These skills include focus, persistence, discipline, public performance, practice skills, study skills, problem solving as well as the ability to listen, harmonize and blend with others.

A Focus on Life Skills

It is with this life skills focus that I established Park Slope Music Lessons.   I had studied to be a music teacher at NYU on a special scholarship back in the 1980’s.  However, I was soon pulled into many other adventures of life including becoming a writer, producer and VJ for MTV, back when they still played music.  Teaching music as a full-time focus didn’t happen until my own son began asking for music lessons.  It was then that I started to search for a teacher.  I was surprised that almost no one would accept a 3 or 4 year old student.

They all said “Come back when he was 7 or 8.”

A Homeschool Project Expands

That’s when I started my own homeschooling project that blossomed into both a new curriculum and music school.   Today we have 3 teachers, including myself, two of whom will actually come to your home for lessons.

I hope to work with you and your child one day 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.