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.
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!
Ifyouasktheaveragemusicteacheraboutspecialneeds children as students,youmaygetablank stare.Thereisn’tmuchliteraturefocusedonthis.Childrenwithspecialneedsmay includethosewithlearningdisabilities,developmentalissues,aswellasthoseonthe Autismspectrum.
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!
If you have any questions about your child and their specific issues, feel free to contact us.
Wow, what a great set of concerts we had on Saturday!
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 with his Dad perform Heart and Soul with a surprise support guest little brother Gabriel.
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!
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.)
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?
The 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.
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
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.
Happy, eager students who are playing, understanding and (eventually) reading music with mastery.
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.
A super Spring Music Recital is headed your way. We’ll have 26 of my students performing uplifting music from Beethoven to Katy Perry to Andrew Lloyd-Weber to the Beatles to music from Hamilton and beyond!
Saturday June 18
Open to the public
Park Slope Library
6th Avenue at 9th Street
Lower level auditorium – there is wheelchair ramp and elevator
Our Winter Recital is tomorrow. 28 kids performing after months of preparation everything from Beethoven to Bruno Mars, Carole King To John Williams, Harold Arlen to Hoagie Carmichael, Taylor Swift to Andrew Lloyd Weber – even some Jimi Hendrix. Big day for all!
We’ll post videos soon and may even try a little live Periscope.
I’m looking forward to our upcoming Spring Music Recital on June 7 at 2pm. It will be in our usual location, the auditorium of the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.
We have a great program of diverse music from folk classics to Suzuki standards to pop songs from Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, One Republic, jazz standards in the style of Frank Sinatra and film and Broadway soundtracks all played by kids ages 5 to 13.
The show is free and open to the public. You can see previous recital videos here.
Also, if you haven’t already signed up your child for summer lessons, I have some openings for our short summer session which runs 4 weeks in July from the 7th to 31st. More info.
I’m also offering music lessons via internet (Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts) over the summer and into the Fall too. This may be a good opportunity to continue practicing whilst at Grandma’s house.
If you are interested in piano, guitar, strumstick, ukelele, voice, songwriting and music theory lessons this summer, there are still slots available. The summer lesson schedule runs 6 weeks from July 9 through August 16 Monday through Thursdays. There are morning and afternoon sessions. Lessons are $60 each or $330 for the full 6 weeks.
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
It was a great recital last Saturday at the Carroll Gardens Library in Brooklyn. With 30 students performing and a house of over 100 guests, we had a lovely time and everyone did their best. Thanks again to all the parents, grandparents, friends and family who came to show their support, love and appreciation of our young performers! And special thanks to Jeff Schwartz and the entire staff of the Carroll Gardens library who graciously let us use their space and even set up the chairs for us!
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.
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.
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.