The Three “I”s of Music Lessons for Beginning Piano Players
Teaching young piano students (specifically, the preschool years) comes with its own set of unique benefits: kids this age don’t have any negative associations with school, teachers or learning. They’re free of the “I should be better at this” pressure that older students put on themselves. They are creative without boundaries. And boy, are they cute.
Of course, this age has its challenges as well. Preschool piano players can’t focus for long periods of time (nor should we expect them to.) They’re squirmy, distractible, and don’t have the physical control of their hands that even slightly older children do.
Here are few quick but powerful tips – the three “I”s – for your beginning piano students:
“Interval” can mean a few different things, including a length of time, or in music, the distance between notes. Here, we mean it in both ways. How long can your preschool-aged piano student focus on one task? The answer will vary slightly by child, but your answer is probably somewhere in the five to ten minute range. Plan your piano lesson so it’s broken into smaller chunks (intervals!) of time, ideally five to ten minutes in length. These chunks can be a mix of learning new skills, learning and playing a piece, or playing a musical skill-building game. Piano performance pieces at this age are not going to be complex pieces that span multiple lessons. They should be simple but musical-sounding pieces that young piano students can feel successful with and enjoy. Meridee’s Piano Castle was written to have just these types of songs. It uses patterns to help young piano students lock into the piece, while also introducing intervals – this time, the musical kind. Preschool piano students will gladly squish seconds in "Blobby Blobs", or exlpore with melodic thirds in “Flying Frogs.” Vary songs like these with other activities to keep interest.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” –Pablo Picasso
In a preschool-aged piano student, imagination is as central in their lives as food and sleep. The idea of urging a young piano student to reign in this imagination is tragic. Instead, it can be channeled for incredible piano lessons. Drawing, storytelling, and playing can all be incorporated into your studies. Draw a picture and then create a song to go with it. (There’s space for this in your Meridee Winters Beginner Music Journal.) Learn musical dynamics by imagining that you’re a tiny mouse (piano) or a big loud elephant (forte). With every new concept, apply it through creating your own quick song or exercise, even if your “song” is just finger numbers on a piece of construction paper. You absolutely create music in your first lesson, long before you can read or notate music.
We’re not just talking about stickers here, although BOY do kids love stickers! We’ve found that musical piano games make an excellent reward in lessons. Incentives are something that preschool-aged piano students understand and encounter regularly already in their lives. (From getting a piece of candy during potty training to getting a bedtime story if they eat their vegetables.) Games like hide-and-seek with Meridee Winters Flashcards, or trying to beat their time in Rhythm Village are a great motivator, and a fun way to liven up your lesson.
Beginning piano students have so much potential, and much like language, an early start with music makes a big difference. We hope these tips have provided you with some inspiration (another “i” word) for your own music lessons with “itty bitty” students. Enjoy every imaginative interval!
About Meridee Winters:
Meridee Winters is a professional educator, musician, author and director/owner of a successful Philadelphia area music school.
Meridee began her journey as an educator teaching elementary students in a Florida public school, where she discovered the curriculum and school system left little room for divergence and creativity. She made the bold decision to leave and attend graduate school to study Music Composition, eventually starting her own private music school.
Today, that school has spent two decades introducing thousands of students to not just music, but to Meridee’s trailblazing method that encourages creativity, play and higher-level thinking with each lesson.
As a composer and professional musician, Meridee has instructed at all levels – from professional recording artists working on albums to computer music classes in the recording studio, and from young beginners taking their first steps on their musical path to intermediate students writing their first songs.
Meridee is a dedicated advocate of creative intelligence whose foremost passion is empowering creative and authentic self-expression in each individual. She now spends her time developing new materials and books to nurture these. She does her work as an author, as well as director of the school, from her home in Delaware County, PA.
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