How do young children learn to play the piano? Playing the piano and reading the notes simultaneously requires multiple skills that may be challenging for students under seven. Tip #10 is the best way to teach a young beginning piano student.
Learning to play the piano requires learning the key names, playing them, and reading music, all at the same time. Learning all these skills simultaneously may be unrealistic for a child under seven. It may cause the student frustration and quit even before they’ve begun.
There are many piano method books for young students that offer different approaches.
There is a method called “rote learning,” a “copycat” type of learning. The teacher will play specific notes, and the student will play back what they’ve heard. There is some value in learning this way since a child at this age has learned everything by watching and copying. And it helps them to play songs right away, which keeps their interest. However, I don’t consider this a long-term teaching technique since they may not understand what they’re playing. It also doesn’t teach reading skills.
Another method is learning the notes by pattern numbers. However, this is also not effective long-term since most songs are not written out in pattern numbers.
Some method books use animal characters to teach fun activities that may not directly help teach the student to play. Even though it’s fun for the student, I feel this is a waste if too much time is spent on these activities.
Some books start with playing the black keys only with finger numbers. Playing this way doesn’t teach the key name and is not realistic to playing the piano.
Some books start with the middle C hand positions, where both thumbs awkwardly share middle C, then skip to other hand positions before the student has the chance to master each one.
Another method book offers colors for each key to play songs instead of the key name. In my view, this is an example of another waste of time and learning, since this is not used in reading music.
At Melody Music Publishers, we have two books for ages 4-8 called “Color It Say It Play it and Create It,” a 60-page book, and Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too”, a 50-page book. They’re taught for children to learn piano with clear steps that start with one concept and incrementally add the next concept needed, which is perfect for the young beginning piano student.
Both books start with the proper technique with knees at the edge of the keys, sitting tall, and letting the fingers relax to form a rainbow shape.
Keyboard geography is taught with a coloring book using the seven colors of the rainbow for the seven notes. It starts with coloring the sets of 2 black keys, then the 3 black keys, followed by just C-D-E in the first three colors of the rainbow.
SAY IT PLAY IT!
Songs to say and play, using letter names using the C-D-E.
Copycat games on C-D-E so the student can learn to listen and playback.
Familiar songs with letter names and words like fast and hold for the rhythm.
AND CREATE IT!
Then my favorite part, where the student does the “Write Your Own Song” using just the C-D-E notes in any order they want, can then play what they just created!
More Keyboard Geography!
Back to keyboard geography, coloring the F-G-A-B, then letter names for songs to practice all five notes. More copycat games follow with C-G.
Piano Exercises for children to learn piano
Then something is added that no other method book for this age has, EXERCISES! I believe even the young student needs to play exercises to develop their playing skill. These are patterns they can memorize and play multiple times to create control, steady beat, and speed! When students do not have to concentrate on the notes and rhythm, they can let their fingers fly on the keys.
Then there are more familiar songs with letter names and fast and hold for the rhythm, and another “Write Your Own Song.”
Rhythm for children to learn piano
Now rhythm is introduced, showing the value for the one, two, three, and four-count notes and rests (notice their names are not included). Worksheets follow for the student to fill out, then RHYTHM DRILLS, something not seen in any other method book for this age! I have found even a 4-year-old can play the rhythm drills and count aloud. Playing rhythm drills establishes fluency in reading, counting, and a steady beat. Then there is rhythm dictation, where the student listens and writes the rhythm they hear and a chance to create their own rhythm.
Songs With Big Notes!
Once the rhythm is introduced, familiar songs are given using big notes with the name inside and rhythm for the young piano student to read notes and rhythm.
The left hand is introduced with fingering, songs, exercises, and copycat games to say and play using letter names. A page of rhythm drills is given, then left-hand songs with big notes and rhythm. These are original songs that are written how the left hand typically plays.
Both Hands Playing Songs!
Then as you may guess, both hands are introduced with letter names to start and exercises. And finally, big notes with rhythm to play hands together. There are copy games for hands together that start with both hands playing the same note, then hands playing different notes. The book finishes with both hands playing familiar songs. Each song gets a little more challenging with a total of 33 songs.
“Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too”
This book starts out recapping book 1 at an accelerated pace, so students ages 7 or 8 can begin with this book. After the student completes playing hands together with big notes and rhythm, it then introduces notation for the treble clef notes C-G, worksheets, and four songs. Then the bass cleft C-G notes are taught, worksheets, and four original songs for the left hand, written in the left-hand style. A rhythm drill is included reading both treble and bass clef lines. And finally, six songs with both hands, all original except the last song, “Ode to Joy.”
The beginning of each book has assignment pages, note pages, and large manuscript pages for the student to write songs. The back of the book has a practice chart with points to give the student for passing assignments. And just for fun, there are Christmas songs at the back of both books. The student can play the arrangement for the level they’re in at Christmas time.
By the end of book 2, the young student can play with skill and read fluently in the C position! They’re now ready to progress to our “Drill & Excel On the Piano” series!
I have seen my own young students learn when one concept is taught at a time. The “Color It Say It Play It and Create It” series offers the perfect step-by-step model for the young student to learn and thrive on the piano!
I hope this helps you be the best teacher ever!
Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers for piano and singing method books. The learning model is small steps using drills and repetition, how students think and learn.
Welcome the newest addition: “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too”
“Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too” is the newest addition to Melody Music Publishers. This piano method book for children ages 5-8 is the sequel to “Color It Say It Play It and Create It.”. A student aged 7-8 can start with this book that may be too old for book 1. The beginning steps are taught, so no concepts are missing when starting with this book. It starts with technique, keyboard geography, and exercises, as in book 1. Then it moves onto playing hands together in the C hand position using letter names. As the book continues, it adds rhythm and big notes with the names and rhythm. And finally, the staff’s notes are introduced, starting with the treble clef and bass clef separately, then the grand staff. By the end, the student is playing songs with both hands in the C hand position. And for a bonus, the back of the book has Christmas songs arranged for any part of the book the student may be on at Christmastime.
Copycat games are In the first few pages of the book. This game teaches the young student to “listen” and hear the notes being played. Listening to notes is a great learning skill and helps develop ear training. When a student is concentrating on reading while playing, it’s easy for a student of any age not to “hear” the notes. The first few songs in “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too” are familiar songs with no title. The student plays the notes and has to figure out what the name of the song is. This exercise is fantastic to teach him or her how to listen while playing. The second skill learned with this game is creating a steady beat. When the teacher plays a set of notes with a steady beat, it allows the student to “copy” with the same steady beat, saying the note names aloud. And playing without looking at their hands is emphasized right from the beginning to create this good habit.
Why Start With Letter Names?
Most method books for the young beginner jump right into teaching notes on the staff. However, this skill requires the student to figure out the staff’s note name and then what key to play. Studies have shown that young children have difficulty with this process, and may cause them frustration. Thus, it may cause the student to cancel even before getting started. By starting with reading only the letter names, the young student can play more quickly and helps to develop dexterity in their playing. This book even includes exercises using the letter names, which I’ve never seen in piano method books for this age. The songs start with one hand at a time, then with hands together playing the same notes in each hand. Then the final step is playing different notes in each hand. The letter names go up and down, thereby teaching the concept of notes on a staff, without the student even being aware of it. I have found that a student can easily transition into reading notes on the staff after playing with letter names that ascend and descend.
The next step introduced is rhythm using drills and writing assignments. Rhythm is the element that is the most neglected in method books, especially for young students. However, I believe rhythm is the most critical aspect of playing and reading music. I’ve noticed that when the rhythm is emphasized early in the child’s lessons, they have no problem playing the rhythm correctly as they progress. I also emphasize a steady beat and counting, showing how each beat has a unique feel. There are rhythm drills in “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too” that include clapping to a metronome on different beat numbers. Since rhythm is introduced in a clear yet fun way, it takes the guesswork out of it for the young student.
Combining Rhythm and Note Names
Once they are familiar with the rhythm, the next step is big notes with the rhythm and note names in the center. Once again, the notes ascend and descend to show the logic of the notes on a staff. The student is counting out loud while playing the various notes in the song. By now, the young student remembers where the keys are in their hand position so as to focus on the rhythm. Counting out loud and playing with a steady beat is emphasized, as well as not looking at their hands.
And Finally The Staff
The next and final step is introducing the staff. First, the treble clef notes are taught with worksheets and songs, then the bass clef, and finally, the grand staff. The note names are no longer given in the middle of the note. The first few songs on the grand staff start with both hands playing C to focus on the rhythm. Then the grand staff with random notes but the same notes in each hand with whole notes, then half notes, dotted half notes, and quarter notes. The last and final step is hands playing different notes in each hand, and all the rhythm taught.
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Songs in “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too”
All the songs except two (“Ode to Joy” and “Pop Goes the Weasel”) are original songs. The purpose in writing the songs is to make sure the student is actually reading. While ear training is critical and included in this book, when playing songs, the skill of reading is most important. I wrote the songs to sound fun, so the student will enjoy playing and learning them. Learning to read music also teaches the concept that reading is essential to playing songs they may not be familiar with.
The Next Step
This book helps the young student to smoothly transition into our “Drill & Excel On the Piano” series. All the important concepts are taught. Students seven or eight can continue with “Drill & Excel On the Piano Book 2” which starts with both hands in the C hand position. If the student is seven or younger, I recommend starting with “Drill & Excel On the Piano Book 1”.
Thank You For Choosing “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too”
I appreciate all teachers that order books at Melody Music Publishers. Remember to register if you haven’t already to receive discount codes for free shipping and 50% off your first copy. Then when ordering for your students, you’ll receive free shipping and 20% off all future orders. I wrote these books from my own experience teaching this age group how they think and learn. My hope is the young student will be excited about learning to play the piano and are given the steps needed to succeed for a lifetime. Thank you for doing the best job in the world, sharing your joy and passion for music with others.
Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers. They offer piano and singing method books using small steps and repetition, how students think and learn.