musical three and a half year old

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scrouch
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musical three and a half year old

Post by scrouch » 07 Aug 2010, 22:50

Hi,

I have a three and a half year old who has been asking for piano lessons for over a year now. I'd really like some advice about what would be best for her. She has always been a musical child. I have a video of her when she was one and a half and she was singing along to the alphabet song but she was not singing the melody she was adding her own harmony to the song.

We have a piano at home and a few months ago she started playing tunes like Mary had a little lamb by ear and more recently she has been playing more songs by ear and is also trying to add chords and is experimenting with sharps and flats. She makes me laugh because she plays her own compositions and then says 'Mummy do you know what that song was?' and when I ask her to tell me what it is she gives me a long explanation like 'It was about little Milly running through the woods and then the wolf got her'. She recognises bits of one song which are similar to another song and will start off playing one song and then do an improvisation in the middle and merge into another similar song for the ending.

Here is a link to some videos of her playing.

http://www.dropshots.com/jadaii8

For the moment I just leave her when she plays. She is on the piano for at least an hour to two hours of her own will through out the course of the day. She might be drawing a picture and then her left hand will start to move as if she is playing the piano and she will jump up from the table and go to the piano for 30 mins or so and then come back to the table.

Would you suggest getting lessons for her from someone who has experience teaching young children or should I just leave her and let her progress naturally?

Thanks in advance.

Sanna

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: musical three and a half year old

Post by Colin Nicholson » 08 Aug 2010, 10:27

Hi Sanna

Is this your daughter I wonder? - very gifted at such a young age.
I have been teaching piano for over 30 years, and occasionally come across a 'natural talent' (I also taught all the 'Gareth Gates' family including Gareth, back in 1995 - 2002)

I think she may be a bit young yet for 'proper' lessons, some may disagree with me, but I have been asked, nagged and virtually forced to teach a young girl aged 9 recently. When she started lessons, she didn't expect to have to count crotchet rhythms!! or learn rhymes for the lines & spaces - it was just too much of a chore for her, so she gave up, sorry to say. I wonder, is she actually reading or learning from the book on the piano, or is it just there in a way to copy someone? Sometimes then when teachers starting 'pointing' at things like, Treble Clef/ Bass Clef/ time signatures etc., they are not really focussed on that just yet, and their hand span & level of concentration needs to widen first.

You could always try out a couple of lessons, say around 20 mins each - you never know, but at that age, I would let her just carry on, as lessons at that young age may not necessarily improve her technique just yet, and sometimes parents think that if my daughter had some lessons, she would dramatically improve - not always the case, and things can back-fire, like the 9 year old.

I usually start teaching kids around the age of 5+ , but the choice is yours.

As a general rule, the best age (I feel) to start pupils is around 7 years old. As they progress and work through a syllabus, most of my pupils at the age of say 9 or 10 are ready to sit their Grade 1. I recently just had a 7 year old do his grade 1, and passed with distinction - but his aural awareness and theory knowledge at this age was non-existant. When they eventually start to go through "the grades" - (as a general rule) - if you add a 1 to the last digit of their age, and is a guide of what grade they should be at, but depends on progress & practise. So my 7 year old pupil at the moment is about 3 years ahead of schedule!! As they get older - say around the age of 16, they may decide to further their music & go to a music college, and to compete in festivals (at their age group), some teachers say they have to be at the right age for the grade - so a 16 year old would be about Grade 7 standard.
Some of this is snubbed, but I find it a good structure to go by.

A teacher will also "spin out" many lessons for the very young beginner so to ensure that they catch up with other aspects of their learning studies, such as sight reading, aural tests, scales & the dreaded theory of music!

At the age of 3 and a half, well, they will be in a little world of their own - trust me, and once you "snap them out of it" with regular lessons, things can go pear shaped.
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scrouch
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Re: musical three and a half year old

Post by scrouch » 08 Aug 2010, 11:14

Thanks for the response Colin.

It is my daughter in the videos. She is not playing from the book. She plays by ear. Her older sister plays a bit and my younger likes to put the books on the piano when she is playing and pretend she is using the book. She has been asking to learn what the notes are and has some understanding of c, d, e in the right hand and c, b, a in the left but prefers to play by ear.

I too am a bit wary of getting her started in lessons for that exact reason.. that they might put her off . I am sorry to hear about the little girl who decided to stop her lessons. It might be that she decides in a few months that she is ready to try again.

I do wonder though if some lessons would help with my little one's development. As you saw in the videos she has started trying to put some notes in the left hand whereas a couple months ago she was only playing with her right hand and she is experimenting with sharps and flats as well. Is there anything I could do to help her develop her left hand more? When she does her own 'compositions' she does a lot more with her left hand but not when she is playing songs by ear. Is this something which will come naturally in time?

Sanna

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Re: musical three and a half year old

Post by Gill the Piano » 08 Aug 2010, 17:43

There are musical playgroups which your library or local music shop will know about. The children learn about rhythm and pitch and so on in an environment suited to young children - babies up to just about preschool, i think.
Playing by ear is good in some ways but also means that she may find the discipline of adhering to the dots on the page a bit stifling. However, playing without music can be limiting, ultimately. She'll be able to play nursery rhymes at an impressively young age, but when it comes to Beethoven...she'll need to read the dots. The earlier you can get her a lesson (or half a lesson, depends on her attention span!) the better...but you'll have to choose the teacher very carefully. Many of them have an arbitrary cut-off age below which they will NOT teach - often seven. This is because of attention span...but the important thing is that she has been asking for lessons. I started at 4, but it wasn't all fluffy bunnies and colouring in when I started a hundred years ago. The books are far more child-friendly now. The choice of teacher is hugely important and requires meticulous research. If she goes to nursery, ask there. If you get her into a music playgroup, definitely ask there. If you go to church, ask the organist who is often v. knowledgeable about local musicians. Or ask the music teacher at the local infant school. A local music shop may be able to help, or there are piano teachers listed on this site. They MUST want to - and be able to - teach a young child. Not every teacher can.
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: musical three and a half year old

Post by Colin Nicholson » 08 Aug 2010, 19:00

Hi again,
Yeh, in my years of teaching, I have never seen a 'piano book' aimed at a 3 to 4 year old pupil - it just doesn't happen. For the young beginner, about age of 6-7, I use "Me and My Piano" book 1 by Fanny Waterman & Marion Harewood. Even some parts of this book are quite 'technical' when it comes to 'up-beats' (The Ostrich tune), and the theory secion 'Monkey Puzzles' Kids often just like to look at the pictures, and laugh when they see the monkey hanging from the top of the page --- I know, I teach a 6 year old aswell!! I am also pretty certain to say that there is no special teacher out there to teach from any book at the age of 3 - alot of teaching at that age is 'impromptu' stuff - like I teach my young ones "catchy tunes" - and I just write the letter names in their exercise book, things like Chopsticks, Spooky Tune (being careful to keep them in easy keys!), and tunes like the opening of the Pink Panther, Harry Potter and other well-known ditties.

I noticed that your daughter has naturally started to 'add' a left hand bass (rather like a kiddy continuo!) - this is great to see, and even though it may just drone away on the note C, so what, it shows co-ordination skills are natural. At this age though, to even play tunes in 'unison' (and left hand adopting the rule of 6), can be quite daunting for a kid.

The girl aged 9 who desparately wanted lessons, not her parents, but her asking me (after I partly restored their piano), I put her onto the Waterman Piano Lessons Book 1, and when asked her if she wanted to learn the proper way, she said "yes please Mr Nicholson" (bless) - then a couple of weeks into the lessons, I got her counting aloud a crotchet beat, then clapping it, then on one note (mixed with little tunes), and sometimes the look of horror on her face when we started to count the minim - she couldn't grasp it, and frequently let go of the note too early or too late.

Yes, as Gill says, a music group may be the initial answer, but you never know, you may have a child prodigy out there - so seek a good teacher. Even the best qualified teachers in the world are not necessarily good SOLID teachers, and some don't think 'kid logic' !! - and some just plod along using a book, coz they know no different.

Could be another version of Lang Lang!!
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Re: musical three and a half year old

Post by samasap » 12 Aug 2010, 14:10

Hi,
Your daughter sounds like she could be a very talented pianist. And if its something she is enjoying and loves, then certainly go ahead and find a piano teacher, but maybe one that is use to teaching very young children.

The teacher would need to get her playing pieces that she is familiar with and that she enjoys!!!

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Re: musical three and a half year old

Post by Zoe » 21 Aug 2010, 15:53

Hi
Although I do not use the method myself in teaching, I have heard about the Suzuki method being excellent for very young pupils. It may be worth you contacting a Suzuki teacher and asking their advice.
Good luck!

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