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Easy pieces to show my daughter

Posted: 30 Sep 2010, 09:42
by scrouch

I posted last month about my three and a half year old who wants to learn to play the piano. I was able to find a suitable teacher and she is now going every other week for lessons and she loves it. So far she has learnt some scales, intervals and has done a bit of note reading and is learning to play some songs by copying her teacher. They do a lot of playing together and she simply beams when she knows it is time for her lesson.

I have updated the website to show what she is doing now.

She still prefers to play by ear but more recently has been trying to do more with her left hand and is looking for notes which fit instead of her constant one or two notes in the left so there has definitely been progress where that is concerned.

I was wondering if any of you could suggest some easy pieces which I might be able to find on youtube for example which would be easy enough for her to copy and which she could figure out left hand notes quite easily to.

Thanks in advance.


Re: Easy pieces to show my daughter

Posted: 03 Oct 2010, 09:43
by Colin Nicholson
Dear Sanna

Regrettably this is not the right way to go about your daughter learning the piano by "copying" tunes from Youtube - this will come later. She should also be having a lesson every week, not every other week as kids mostly forget what was learnt the week before. I unfortunately get quite a bit of "Parental Contravention" (putting it nicely), whereby when I teach a particular child, when they get home, their Mum tells them different. You have a prodigy on your hands, and she needs to be taught the correct way from the start - also how to sit at the piano/ on a cushion/ deportment is vital at an early age - not sitting on their feet or wriggling during playing!! How old is she now? Is she learning from a book? Sorry for interfering, but why is she learning scales & intervals at that age?????? - blimey, you need to sort out a good piano teacher, and work from a book - preferably "Me and My Piano" - Book 1 by Waterman & Harewood - and her lessons need to be more visual - eyes on the music, and using the correct fingers. She sounds great, but please remember this golden rule - best to learn easy tunes well & accurately rather than more difficult tunes played with mistakes, hesitations and wrong notes - otherwise this will never be rid of in her playing when she is older - trust me, I've been teaching since 1981.

I have a 13 year old pupil who used to play like that when she was 8, it took me just 6 months to get rid of her bad habits - "playing by ear" is good at times, but not recognised during the basic early learning processes of a child - please think about this carefully, you are UNDOING her structured lessons!

Hope that helps

Re: Easy pieces to show my daughter

Posted: 03 Oct 2010, 17:35
by scrouch
Thanks for the advice. I do not consider it to be interfering at all.

Alanna is three years and nine months now.

Her teacher is a pianist in London. He does not normally take students under 6 but he has agreed to teach her after she had a trial a few weeks ago. She has had three lessons so far. At the trial he listened to her playing some songs she had learnt by ear, he also got her to read a bit of music with C and D in the right hand and C and B in the left. I am not sure what book he used during the trial. He asked her to find different notes on the piano and got her to identify notes he played. He also got her to try to find notes which he played. They did some loud and soft playing and some aural games.

At her first lesson they worked on twinkle twinkle. She could play the melody already but kept adding a constant C in the left hand. They worked on moving between C and G in the left. Then she played some other songs she had learnt by ear and he added accompaniment so she could get a feel for what the music would sound like with appropriate left hand notes. Then he showed her how to do a five finger 'scale' starting thumbs together on C and starting thumb of rd on c, little finger of lh on low C. She had to work on the second one.

The next lesson they worked on some more nursery rhymes she knew and he showed her how to do C major crossing. She could do it going up but found going down tricky so that was her homework. She came home and worked and worked until she could get it done and then started trying it on other notes and figured out that she needed to add sharps and flats. He also introduced intervals and she was able to play intervals he asked by counting the notes and soon was able to say what intervals they were by listening to the sound they made.

At her last lesson she played C major, G major and D major for him and he said she could try A on her own which she has done and has tried E as well and F. She has figured out the notes for F but not the fingering.

Here are the videos of her doing some scales ... 0/09:01:58 ... 0/09:02:16
Through the scales she has been learning to play more evenly and to really listen to find the correct sounds and she enjoys doing them.

When she is practising seriously at home I do make sure she sits properly and at her lessons her teacher focuses on correct posture and positioning of her hands. When she is figuring out how to play a song by ear however she prefers to lie on the bench and tells me she needs to hear the notes not see them but once she has figured out the notes then she sits upright. Someone on the abrsm forum pointed out that when she sits on her legs she puts her hands in the correct position to play whereas if she sits flat she would have to work at lifting her wrists. I will try keeping one side of the bench raised and see if that changes things.

Right now her piano lessons are in London (an hr and a half travelling for us) and the lesson is not cheap so we can only afford to go every other week. I do take notes during the lesson of what they are covering and at the end of the lesson I ask the teacher specifically what she needs to work on for the next lesson. Alanna is also very dedicated and once she gets home runs to the piano and runs through what she did in the class. If I ask her to do her scales she will sit and do every one she has learnt and if she makes mistakes will repeat them so I don't think she is losing out yet by having the lessons spaced out. We know it is not ideal but I prefer to have them as they are than to not have any at all.

To be honest I am very happy with her teacher. She looks forward to her lessons and even after the long journey she concentrates for the thirty minutes. He knows when to push her on to something new and when to let her have a couple minutes playing her own songs. I have seen a big improvement in her playing of melodies by ear because whereas before she would jump up the notes with her little finger if she ran out of fingers she now tries to cross with her fingers although it is not consistent yet. The week she learnt about intervals she came home and started experimenting with adding different chords in songs to see which ones sounded good so I can see how she is using the information she has been learning. I also think that since her listening skills are strong that it makes sense to find someone who can help her develop those alongside the reading of the music and not ignore them completely.

We had trials with some persons in our area and they all admitted they had not taught a child as young as Alanna before and it did show in the way some of them interacted with her so although she did what they asked her to do she did not enjoy the lessons much. We had a gentleman who flicked her on the forehead if she made a mistake and that was not the approach I was looking for at all. All he did in the lesson was make her sight read and when she tried to get him to improvise or play an accompaniment with her he ignored her attempts and just kept bringing her back to the music when she had just had enough of readiing the notes.

I had also asked on abrsm forums when I was looking for a piano teacher and since most of the piano teachers in our area don't take students younger than 6, it was suggested that we find a suzuki piano teacher and through that method she would have learnt to play through listening, watching and imitation to begin with. I understand the importance of reading the music but at her age although she does concentrate for long periods she does not enjoy reading the music as much as she does just playing. A lady who teaches musically talented children told me my focus should be finding someone who understands Alanna's creativity and who will not put so much focus on reading the notes and technique that they destroy her enthusiasm. She suggested introducing reading the notes gradually and not letting that take over the lesson at this stage.

Since the Suzuki piano method was suggested that is why I wondered if getting her to copy some tunes would help once she practises them properly of course. Here is a link to her playing the first piece she actually practised regularly. Someone taught her to sing the song and she started to play the tune and then she was taught some of the left hand. She came home and tried adding more to the left hand and the teacher made the printed music of her version of the song so she can see what she has been playing. She has been practising this piece for two weeks now. ... 3/07:38:04
We've been working on playing evenly and not rushing the notes.

At Alanna's last lesson her teacher introduced her to Me and My Piano book 1 and she played the first few songs easily and then he turned to Chimes and she played that. He asked me to see if I could purchase the book which I did the same day and he said she could try to work on some pieces at home and at her next lesson he would see what she prepared.
Here are the links to her playing some of those pieces.
Spaceman ... 3/11:55:14
Chimes ... 3/11:55:36
Jungle Drums ... 3/11:58:00
Pussy Cat ... 3/12:00:44

She can follow the music on her own but sometimes loses her place. I know she tends to pause at the end of the lines but that is encouraging for me because it shows me she is reading the music as opposed to memorizing the songs which she did do with some other books and I would have to ask her to start at different points of the song to see if she was reading the notes.

The other pieces on the website are bits and pieces she has tried putting together on her own which we have not focused on working on. Her teacher showed her the right hand to part of 'Heart and Soul' but then he played the entire piece for her. He said he wanted her to really want to play the song and his approach worked because as soon as she came home she tried putting the hands together from what she remembered. I am sure he will have to work on timing and correct fingering this week but she took the initiative. She has also tried adding her own chords in the right hand and changing up the tune a bit.

I appreciate any suggestions which are made.

Re: Easy pieces to show my daughter

Posted: 03 Oct 2010, 22:03
by Colin Nicholson
Thanks for your detailed reply - wow! I am sure your daughter will do really well on the piano. Yes I agree about her sitting on her feet at her age - it helps to keep their arms balanced well - perhaps a cushion might work aswell? Some of my "little ones" also put their feet on a box - this sometimes help to support them when playing. Ikea do plastic steps/ boxes for kids!!

Sorry you have to travel so far, and I obviously understand the financial side of things, but you must all be dedicated to travel that far. Anyway, good to chat - reason I am a little 'sceptical' about some parents is not their general help & support - thats great, but a pupil who I recently entered in for his grade 1 (aged 7) - his Mum took it upon herself to get her son to learn ALL the melodic minor scales aswell!! when only the harmonic versions are recommended for the earlier grades - but never mind, they'll come in handy for a later grade!!

Keep up the good work