Who Needs Music Readiness?
move swiftly in the teacher’s hands as the students shout, “line, line,
space, line,” holding their index fingers under their noses to show a
line or their hands on either side of their head to represent a space.
“Who would like to play the piece we learned last week?”
All hands eagerly shoot up and everyone cries, “I do!”
Then a line is formed at the piano and each student “copycats”
the teacher by immediately playing the same note pattern and then
walking to the blackboard and drawing a picture of the pattern he or she
played. No one complains about
coming to this lesson.
Jefferson once said that “Music is invaluable where a person has an ear.
It furnishes a delightful recreation for the hours of respite
from cares of the day, and it lasts us through life.
How does a person “get an ear?”
What is needed to develop that ear?
Feierabend stated in a recent article entitled “Music in Early
Childhood”, Design for Arts in
Education 91, no. 6 (July/August 1990):
15-20, “regardless of our ultimate involvement with music, the
success of our musical experiences may depend on the musical nurturing
we received during our pre-school years.”
Much of the current research suggest it is important to begin
early, and recent studies at UCI show how children’s learning in all
areas improves with music study.
of Harvard University has developed a theory of the seven intelligences
in human beings. In his “Project
Zero” research, he is testing a curriculum that studies musical
intelligence as one of seven areas to be developed.
Although the project is not complete, he is discovering the
importance of ongoing music curriculum for optimum growth of musical
intelligence. Edwin Gordon at
Temple University has been exploring the ability of a young person to “audiate”
(his term) or retain musical and rhythmic patterns.
Although Gordon believes each person has a maximum ability to
develop his audiation skill, it appears that without proper stimulation
at the appropriate time in the life cycle, the musical potential will
never be reached. Just like the
chicken who needs to learn to peck at a certain time in its maturation
cycle of certain listening skills at the correct time or these abilities
will be lost forever.
between the ages of three and seven are ready for structured musical
study, but on their own terms.
The use of a keyboard for beginning study has many advantages even
though the child may go on to a different instrument after a music
readiness experience. At the
keyboard, children can easily see what is meant by high and low, can
manipulate the keys to make sounds that are loud and soft, can play fast
or slow, and can depend on accurate pitch reproduction.
With prices dropping on touch-sensitive electronic keyboards,
families may purchase an inexpensive instrument for music readiness even
if no acoustic piano is available in the home.
Singing can also be included in the curriculum, but the
instruction does not depend upon the child’s ability to reproduce
In the past,
small muscle development in the young child has made us wary of starting
music lessons at too early an age.
Physically healthy children are active, like to run and jump, and
have good large muscle development, but small muscle development is
lagging. These facts suggest
sitting the child down with music at a keyboard or other instrument for
even short periods of time may be less than successful.
consider social and intellectual ability too.
This stage of growth is also the period of greatest learning.
Although the attention span is short, enthusiasm to learn and
ability to understand is great.
Furthermore, imagination is never greater.
Socially, the child likes to work in small groups and tries hard
to please the teacher. Relaxed
competition with the teacher and peers is enjoyed.
The child is naturally attracted to music.
in his book, Kindergarten is Too
Late, said that the small child would rather learn than eat and his
greatest source of pleasure is understanding.
Piaget, the well-known child psychologist, taught us the great
importance of conceptual learning for transfer and reapplication to new
situations. Consider the
simplicity that can be used at the very earliest level and spiraled up
to create secure musicianship.
Experiences such as the ones described in the first paragraph of this
article give valuable self-esteem to each student.
Is there also
an advantage to the teacher? The
ability of the students will improve when they have had lots of
experience hearing high and low, recognizing musical and rhythmic
patterns, and feeling a basic beat.
At age ten, then, for example, these students who received early
music study will be more secure in their musicianship and therefore less
likely to drop out. I have had
many opportunities to enjoy the secure musicianship of students who have
participated in one or two years of music readiness before beginning
formal piano lessons in my studio.
They have the ability to retain long musical patterns by ear and
create their own compositions in many styles.
interested enough to give lessons to their young children take education
seriously and will want to give their children a long-term music
education. Because music is not
available in many schools, it is more important than ever that the
private studio teacher educate the children of the community.
Otherwise, music will gradually lose importance and private music
teachers will find it increasingly difficult to find and keep good
young children have a relaxed atmosphere that helps students associate
pleasure with the study of music.
They learn because they want to
rather than because they have to.
Children this age learn surprisingly well in small groups.
They can be active or passive, and they do not need the extreme
concentration required at private lessons.
practical side, lessons for young children can be scheduled in daytime
hours not available to school age children.
Once a curriculum is developed by the teacher, it can be used
with only slight variation. In
addition, the teacher can earn a higher hourly rate when charging for a
to Include at Each Lesson
Here are some
specific areas that each lesson should include.
Understanding comes best after the child has experienced a
concept. Ear training exercises
will help the child distinguish between high and low using the extreme
ends of the keyboard. As these
exercises become more sophisticated, the child is able to hear patterns
which become gradually higher or lower.
children believe that high means loud and low means soft, perhaps caused
by a parent saying, “turn that T.V. lower!”
This confusion and others can be removed from the child’s mind.
be repeated, sequenced and inverted.
Copycat playing and clapping can develop awareness of musical
structure. Knowing the names of
the keys helps students learn the music alphabet, and the geography of
the horizontal keyboard more easily transfers visually to the vertical
resource book, written by Machiko Yurko and published by Alfred
Publishing Company, is called No H in Snake.
It has endless ideas for many kids of activities including drills
of ABC order. The child can see
high and low, can experience moving up and down by steps , then skips,
then greater intervals.
can include not only feeling a basic pulse and moving faster and slower
to the beat, but rhythmic patterns can be shown first as blank notation
and finally as traditional notes with time value.
The short lines become quarter notes and longer lines become half
and whole notes. Rhythmic
patterns can be extended into patterns with rhythm and shape, and easily
transferred to the grand staff.
reading can be introduced. A
simple pattern such as the one found in “Three Blind Mice” can be
learned in blank notation and then gradually transferred to the staff.
This simple pattern can also be transposed and inverted for
endless creative experiences.
Lots of drill
with right and left hand recognition and finger number recognition is
possible. The importance of good
hand position can be stressed by helping the child first brace his
pointed finger with his thumb and gradually work into three- and later
five-finger patterns, with curved strong fingers.
In addition, long term drill with the right hand numbers going up
12345 and the left hand numbers going up 54321 will help those who wish
to progress to further keyboard study understand this confusing problem.
Perhaps the most important part of this age group’s strength is the development of natural improvisation skills every child has. Improvisation exercises can be structured in the two- or four-measure question and answer, or as in the creation of short motives to represent characters in a story similar to “Peter and the Wolf.” It can also be free-form where the student “tells a story” by the choices he makes on the keyboard using a mixture of high or low, loud or soft, and fast or slow sounds. Other students can interpret the story being played, developing their listening and creative thinking skills at the same time the performers are using their imaginations.
Your Back on a Four Year Old!”
from well-known music educator Robert Pace has helped me and many other
teachers remember to carefully plan our weekly lessons.
The success of any program will depend on the choice of materials
and the preparation of the teacher.
Lessons plans are essential.
It is very
helpful to read extensively about physical and mental characteristics of
younger children. Good current
information on music education for young children is available from the
Music Educators National Conference, 1806 Robert Fulton Drive, Reston,
Articles appear in national magazines such as
American Music Teacher,
M.T.N.A., Music Educators Journal
(M.E.N.C.), and Keyboard
Companion. Teacher training
classes are available in Orff-Schulwerk and Dalcroze Eurythymics to help
with ideas about teaching movement.
Comprehensive Musicianship classes that develop strategy in
structuring information in small group settings use excellent materials
developed by Robert and Helen Pace and are available in many cities
around the world. The Paces’
books, Music for Moppets,
Moppets’ Rhythms and Rhymes
and Kinder-Keyboard have
helpful teacher’s manuals. Music
stores offer workshops in new materials; colleges provide classes in
piano pedagogy. It is important
to be open to new ideas and to keep current on what is available.
Developmentally Appropriate Material
“Developmentally appropriate” is the current buzz word used for
curriculum that is prepared for a specific age child.
The following should be considered when you are choosing
materials for your students. Is
the material prepared for the age group you plan to teach or are you
trying to take level one material and simplify them?
What is the visual impact of the book?
Illustrations for young children are far more easily understood
than long verbal explanations.
Black and white illustrations allow children to color the picture
themselves, allowing them to develop their small muscle coordination
while personalizing the book.
A book that
sits horizontally rather than vertically on the keyboard is much easier
for a young child to manipulate and reach.
The notation should be simple, and the teacher must understand
what the writer intended.
childhood materials have a teacher’s manual to accompany the child’s
book. Read it carefully.
The materials should show movement up and down as on the grand
staff and proceed in a sequential manner.
learning should be stressed. The
materials should be process-oriented, not product-oriented.
Just because a child can play a piece does not necessarily mean
he understands what he is playing.
If the process is good, the product will also be good.
The materials used should correlate with the level one materials.
If a multi-key approach is used for instrument study, it should
be the basis of the readiness study.
Melodies should be familiar and appealing but beware of the
cute-little-song approach that has no real substance in developing the
understanding of basic concepts.
scheduling is important. If it
can be arranged, shorter lessons (30 minutes) twice a week are more
effective than one longer lesson (45 to 60 minutes) for this age child.
Parent help at home is necessary, but the parent should function
as a co-learner, not the teacher.
Parents can be
expected to attend regularly scheduled open classes about every six
weeks and should work with the teacher in a separate session where no
children are present. Even if
parents have had the opportunity to study music themselves, the methods
used today will be quite different from their experience.
For parents with no background, the joy of learning music for the
first time can be experienced along with the child.
If you as a
teacher feel this type of program would be helpful to your students but
you are not comfortable teaching this age group, find a teacher in your
area who enjoys working with young children.
Team up with that teacher and arrange to have the students
transfer to you at the end of their early music classes.
This is a win/win situation.
The students come to you well prepared because the basics have
been well taught. The teacher of
younger students will be able to fill the classes each year and not have
to worry about the exponential factor of having too many students after
a few years to permit new level one classes to be formed.
"Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song." Psalms 95:2
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music." Psalms 98:4