Singing is at the heart of all we do as pianists. At The Curious Piano Teachers we make no apology for stating that it is a theme that we will be returning to again and again!
Today, we want to:
- explain the rationale for placing it centre stage
- present some of the research that reinforces its importance
- share with you one of our favourite beginner songs.
So why should we sing first in early piano lessons? Another way of making some sense of this is to ask ‘would you consider introducing very young children to the written word before they had learnt to talk with some fluency?’ Of course the answer is no!
By singing simple songs children are given the opportunity to build up mental representations of musical sound. This includes rhythmic and melodic patterns, sensitivity to dynamics and a sense for phrase structure. These ‘mental blueprints’ (Kohut, 1996) are often missing in children today, unless they have musically interested parents or a school that provides a positive musical environment.
By using a sing first approach we create a common pool of pieces; the songs might start with just two pitches, gradually building to three, four and then five. This is equivalent to young children starting to read with simple words before progressing to longer and more complicated ones. Numerous music educators (Bamberger, Kohut, Schleuter, Suzuki, Kodaly, Dalcroze etc.) recommend that beginner instrumentalists should start by playing known songs by ear before being introduced to written notation.
All this, of course, is easier said than done – we know it is hard to move away from something that feels quite secure and safe into an area that might possibly feel uncomfortable at times and a little dangerous.
But, to be honest as a profession we simply have to do this. In today’s contemporary society we need to embrace contemporary ways of teaching because at the moment we are failing too many children! We’re sorry to be frank but the statistics show that the majority of children stop learning the piano after about Grade 3 and their early encounters with notation often play a large part in their decision to stop. But this situation doesn’t have to continue, together we can change it.
STATISTICS SHOW THAT THE MAJORITY OF CHILDREN STOP LEARNING PIANO AFTER GRADE 3 - SALLY CATHCARTTweet quote
So here is a very short video introducing you to Once a man fell in a well. In this I will be giving you some strategies for teaching the song and really engaging your pupil in the learning process.
In next week’s blog we will be sharing with you some ways that you can develop the song both through singing and at the piano and you will be able to download the score of the music complete with a teacher’s accompaniment.