Showing posts with label method books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label method books. Show all posts

11.11.2022

๐Ÿ“• Why I Stopped Teaching Music for Little Mozarts to Preschool Students: A Detailed Review of Level 1

November 11, 2022 0 Comments

According to the Foreword of the music lesson book, Music for Little Mozarts "was designed to provide a balance between the discipline necessary for playing the [piano] and the enjoyment one gets from the process of music-making" (p. 2). 

The FAQ on Alfred.com says, "When a student completes Level 4 of Music for Little Mozarts, they should continue in Alfred's Premier Piano Course, Level 1B. Note that it may require some extra work by the teacher on naming notes and moving around the keyboard." The authors expect that completion of Music for Little Mozarts will take about 2-years.

This review is for Level 1 of the Music For Little Mozarts series. 

Music for Little Mozarts: Music Lesson Book 1

Rating: ⭐⭐ (out of 5)

Pros

  • Adorable concept complete with original characters and a narrative on each lesson book page
  • Uses stuffed animals as a teaching tool for young students
  • Easy for parents to help their student practice; detailed instructions and steps are included for each song
  • Appealing for 3-year-olds as well
  • Holistic music approach incorporating movement, singing in solfรจge, and coloring activities in the supplementary books

Cons

  • Overall expected cost will exceed $100 if you buy the lesson book and two core books for levels 1-4
  • Long and boring
  • Might not appeal to older 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds

General Overview

Grand Staff Reading: No songs use the Grand Staff. 

Approach to Note Reading: Pre-staff notation only, directional by step. Notes move higher and lower on the page to show melody contour.  The contour is more subtle than in the Faber pre-staff notation volumes. It's harder to distinguish that the note is moving. 

Method of counting: Unit counting

Hand Position: Each page has a picture of the piano keyboard with finger numbers and later note names. Thumbs Share C is the only hand position that is introduced. 

Technique: Posture and hand shape are introduced in the first lesson. These concepts are not reinforced throughout the method. 

Complete range of piano: Only in activities at the beginning comparing the high and low sides of the piano and playing glissandos up and down the keyboard. 

Fingering: All notes have finger numbers even if they are repeated until piano key letter names are introduced.

Adequate reinforcement of concepts: Yes.

Rate of progression: Very slow

Logical Sequence: Yes

Pieces: In the lesson book, short original songs and one folksong fragment with lyrics. The compact disk sold separately narrates the written story in the book and provides a backing track for the songs. If you subscribe to the Piano Maestro app, the songs are also included. Sometimes the students play along with the entire track, sometimes they play a fragment, such as just the E-I-E-Os in Old MacDonald. The Discovery Book includes full songs intended to be movement or rhythm activities. 

Familiar Folksongs in the Music Discovery Book 1:

  • If You're Happy and You Know It
  • Finger Play Song
  • Hickory, Dickory, Dock!
  • Mexican Hat Dance
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Composers and Compositions Introduced in the Music Discovery Book 1:
  • Beethoven - Rage over the Lost Penny
  • Mozart - Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Sousa - Stars and Stripes Forever
  • Mozart - Minuet in F Major
  • Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor

Varied styles: No

Harmonically interesting: No

Concepts:
  • Dynamics: Clear explanation; forte and piano only. Beethoven Bear represents loud sounds and Mozart Mouse represents soft sounds. Forte and piano are interspersed throughout the book, but pieces are either one or the other.  
  • Tempo: No
  • Phrasing: No
  • Articulations: No
  • Pedal: No
  • Harmony: No
  • Form: No

Theory: Music Workbook, Notespeller & Sight-play Book, and Rhythm Speller are separate purchases. The Lesson Book has keyboards printed for coloring in the introduced piano keys, but no other written activities.

Composition: No. 

Improvisation: No.

Ear Training: Yes, in Music Workbook.

Sight-reading: Yes, in Notespeller & Sight-Play book. 

Duets: Yes, high quality. 25 of 25 songs have duets.

Private or Group Lessons: Group or private.

In-person or Virtual: Either

Levels in Series: The Music for Little Mozarts Core Levels are 1, 2, 3, and 4. The student will be ready for Level 1 of Piano Adventures upon completion of Level C. 

Supplementary Materials: A plethora of accompanying books per level, coloring books, flash cards, 7 cheaply made plush toys and probably more. 

Visual Appeal: Low to Medium. Pastel, watercolor illustrations. The character designs are cute. Printing size is very small. The keyboard depicting hand position is three-dimensional on most pages and a bit hard to decipher sometimes.  The hands are drawn next to the music line.

Daunting: No

Audience: Young students, ages 4-6

Audio: On CD, on Piano Maestro (subscription based), or Apple Music (subscription based).

Publisher Preview: Music For Little Mozarts (Alfred.com)

Additional Support for Teachers from the Publisher: Teacher's Handbook for Levels 1&2

My experience: I came across this method at the sheet music store at which I worked about 8 years ago. A local piano teacher came often to pick up cute stuffed animals every few weeks. I thought it was adorable. 

Previously, I would try to teach preschool students with the typical piano method recommended by my lesson coordinator, Bastien. It was not designed for preschoolers. I found it particularly effective to use her stuffed bunny to teach her. She would listen to me if I used the stuffed animal as a puppet to instruct her. 

At a later job, my coordinator pushed me to take on two 3-year-old boys who were brothers. I picked this method for them hoping that the Mozart Mouse and small bear stuffed animals would keep them engaged. However, I do believe that 3-year-olds are bit too young to begin independent piano lessons because of short attention spans and beginner verbal and written language skills. Eventually I was able to progress my students through level 1 and 2 of this series.

Closing Thoughts:

For very, very young students, Music for Little Mozarts is a non-threatening introduction to the keyboard. It is intended for group lessons and much of the supplementary activities are similar to early childhood group classes. 

The songs are only 4 measures long (8 if you include the repeats) from the beginning to the end of the book and the introduction of new concepts is very slow. For very young students and students on the older side of the age range who may have learning struggles, this is a good series. 

But from the perspective of me as the teacher and my young daughter when I began trying preschool methods with her, I've found this method to be pretty boring and frustrating because of the cost to give the full intended experience of the method. 

The books mention the stuffed animal characters frequently, and not just as characters, but as learning tools. The instructions on many of the songs in this book, for example, start with "Place Mozart Mouse..." or "Place Beethoven Bear...". The stuffed animals are typically very small and they cost $7.99 each. The lesson book and supplementary books are approximately $8.99 each. I think that this is unfortunately a money grab. This series has three different authors, so I understand the need to charge enough to cover paying for their content, but the expectation for each child to have multiple books and collect the stuffed animals is saddening to me at such a high price point. 

Have you used Music For Little Mozarts? If so, what was your experience? What are other options of preschool methods you have tried? 

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

-Jenny

Music for Little Mozarts: A Piano Course to Bring Out the Music in Every Young Child 

© 1999 Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. (Distributor: Alfred)

  • Music Lesson Book 1

4.07.2022

๐Ÿ“š 8 Curriculum Must-Haves for Beginner Piano Lessons ๐Ÿ‘ฉ‍๐Ÿซ

April 07, 2022 0 Comments
8 Curriculum Must-Haves for Beginner Piano Lessons

Beginner piano lessons are foundational for music reading skills, healthy technique, and audiating music. While there are many great resources for teaching beginner piano, the following have been effective and engaging for my students. Listed below are my beginner piano curriculum must-haves. 

1. Piano Adventures Method

8 Curriculum Must-Haves for Beginner Piano Lessons: Piano Adventures Method
The Piano Adventures Basic Method is comprised of 8 levels (Primer, Level 1, Level 2A, Level 2B, Level 3A, Level 3B, Level 4, and Level 5). There are 4 core books per level; I typically assign two. Recently, I have chosen the Technique & Artistry books. The exercises provided are fun and give detailed instructions and fun illustrations for executing many different articulations in a healthy way. 

I appreciate the progressive difficultly of reading skills, the colorful pictures, and the amusing lyrics in this series. It also has backing tracks for each piece for free on the Piano Adventures Digital Cloud.  Many duets are written in the books for the teacher and student to play together. I love the duets because I believe providing ensemble experience is a cornerstone of music education.  

In addition to the Basic Method for elementary-aged children, Piano Adventures has additional methods specially designed for preschoolers, teenagers, and adults. They are adapted to the learning styles of each age group and enter into the Basic Method at various points. For example, the adult method prepares beginner pianists for Lesson Book 3B in the basic method. 

Click here for a PDF showing all of the Piano Adventures publications and how they relate. Stay tuned for reviews of the various method series from Faber Piano Adventures

2. Alfred Complete Color-Coded Flashcards
Alfred Complete Color-Coded Flashcards

This set has 89 cards. This deck has all the concepts a beginner student will learn in the method books. They reinforce note reading on the treble and bass clefs, common musical terms, rhythms symbols, and articulations. 

To use the Alfred Complete Color-Coded Flashcards, I mark the answer side with a color-coded number. The colors match the Piano Adventures book in which the concept is first introduced and the number matches the unit.  This way during a lesson, I can quickly pull the current flashcards.

3. Note Rush app 

Note Rush App Icon
Note Rush is a cool app for quizzing notes on any instrument. Using various themes, such as bugs, outer space, and holidays, Note Rush shows you notes on the grand staff one by one and hears you play the note. You do not need a MIDI cable to use this app, but it does have that feature if you would like it.  You are able to turn the timed test feature on and off and build your own quizzes that can be shared with your student to practice at home via a link or QR code. 

4. Board Games

Ice Cream Intervals by Joy Morin Example
My favorite resource for music games is Joy Morin's Color In My Piano blog. My favorite games are Grand Staff Pass, Ice Cream Intervals, and The Amazing Keyboard Race. Another resource I have is The Big Book of Music Games that has games to copy, color, and assemble on file folders. While it is more geared toward general music class, it has many games suitable for 2 players as well. 

5. Elective Book

Faber Supplementary Library
I firmly believe in providing students with additional piano literature outside of the method books. The more the better and I do count working on extra music as practice time. The reason is that self-guided learning in conjunction with enthusiasm for the music quickly builds neural passageways and takes away the drudgery that can often accompany the thought of an upcoming practice session.

As I think back to learning how to play piano, I loved having a library of piano books at my level and beyond. I pushed myself to learn "My Heart Will Go On" from a book of popular piano songs.  I worked on the Faber ShowTime to BigTime Library series books spanning pop, jazz, classical arrangements, ragtime, hymns and Christmas music.  The experience I gained from regularly playing for enjoyment allowed me to progress through intermediate piano literature very quickly. I love to lend my books to my students and I also encourage them to build a music library at home comprised of exciting music books.

6. Theory Worksheets

The Staff, Clefs, and Ledger Lines Worksheet
There are many theory books available for students, but personally, I enjoy making my own curriculum or finding free worksheets from other piano teachers. The most helpful resource for creating my own curriculum has been Joy Morin's Music Symbols Pack. You can drag and drop the symbols from the file into a word processor and create very professional and polished worksheets for your students. I have assigned theory lessons from MusicTheory.net and created an accompanying worksheet to have the student apply the information learned practically. I love MusicTheory.net because it also allows you to build your own theory quizzes and share the link with your students to use on their computers at home. 

7. Music Learning Theory 

Have you ever experienced a piano student adding an extra beat to the last note of each measure in 3/4 time?  What about a student who is unable to distinguish D major from D minor, missing the F# each time and not even noticing? If so, I believe understanding and implementing the concepts of Music Learning Theory by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon will be very helpful to your students. 

I was introduced to Music Learning Theory by my elementary school general music teacher.  We would sing major and minor patterns and chant rhythms.  When I was older, I read a post on the Color in my Piano blog (if you haven't noticed, I adore this blog), about Music Learning Theory and immediately recalled my elementary music classes. I firmly believe in the importance of teaching piano students to sing because it prevents simply decoding the notes to press the correct "buttons".  I have had transfer students unable to tell if they missed a note and unable to feel the difference between duple and triple meters.

The resources on The Improving Musician website are very helpful tools for learning to audiate various tonalities. Check out this resource explaining the process. 

8. Exploring Improvisation and Composition

I have not yet created a printed curriculum for improvisation and composition, but I am brainstorming.  Typically, for the first lesson, I play chords on the black keys and ask the student to play any black keys. For later lessons, I play a white key-based chord progression (I, V, vi, IV or I7, vi7, ii7, V7) and ask my student to play white keys in any order.  The main issue for my students has been confidence and not being willing to make mistakes, even though with the black key improvising, you really can't make a mistake. 

This is one of the main reasons why Music Learning Theory has become so important to me. It helps students to have musical ideas (audiation) and the ability to recreate them on their instrument and with their voice. As another plug for Music Learning Theory: my brothers and I are all improvisers and composers on our respective instruments, and while some people would say we're genetically all musical, I say it's because we all had the same general music teacher growing up. 

For me, improvisation and composition are staples to my musical life. I post my compositions and arrangements to SoundCloud and Sheet Music Plus for fun.  None of those compositions would exist without my initial improvisation to create those ideas.  The composition aspect develops those ideas and creates a coherent piece that becomes a score.  I work hard to impart this skill to all of my students. I hope to teach them music notation software such as MuseScore and the free Apple DAW, GarageBand, so that they also can become composers. 

In Conclusion

I use many resources to build my beginner piano curriculum.  It is not simply piano, it is also games, singing, moving, creating, and collaborating. 

Stay tuned for my intermediate and advanced piano curriculum must-haves!

What are materials are essential to your piano curriculum? Let me know in the comments!

-Jenny