Showing posts with label young children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young children. 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

11.07.2022

๐Ÿ“• The Best Preschool Piano Method to Engage Young Students: My First Piano Adventure Level A

November 07, 2022 0 Comments

When I first showed my daughter the My First Piano Adventure series, her eyes lit up. Illustrated with vivid colors and original characters, this method journeys to take the Piano Adventures curriculum to a younger audience. 

To intentionally enter into a child's imagination, the Fabers adopted the ACE instructional theory:

  • Analysis →Understanding
  • Creativity →Self-Discovery
  • Expression →Personal Artistry

ACE is practically applied in the Writing Book with many activities, the Lesson Book which contains engaging songs with vibrant pictures in between the notes, and accompanying audio tracks  with great audio mixing and mastering, funny lyrics, and great voices. 

The goal is to have students playing musically through listening, singing, tapping, and moving. 

This review is for Level A of the My First Piano Adventures Method. My opinion is that this is the best preschool piano method for engaging young students. 

My First Piano Adventure Lesson Book A Cover

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (out of 5)

Pros

  • Engaging for young children and piano teachers
  • Easy for young children to practice on their own; illustrations provide directions
  • Easy for parents to aid children at home; practice instructions are printed on each page

Cons

  • Overall Cost of all three levels ($47.70) as compared to the Primer core books of the Basic Method ($29.95).

General Overview

Grand Staff Reading: No songs use the Grand Staff. Games introducing the Grand Staff are at the end of the book. In the middle of the book, the treble and bass clefs are introduced and a note at the bottom of the page says that the games may be started. 

Approach to Note Reading: Pre-staff notation only, directional by step. Notes move higher and lower on the page to show melody contour. 

Method of counting: Unit counting and word associations

Hand Position: Each page has a picture of the piano keyboard with finger numbers and later note names. C 5-finger scale is introduced in the second to last unit. 

Technique: Posture, hand shape, and firm fingertips are introduced and reinforced throughout the method.

Complete range of piano: Yes

Fingering: All notes have finger numbers unless they are repeated

Adequate reinforcement of concepts: Yes, especially when using the Writing Book.

Rate of progression: Slow and steady

Logical Sequence: Yes

Pieces: Original songs and folksongs with witty lyrics and interesting backtracks and teacher duets

    Folksongs include:

  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Buckle My Shoe (backtrack or teacher duet game)
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb (renamed Mary's Rockin' Pets with new lyrics)
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm (renamed Old Pig-Donald with new lyrics)
  • If You're Happy (backtrack or teacher duet game)
  • Eensie Weensie Spider (new lyrics)
Varied styles: Yes

Harmonically interesting: Yes, but teacher duets or backtrack are needed for full effect. Major, minor,  whole tone, tritone. 

Concepts:
  • Dynamics: Clear explanation; forte and piano only. Often the first play through is forte and then the repeat is piano
  • Tempo: No
  • Phrasing: No
  • Articulations: Short and Long sounds are introduced and experimented with in the first unit activities
  • Pedal: No
  • Harmony: Yes, harmonic intervals are used sparingly
  • Form: No

Theory: Writing Book reinforces rhythms and piano key names. Writing book involves circling, drawing lines, coloring, and some writing with ample space for large letters, numbers, and drawing pictures.  

Composition: Yes, in Writing Book. Creative presentation with boxes for letters. 

Improvisation: Yes with teacher duets or backtrack.

Ear Training: Yes, in Writing Book.

Sight-reading: Yes, in Writing Book.

Duets: Yes, high quality. 35 out of 48 songs have duets. 

Private or Group Lessons: Private, however Group Lessons are possible according to Faber's FAQ

In-person or Virtual: In-person and virtual. Virtual is aided by a subscription to Teacher's Atlas by Faber to enable screen share. 

Levels in Series: The Young Beginner Core Levels are A, B, C. The student will be ready for Level 1 of Piano Adventures upon completion of Level C. 

Supplementary Materials: Christmas Book (best to begin around p. 66; contains an Advent calendar), CD (Free Cloud Audio only more recently). 

Visual Appeal: High. Vivid, bright colors. Cute character designs. Printing size is large and often pictures are in the music. Easy to see the notes going up and down on the page.

Daunting: No

Audience: Young students, ages 4-6

Audio: Free Cloud Audio (I highly suggest listening here).

Publisher Preview: Click here for an extensive look from the publisher's website

Additional Support for Teachers from the Publisher: 20 Questions and Answers for My First Book A, Lesson Plan for the First Lesson

My experience: I use Piano Adventures as my main method for all of my students. I have had success particularly with the Basic Method, especially levels Primer-2B with my students ages 7+. Initially when I learned about My First Piano Adventure, I actually wasn't sure about the visual appeal for young children. But when I showed my 5-year-old daughter and saw her eyes light up, especially after we had been trying Music for Little Mozarts with little interest, I knew this book would be something special. 

It is fantastic. I love that it stretches out the concepts presented in the Primer Lesson Book of the Basic Method. More time is spent reinforcing new piano keys and rhythm concepts. If you are familiar with the Basic Method, you will recognize some of the original tunes. They are often paired with new lyrics. The lesson book has pages dedicated to technique and there is accompanying written work, ear training, and rhythm exercises in the Workbook. My daughter has been going to practice the piano unprompted and has been succeeding in accomplishing the work at a high level. She is currently 6 and we are close to starting Level B. 

The art is similar to the look of construction paper cut-outs. On most pages, the child is supposed to find Tap, a little firefly hidden on some of the pages. A unique approach is the images that show up in between notes. Rainbows, kangaroos, and whales are used to show hand position changes as the student moves up and down the piano. 

Closing Thoughts:

For young students, this method is a wonderfully engaging introduction to piano. 

The songs increase in length as the book progresses. The activities are inventive and the audio is free online which gives an additional depth to the songs.  For example, Monster Bus Driver has a very funny voice making beeping sounds with which the student plays rhythms on the 2 black keys and 3 black keys. 

From the perspective of the teacher, I'm excited to teach this method. It has made me laugh on more than one occasion because the humor is very well-written and incorporated. 

While the overall cost of the core books will cost more than just the Primer level with core books, I believe it is an excellent investment and bang for your buck.  Capturing the attention of a young child is more than half the battle of teaching them piano, that is why I believe that this is the best preschool piano method for engaging young students.

Have you used My First Piano Adventure? If so, what was your experience? What are other options of preschool methods you have tried? 

Let me know in the comments!

My daughter and I will be starting Level B of this series very soon. Stay tuned for another review! 

Until next time,

-Jenny

My First Piano Adventure for the Young Beginner by Nancy and Randall Faber
© 2006 Dovetree Productions, Inc. (Distributor: Hal Leonard)

  • Lesson Book A and Writing Book A (Pre-Reading)