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Easy theory material for 8/9 year old?

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#1 Crock

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Posted 08 February 2019 - 12:42

My 9 year old nephew learns the piano at primary school and is playing some Grade 1 pieces (one from the current list and the famous (or infamous??) Vampire Blues).  But he still doesn't know well - after several years - the names of the notes and seems to learn the pieces by memory and by watching a demonstration.  I can tell from other threads that this is quite common.  When I started (to teach myself) the piano I could already read music so the learning process was quite different.

 

Now I can see it's limiting his progress and his enjoyment. Learning a new piece is very tortuous and sight-reading is a no-go area. This is a great shame.

 

The teacher thinks some theory would help as I do, but the lesson is so short that there isn't really time.  What materials are there for theory for 8/9 year olds that are FUN and appealing? It just mustn't look like more Homework. The ABRSM Grade 1 stuff just looks - sorry ABRSM - unappealing for that age group.  One person has suggested the "Theory is Fun" books by Maureen Cox.

 

Any suggestions welcome!


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 08 February 2019 - 13:19

You can try theory but I haven't found it makes a lot of difference. Somehow it doesn't get translated to reading music in a lot of cases. Reading by interval seems to work far better than just learning note names. Doing lots of pieces of a manageable level is the best way in my opinion. The more you work out note names and read intervals, the better. Pieces like Vampire Blues are easíly learnt by rote and maybe working through Accelerated Piano Adventures book 2 would be useful.
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#3 HelenVJ

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Posted 08 February 2019 - 13:25

Yes, those AB Theory books are hugely dull. I would use Music Theory for Young Children by Ying Ying Ng, probably starting with Book 2. If it's a bit easy, use it as a revision course. Of course, it's important to relate all this to the keyboard in a practical way - don't just write in the letter names, but work at finding the notes on the piano, and learn where the 4 different Gs are etc. Same with the rhythms - parctice tapping, clapping, improvising using the rhythms and the rests.

Of course, theory will only have a limited impact on consolidating reading skills. For a (quite) fun reading book, the Piano Adventures series of Sight-Reading are great ( I never thought I would say that about a sight-reading series smile.png) -  but I use these books in conjunction with the PA Lesson Books, so that it consolidates the learning for the same piece. It sounds as though your nephew might need a more consistent reading strategy.


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#4 Crock

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 16:19

Thank you both. I take the point that theory will only have a limited impact on consolidating reading skills.

 

Latin Pianist "Doing lots of pieces of a manageable level is the best way in my opinion " I agree completely but currently it's Catch 22 -  he won't do lots of manageable pieces (and IMHO they are manageable) because he finds reading the notes more difficult than he likes to admit. And he doesn't get better reading the notes because he's not playing the pieces.....

 

HelenVJ -  "It's important to relate all this to the keyboard in a practical way - don't just write in the letter names, but work at finding the notes on the piano"  We'll definitely take that on board.  To digress, it reminds me of his spelling - he does brilliantly in spelling tests, but doesn't relate it at all to actual writing... so  anything he writes is full of spelling mistakes... but that is another story.


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#5 Gran'piano

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 18:30

If the problem has nothing to do with coordination and using several fingers at the same time, it might be worth a quick fix method to get the pupil to concentrate on sight reading a simple tune - with no added hazards.

I've mentioned this on here before, but it obviously doesn't strike a chord with anyone. However I'll give it another try as it has worked twice for me, The first time with the bass clef for someone who could already read the treble notes. The second was a guy who had been to keyboard lessons for about six years. In time he had learned to play tunes quite successfully with chords in the left hand, melody in the right hand.  However, when the teacher retired and the guy bought a piece of music which looked straightforward, he discovered that without someone putting in the fingering and telling him where to start,  he had no idea how to play the melody! He had no idea how to read from the stave.

 

As he really wanted to be able to do it, I simply wrote out a couple of lines each of quite a few tunes, tunes he was likely to know, without giving any clues as to what they were. He played them, very slowly at first, using a cheat-sheet if he wasn't sure which note it was,  until he recognised the melody.  He couldn't 'cheat' by memorising them as the idea was not to play one more than a couple of times and he couldn't watch the 'pattern' of someone else playing. It was most satisfying when his wife called out the name of the piece before he recognised it himself. 


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#6 Crock

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Posted 10 February 2019 - 16:04

Gran'piano, thanks, that's a good idea - we could have a game just as you describe of what's that tune...


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#7 sbhoa

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 20:00

The Piano Safari Sight reading cards build up reading skills in a steady way. 


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#8 Misterioso

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 17:19

I quite like the Lina Ng sticker books, and the stickers will help it not to seem like homework. (I believe the comparable Ying Ying Ng books are the same?) It can help to use flash cards for poor readers, and we play games with them - I will ask them to make up a word, and then play it on the piano. It usually goes down well. For rhythm reading, I often give a child a chime bar, just because it makes a change from clapping.

 

It sounds with this child as though you will have to get him reading "by stealth". You could perhaps suggest to his mother that notation games could help him (musical snap, musical dominoes, musical pairs). If you're into bribery, award a couple of smarties every time he gets so many right. For one particularly poor reader, I stuck stave lines on the floor of my music room with masking tape, and we made a game of jumping onto the line or space that I called out. You can make a foldaway version with a sturdy sheet of polythene (the back of a Twister game). Every little will help, and when he finds it fun, he will hopefully want to do more.


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#9 Crock

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Posted 11 March 2019 - 16:39

Thank you both.

 

Misterioso, lots of new ideas there and yes, "stealth" is definitely needed.  He does also have an app on his iPad but to be honest he spends too much time on that anyway... the Musical Snap also looks interesting, but on Amazon it is outrageously expensive!


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