Simple method for teaching children to play piano
As with any other language, the language of music is best learnt from an early age. The benefits of teaching music to very young children through the keyboard are enormous. As well as learning to read, sing and play music, they also develop a basic sense of pulse, and improve their "inner ear".
Learning to play the keyboard or piano from an early age has a tremendously positive effect on a child's development, in particular reading and maths. It also boosts memory and relaxation and teaches concentration, co-ordination, patience and perseverance. It is therefore an excellent preparation or support for schoolwork.
Try the method out for yourself here. Click on one of the links below. You will see a keyboard and some music. If you choose the animal notes version of a piece then animal symbols will appear in the notes. Play the piece by clicking on the keyboard, matching the animals on the keys with the animals in the notes. Sing the animal names as you play.
You can see low resolution reproductions of these pieces from the book by downloading the music pdfs.
Try it and play yourself!
Background to the techniques
The "Dogs and Birds" approach has been developed over the last twelve years by Elza Lusher. As a native Hungarian, her music education was based on the Kodály principles from the start. She was trained as a piano teacher at the Liszt Academy in Hungary.
However, it was only through her piano teaching experience (both in Hungary and in England) that she came to appreciate fully the importance of singing and the inner ear.
In Hungary all students study solfege for at least a year before starting to learn an instrument, therefore all instrumental teachers assume a basic level of musicianship.
During her teaching in England Elza discovered that it was necessary to build basic musicianship into her piano lessons. The result of this is the "Dogs and Birds" method.
Elza has been living in England for twenty years now and she has been teaching the piano for twenty-eight years. She has a wide range of teaching experience, from very young children to diploma level, and has also taught piano teachers on the Kodály Institute of Britain's teachers' course.
Elza has recently been getting excellent results teaching groups in a Montessori nursery school. Here children as young as three years old are learning to sing the notes and understand the music using the "Dogs and Birds" approach. She also gives one-to-one piano lessons to three year olds.
She has taught "Dogs and Birds" in a local infant school, to groups of ten children using five keyboards.
Elza has produced two volumes of pieces using this method together with her husband Chris. The books contain delightful illustrations by Liz Patton, which really capture the child's imagination and enhance the learning experience.
The tutor books are supplemented with other resources – a guide to Book 1 for parents and teachers, a set of wooden animals and a large set of staves (to help visualize the notes) and a set of animal stickers that can be used to reward good work or can be stuck on the keys as an aid to memory in the very early stages.