Keyboards for Kids, by Elza and Chris Lusher, Dogs and Birds
Learning to play the keyboard can benefit your child in more ways than you ever imagined. We’ve all read or heard about studies that show that learning to play the piano or keyboard from an early age has a tremendously positive effect on a child’s development, and in particular, reading and maths. It also boosts memory and relaxation and teaches concentration, co-ordination, patience and perseverance.
Recently the BBC series “Play it Again” has revived interest in learning to play an instrument. Many people regret not having learned an instrument when they were younger. Many are now starting to learn. Why not give your children the opportunity to learn right now?
As with any other language, the language of music is best learnt from an early age. The Kodály, Dalcroze and Colourstrings methods are used to some extent in this country, and these approaches are now being adopted in some schools and nurseries. In addition there are many pre-school courses for young children with or without their parents, which provide an excellent basis for learning any instrument. In these ways some young children are given a very solid musical foundation.
We personally have found the keyboard to be an excellent first instrument for teaching music to young beginners. Children from four years old upwards have absolutely no difficulty in learning the basics of the keyboard and they can in principle be taught (or guided) by their parents. The beauty of the electronic keyboard is that it is always in tune and it is very simple for any child to use it to produce a pleasant sound. If the children sing whilst playing they very rapidly learn to sing in tune – many young children even develop perfect pitch (or recognise pitches much more easily than we can).
Kodály emphasised that when teaching music to the very young we need to adopt a playful approach, and we should employ as many senses as possible. This is precisely what happens in keyboard study. By simultaneously singing, hearing, seeing, touching, feeling and reading the child becomes stimulated, successful and therefore happy.
Learning to read simple musical notation is nothing like the complex mental process of learning the written word – which involves learning twenty-six abstract symbols (at least in English) and then arranging them into almost innumerable patterns to symbolize words. Instead, if your child can learn seven simple symbols over a period of weeks or months he or she will soon be playing easy tuneful melodies on the keyboard and singing at the same time. Additionally, this will be excellent preparation for learning to read later on.
Researchers suggest that learning to play the keyboard develops the circuits in the brain used for mathematics. It is therefore excellent preparation for schoolwork. You can obtain a three or four octave instrument relatively cheaply. This is perfectly adequate for a four to six year old. So why not consider teaching your children the keyboard? They can have enormous fun, and will learn something that will benefit them for life.
Elza and Chris Lusher