If you are a parent who has never played the piano you will probably experience the keyboard as an unidentified mass of white and black keys. One of the first things both you and your child will need to learn is the navigation on the keyboard and the naming of the white keys. Knowing what each white key is called is crucial for the next step of reading the music so any assistance in this stage would be great.
Before naming the keys however, there is another concept that has to be clear to the supporting piano parent .The keyboard is horizontal, but we talk about the pitch going up or down. Press the keys on the far right side, and you will notice they sound thin, high, light. The far left keys sound thick, low and rumbling. We go up from left to right and down from right to left.
Going back to the key names, the good news is that all you need to know is 7 letter names that repeat over the whole keyboard. The music alphabet consists of the letters A to G. Most method books have a map of the key names somewhere near the beginning of the book too.
Please make sure you get the key names right before helping your child!
One thing I highly recommend NOT doing is putting stickers with the note names on the keys. Apart from running the risk of damaging the keys, doing this diverts the attention of the student from the patterns of the keys and makes them dependent on these crutches that, once removed, leave the student feeling helpless.
After you have sorted out the key names, you can have a lot of fun drilling this with your child:
1. Start off by reciting the letters forwards and backwards, beginning on any of the 7 letters. This can be done in the car, at the dinner table or on the way to teeth brushing. It is very effective if you say the letter names while taking a step forward for each letter going up, and then taking one step backwards for each letter in the reverse order. This won't bring you any closer to the teeth brushing destination though...
2. At the piano, there is a game you can play where you will need a dice and two pawns, one for each player. The aim of the game will be to get from one side of the piano to the other, the winner being the one who arrives at the other side first. Roll the dice and take your pawn up the number of white keys that the dice shows. Then name the note you landed on. If you said the wrong name, go back to the beginning. The easier version is going up, since the letter names are in their regular order. Going down again can be quite a challenge.
3. Have the child close their eyes and play a random note, then ask them to open their eyes and name it.
Once you get going, you will probably be making up your own games and before you know it, both you and your child will be able to name every white key on the piano with no hesitation, and you will have had some great quality time together.
-How to Help your Child Learn the Piano Finger Numbers
-Preparing Kids for Music Reading
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