My friend Penny visited us one day and insisted on recording this part of our homeschool journey because she was amused by our routine. As it was usual for my son and me to do music together, we didn’t think it was anything special. Anyway, little Ethan was sufficiently persuaded by Auntie Penny’s amusement to play for her camera. I’m sharing this video with the other Auntie Pennys who might be curious about the stuff we did with so much time in our hands, and why we had so much fun.
Let’s begin with a disclaimer to provide perspective – I’m not a professional musician. The only music certificate I have was acquired at age 5 and it wasn’t even a Grade 1. I did, however, at age 11, enjoy 2 years of classical guitar lessons at Yamaha Music School when they first opened.
Now, back to the video and sharing two points of learning for the little Ethan:
Tempo. An internal metronome was ticking inside his head to provide him with timing. He had to feel secure enough to pause. Without pauses, there can be no rhythm. Pauses are scary because the player is required to WAIT and DO NOTHING.
Tune. At the 1:13 of the video, you will see the song sheet that he was looking at during this session. Notice that it contained only words and chords. The lyrics he read with his eyes had to be translated into a familiar tune inside his head in advance of the song being played. His brains would then instruct the fingers on his right hand on the notes to hit next. The chords provided instructions for the fingers on his left hand. The fingers have to be strong and coordinated sufficiently to be able to carry out those instructions. If a wrong note was hit, his ears would catch the error, and then his fingers would have to adapt until his ears were satisfied that the tune resembled the melody line that was inside his head. This feedback will go back and forth.
Technically, it sounds pretty complex, but in practice, it was quite simple. Dealing with the stave and semiquavers in sheet music is a lot more daunting to me, and there are many people (like me) who enjoy learning to play music by non-traditional methods. Notice the white disc on the piano top (in the video). That was something I created to teach him theory – major and minor scales, the chord combinations and transpositions. I taught my son to play the piano the way I play, by ear, by numbers and by patterns. I’m glad that the methods that worked for me, worked for him too! In the last 10 years, thanks to technology, many other new methods of learning, consuming and producing music have evolved. Check out youtube videos, synthesia, MIDI and other software applications (apps).
If you are planning music lessons for your child (and yourself), you are spoilt for choice, with many of these options available at very affordable prices. Don’t feel restricted by traditions, just go with anything that brings joy. The best way to start music lessons is in the spirit of fun.
I remind my son always: We are not performers. We play music because music brings people together. That is my wish for you too. 💐