"My First Piano Lessons"
Introducing a color-coded primer course designed to accelerate the earliest beginners by teaching them to play before and as they learn to read music.
Children with no musical background are learning to play piano songs in minutes.
In this section, you can watch the entire 20-song piano course in 7 minutes to get a feel for the scope and sequence.
Our videos make online learning easy for you.
Each of our 20 piano lessons come with a video tutorial and a brief introduction to the basic concepts taught in each lesson. Hear how each song sounds, see the tricky spots in each piece explained, and gain confidence playing as much of the guesswork is eliminated.
What makes a good piano curriculum?
When I started teaching piano lessons when I was 14, I didn't think it would matter at all which piano course I used. I thought that just being a good teacher would be all my students would need. Well, yes and no. Being a good teacher is important, of course, but having a good curriculum can make all the difference in a student's musical experience. After all, they only saw me once a week for 30 minutes, the rest of the week they just have their books.
But such a lesson would only come to me with experience. In the meantime, I told the parents to let the kids bring any books they may have had around the house, or to buy whatever looked attractive to them at the music store. The biggest benefit for me as a teacher with this approach is that I was exposed to a wide variety of piano courses. The biggest drawback is that some of my students got the short end of the stick. Method books matter. Once I figured that out, I researched the different methods, examining the pros and cons, aiming to find one that would best fit our needs.
In the end, I chose the John Thompson Modern Piano Method because it had a few features that were important to me, namely the ones listed below:
Features I look for in a piano course...
- It should not shy away from key signatures besides C, F, and G major early on. This creates an unnecessary dependency and a fear of other key signatures.
- It should not shy away from requiring the hands to move out of “home base” position.
- No pre-reading. An example of pre-reading music is music notes with only letter names or finger numbers. While this is great for a quick start, it can become problematic later on when "real" sheet music is introduced. From the first lesson, I want my students to be seeing real notes on a staff. They do not have to understand it all yet, but this early exposure ensures that the staff, bar lines, and more are not an intimidating lesson later on. I'm not a fan of pre-reading.
- There needs to be a steady progression. I don't like the mountains of busy work many courses have to accommodate students who don't practice.
- I like seeing history and theory blurbs relevant to the pieces being learned.
- (Most importantly) I need to like the songs in the books and so do my students. I want to see real music. I found that charm lacking in many of the books my students brought to their lessons.
Why I wrote a piano course...
So if I love the John Thompson method, why bother writing a new one?
First of all, I teach my own children a little differently than most teachers. I go through the piano book and color-code the notes with a crayon. If a song is in C major, I color all of C's red, the D's orange, and so forth, to match the Do, Re, Mi colors I use on this website, and especially with the movable-Do piano insert. If a song is in G major, I color the G's red. F major, the F's red. For me, this is not too difficult because of my musical background. But for a parent who may have less experience with reading music, this is a daunting task, and many of you have told me so. For color-coding to be practical, the music needs to be color-coded to begin with. Parents are busy and if coloring the music themselves looks scary, it's just not going to happen. I wrote a color-coded piano course to meet this need.
Secondly, John Thompson was a pianist first and foremost a pianist, even a concert pianist, but he was not a vocalist, and his primer was not written with tiny children's vocal chords in mind. As I have gone through his primer book with my 3-year-old, I have found that she has great difficulty singing more than half of the songs, but she LOVES to sing her music. Singing is a great way for children to get a feel for the music they are learning, for them to internalize the way the music is supposed to sound. For most children, singing is like their first musical language, and learning the piano is their second language. I want to capitalize on that. I have found myself singing the songs in higher keys with her, followed by playing the piano separately in the lower key she cannot sing. This process is a little frustrating to her, but we manage. Sometimes we just move the movable-Do piano insert up to the key we are singing in so that she can sing and play at the same time. While there are a couple of songs in my piano course that will be difficult for young children to sing, the majority of them are written in a comfortable range. I really tried to tailor the course to be enjoyable for children to sing and to play. With the color-coding, they can even sing the songs in solfege, and it's a great exercise!
Thirdly, and this is related to the second point, I wanted to capitalize and maximize on the benefits of having a color-coded piano insert to work with. Why stay in C-major if it's just as easy for a child to play in any of the other keys? If, from the start, they are matching colors on the sheet music to the colors they see on the keyboard, learning to read music as the notes become more familiar. Get the whole picture first, learn the details later. This approach worked great as I taught my children to read, and I wanted something similar for piano. This course moves quickly, but not too quickly. Not undoably quickly at all for a family keenly interested in learning to play the piano, and not just enroll the kids in piano lessons because it's the thing to do. You may think I'm joking when I say that, but I'm not. There are many parents who spend a small fortune on music lessons for their children but do not follow through during the week. They practice very little and progress rather slowly as a result. I honestly think that the slow pace of some of the piano method books were written to cater to these families. There's money in it. If the book progresses slowly, a piano student can practice minimally and still pass off their songs at their lesson and move through the book. The child gets rewarded for showing up for lessons and the parent is happy because they see progress. The teacher is happy because the parents and students are happy.
Too often, the child takes years of piano lessons and doesn't have much to show for it as an adult. It's sad, really. But even more sad is what happens when a child/parent combination dedicated to learning music ends up using one of these books. Sometimes they progress very quickly with a teacher who recognizes that the child doesn't need so much busy work, and that's awesome. But other times, the child becomes bored with the curriculum. They master the week's material after their first time alone with the music, and, unchallenged, move on to other things. For some, a simpler, slow paced piano course is ideal, but for others, they will be better served with an accelerated course. Learn the music well and move on to a more challenging piece. This piano course is an accelerated one.
Supplemental Activity - Major Scales Fingering Charts
Learn the correct fingering for all 12 major scales - FAST
Print out the Major Scale Charts
The Major Scales Fingering Charts are a special bonus with our piano course. Learn the fingering for all 12 major scales without needing to read music! All you need is the color-coded piano insert and to know which number goes with which finger and you're on your way.
The trickiest part of learning to play the scales is learning the proper fingering. Usually I am not a draconian teacher when it comes to fingering, but the fingering for scales is very, very important. Not only will you get docked points if you play them wrong in competitions or a keyboard harmony class, but like broccoli and spinach, they're simply good for you. Learning the scales with the proper fingering helps a person gain mastery over the piano, helps the fingers move around the keyboard with ease without being limited by the distances their five-fingered-hands could cover without an opposing thumb. The Major Scales Fingering Chart printable sheets will help you get started!
I've created color-coded 1-octave fingering charts as a primer introduction to the scales. Each of these fingerings are the fingering you would use to go up and down one octave. In the C, G, D, A, and E printable that comes first, for example, the right hand ends on "5". If you were going to keep going, you would cross your thumb under for an extended fingering of 123,1234,123,1234, (5). Some of the printables, like the A-flat sheet pictured above, show the correct fingering for any number of octaves. A simple google search or a trusty Hanon exercise book will give you the extended fingering for all of the scales. But you've got to start somewhere, and one octave is a great place to start, especially for the earlier beginners.
How the Printables Work
These printables are a little different than other scale charts on the web. They were designed for use with the movable-do piano insert. The little piano(s) on the left show the Do-Re-Mi locations for each scale, and especially where to line the "Do" on your insert up on your keyboard. The fingering is then color-coded on the printable to match the colors on the insert behind each key. Pretty nifty, right? No music reading skills required, no guess work remembering which note comes next, just the basics of color matching and knowing your finger numbers.
I'm here to support you every step of the way. I am dedicated to your success. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm here for you!
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If you are looking for a fun, hands on, innovative and colorful approach to teaching piano, you have come to the right place. Our video tutorials and color-coded printouts make learning piano easy and less intimidating, even for tiny children. Get started today, you'll be glad you did!