Piano Readers

Music sight reading books

Our new reading books

This year I am introducing readers for the children. I have made many books by selecting pieces from other books and combining them into suitably graded readers. This is a lending library and it saves me lending out dozens of books. As I own all the books I’m pretty sure it is legal. I hope!!

I took the idea from school readers. Children from first days take home a reader every night and hey presto, pretty soon they are reading quite well and very soon very well and so on. You would be amazed if you knew that many children take years to learn to read music, which I assure you is a simpler process than learning to read stories. What goes wrong, I feel, is that children do not read enough music, so don’t quickly become familiar with music. So these readers are roughly graded and can be borrowed and enjoyed, then returned and changed within the same colour. Once a particular level becomes very easy it is time to go up to the next level. At this point I will hear a few pieces to make sure the child is ready to move up. Mostly I will give a few hints and leave this books to be enjoyed.

I’m hoping children will feel encouraged to explore, even pieces which may have unmet signs and challenges. They will not need to play every piece to me, so they may feel freer to explore and just have a go. The pieces are roughly themed and of a similar level but each book contains a variety of pieces and may vary in difficulty.

Yellow to Blue/Green cover first year to about Preliminary Grade ( that is equivalent to Grade 2 sight reading). Triple Yellow is stretching out and all the levels above are Grade 1 (Grade 3 sight reading) and up. You will notice that it is normal for a sight reading level to be approximately two grades below their actual ability level. These grades are of course piano grades and not school grades. For those unfamiliar with piano grading, there are 9 grades (Preliminary to Grade 8), Your child may take an exam at the end of each stage which is of a similar standard throughout the world. Preliminary exam is taken on average about 2 years after starting. Grade 8 is the final exam taken 8 to 10 years later by which stage your child will be a competent pianist.

It is important to realise that these readers are supposed to be easy to read and therefore should only be enjoyed at the end of normal practising (otherwise they will be playing way below their ability level!!) They are for enjoyment, and to show children that they are able to just pick up a book and read it. The world of music opens up! If children are struggling to read these readers the level is too high. It should not be a book to struggle over but one that can be read straight away. Hopeful also children will meet some music which they wouldn’t otherwise meet, and perhaps some old favourites from films, or that they have sung at school.

Please encourage your children to enjoy their readers. Show excitement and ask them to play a few pieces for you. Because while they are having fun, they will be improving their reading out of sight! Thank you.

Why play games in piano lessons?

Snakes and Ladders board

Learning music takes many forms

Here in Australia it is the second week of the teaching year. It is hot and steamy and the kids arrive tired and yawning from school. Really they just want to jump in the pool and cool off. What better way to make piano lessons the next best thing than to play a game or two in the air-conditioning?

Is that the only reason to play games? Not at all. In fact I wish that was what I was doing. Alas, caught on the hop as usual I am still not quite ready for the year. Why is the Christmas holiday never long enough? I have been making new music readers and grading them, making games, planning competitions, planning lessons. Phew! We are spending these first two weeks picking up the threads, checking nearly lost knowledge and forming our year plan. How much better if we could have done this through games. Well next week we will!

Yes, next week we will reinforce this knowledge through appropriate games and hands-on activities. And they won’t even know!!

I now make all my lessons 40 minutes, which gives ample time to cover theory, ear training, sight reading, rhythm and beat work, singing etc. without me feeling that I am neglecting areas. Games and activities using colourful materials allow this 40 minute lesson to be broken up into manageable sections which keep the brain firing.

What sort of games?

Board games, matching games, listening games, writing games, iPad games, hands-on……… whatever I can think of.

Preteen boy happily playing a video game

music apps

What do they teach?
  1. Names of notes
  2. Names of intervals
  3. Note values
  4. Rhythm and beat
  5. Keys
  6. Chords

In fact, just about any aspect of music can be taught through games or some fun activity. So if you are thinking “Why am I paying for my child to play games?’, understand that children learn quicker and more thoroughly through games. Games unlock the resistance about learning. Games make for quick learning because you have to know the rules to play. Games lead to easy success which is massively encouraging.

So dear friends. Never fear! As the year progresses I will be using more games in the lessons and maybe there will even be a few to take and play at home… along with the music readers……… but that’s another story.