Teaching Methods

Why Every Child Should Learn Music With Tips, Strategies and Resources

We had a lovely Parents Curriculum Meeting this morning. It was wonderful to see so many of you.  Here’s a summary of what we covered.

The Benefits of Music Lessons

My philosophy of teaching music is to impart an enjoyment, appreciation and ability to create and perform music while having fun.

I don’t expect all my students to become professional musicians, but I do expect them to gain life-long skills such as

  • goal-setting
  • problem solving
  • conceptualization
  • organization
  • memorization
  • categorization
  • structuralization
  • delayed gratification
  • self-discipline
  • persistence
  • tenacity
  • the last 3 can be combined to be called grit
  • and  learning the process of how to learn just about anything.

Structure Of A Typical Lesson

  • Repertoire – a fancy word for a group of memorized pieces at a performance level. Having a memorized repertoire means you can play anywhere at anytime. It also starts to give rise to conceptual skills such as seeing/hearing structure, order and experiencing how feeling can be transmitted to others through music. It’s very empowering! These pieces are usually taught by ear, visual memory and my color system. They are usually a bit harder to read from traditional music notation but within the student’s abilities to perform. Sometimes I’ll use video to help communicate tricky pieces especially for students whose parents do not read music.
  • Reading – Learning to read music opens a door to the thousand year tradition of written music. Just like reading books gives access to timeless ideas, reading music gives access to timeless music. I use several different method books, none which are perfect where we are learning to see what music sounds like.
  • Theory/Technique – I use many games to help understand the very abstract concepts of music like harmony and how the symbols of music are visualized. These take a long time but through weekly intervallic training , we accomplish great things.

Tips For Parents of Students:  How To Guarantee Success At Home

  • Organized – by having all the learning materials organized in a binder or some kind of system where they can easily find their notes in chronological order enables students to learn quicker and to learn valuable skills of being organized.
  • Daily Practice – repeated practice (of anything) at daily interval activates a higher retention rate for learning. For younger ages 5 to 10 minutes may be enough, but as soon as they are able, we should be aiming to bring that up to 20 or 30 minutes or more per day. The complexity of the music requires more time.   A kitchen timer is highly recommended.  For young boys, using a metronome and/or duets with an adult, older student or  the video or  recording may force them to play at a normal human tempo!  We also discussed how to get your child to practice the older repertoire and many loved the dice game I created.  See below.
    [box] Dice Game: Number all the songs in the repertoire. Roll the dice. The number that comes up corresponds to one of the pieces. Play that piece. Roll again and play the next one, etc.   All of a sudden they’re willing to play old songs they never wanted to play before![/box]
  • Listening is Programming Your Child – just as we all watch what our children eat, media consumption can be monitored and “programmed.” I like to play my son classical piano music in the morning at breakfast as it calms and focuses him, but is also giving him the knowledge of pieces that he is working on or will be soon.  Listening to only Top 40 Hit radio is like a diet of soda and potato chips!   We need to expose our children to the world’s greatest music from Baroque to Classical, Blues To Jazz, Folk To Country, Rock To Electronica to Merengue to Cumbia…the list goes on.  I wrote this article and this one, about a recommended order of listening to music for the youngest children where I talk about starting with simple singable folk music   and then adding  early classical music.  As with visual art,  children start with primary colors and then learn to mix more complex ones later. Structures in early classical music are simple to understand and lend well to learning how to play.
  • Listening is programming your child
    Watch your musical diet.
  • Going To See Live Music – we live in a city of riches for live music. Summer concerts in the park, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Met all have programs for children. And, you can view almost anything on YouTube though you may want to screen them in advance as some of the related video content is inappropriate for children.

Resources For Experiencing Music

There has been an explosion in ways to access music anywhere and anytime. Here’s a few of my favorites.

  • WQXR – Classical radio station now owned and operated by WNYC (yes I’m a member!)  Fabulous repertoire of all the hits of classical music, some modern pieces and even film soundtracks. Love it.    You’ll start to learn the composer names, performers and even coming concert dates in the area.  Available online, on FM radio 105.9 and as an app for smartphones.
  • YouTube – back in the day, after radio,  MTV was where kids found about new music.  Today it seems YouTube is where kids go automatically to find new music. As I mentioned above, you may want to screen first for appropriateness depending on age of your child.
  • Suzuki Method CDs – all my students start with the Suzuki Book 1 and the CDs. These are folk songs arranged for piano and are perfect for any age. Volume 2 and on are excellent classical piano repertoire and lovely dinner party listening too.
  • Spotify – A free (w/ads) or paid ($5 or 10/month) internet music streaming library. It seems to have something like 90% of all recorded music.   It’s available as a website or an app.  Fantastic learning, research tool. I’ve made some playlists for my students and will be sharing with you shortly.  Here’s an article with a playlist for great songs for a roadtrip.
  • Pandora – an internet radio station that monitors what you like and delivers more like it. You type in an artist or song and it creates a “radio station” that plays that music for you. Free with ads or you can subscribe for $4/month.  Available as a website, app, or even built into some smart TVs.
  • iTunes Radio – Apple’s new radio streaming service that is similar to Pandora. Just launched this October 2013 (Free with ads or pay $25/year.)  Available on Apple devices and PCs.

Technology to Help Create Music

Recording technology has taken massive leaps in the last 10 years. Here’s a few we talked about.
GarageBand – Apple’s truly-amazing, easy to use multi-track recording software with virtual instruments and it’s less than $5! For iPad, iPhone and Mac (this one is more like $30)

LogicPro – this is what I use to create film scores, songs, and most of my music production.  This is professional music software and it only costs $200.  That’s an incredible difference from when I was a kid!

Notation Software to Write Music on Staff

Professional music engravers use Finale or Sibelius, both have student options:

  • Sibelius First – I use Sibelius and love it.   I find it much more intuitive to learn and use than Finale.  It’s used by many, many professional musicians.  This student simplified version is about $99 and works on Mac, Windows.
  • Finale Songwriter – I hear that most professional music engravers use Finale, perhaps because it is more powerful, but with that power comes complexity.  This is their simplified version for songwriters.  Not sure if it is that much easier.  It is cheaper though at around $50.
  • Finale Notepad – FREE!  Well FREE is a pretty good price so you can check it out and decide for yourself.
  • Musescore  – free open source – I have no experience with this but looks pretty good.
  • Noteflight – an online software – you get up to 10 for free and then after that you need to sign up for a subscription.  It sounds pretty good – though I never tried it.
  • Of course you can also just get a nice music notebook like this one from Moleskine.  Use pencil so you can erase!

New Ideas

We had some ideas suggested at the meeting.

  • Longer lessons –  45 minutes  for older students – may need to wait until next year to implement as the schedule is tight!
  • More playlists of music programmed by Andrew – coming soon!
  • Piano Buddies/Mentors – organized piano mentor sessions with older students. Older students teaching younger ones as in Montessori Schools or Summerbridge (now called Breakthrough Collaborative) Very positively received idea and looking into how to implement.


By Andrew Ingkavet

Andrew Ingkavet sparks wonder, creativity and growth through music as an educator, author and entrepreneur. Insatiably curious - a polymath with a love of travel, food, and ideas, he uses music to lead us back to our unique authentic selves. Let your truth song resound! Break free of ignorance! Let your inner lion roar!

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