I did not want that happening to my own daughter. I had to find a way to get her to read without turning her off. But nothing in my teaching experience had prepared me for this. I could find no books to guide me and traditional theory methods did not work. I had no choice but to start from scratch and work something up from lesson to lesson, taking my cues from her. All I knew was that it needed to be visual, hands-on, physically engaging and fun. The method I eventually developed was based on a simple “learning by doing” approach (with a heavy dose of game-playing) using a set of home-made tools she could manipulate herself. For her, music lessons were like playtime but with daily use she soon mastered the basics.
I have used this method over a teaching career spanning more than four decades. My goal was to teach children to read music as fluently as they read books. Inevitably, there were periods of trial and error, successes and failures and many, many modifications. Through all those years, I learned more from my young students than I could ever hope to give back. To them I owe my gratitude and thanks.
Of course, as any music teacher knows, such a gift is a huge asset for a musician. Or not. When a child can reproduce anything she hears, learning to read seems boring and unnecessary. Sadly, I’ve spoken only too often with adults who took lessons for years as children but never learned to read. When asked how they got away with it for so long the answer is almost uniform – they faked it. Their ability to hear masked their inability to read.
The story starts from the day many years ago when I heard my youngest daughter, age three, play Doh-A-Deer on the piano flawlessly with both hands. Soon she was playing snippets of everything she heard, from a tuneful klaxon on the street to the opening theme of the last movement of Mozart’s 2-piano concerto. Left alone at the piano, she would improvise for hours trying to find her way through complex harmonic progressions and key changes.