Sunday, August 12, 2012

Piano Time

For about a year now, my kids have been taking piano lessons via home computer.  The main reason for doing it this way is price; the software for a year of lessons was about the same price as a month of lessons from a human teacher.

We are using Adventus Children's Music Journey software and I am quite happy with it.  The animation is excellent, the activities are fun for the kids, the software incorporates improvisation and music appreciation as well as note-reading, and the program is age-appropriate for young children.   The software is interactive and gives feedback to my kids about how well they play practice exercises onto an attached keyboard.  While shopping, I noticed that many of the piano software programs are really just videos that do not interact with the student, so I was careful to avoid such programs.

About six months into the lessons, our keyboard, which was about a decade old, lost the capacity to communicate with the computer and we had to get a new one.  The old keyboard still plays fine; it just doesn't interact with the software any more.  So now I hook the new keyboard to the computer and also put out the older one for my two-year-old to play along with whichever of his older siblings is doing the lesson.  For awhile, he didn't realize that the animated piano tutors weren't talking to him and was very pleased when they congratulated the student for playing well.  Now, he knows that the animated teacher is really talking about his sibling's work but he still enjoys having his own piano at lesson time and it keeps him from messing up the older kids' lessons by touching their keyboard while they are doing a lesson.

The animated teachers are based on various famous composers, but my kids insist that the Beethoven character is actually my oldest son.  I thought that maybe this was because they share the same wavy brown hairstyle, but when I asked if another character with a brown ponytail like me was actually Mommy, they thought I was crazy. Beethoven is the teacher in the video I attached; maybe someone else can explain to me why my kids think he is my four-year-old son.

The software introduces musical concepts at a child's pace--that  is, slow.  Really slow.  The kids are well into the lessons now, and the software is only beginning to introduce the concept of alphabetical note names.  While the kids have been learning to play different rhythms for some time now, the program still hasn't explained how to read rhythm in music.  I would like to find an adult program for myself and for my kids when they get older that moves a lot more quickly.  And of course, if any of my kids appear to develop a real interest in music, I am sure I will need to get them a real, human teacher.

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