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Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

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Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

Postby Organorak » Fri Apr 29, 2016 5:28 pm

Conventional wisdom suggests that a child shouldn't begin learning to play the organ until they are old enough to be able to reach the pedals comfortably, which typically would be at around 11 years old. Having a four manual Hauptwerk organ at home has certainly piqued the interest of my two sons aged four and two, the latter more so, and he is already able to play a scale of C major and pick out simple tunes. Both can talk well, but neither is yet able to read. How early would you suggest introducing a keen infant to formal piano lessons, and what would be covered at such an early age? We do of course also have a piano (and I started having formal lessons aged six) that they would learn on initially.
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Re: Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

Postby Andrew Grahame » Fri Apr 29, 2016 7:59 pm

Check out the teaching resources on the Wayne Leupold Editions website. They have a wealth of material aimed at starting the organ at a young age. They approach the organ as an instrument in its own right from the outset. ... m-eds.html ... ser-a.html

For pedalling when very young, they sell "Ped-X-Tend" units.

I use these myself in my collapsible classroom "organs" to introduce pedalling to students from Kindergarten onwards.



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Re: Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

Postby johnstump_organist » Fri Apr 29, 2016 8:31 pm

I would make the following humble suggestions for children so young, but not too young to start learning something.
At ages 2 and 4, I would suggest general musicianship lessons. Get some nice rhythm instruments and let them develop a sense of steady beat playing along with recorded music, eventually keeping a steady beat on their own. Learn to distinguish beat from rhythm, learn to read simple rhythms with stick notation (no noteheads), start by reading a series of sticks symbols (eventually to become quarter notes) and stopping after the number of notated beats have gone by. Introduce rests (a simple backwards Z works well) and eventually pairs of eighth notes (still no noteheads) Have them read one rhythm while you keep a beat or play a contrasting rhythm. Learn solfege symbols (with hand signs to make it kenistic (sp?)) follow notes going up and down (be physical move the whole body form to high to low). This will give them a solid background in rhtyhm that will mean they can concentrate on pitch reading when it is introduced. If reading rhythms has become intuitive before starting on pitch, it will be much easier.
Look for ideas in Kodaly or Orff method books for teaching music to young children.
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Re: Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

Postby organsRgreat » Sun May 08, 2016 8:21 am

The reason for starting on the piano is not just because young children cannot reach organ pedals; it's because another layer of coordination is required when playing with the feet as well as the hands. Even on the piano, coordinating the sustaining pedal artistically can take a while to master.

In the UK it is commonly recommended that a pupil reach Grade 5 of the ABRSM piano exams before starting the organ:

I started the piano at three and a half, though that's unusually early. I discovered the organ when I was eleven, and taught myself for the next seven years (quite likely my parents could not have afforded organ lessons in addition to piano lessons). When I wanted to take the organ as my second instrument at music college, I had lessons from the organist of a local church (a FRCO) for a few months.

What should be covered at what age depends very much on the pupil and on the teacher's priorities. I have always tried to develop reading along with technique, as so many keyboard players are limited by the speed of their reading. The association of a note on the stave with a key on the keyboard needs to be established as early as possible.

Young children can benefit from occasional lessons, without the obligation of a weekly session. You may be able to find a teacher who will offer such a flexible arrangement.

At the risk of stating the obvious, do make sure that the teacher has appropriate qualifications. It ought not to be necessary to mention this, but I live in a town where there are people teaching the piano with no qualification beyond ABRSM Grade 8. The minimum I would look for would be a Licentiate or Associate diploma such as LRAM or ARCM.

This is a huge subject; I hope these few thoughts will be helpful. Please feel welcome to ask further if you need a comment on any particular point.
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Re: Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

Postby profeluisegarcia » Mon May 09, 2016 8:31 am

Besides the previous thoughtful insights, what about placing a simple wood platform to raise the Behringer pedal so the kids get familiar with the real pedals ?
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Re: Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

Postby josq » Mon May 09, 2016 9:38 am

Some interesting articles of the great improvisator Sietze de Vries: (in Dutch).

He advocates that children should learn (organ) music similar to language: by imitation and experimentation. Traditional churches and communities can be extremely helpful by immersing children in a large repertoire of hymns and psalms.

Improvisation should come first, technique and literature should come second. Otherwise, children will end up reproducing notes without understanding the music and without developing a musical ear. This can be corrected for later on, except for one skill: improvisation. Until the 19th century, improvisation was the most important skill for organists and many other instrumentalists.

Still, improvisation is the most creative activity a musician can enjoy, but he will speak a musical language only fluently if learned at a (very) young age.
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Re: Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

Postby mkc1 » Mon Jun 27, 2016 1:12 pm

I'm not a big fan of the idea that one should learn the piano before the organ. I myself was interested in the organ at a young age and was shunted onto the piano, partially due to the lack of availability of organs on which to practise. It took me many years to get back to the organ and I regret that I didn't spend more time on it rather than the piano, which holds little interest for me now.

I think if a young person is drawn to the special sounds of the organ, they're not going to be as happy plonking along on a piano. There's lots of organ music that doesn't use pedals, so I don't feel that not being able to reach them is a reason to put off studying the organ. They can play the manual(s), learn music reading and theory, etc., then add the pedals later. Here's an article with a similar slant:
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Re: Starting keyboard lessons at an early age - when?

Postby TheOrganDoc » Mon Jun 27, 2016 1:43 pm

I was offered organ lessons at an early age,
I am now soooooo sorry that I chose not to partake ! :oops:
I did tune and repair organs for for 40 + Years, and enjoyed that .
Now in my retirement I have a nice Hauptwerk Organ in my living room, and have to resort,
to the Hunt and Peck method of playing, very sadly, :roll:
Best wishes to all, Mel
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