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Carol’s Students Learn Faster and Have More Fun With Color

Though she had already been working with young music students, Carol found that it was often difficult to transition them from early childhood classes to learning to read and play instruments. That’s when she came across the idea of using color as learning scaffolding and The Musicolor Method Masterclass.

Carol has since adapted the Musicolor Method to work with her youngest preschool students, as well as some of the elementary school kids. She loves how they take to color and can learn to play faster and with more fun.

Carol Koczo
Manassas, VA

First instrument: Piano
Age I started playing music: 8
Other instruments: Voice
Number of years teaching: 35+
Number of current students: 15 

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Currently listening to:

All kinds of music: pop, Broadway, classical.

I’ve taught music as a side job for years

Many times, I was also involved in choral groups. I have always been involved in music in some capacity. For a long time, I might have just one music student while I was working outside the home.

I got really interested in History Preservation, and I got a degree in it, but it didn’t really help me get into the workforce. I kind of fell back into music again and started focusing on it more.

Right now, I teach all levels

I know one of Andrew’s philosophies is to focus your attention on one set of students.

For a while, I has a school like that. I had been focusing mostly on the 8-12 year olds.

When I started as a private contractor with Take Lessons, it opened the door to any age from as young as 5 to 60. That kind of changes with teaching also. In some ways, it makes it more challenging and a little harder to keep track of who is where and when.

I wanted to focus more on younger students.

I started searching for something to make it easier for me to teach younger students, because they were so challenging. I hadn’t really taught that age before. So, that is what led me to The Musicolor Method Masterclass.

I spent a lot of time looking at and reading some of his articles about his philosophy and his approach.

I was searching for something that would help me, and I think it was during those articles I began thinking this may be something I am interested in.

I just knew it. It was a gut feeling that this was something that I thought I could work with, I liked the overall approach, the structuring of the program. I think it was, you know, I think I just thought this is pretty neat. So I am going to jump out of my box and try it.

I started using the color for different ages

I started using it with 8 year olds and even one of my 12 year old students. I adapted The Musicolor Method to different ages. Most everyone of them really took to the color really quickly. It was like “Oh, that’s easy. I can identify that the red is C and I can look at it and match colors.”

It was so easy for the kids, and I kind of thought they would take to it easily.

Prior to finding The Musicolor Method, a lot of what I had seen with the color was connected to rhythm—like with Boomwhacker sticks. They’re long tubes, and what you can do is use them for counting and for music.

That is another reason why I decided to take The Musicolor Method Masterclass. I realized that Andrew had actually put color into a piano format and he had evolved it so that we could use both hands.

The business lessons helped me think differently about my teaching

I am an analytical person. I think reading some of his thoughts, how he wanted to approach and structure the program and the philosophy behind it was beneficial. It helped me organize and look at my teaching in a different way.

I noticed right away that the program was very organized. Very thoughtful in the way in which he put together his program. I did like the approach overall.

It’s been well worth the investment

I know he has added things since I took the Masterclass, for example, when to buy your first piano and a few other things. All of this is helpful.

He created the whole package. He is always making changes too, and he is always presenting information differently. I couldn’t quite believe how much information and work he had put into his program. It’s been worth the investment.

Overall, I am a big fan.

Another thing that I liked that I haven’t done, is I like that he included some of the other string instruments in the program. It’s something that’s just a little different for younger students to be exposed to. I like that the information is available if I do want to use it.

I know this is a complicated process, but I am very pleased with everything he has done and continues to do. I am glad I did it.

Why I’d recommend The Musicolor Method Masterclass

I never realized when I was taking piano that it was that hard to teach. There have been a few times that I have looked at students and said, “Hmm. How did I learn this?” I think it is harder to teach than one would think.

I think Andrew’s approach has made it easier. You don’t have to use so many words, you rely more on the visuals.

There are a lot of layers to the Musicolor Method. Andrew has put a lot of thinking into, how and when you want to bring a certain idea into the lessons.

I think putting all this together into this format has been really good. I don’t think I could have done it.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

Read Carol’s product review of The Musicolor Method Masterclass on Tim Topham’s website 

Click here to see Carol’s profile

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My interview about the Musicolor Method on Tim Topham’s podcast

I was recently interviewed on the influential Creative Piano Teacher podcast with Tim Topham. Tim’s a wonderful educator who has a very active blog, podcast, and a membership site. If you’re a teacher and never heard of him, you’re in for a treat.

In the interview, I discuss

  • How and why I decided to create a method book
  • How color is used in the method
  • Why the Musicolor Method starts with vertical notation
  • How it avoids position or finger number based thinking
  • My 7 core principles of music teaching
  • Which type of student this method is particularly suited to

I also talk about a special offer on our newly updated Musicolor Masterclass

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Anne Reinvented Her Career With The Perfect Part-Time Piano School

After a long recovery from surgery, Anne was wondering if she would ever be able to have the stamina and drive to teach music again. She reconnected to her love of early childhood education, and her passion for playing, when she came across the Musicolor Method.

Now, Anne has reinvented herself as a private music teacher to preschool and elementary age children. She’s got a thriving, part-time business with a waiting list of eager students.

 

Anne Vardanega
Sydney, Australia

First instrument: Piano
Age I started playing music: 7
Number of years teaching: 38
Number of students before The Musicolor Method: 3-4
Number of current students: 14, plus waiting list

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Currently listening to:

Bohemian Rhapsody movie soundtrack.

I’ve loved music since childhood

I started learning piano at 7 years old. I studied for 5 years, and I took exams for it in high school for what we call here in Australia, the HSC. In the U.S., I suppose you would call it your high school graduation.

I didn’t actually think I was clever enough to study music to graduate from high school. But I was encouraged by an inspiring and dedicated teacher who told me that I could do it.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher

At University, I studied early childhood education, and I included music in my teaching studies.

I was actually a musicology major. I didn’t have to actually do a performance, but I had to do musicology arranging and composing. I absolutely loved it.

Professionally, I focused on classroom music. I played the piano, the guitar and sang with my students.

I had my son when I was 30. I taught early childhood music classes with him. He was able to come along when he was 2-5 years old.

My son’s early music lessons were a disaster

He started at age 4 with the piano, and it really didn’t work. At that time, there didn’t seem to be childhood classes that bridged early music and formal lessons. If he had the Musicolor Method back then, he would have loved it.

My son started studying guitar in school. Now, he and his wife are professional musicians living in New York.

I started performing later in life—teaching was always first

My son inspired me to learn bass guitar and voice and start performing in my 40’s. I was the bass player, backup singer, and music director of the church.

When my son was older, I got a job at his school teaching High School music and as the performing arts convenor. It was a role that I loved.

I was helping students perform for their exams, their performances and prepare for their graduation. At the end of the year they were doing performances.

My son and his fiancee (now wife) said, “Why don’t you start off because you have your early childhood background, your general education background. Why don’t you start teaching piano?” So I taught Kinder Music and Music Theory after the school year was over.

The Musicolor Method created the next phase of my career

I was recovering from hip replacement surgery, and I was actually feeling quite down and out. I was thinking that I might not be able to teach any more.

Andrew contacted me through LinkedIn, and he sent me information about his program.

As a parent and a teacher, I already knew there was a gap for young musicians. That’s what I had experienced with taking my son to piano lessons at age 4 – they were way too hard and really turned him off learning piano.

I could see the value in the Musicolor Method right away.

Plus, I have always loved color. If I showed you around my house see you got  bright color paintings. The creative use of color in the Musicolor Method really appealed to me too. And  it has been fantastic.

The kids are engaged and excited by the colors

I just loved the colors, and the children took to it straight away. My students started singing a lot more, which appealed to me as an early childhood teacher.

We love singing songs and they loved collecting the ribbons. I made a fun folder for them. We could go slowly through it, it didn’t matter how long a child had to stay. I could slowly go with the child depending on how they were developing.

It bridges beautifully with the early childhood years of music with 3-4 year olds. It’s the perfect solution until they’re a little older and can go on to reading music.

I believe there are still not a whole lot of good resources that bridge that Kinder music phase in young children. A lot of books have young students playing on the black keys. I do utilize that as one tool for visualizing different positions on the piano, but it gets boring, and it is not as creative as the colors.

The colors inspire creativity and compositions

I do integrate composition a lot in my lessons as well because the colors make it so easy for the children to write something. I am putting together a book actually, to show Andrew what our studio here has composed.

The kids get inspired by something that happened at school, or being on a holiday, or even by the stuffed toys I have in my studio. They use all of them to write song.

Even if they are struggling with playing with five fingers, they can still be creative. I love that. If they were learning traditionally they wouldn’t  feel so good about themselves as musicians.

My part-time roster is full

I have students from age 4-9 on the Musicolor Method, and I have some older students who have gone on to other instruments but they come back to practice with me. But they actually started with the Musicolor Method.

I use it to build that transition solidly so that my students don’t lose that love for music or say it’s too hard.

The Musicolor Method helps connect with older students too

One student is turning 11 this year. I have actually said to him, “I think you need a better piano teacher now because I just focus on early childhood.”

But he’s still with me, learning harder songs like Star Wars and Harry Potter. We’re also learning chords, Beatles songs, and having fun singing together. I think that is quite interesting that he could really go to a different teacher, but for him, it is about the connection and the fun and creative process. He can play without the colors, but he still enjoys that creative side.

There are two older girls, and they are playing clarinet and saxophone. They are in grade 6. They are both in bands and they come back to me to practice. I don’t play clarinet or saxophone, but they feel confident enough with me to come back for me to help them practice. Their moms pay me to help them, I feel that connection is there to support them in their music journey.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

  Visit Anne’s studio website here. 

 

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Brett is Teaching Full Time After Doubling His Roster

While he started teaching music to make some extra cash, Brett quickly realized that he had a knack for connecting with students. The only problem? Getting enough students to pay him for regular lessons to quit his extra part-time jobs.

Within three months of going through The Musicolor Method Masterclass and being coached by Andrew, Brett doubled his student roster and became a full-time music teacher.

Brett Crudgington
Brooklyn, New York

First instrument: Saxophone
Age I started playing music: 9
Number of years teaching: 10
Number of students before The Musicolor Method: 12
Number of current students: 33 and counting, plus waiting list

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Current listening to:

Glenn Gould to calm myself down. I have also been listening to and playing a lot of Brazilian music, classical dances and samba.

I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember

I have been playing instruments since I was 9 years old, I started on the saxophone. I was at the piano one day when I was really young, and I just started playing melodies. I was copying what I knew from playing the saxophone.

My parents thought that was a little brainy to be doing. So they asked me, “Do you want piano lessons?”. I started with 30 minute piano lessons with a teacher down the road, and I took them for 3 years.

Early lessons were somewhat disorganized

My teacher would give me books to work through, but she presented the lessons in the

method books, in a haphazard way. They were a little confusing, It was very disconnected.

There wasn’t a ton of structure early on, but I did survive with my sort of natural playing talent. I still learned a lot, but it could’ve been better. I also didn’t practice a whole lot.

When I started high school, I realized I needed to practice and needed structure. I went to college in New York, and I started playing classical music. I had four years of classical training after a bunch of Jazz training.

I went pro in Brooms

In my early to mid-twenties, I worked with a project called Brooms. It was a singer/songwriter duo, me and another guy. We were composing and producing albums.

We did a lot on Spotify. We produced four albums, and we got some traction. I got a couple songs featured in commercials, which was really cool.

These days, I’m focusing on running a business and keeping my skills up.  

I didn’t take my music business seriously at first

I saw music lessons as a way to make a living, but I didn’t like the business side of it. I loved playing.

I was juggling another job, and I had 12 private music students. I kept getting calls for students, and I thought “Okay, I gotta figure this out. I can’t do both.”

I had no business background, no corporate experience, no marketing or formal training. I didn’t take any classes. I was drowning in hours of teaching, and trying to manage it all. I needed to tighten up my communication and what I was offering.

The Musicolor Method came along at the right time. Andrew offered me coaching sessions along with the Masterclass, and I was like “Great! Sign me up.”

The Musicolor Method doubled my student roster

Since we started working together, I’ve been teaching full time. No more juggling another job. That’s it!

Before I started using the Musicolor Method Masterclass, I had 12 students. Within about 6-9 months, I doubled my student roster. I used his excellent product to help a lot of young kids who can’t read, to help them play these songs.

Andrew’s course gives teachers a way to translate the value of what his method gives, to the parents themselves.

It shows you exactly how to structure a lesson plan, writing lesson notes to families and communicating in a consistent way. It helps you run a professional business and show the value of what you’re providing.

He simplifies the process of running a music lesson business.

It saved me years of frustration and struggle

There are many resources out there, and they are all pretty great. But it’s different to work with somebody and get the right structure at the right time.

You could have 100 things to do as a business owner, and a consultant will come in and say “don’t do that, don’t do that and just focus on these 10 things”. It saves you like years.

It’s a genius way of approaching a 4-year-old mind in a very intuitive way.

The Musicolor Method lets young students go home and rehearse these songs on their own, without needing a parent there to help them out. They can figure it out on their own.

I didn’t know what to do with very young students before Andrew came along. Quite frankly I didn’t have the time.

Andrew spent some time in the library reading up on this, and he has tried a lot of the stuff out. So what he has done is created a great, intuitive way to reach these kids but do it in a structured way too.

It’s just unique because he has information design background too. So he was able to kind of go, immediately see the problems and address those problems.

Parents love seeing their kids succeed

I think the parents appreciate the approach. It’s intuitive and their kids have fun playing right away. They really love seeing their kids succeed. The kids are enjoying it, and the parents don’t feel lost either.

Parents are not worried about, “Are my kids retaining any of this?” As long as the teacher kind of addresses that consistently and says “Look, this is how we’re moving and what we expect over the next 3-6 months.”

It helps you, as the teacher, to be very clear about the pace and structure.

What I’d tell you about taking The Musicolor Method Masterclass

The Musicolor Method Masterclass will give you the structure you need to make your lessons.

Especially, if you’ve been teaching for a few years, but you still need help structuring your lessons. This can transform your business.

If you have a little success from teaching and you enjoy it, this can be the game changer.

It will give you the marketing skills you need to treat it like a business. You won’t feel like you’re getting swallowed up by your business. Instead, you’ll learn how to manage it in a way that suits you.

And because this method opens up a whole new market to me (4-6 year olds) I can suddenly take on all of them and it works amazingly for them. It’s saved me a lot of time figuring out what works.

Now I have a different class of problems. I am managing 33 students, and now I have to figure out how to scale and manage a full roster of students.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

Visit Brett’s studio website here.

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Music Education And The Belief of “Control of Destiny”

As a parent, I have always wanted my son to have a music education.  It’s not that I want him to be a professional musician, it’s because

  • It’s so much fun and he loves it
  • the life skills accessible through music lessons

Brain Development and Music Education

There have been so many scientific studies and articles in the media over the last few years.  They have all proven the benefits of music education in brain development, personal growth, self esteem and success in later life.  

In my private teaching practice, “Life Skills Through Music” is clearly stated as my objective.

Part of this bundle of life skills is a “growth mindset.”  Growth mindset has become a buzzword in education and psychology these days.  It came from Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford who conducted a study of 5th graders in 1998.  

In the study, the students were given a challenging test.  At its completion, they were all told they did well.  

However, half the students were also told, “You must have worked really hard on this.”  The other half were also told, “You must be naturally smart.”

The difference in the next round of testing was startling.  

The kids who were praised for their effort and hard work, tried to live up to that praise and pushed themselves harder and longer.  The kids who were praised for their natural gifts, took less risks, and gave up quicker on challenging questions.   

All because of HOW they were praised.

In my training for music teachers, we discuss growth mindset with extensive resource videos.  So I was a little surprised to hear that the US Marine Corps are also using it.    

In Charles Duhigg’s best-selling book Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive, he tells the story of a young man with no ambition, drive, or motivation.  It seems this man was never made to do anything for himself.  Everything was given to him and after the structure of school, he had no idea of what to do with his life.  Somehow he found his way to the U.S. Marines which completely transforms him.

Locus of Control

Duhigg interviews the officer who reinvented basic training based on studies like Dweck’s that show the importance of an internal locus (point, position, or location) of control.  

U.S. Marines in Afghanistan
U.S. Marines in Afghanistan

“We were seeing much weaker applicants.  A lot of these kids didn’t just need discipline, they needed a mental makeover.  They’d never belonged to a sports team.  They’d never had a real job. They’d never done anything.  They didn’t even have the vocabulary for ambition.  They’d followed instructions their whole life.  This was a problem.  Because the Corps increasingly needed troops who could make independent decisions…We need extreme self starters.”

The officer discovered “studies the Marine Corps had conducted years earlier that showed the most successful Marines with a strong internal locus of control, a belief that they could influence their destiny through the choices they made.”

Duhigg continues:

“Locus of control has been a major topic of study within psychology since the 1950’s.  Researchers have found that people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves for success or failure rather than assigning responsibility to things outside their influence.  A student with a strong internal locus of control for instance, will attribute good grades to hard work rather than natural smarts…

People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer and report greater professional success and satisfaction.  

In contrast, having an external locus of control, believing that your life is primarily influenced by events outside your control, is correlated with higher levels of stress, often because an individual perceives a situation as beyond his or her coping abilities.”

So what does this have to do with music education?

The entire process of learning an instrument with a caring teacher is like the perfect process of developing a strong internal locus of control:

  • Learning how to focus on playing a piece well through repeated practice
  • Linking cause and effect based on student choices
  • Persevering through difficult pieces – building grit!
  • Breaking down big problems into smaller manageable pieces
  • Trying different approaches in speed, rhythm, quality, etc.
  • Development of personal responsibility for practice
  • Public performance and presentation
  • Memorization skills

To name just a few.

Duhigg interviews Professor Dweck who says,

Carol S Dweck  - Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

“Internal locus of control is a learned skill…Most of us learn it early in life. But some people’s sense of self-determination gets suppressed by how they grow up or experiences they’ve had.  They forget how much influence they can have on their own lives.  That’s when training is helpful.  Because if you put people in situations where they can practice feeling in control – where that internal locus of control is re-awakened, then people can start building habits that make them feel they are in charge of their own lives.  And the more they feel that way, the more they really are in control of themselves.”

Did you notice Dweck says practice?  

It’s as if she’s directly talking about music lessons!

And there’s some good news

The U.S. Congress recently passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which has done away with the controversial No Child Left Behind.  So no more common core curriculum!  

Instead, the goal is for a well-rounded education.  And for the first time in 50 years, music is now a stand alone subject in that well-rounded mix.  

Hopefully, this means the demand for music teachers will increase.  Perhaps there will be a bit more respect, and most importantly, funding for programs like band, chorus, orchestra, and general music.  

Music is the practice of developing belief that we control our destiny through our actions.

So the next time your child brings home good grades on a test, don’t just say “Good job!” Take a moment to praise the effort.  And sign them up for music lessons! With some guidance, they just may turn out to be extreme self-starters.

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How to make music practice effective – it can change your life

Men Wearing Makeup Playing Loud Guitars

When I was 12, I discovered something so fantastic, larger-than-life, and electrifying!

It was the rock band KISS.

It was colorful, loud, and crazy. But maybe even more, my parents hated it! All of a sudden, everything else faded away and I wanted to be one of these super-hero-like rock stars, slinging a guitar down at my knees with long hair blowing in the wind.

But I was an awkward, geeky, and lonely kid with thick glasses. And it was too late, wasn’t it? Didn’t anyone who became famous start when they were four years old?

So, I just consumed the music, learning the history of rock from the library books, magazines, and the radio. New York radio station WPLJ used to have a documentary series on the history of rock and I recorded every episode I could. It was pure gold!

The Itch To Play Guitar

I was itching to play guitar!

At 13, I discovered the Rolling Stones! I started digging the sounds of Cream, Led Zeppelin, and then learned about their influencers, people like John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, and Robert Johnson.  

[By the way, this has emerged as a major success pattern in my life. New interest? Do a deep historical dive and overview of the major influencers. Get the “meta knowledge” first. The big picture.]

Stairway To Heaven

One day, a kid in my neighborhood, Steve Watson, played a school concert with his band. They played “Stairway To Heaven.” I couldn’t believe it! It was like a bolt of lightning went through my whole body.

“If he could do it, then surely I can!

He hasn’t even been playing guitar for more than a year!”

Teaching Myself

I went home and picked up my Mom’s old nylon string folk guitar and began to teach myself. Since I was already playing alto sax since the fourth grade in the school band, I had some musical training. Plus, I had some guitar lessons at five, but that didn’t last.

The Lennon McCartney Guitar Course

I bought the Lennon & McCartney guitar course and started at page one. I was motivated and I started to practice for hours every day. I went through the book page by page and practiced getting each and every exercise and song smooth.

Rolling Over The Bumps

Along the way, I realized that I could get better faster if I didn’t just play the whole thing from start to finish. I could “roll over” those bumpy spots to make them smoother by just doing that isolated part again and again. By practicing the difficult bits, I progressed rapidly.

Catching Up

Within a few months I bought myself a $30 used and battered Hondo Les Paul style electric guitar (with a Tobacco Sunburst) and a cheap amp.  I started practicing up to 9 hours a day!  I was desperately trying to catch up to “everyone else who started at 5!”

Scales, Arpeggios and Exercises

While most kids learn by playing songs, I practiced scales, arpeggios, and exercises. I actually could not play a song from memory until years later!

A Music Practice Virtuoso

I wanted to get good fast and I did left-hand-only exercises, followed by right-hand-muted-picking exercises while watching television. It drove the family crazy. I became a practice virtuoso!

Practice and Life Skills

I never became that rock star. I was close, in that I was a television host for MTV as one of the first 3 VJs to launch their channel in Asia. I got a publishing deal and toured with my band, and I have had many other adventures in my career.

Zelig

For a while, I felt like the character Zelig in Woody Allen’s film of the same name. It seems I was always on the edge of a new discovery: desktop publishing, television, MTV, film composing, the Internet, advertising and education.

The Practice Mindset

Each time I reinvented myself, it was with a “practice mindset.”

I asked myself questions like:

  • How can I master this material in the shortest amount of time?
  • Who are the role models I need to model?
  • What is the history of this discipline?

Where Mastery Happens

Today as a private music teacher, I work every day with young students from age 3 to 15. Each lesson is really a lesson in learning how to practice. The actual skill-building does not happen in the lesson. Mastery happens at home in the daily practice. The lesson is where we refine “how to practice.”

The Game Of Practice

I’ve just written a book on ways to encourage practicing a musical instrument.  It’s available right now on Amazon and is free as a launch promotion for the next four days.  In the book, you’ll learn more mindsets for practicing as well 53 tips to make practice fun.

Here’s some of the fun, unique and innovative things you will learn:

  • Why learning a song is like eating a pie
  • Why every music teacher should buy stock in 3M, the maker of Post-It notes.
  • How to use beans to motivate (or coins or candies)
  • How to help your child memorize a piece of music non-liinearly
  • Why there is a right way and a wrong way to praise
  • How to make practicing a repertoire like a game
  • Using practice stickers and much more…

You can download the book at Amazon.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments.

And thank you to all the great music teachers I’ve had along the way including:  Andy Blackett, Pete Brasch, Seth Shapiro, Dan Converse, Mark Elf, Conrad Cummings, Ron Sadoff, Jim Petrungaro, Pat Castle, Gene Bertoncini, Joe Lovano, and so many more.

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What Kind Of Smart Are Your Students?

Truly Scrumptious:  “Haven’t you noticed?  There aren’t any children. Not one.”

In the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, based on a novel by Ian Fleming (with a script co-written by Roald Dahl), there is a land where children are banished.  They are evil and are meant to be shut away and captured by the Child Catcher – the subject of many a nightmare for me!

childcatcher
The Child Catcher from the film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”

It’s astounding to realize that developmental psychology and the modern practices of child-centered education are really only in their infancy.  It was only a little over 100 years ago that Dickens was writing of horrific conditions that faced children on an everyday basis.  There was little consciousness of the stages of human development and what was appropriate and possible for a child at each age.

Before educator/philosophers like John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky and others, children were effectively seen as miniature adults and expected to understand and behave as adults!

Well times have certainly changed, thank goodness.  Today we have many new theories and studies that have proven effective for parents and educators.

As a music teacher, your mission is to transfer your knowledge with sensitivity and to invoke passion, curiosity, and enthusiasm for beauty in music and life.  We, as educators, can better accomplish this by embracing and studying areas outside of just “technique and repertoire.”

In this article I want to give some insights on teaching using the framework of multiple intelligences.

Harvard University developmental psychologist Dr. Howard Gardner published Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983 and theorized that everyone has a preferred mode of learning..  When his book was first published, he had identified seven modes of learning, but there are now eight or nine depending on which research you follow.

Here is a list of Dr.Gardner’s multiple intelligences from one of the leading proponents of the theory, Dr. Thomas Armstrong, whose website can be visited here.

The Multiple Intelligences

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

As a music teacher, you can start to see what kind of preferred mode of learning your student has. Ideally, we all have music smart students!  But then again, these are all aspects of all of us.  We are all smart in multiple ways with some areas stronger than others.  Someone who is considered hyperactive and really unfocused may just be “body smart.” Or someone who consistently talks during the lesson may not be trying to be rude or disrespectful, but rather is “word smart” and needs to process by speaking about the lesson.

Here’s a visual chart that can help you get an overview of the multiple intelligences.

multiple-intelligences
Download a PDF here.

Think about your students as you look at this chart. You’ll quickly recognize some of your students and how they fit into one or more of these intelligences.  Keep in mind that we all use each of these in some respects, but we tend to lean more towards one or two in our everyday lives. Knowing the preferred intelligences of your students can really help with your mission to spark the joy of learning and to transfer the skills necessary for learning to your students.

To better understand this, you can take this free multiple intelligences quiz to assess what kind of smart you are.

Number Smart Students

Years ago, when I was sitting in my son’s preschool classroom, I noticed how much structure there was.  They had charts for attendance, the daily routine, and going to the bathroom, etc.  My son loved this!  He would also love to take all the books off the shelf and put them back in order from smallest to largest.  This was endlessly fascinating to him because he loved organizing and sorting.  It became obvious to me that he was number smart.  For kids who are number smart, I have found the use of a practice chart and daily stickers or check marks to be highly effective.

Body Smart Students

I’ve had several students over the years who are obviously more body smart and they struggle to sit long enough to focus.  I end up taking away the piano bench so they can play standing up and they love the kinesthetic learning games we play, such as using Curwen hand signs and moving magnetic notes on my Grand Staff magnet board.

Word Smart Students

I have some students who have been word smart and they are so funny! Everything is discussion and conversation, but if you really listen and ask them questions, they are synthesizing all the facts and you will be amazed by how much they know! They just need to tell it to you. This can be a little hard when you are asking them to just play the piece because they need to tell you everything they noticed or felt or heard first!

Classrooms

While we can do these personalizations in a private lesson, a classroom situation is very different. The challenge of teaching multiple intelligences in the classroom is huge especially given the typical structure of a classroom. Children are grouped, not according to these preferred modes of learning, but by age. A single teacher needs to teach everyone in the same way without losing their minds!  For some teachers, they just give up on those “problem students” and send them to detention or expel them from their class,but those kids could be highly musical as well.

With some creativity (and energy), I’m hoping some of these teachers could see it in a new way.  A simple walk outside with the class to observe the sounds of nature or industrial sounds, perhaps having them use a handheld recorder or smartphone, could be a fascinating and educational activity that would satisfy some of the more body smart and nature smart students in the class.

Schools and Multiple Intelligence

Schools face the challenge of meeting the needs of as many students as possible, but this creates a situation where some students might fall through the cracks.  One of the most articulate and eloquent speakers on the subject of education and its challenges is Sir Ken Robinson. He has written several books on education and his TED Talk is one of the most viewed ever.

I discovered this excellent animation of one of his talks that discusses the problem of our school system, which generally only rewards students who are word smart or number smart.  Additionally, there has been an “epidemic” of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in the United States.  Here’s a clip that starts at the section about ADHD. I would highly recommend watching the video by Sir Ken Robinson in its entirety if you have time.

I hope this discussion of multiple intelligences has piqued your interest in approaching your music students in a fresh new way.  I welcome your comments below.

We discuss learning styles in the Musicolor Method™ training course – Learn more.

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About The Method Best practices Lesson Plan Ideas Mindset Music Teacher Secrets Professional Development

The #1 Secret To Teaching Young Children Music

Teaching Young Children Music

As a private music teacher, you want to teach music to children.  You know they love it and there seems to be a plentiful supply of them asking for your help.  Besides, lately all your adult students seem to be canceling at the last minute while your teens are more interested in their social media feeds than practicing.  Maybe you should teach younger kids?

But Teaching Young Kids Is Hard

It does seem hard, doesn’t it?  Young children have limited attention spans, some lack fine motor skills, and some can’t even spell their names, let alone read a simple word.  How do you present the many complexities of music, technique, reading, and playing songs they like  in a way that’s simple, fun and won’t  drive you crazy?

What About A New Age Group?

But what if you could take a 4 year old as a student?  What if you could successfully take on a whole bunch of them and keep them for years?  Your studio would be instantly full and overflowing for a long time with this group.  You might even have a waiting list.  But this would only happen, if you were effective, and fun!

So, what is the #1 secret to teaching young children music?

Scaffolding

The secret is a term that we usually associate with construction.  Here in New York City, I see it every single day.  It’s “scaffolding.”  Scaffolding is the temporary structure that assists the workers in building the building.  In the western world, most of it is metal, but in Hong Kong, where I lived for years, it’s still made of bamboo!

Metal scaffolding
Metal scaffolding
Bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong
Bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong

 

 

But the term scaffolding has been appropriated by educators to mean a similar thing.  In education, you offer support while the student learns a new concept or skill.  

 

The Balance Bike

This reminds me of the time I was teaching my son to ride a bicycle.

balance bike

 

When my son was a toddler, I began seeing beautiful handmade two-wheeled, push bikes without pedals.  The concept was that the child could focus on balance before learning to use pedals.  

It was a phased learning process.  

 

But why not training wheels?

 

Well, these have been proven to be more of a crutch than a scaffolding.

 

So, I bought a $30 kid’s bike and adjusted the seat as low as possible without adding the pedals.  As soon as my son began to develop balance, which he demonstrated by lifting his feet while rolling along, I knew he was ready.  So, one day, when he was 4 years old, I pushed him down the slope of our Brooklyn sidewalk with the pedals turning.  He grabbed my hand saying,

“Papa, do NOT let go of me!”  

I began to push and run alongside him, holding on as I had promised.   Before we had travelled  twenty feet, he began yelling, “Let go!  Let go!  I can do this!”

And sure enough, he pedaled down the block with the most triumphant smile on his face.

Applying Phased Learning & Scaffolding to Music

In teaching music to preschoolers, I realized that there needed to be something similar.  I needed a phased-learning process, some kind of thoughtful scaffolding so  the student does not  get hit with a multitude of new abstract concepts at the same time.

A Limited Data Set

I started kids with a limited data-set, just five  notes on the keyboard that match their  five  fingers.  For the guitar, I taped off three of the strings and just used the three  higher strings,  using  one for melody and the others as drones.

Use of Color

I began to use color as a temporary scaffolding.  By directly labelling the keys, the fingering and the notation, I could work on playing songs which they loved while gently correcting their technique over time.  Then I could start sneaking in some music theory through games.  Eventually, we would start tackling learning to read music on the staff.    

Parallel Paths

My teaching started to break down into these separate but parallel tracks.

1) Playing comes first – but with a limited set of notes that match the middle of the human voice frequency range.  This allows the student to engage their voice in the process.

2) Technical facility is gradually developed over time in service of a song

3) Reading of music notation is taught in a 6 stage process from simplest to traditional music notation.

4) Conceptual and abstract music theory is gradually delivered in small gradual steps, usually through games.

Here’s a video of one of my students at a holiday music party after only a few weeks of lessons.

In my ten years of specializing in teaching children, I have consistently had a full roster with a waiting list and the results have been amazing.   Last Fall, I began teaching a few other music teachers this method and they too have been experiencing great results.  In a few weeks, I will be launching the online course for the Musicolor Method™.  If you want to be on the early bird list for notification when it’s ready, you can click here.  

Growth Mindset of Children “I Can Do Anything”

One of the greatest joys of teaching kids music is that young children have  complete self-confidence and belief that they can do anything.  They truly embody the growth mindset.  Unfortunately, it seems they begin to lose this the older they get, so starting music lessons at this age dovetails perfectly with their confidence.  

Music Is For Everyone

I believe that music should be for everyone.  It is in our very core – we are all vibrating at frequencies.  Let’s share the joy of music with as many people as possible.  

I would love to know your thoughts on scaffolding and if you have any similar techniques?  Please share in the comments below and thanks for reading!

 

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Lesson Plan Ideas

The importance of listening to the right music

It’s All About Choosing The Right Music At The Right Moment

As a music teacher, your job is not only to educate but also to inspire.  To truly connect your student to music, you need to know a bit about them.  What kind of music do they like?  Do they have favorite artists or genres?  But what about the earliest experiences of music?

Be The Guide For Your Students

Preschoolers and young children are usually blank slates with little music exposure and are looking to you to introduce them to the world of music.  It’s your job to play, perform and recommend playlists for them at home.  The huge success of the Suzuki method is driven by the use of the pre-recorded music that you “program” the child from an early age, just like listening to a language tape.

Playlists for Music Students

I created some suggested listening and singing songs for young children a long time ago.  These were all songs I sang to my son when he was a toddler and what they share are simple melodic structures and very simple harmonies, often just two chords, the tonic and the dominant.  They are also just great for introducing early students to listening to music and eventually learning these tunes on their instruments.

Order of Listening

After folk songs, an introduction to early Classical and Baroque music is a great choice.  Actually, following the full history of music makes a lot of sense as it is builds upon itself developing greater harmony, color tones, length, etc.   And, you are doing a wonderful history of music in a nutshell, whether the student knows it or not.

Songs To Sing To Your Toddler – Some Suggestions

  • Hush Little Baby
  • Swing Low Sweet Chariot
  • Kum Ba Ya
  • Dinah
  • Kookaburra (usually thought to be an Australian folk song, it was written by a camp counselor in 1932)
  • Michael Row The Boat Ashore
  • Greensleeves
  • Lightly Row
  • HoneyBee
  • Cuckoo
  • French Children’s Song (Petit Papa)
  • Oh How Lovely Is The Evening
  • Summertime (Gershwin)
  • Silent Night
  • You Send Me (Sam Cooke)
  • Zippity Doo Dah (By The Sherman Brothers for Disney)
  • The 59th Street Bridge Song (Simon & Garfunkel)
  • Under The Boardwalk (The Drifters)
  • This Little Light of Mine

When MTV Used To Play Music!

I used to be a VJ for MTV. (That’s Video Jockey for Music Television for those of you who weren’t around when the television channel actually played music videos all day, everyday.)   What most people didn’t realize, I had no influence on what was played and when.  It was all done by the “programming department” who decided which videos to play and what order to play them in and how often.

Programming Your Child/Student

“Programming” is what you are actually doing by introducing great music to your students.

A real DJ (or VJ) would be making song selections based on mood, audience and the emotional arc desired.  I’ve done this a few times in my life, and it’s a thrill to see how you can shape the crowd based on song selections and timing.  You can really bring a crowd to a frenzy!

Student Preferences Lead To Enthusiasm

Well, the same thing happens when you are planning your lessons.  After a while, say a few months, you are going to have a good feel for who your students are.  You should be noticing what types of pieces they really respond to and start offering more in that direction.

Older students are usually beginning to show real preferences and some may have a favorite artist, rock band or Broadway Show with songs they want to learn.

Music Teacher As DJ

This past week, as I’ve been prepping for lessons, after many students took the summer off, I’ve gone through my past lesson notes to see what could be that perfect next song for the student?  What song would offer a new challenge that is not too overwhelming?   And I realized, it’s just like being a DJ, only on a longer macro scale.

Song Selection Examples

My 11 year old piano student K was learning “Titanium” by David Guetta which led me to “Flashlight” performed by Jesse J as heard in the movie Pitch Perfect 2.  A perfect segue!

My 8 year old piano student L was so into “Maps” by Maroon 5 and “Happy” by Pharell Williams…what should come next?  Hmm.  Still programming that one for later today.

What songs have you used to inspire and what did that lead to?  Please share in the comments below.

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Piano Lesson Piano Sheet Music For Beginners Printables

Let It Be, easy piano sheet music for intermediate players

Let it be for piano - intermediate musicolor method

The Beatles changed the world with their catchy pop melodies, excellent song structures and beautiful harmonies.  This song is long a favorite for pianists, but playing it in the original key of C is quite difficult for most young singers who have the heart of their range from middle C (C4) to the one above (C5).

Here’s a quick and easy version that you can use to remedy that situation in the Key of F major.  You can easily find the lyrics anywhere on the internet.

For educational purposes only. Download PDF.