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Summer Reading - books for all ages.
Featured Resource

Play Piano in a Flash for Kids!


Play Piano in a Flash for Kids!

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Publisher: Houston Enterprises

Author: Scott Houston

List Price: Softcover: $12.95

Ages: All Ages

Reviewed By: Jean Hall

I can tell you from personal experience that spending years taking classical piano lessons is not for everyone. My formal music studies encompassed fourteen years of effort, at the end of which I could manage technically difficult music, though I had to keep practicing on a regular basis so as not to lose those hard-won skills. My brother, on the other hand, suffered severe dyslexia and though he had a good ear for music, he was frustrated in his efforts to read music.

Our parents recognized his talent and hated to see it go to waste for lack of training. Happily, they found a jazz piano teacher whose approach to music was similar to that you'll find in Play Piano in a Flash for Kids! A fun and easy way for kids to start playing the piano. My brother could read a melody line, and within the scope of one lesson he learned what chords were and how to read the chord symbols on a lead sheet. From that week forward, he began to learn how to put melody and harmonies together into a rich and pleasing whole, eventually going on to write his own music, and even play professionally.

Have you ever seen a fake book? We have several on our shelf, each containing hundreds of songs written in lead-sheet format - just the melody line written in treble clef, with chord symbols written above the melody and lyrics below. If you're a guitar player, you've probably played from a similar format. Professional musicians often use fake books when playing in public.

Scott "The Piano Guy" Houston has taken the concepts of reading just a melodic line and adding in the accompanying chords, and turned it into a fast-track music course. He starts with keyboard basics - the names of the notes, which way is up (as in, when you move to the right on the keyboard, the notes get "higher"), and how to match notes on a staff to the notes on a piano.

Rhythm gets the same treatment - it's not long before the student understands how long to hold a note, depending on how the note is written.

It's not long before your burgeoning piano student is playing with both hands at the same time, and pretty soon, using "Fun Tricks that Sound Great" (as the chapter is titled), that playing will just get better and fancier!

The author includes a chapter on playing accompaniment with someone else singing or playing the melody. There are three appendices. Appendix A lists all the songs used as examples in the book. Appendix B contains several "nuts and bolts" chapters. The main part of the book gives the bare bones of music theory, just enough to get someone off the ground. This extra information is provided for those who wish to expand on basic knowledge. Appendix C provides simple chord charts for all the piano keys, in major; minor; dominant, major and minor seventh, diminished, and augmented form. (If you're a non-musician, all that technical stuff just means that the author has thoroughly covered all the basic chords you might find on a lead sheet.)

Using familiar songs is a bonus. I have a child who struggles to clap and sing at the same time, but she's learned all sorts of songs by heart (think of such songs as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") and working with such songs makes rhythms make more sense to her. The author uses lots of songs relevant to children as his examples in Play Piano in a Flash for Kids. (Just to name a few: Hokey Pokey, This Old Man, Jingle Bells, When the Saints Go Marching In, She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain, Frere Jacque, Amazing Grace, and more.) If your children are like ours, they've been listening to these songs on cassette or CD for years already.

For even more music, look into Play Piano in a Flash Fake Book for Kids, also available from the author. (See related review.)

Full-size copies of the songs found in the book are available, free of charge, for you to print from the author's website.

The text is conversational and directed at the student. A competent young reader can use this book as a self-teaching guide without needing much if any parental input. The author's tone is encouraging and enthusiastic from start to finish. The book is suited to use either alone or as a supplement to traditional music lessons. Actually, after learning to read lead sheets, I'd have to say that I've found this approach to making music to be more practical in terms of daily use than knowing how to play Beethoven or Bach or any of the classics.

I'm still glad of all those years of classical music lessons, but the same skills taught in Play Piano in a Flash for Kids are the ones I find myself using when we're gathered together for praise and worship, or singing Christmas carols around the piano, or enjoying the rich tradition of folk songs. I'd say Play Piano in a Flash for Kids is a wise investment for your young musician... or even for yourself.
More Information
Available From: Houston Enterprises
Address: 6320 Rucker Road, Suite E, Indianapolis, IN 46220
Other Notes:
Purchase Now From the Eclectic Homeschool Resource Center
Jean Hall
Jean Hall, a Christian home educator with three daughters, enjoys writing stories and music. Her family's interests include reading together, art, gardening, volkswalking and pets: two cats and a Giant Schnauzer.
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