Piano and Instrumental Music Broad Overview
The PNEU had a full scale (instrumental) Piano Curriculum in place. For many years, before I studied the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection, I was under the impression that Mason’s music curriculum was sorely lacking. I was familiar with folksongs and composer study, but as a music major, I didn’t feel that it was enough. I was so pleased and surprised to find this complete program in place.
Here are a few great resources to help you understand some basic principles of Instrumental Instruction:
The First Music (Piano) Lessons, PR Article by Mrs. Curwen
Music Teaching, PR Article by Mrs. Curwen
Along with Instrumental/Piano Instruction, Mason used musical movement in Physical Education through Drill and Dance. She also included not only singing of folksongs, but choral music, music of the term’s composer, and best of all Sol-fa (ear training and sight singing lessons). In the Pianoforte curriculum that Mason used, the author, Mrs. Curwen, teaches us that the children actually need the ear training and musical movement in rhythm first before pursuing an instrument. So I recommend that you spend time with your kids from birth to age 6-8 just singing, dancing, marching to music, listening, and training their ear. Then when they are developmentally ready to sit still and practice an instrument ( around the time they are ready to learn to read books) then you can begin piano instruction.
I believe that piano is a great first instrument because you can visibly “see” a lot of music theory on a keyboard, that you cannot on a clarinet or violin. As one PR article mentioned, “Mrs. Curwen said that the piano is the best medium for teaching a child the theory of music easily, and that no time spent in learning the theory on the piano is really wasted, even if another instrument is later taken up.” The keys can represent whole and half steps. Also the children learn to play with symmetry with both right and left hand and they learn to read the two main clefs, Treble and Bass simultaneously. This process at an early stage will help them as an older student when wanting to pick up a second instrument.
You may wonder how to begin! I suggest you just start reading some of the books linked on our Piano scope and sequence page. Live lessons are best either from a private teacher or a parent. I am convinced that a holistic, ear before eye approach through something like Suzuki method is the best piano education approach. If you can find a Suzuki teacher for any instrument try that out!
If you can’t afford private piano, or other instrumental music, try out Mrs. Curwen’s Pianoforte Teacher’s Guide and try your hand at teaching your own children how to play piano. Hoffman’s Academy also offers some of their content as free online piano lessons. I haven’t used these lessons, so I don’t know that the philosophy lines up at all with Mrs. Curwen, but baby steps are important. So if this is where you need to start, then start there. Another much more expensive online option that seems to line up in some ways with Mason’s philosophy is Simply Music. Feel free to check it out and see if you think it fits.
If you feel overwhelmed by teaching piano lessons at home, maybe try the recorder or drumming. You won’t get the full effects that you can through piano, which allows a student to play Bach’s beautiful counterpoint melodies and harmonies, but it’s a simple start. Instrumental music helps a child develop self-control and mastery over their body and their senses. They learn to feel the beat, listen carefully, read another (musical) language. These are the things Mason was striving for in the pursuit of a Musical Education. She didn’t want to simply turn out performers, but life-long, Joy-filled, habit forming musicians! I hope to build video lessons for these instrumental music subjects over the coming year, so check back often!
Piano and Instrumental Music has been the last of my research efforts, so it will take a while longer to build and add content to. Please bear with me patiently as I try to add content to this subject! Thank you!