The piano lesson was a little more stressful than yesterday’s cello lesson, in part because we have a few toy and electric piano keyboards around the house. While playing with the cello, and even smelling it, was a new and exotic sensation, the action of sitting down and hitting a key is familiar to him (via his exposure to computer games).
Nevertheless, I am enjoying my own exposure to the Suzuki method.
First, Miss Charlene asks the students to say the musical alphabet – A B C D E F G. She claps her hands with each letter, and invites the boys to do the same. She then invites the younger boy (who is very squirmy today) to make up a different gesture. He flaps his arms. Miss Charlene and Peter imitate him, shouting out letters. While the other instructor always started with Peter and then let the younger boy copy Peter, this instructor seems to spread it around fairly evenly.
Next, the children are invited to sit at the piano and push a few keys. Then the instructor starts at the lowest white key and plays each one, counting as she goes.
By the time she gets to forty, both boys are squirming, but she soldiers on… after reaching the top, she works her way back down on the black keys.
So far, so good.
Now it’s time to do some simple stepping up and down, focusing on getting the students to use five fingers of one hand.
The familiar melody “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is divided up to four sections:
* Bread: “Twinkie, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.”
* Peanut butter: “Up above the world so high”
* Jelly (softer): “Like a diamond in the sky”
* Other piece of bread: “Twinkie, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.”
The transitions from the piano (on one side of the room) to the table (on the other side) aren’t going very well. Peter and George feel comfortable enough with each other to poke each other and play. The colored stickers they’re supposed to put on a picture of a clown each time they learn a lesson are just too tempting to fiddle with during the next tabletop lesson.
When the instructor holds up a little rubber treble clef, Peter brightens — he recognizes it from Jump Start Music (computer game), and correctly identifies it as a G clef.
The game that comes next is a hit. One student goes out into the hall, while another hides the treble clef somewhere in the room. When the first player comes back in, looking for the treble clef, a third student plays louder on the piano when the first student gets closer to the clef.
I notice that the instructor asks each of the boys if they would like to be the player, but neither volunteers. They choose to do the hiding or seeking, so the instructor does the playing — and introduces the next melody in the process.
Just as parents were drafted into playing the cello last time, parents are drafted into playing “hunt the treble clef” this time.
Peter is able to find C with no trouble, playing it up and down the keyboard. He finds F pretty easily too. Now the instructor holds up a raisin, and announces that she will say either C or F, and Peter has to play the right note before the raisin drops to the ground.
I am pleased at how well is doing.
Then when it’s little George’s turn, I notice the trick — she waits until he has decided which key to go for, and then she drops the raisin. It doesn’t really make any sound when it hits the ground, so when she says George wins, he just beams happily.
As I noted, transitions aren’t going very well. Yesterday, each boy had his own cello, but today they have to share the piano. There’s a lot of sliding around on the bench, poking each other playfully when they share the bench, and flopping and slouching in their chairs while they wait for their next turn at the piano.
Just when both boys are near the breaking point, the instructor calls a bathroom break. When the students return, each gets a baggie full of crackers, on which they munch in relative contentedness, while the instructor reads to them a book about the orchestra.
She also has big flash cards designed to teach rhythm, and introduces a rest.
At one point, sitting on his chair while George takes a turn, Peter looks around forlornly.
“I wish the cellos were here,” he says.
(Update: Corrected Miss Charlene’s name.)