Let’s write a song!

It’s composition time at Music for Young Children! We are learning about techniques that make writing a song easy!

Children love being creative. Whether it’s drawing a picture, pretending to be a character in a story, or writing a piece of music, children love to explore their creativity.

The Music for Young Children program presents the elements of writing a song into 4 essential components. Motive, repetition, sequence, and retrograde.

When we are finished, we have a composition recital with a treat afterwards. Every student performs their song for their class. It’s great fun!

Some students even sing and play their original song at the same time!


Play Piano by Ear

I teach a keyboard program called Music for Young Children. One of the building blocks of this program is the introduction of left hand (LH) harmony chord structures early on in training.  We teach the young student to listen for the “colors” of I, IV and V7 progressions in their music.

If young students aim to succeed in today’s music business, learning how to play freely with rhythmic patterns and chord structures on the piano is key. All styles of music including blues, jazz, country, rock, ragtime and contemporary pop use rhythmic patterns and harmonic chord structures in their music. Classical music, on the other hand, is the one style of music that doesn’t benefit as much from this type of learning because there is not nearly the same amount of repetition involved. Here, the musician relies heavily on sight-reading the composition for interpretation.

As a parent, I always wanted my children to learn freedom at the piano. Freedom to express themselves how they wish, with the knowledge of chord progressions and rhythmic patterns. This is how I learned as a young child from my grandmother. I took classical lessons where I learned how to sight-read, but it was my beloved grandma who taught me how to free myself from the sheet music and play by ear.

Rhythmic patterns will free the young student from the music book, and help lead the way to improvisation. In my studio, students learn how to read lead sheets and make their own  accompaniment to their favorite songs.




Got children? Read this for a head start in music education………

First, a little history. I grew up in a small town. There was no singing teacher, but there was a piano teacher. My grandmother was the local church organist. My mother was a fluent piano player (reading chord charts) and playing by ear.

As a young child our family would regularly gather at Grandma’s house and sing old songs like By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, or Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey, or I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover. The list goes on forever, and that’s where I developed a true love for singing………..just for the joy of it.

I started piano lessons around the age of 5 or 6. It was easy and fun in the beginning. It grew harder as I got older, and I can still remember in Grade 5 Grade School when I asked my mother if I could quit, and she said “no”. She said, ” you are too young to make that decision on your own. I want you to continue until you finish your Grade 8 exam”. Well, that’s what I did, and no more. It wasn’t easy, and I’m not going to say it was fun, but I developed a strong sense of responsibility and discipline along the way.

During that same time, however, I was learning to chord on the piano to accompany my singing, the same way my mother and grandmother did. They showed me everything they knew. By the age of 13, I started a 4-piece band with my 11-year-old sister on drums, and a friend on bass, and another friend of guitar. We weren’t very good. But oh, how I loved to just sing and chord on the piano.

We continued to do that for, I think, two or three years, and we got better! We performed at local church gatherings, and wedding and baby showers. I remember the matching halter tops we had with flare black pants…yes, we had to have the same outfit!

The experiences and songs I learned to play in that band were the stepping stones to my next band when I was just 16. Everyone else was over 20…….I had to sit in the back when we played our music at the local tavern.

So, enough about my background. But, what I want you to remember here is that I DID NOT LIKE MY PIANO LESSONS. I managed to get through the sight-reading, etc., mainly because I was a responsible young person, and my mother wanted me to. Well, thank goodness I did! I would never be where I am now if I hadn’t learned how to sight read classical music, and achieve at least my Grade 8 Royal Conservatory piano. (I’m now in the process of trying to convince my 13-year-old daughter to do the same, ha ha…..She plays her Grade 4 exam in less than three weeks…..wish us luck! I feel like it’s me preparing for the exam!)

Anyway, back to the subject on hand……….Music for Young Children. What is it? Well, it’s a piano-based music program that involves the parent and child. I truly believe if my mother had been involved in my piano lessons growing up, I would have had no complaints. But she wasn’t. She would tell me to go practise before dinner, but she really wasn’t involved. She didn’t know what scales or triads I was suppose to practise each week, and she only knew the song I was working on because she had to listen to it over and over. To make matters worse, the piano was in the basement, (which was cold and lonely), and she was usually upstairs in the kitchen making supper. Well, I’m proud to say that that is nothing close to what my daughter is experiencing, however tortuous she thinks her piano practising is! Our piano is on the main floor and I can see her from my kitchen as she practises her arpegios and triads. I can talk to her and tell her how great she is doing, and ask her to do more!

My daughter is a lot like me. She loves to sit and tinker at the piano………she’ll practise chord playing and sing to her favourite songs all day long….but won’t budge to practise her scales and triads on her own without being asked.

However, my daughter has the best of both worlds, although she doesn’t realize it yet. I had the best of both worlds as well because I had my mother and grandmother to teach me ear-training and chord playing, and show me my true love of music.

In Music for Young Children, kids get to learn chord playing as well as ear-training, and of course, sight-reading. That’s right! Song like Jingle Bells, Hot Cross Buns and Mary Had a Little Lamb are just a few examples of the songs that are played with left-hand chords in MYC. Children learn harmony right away. We sing these patterns, we play these patterns, and we understand these harmony patterns as chords. What a fabulous way to teach children!! It’s easy, it’s fun, and especially useful in the 21st century where music is made up many genres of music where ear-training is essential….not just sight-read for classical study.

As I said children learn to sight-read too, of course. However, we don’t learn by remembering rhymes like “every good boy deserves fudge”…..even though, that’s how I learned the names of the lines and spaces. Instead the young children learn about critters who have names in stories that match the keyboard and staff. These stories are so fun and easy to remember. Even the big kids like the stories. It makes it so easy for them to remember the notes!!

I’ll write again soon about the Music for Young Children program. It’s available worldwide, and it’s a fabulous way to teach your child the language of music. You can find a teacher in your area here ….. www.myc.com. Susan

p.s. Did I mention that the kids learn how to compose? They also learn how to read rhythm ensembles! There’s more……..but I’ll save that for another post!

What should a child’s first instrument be?

Well, that’s easy … the piano, correct? But, let’s think about it. Children are actually learning to use their first musical instrument when they start to coo and babble. They start using their voice as a baby when they mimic the sounds all around them. This is how they learn to talk, and this is how they learn to sing. Their vocal cords are their own personal instrument, with its own unique sound. This is the first instrument that they learn to use.

When babies and toddlers are encouraged to copy sounds frequently, they remember how to do it and soon it becomes “normal”. This all leads to singing on pitch.

Your children will get singing and musical education at school, but we all know that music curriculum in most schools has been decreasing over the years. The more musical engagement you can encourage at home, the better. Does it matter if you are on pitch? Well, in the beginning….NO. It matters that you are singing and that you are enjoying music with your child.

Let’s move ahead a bit to age 3 or 4. A good age to know if your child is able to match pitch. Can they imitate a fire siren? Can you? If so, this means you able to zip up your vocal cords to make high sounds. They most likely can, but in some cases where a child has a deep or raspy voice (from illness, hoarseness or cough) they may be reluctant or unable to. This is where it is important to keep the child exploring their voice….making sounds that are more than just talking.

Singing requires the vocal cords to “zip up” because we don’t sing in only the pitches that we talk. In order to match the higher pitches, our brain has to know how to zip up the vocal cords and keep them that way.

An important note to mention is that the music you and I sing to is much lower than music children should be singing to. It’s important for kids to listen to music in their range, so they can copy properly. This is one reason music is so very important in the school. It’s vital for children to experience singing with their peers in a musical key that suits their voice.

So, why not think of your child’s voice as their first musical instrument. Encourage them to match pitch when they sing. This will go a long way in their future musical journey. It really is a use it or lose it scenerio. Children who “can’t carry a tune” grow into adults who “can’t carry a tune”.

The Music for Young Children program including Music Pups is a great way to engage in singing and musical fun with your child. There are classes all over the world. You can find them here www.myc.com and www.themusicclass.com.

Do you have a comment? Please leave me your thoughts.

It’s All Child’s Play….

Learning the music language does not have to be tedious and difficult. In Music for Young Children, the language of music starts as early as 2 1/2. We use many ideas to reinforce new concepts such as singing and games and puppets. There is no memorizing required because the students are exposed to these concepts repeatedly, week after week. It simply becomes a second language.

The founder of the program, Francis Balodis, has the fundamentals and building blocks of music education laid out perfectly for each student to achieve success in music, year after year. Yes, it is a piano lesson, but it is much, much more. Children who have graduated from the Music for Young Children program go on and explore many other musical interests with ease. Their sight-reading and rhythmic skills are well developed. Their ability to play ensemble and listen with other musicians has already been engaged.  

Did I mention that this starts at age 2 1/2? These students graduate around the age of 9 with their Grade 1 piano exam and Preliminary Rudiments exam. That’s right! These kids already know intervals, their circle of 5th’s, and rest replacement. Their friends at school who take piano lessons have never heard of the circle of 5th’s. This is because the preliminary rudiments exam is not required until you reach Grade 5 piano.

The Music for Young Children program helps develop your child’s musical aptitude to the fullest. Children can enter the program at any age…there are multiple entry levels that are age-appropriate. Music for Young Children is celebrating 30 years this year. There is no better program in the world for your child to develop all the skills necessary to go on and have a full and happy musical life!

What age should my child start piano lessons?

It use to be that the recommended age for a child to start piano lessons was around 5 or 6. It needed to be an age where they were able to sit, listen attentively, and look at a music book for half an hour. Well, thanks to Music for Young Children, those days are gone. Now a child can start to learn the piano at the tender age of 3. We call these little guys “Sunshines”. Sunshines get to meet some very nice critters who live on the piano/keyboard.  They meet Dino the Dinosaur who lives in the dinosaur den, and they meet Fireman Fred who lives near the Fire Hall. These little Sunshines are making music with their friends in their very first lesson.

No longer does your child need to be able to read left to right before starting piano lessons. Instead, Music for Young Children teaches them to read left to right, and helps them get ready for kindergarten. No longer does you child need to sit on a piano bench for a half-hour. Instead, Music for Young Children lets your child explore the wonderful world of learning music with creative movement, rhythm instruments and singing.

The Music for Young Children program is celebrating 30 years this year. MYC  is taught all over the world. You can find a teacher near you at www.myc.com.

Celebrating 30 years…early childhood music education at its’ best.

Wow, what a day! Just finished a marathon birthday party celebrating Music for Young Children’s 30th birthday party. There were approximately 100 kids with their parents and teachers from London, Ontario and surrounding areas. We spent an hour and a half together of drumming, singing, keyboard playing and music concept games. I don’t know about you, but my music lessons as a kid were never like this!

Music for Young Children (MYC) is a music educational program for young children. How young? Well, the keyboard level starts at 3 1/2 to 4.  The founder of the program is Frances Belodis. In the last 30 years her program has blossomed all over the world with over 900 teachers.

The MYC way is intent on teaching the elements of music at the introductory level that will build a solid music foundation for an entire lifetime. I’ve listed below some of the many building blocks built into the program.

*note reading – The MYC way is not to memorize a phrase like “every good boy deserves fudge” or “FACE”. Students learn note reading with stories, songs, and games that are a fundamental part of the program.

*sight reading – Sight reading is an extremely important, yet challenging part, of being a good musician. Students at MYC learn patterning to help with note reading from the very beginning. Patterns are reinforced weekly when analyzing songs. Patterns are reinforced with games and sight-reading exercises.

*singing – Singing is used to reinforce concepts and rhythms. Most children love to sing, so it’s an easy and enjoyable way to learn about music.

*solfege – Solfege is built right into the program. For those of you who don’t know what solfege is, it is hand signs that match the major scale….just think of The Sound of Music movie, and the famous song Do-Re-Mi by Julie Andrews. This song is all about solfege. MYC has terrific solfege songs for all levels. Children do actions mixed with solfege to build skills necessary for playing music by ear (without music).

*rhythm – There is an entire section in the MYC music books at each level geared to rhythm ensembles. Children learn how to play music together in mulitple parts.

*composition – Children at all ages write music in MYC. MYC teaches writing techniques that help the students put songs together for submission to a yearly worldwide composition festival.

*movement – In MYC we move! Students learn by moving!

*ear training – The ear is an important building block in the MYC family. An entire “listening” section is included in each MYC music book at each level. There is a weekly listening exercise.

*fingerplay techniques – Piano playing is about great fingers and hands. MYC knows this. From early on, fingerplay components help to build strong piano players.

*history – Yes, MYC teaches history! Children learn all about Beethoven and Bach and other famous composers! We play their songs and we learn about their lives!

*theory – This is probably the most phenomenal part of MYC in my opinion! I still can’t believe it when my 9-y-o students accomplish their Preliminary Rudiments exam with top honours. Students learn about major and minor intervals, rest replacement, circle of 5th’s, scale writing and terminology. Most piano teachers do not touch the elements of theory with their students until they reach the equivalent of Grade 5 piano.

*harmonizing a melody line – Last, but certainly not least, the children learn how to use left hand chord structures to harmonize with a melody line. As early as the first level, students start to learn “bridges” and “snowman chords” in I, IV and V7 degrees of most scales including C+, G+, D+, F+, a-, e- and in the higher levels B flat+, d- and g-. This goes hand-in-hand with ear training and solfege to show the children how to play familiar songs and engage them in the exploration of playing songs without the use of sheet music.

Well, I could go on and on…. If you want to learn about an MYC teacher in your area visit www.myc.com. If you are a music teacher and think this is the way you would like teach, then check out the teacher section at the same address!

Bye for now, would love to hear your comments!!

How far did you go with your piano lessons?

Boy, times have changed! I don’t recall a lot of exciting times at my music lessons while I was growing up.  How about you? Did you take music lessons? Did you continue? Did you enjoy them?

A very high percentage of people are going to say they took music lessons for a few years and then quit. Why did you quit? The majority will say the process was difficult and boring. It continued to get more challenging and you didn’t have the motivation to keep at it.

Today children can learn music in a very different way. This CBC news video of a Music for Young Children class in Summerside, PEI, Canada, is a good example of how kids are learning today. http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Canada/PEI/ID=1430244648

OK, so get this. This video is level 1 students as young as 3 and 4 years old learning music and piano. Each year these kids move up the ranks of the MYC curriculum and around age 8 and 9 they reach the top level and graduate with Grade 1 piano and Preliminary Rudiments! This is highly unusual unless you are a Music for Young Children student!  Visit www.myc.com for more information.

Your comments are welcome. Let me know what you think!  Susan

Hockey or Music lessons for boys?

Huge decision. In Southwestern Ontario hockey is no doubt the most popular sport for boys, and probably girls too. If a boy doesn’t grow up knowing how to play hockey, then he might as well move to …. well, you know what I mean. It’s not uncommon for a hockey schedule to take up two nights a week and all day Saturday. Where can you possibly fit another extra-curricular activity in?

Do you consider music education an extra-curricular activity? Some parents don’t. Let’s realize that music education is not being taught in the classroom to the extent it once was. Some schools have abandoned their music program all together. This is a sad and unfortunate truth.

Luckily, some parents realize music education is necessary to ensure that their children learn the skills necessary to read music and play a music instrument.

Canada can thank an infamous Frances Belodis for creating Music for Young Children (myc.com). This program allows parents to be involved with their child’s musical journey in a fun and in-depth way. The graduation rate of students from the MYC program is phenomenal. Unlike when you were growing up, MYC students are much more likely to continue their musical journey throughout their life.

So, when trying to choose between hockey or music, consider both. Your child will thank you.