Do you remember the very first stories you learned as a young child? I bet you do. And most likely you learned them from your parents and caregivers who used song as a way to comfort, teach and entertain you. Yep! All those nursery songs about the alphabet, numbers, and eeeentsy-weeentsy spiders were using music to prepare your brain for speech. So forget all that left brain nonsense our parents were taught about music. When grandma was playing the piano, she was enjoying the interplay of both left and right brain activity. This is why learning to play the piano is so beneficial to children. It stimulates neural development, using all five of the basic creative skills. They include Seeing (or Visualization), Observing, Forming Analogies, Inverting, and Simplification. These are the same creative applications found in literature, art and science.

Just as musical stories helped your child establish a foundation of creative skills for language and math concepts, the reverse is also true. Literature, art, and science can help your child achieve their musical dreams! Below are examples of how this happens in piano.

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Visualization – “What would it look like if you could do it?

Visualization is probably the most difficult creative skill to develop. Having a keyboard in the imagination, however, gives a powerful boost to piano students’ playing and note reading ability. So it’s worth it for students to spend time developing this creative skill. Here’s an example of how young piano students can start to do this. The piano has groups of two and three-black keys. There are three white keys around each group of two black keys. Ask your child in piano to close their eyes and pretend to draw two very large black keys in the air. Then while their eyes are still closed ask: “Can you see the white key of the left of the two-black keys? It’s a C. Can you see the one on the right? It’s an E. Can you see the one in the middle? It’s a D.” Keep this up throughout piano lesson sand soon your child will be able to visualize music, scales and chords, as well as hear them! Use visualization whenever your child is frustrated with learning something new in piano. Just ask, “What would it look like if you could do it?” This gets kids using their imagination and seeing possible solutions through their mind’s eye, just as stories do.

Observation – “Eureka! I never noticed that before!”

Observation is about carefully noticing the little things to find similarities and differences. For example, what’s the difference between staccato and legato notes, or an accent mark and a tenuto mark. Hey, is that a triplet or three eighth notes? Wow, this creative skill sure is important in playing piano! Students use this skill in learning piano when they ask? “How are these notes the same? How are they different?” Piano students use this creative process just as scientists do to find surprises in nature that were always there, waiting to be discovered. Remind your child in piano to use observation to overcome challenges in the music. You’ll enjoy hearing them say things like, “Eureka! I never noticed that before!”

Analogies – How to Gain Perspective/ Change Perspective?

Analogies are used to gain or change our perspective. Here are some examples of how analogies help piano students. To play legato, pretend your fingers are an eeeentsy-weeensty spider. Curve the spider’s legs and walk your fingers on the piano keys. To play staccato notes, imagine the piano keys are hot! To show your child how analogies can change our perspective, and teach us new concepts, try this: Sing the words to the song Amazing Grace to the tune from the television show, Gilligan’s Island. Go ahead. Sing it now. “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” I bet that made you laugh :o)

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