We’ve all read or heard about studies that show that learning to play the piano or keyboard from an early age has a tremendously positive effect on a child’s development, and in particular, reading and maths. It also boosts memory and relaxation and teaches concentration, co-ordination, patience and perseverance. It is therefore an excellent preparation for schoolwork. As with any other language, the language of music is best learnt from an early age. Designed to be accessible to children from three years upwards, the Dogs and Birds Piano Method (devised by Elza and Chris Lusher) provides a fun yet systematic introduction for children as they begin their musical journey on the piano.
Each note on the piano is given an animal name, for example Dog for D, Bird for B and Cat for C. This use of animals makes learning music fun for the children and associating the notes with animal names helps them to remember. It is not necessary for them to know the alphabet. The animal names have been chosen to be monosyllabic, making it straightforward for the children to sing them as they play the notes on the piano. If they do this at all times they very rapidly learn to sing in tune. For this the piano should be in good condition and in tune, or a touch sensitive keyboard or digital piano should be used (four to six octaves is sufficient at this stage).
The Dogs and Birds approach is suitable for both individual and group lessons. A Guide to Book 1 for Parents and Teachers (including a CD) is available, which benefits parents (both musical and non-musical), who can begin to teach their children the basics of piano. As well as providing a great parent-child bonding opportunity, working through the book gives a solid foundation for the study of any instrument, including piano.
The method consists of three tutor books, beautifully illustrated throughout by award winning illustrator Mark Chambers. Each book comes in two versions, one with animal symbols printed inside the notes to help the children read the music, and one without the symbols. A set of animal tiles and coloured staves is an extremely important part of the method. It is used in conjunction with the books, and not only helps with reading notation, and learning the geography of the keyboard, but is incorporated into the composition, ear-training and rhythm exercises, which form an integral part of the method.
An appropriate use of these materials opens the door to teaching the piano to mixed ability children in groups. Also learning the piano using Dogs and Birds boosts the child’s confidence and enhances performing skills.
A video introduction to the approach “The Dogs and Birds Piano Method in Action” and some puppet videos can be viewed on the Dogs and Birds Piano Method YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/user/elzalusher.
“It is a real treat to discover a new and imaginative approach to teaching the piano which really works and is completely accessible and user-friendly.” Music Teacher magazine
Material is obtainable online at www.dogsandbirds.co.uk, where more information on the method can be found.