Category Archives: Music

piano lesson update

Bri finished the final song of Book A of Alfred’s Prep Course, which is targeted at the “youngest” learners.  I’m proud of her!  I’ve spared her the metronome thus far, but I think she does a pretty good job keeping in time.

Alfred has about a million books at each level.  For B, I’m planning to buy the lesson book, the theory book, and the solo book.  For A, we did the lesson book and the Christmas book.  I think it’s helpful to have an additional book beyond the lesson book, just to slow the rate of new material and increase in difficulty a bit.  Since it’s not Christmas time, we’ll do the solo book this time.  I skipped the theory book for level A, in part because Bri couldn’t read when we started, but I think it’ll be helpful as we move on to level B.  We do have a few more Christmas songs to learn before we start the new book, though.

L has been continuing to play on her own, but I’m continuing to hold off on lessons for now, since swimming and school are taking up so much time.  I’m planning to restart lessons this summer, and hopefully we’ll make some good progress.

on repeat

Anticipated vaccination date: 0.7 years / October 2021

Washington has one of the lowest death rates.  Unfortunately, that also implies we have one of the lowest infection rates, which further implies one of the lowest immunity rates.  So, my prediction is that in October 2021 + 30 days for the second dose, only 55% of the population will be immune.  (Probably less since lots of people won’t get the second dose and many of the people in the first group, long-term care residents, will die from other causes.)  Fauci says we need 85% of people to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, and while I don’t really believe that, unless herd immunity implies no one gets sick ever, it seems like 50% is probably not going to cut it.  New York state, which, along with NJ, remains the hardest hit, probably has 30 to 40% immunity due to infection, and they’re still going strong with infections.  I find it disappointing how little discussion there is in the newspapers about the likely infection rate in the hardest hit states – NY, NJ, and MA – and how that has or has not impacted ongoing infection levels, as compared to the least-affected states – VT, ME and OR (excluding HI and AK for obvious reasons).  I would love to see more discussion about why New Jersey and Massachusetts were hit so much harder than Vermont.  They are right next door!  Why did New York do so much worse than Virginia?  NY’s per capita death rate is more than three times higher than Virginia’s.  Why?

Meanwhile, S Dakota has received a lot of flak for its handling of the epidemic (despite still lagging behind NY and other states for death rate), but they’ve managed to use 70% of the vaccines they’ve received and vaccinate more 5% of their population, as compared to WA, which has only used 33% of its vaccines and vaccinate 2.5%.  You can read more about WA’s vaccination debacle thus far here.

I honestly didn’t mean to get on here and rant more about Covid, but I just can’t seem to help myself.

What I’ve been playing on repeat lately:

Piano lesson notes

One of the things I’ve been able to do since school was canceled is spend time teaching the girls piano.  I’ve made attempts before, but I never followed through.  This time, L is old enough to be enthusiastic and self-directed, and B conveniently wants to be like her older sister.

I taught myself piano as a child using the John W Schaum method.  I believe it was quite popular in the 80s.  In hindsight, it was a poor choice for self-teaching, and this time around, thanks to the internet, I was able to do some research on what the options were.  I start both girls out on the John Thompson Easiest Piano Course.  It’s been a while, but I think I chose it because I mistakenly believed it was the “easiest” option out there.  It worked really well for L at age 8, but it was just too hard for B, given that she cannot yet read.  L progressed through and finished the book, and it’s not a bad approach by any means.  However, I decided to transition both girls to the Alfred series.  Among other reasons, the Thompson books felt a bit dated, and despite a publication date on Amazon of 2005, the books were clearly written far before that and included at least one illustration that felt racist to me.  Alfred books also have more support for music theory and just generally more resources available.

I moved L over to Alfred’s Basic Piano Course Book 1A.  She comfortably transitioned into the second half of this book and finished it.  We are currently working on book 1B.  I then discovered that Alfred has another series targeted at the “earliest beginner,” and moved B into Alfred’s Prep Course Level A.  I’ve looked at a fair few piano methods at this point, and Alfred’s Prep Course, which runs Levels A through E, is by far the best one for a child aged 5 or 6, maybe even age 4.  I did do a preschool piano course with L a few years back, the first two Wunderkeys books.  Those books are probably appropriate for 3 and 4 year olds, but I honestly think you might just as well wait until a child is old enough to begin the Alfred Prep course.   While we had some fun doing Wunderkeys, I don’t think it really helped L all that much with her later piano progress.  For ages 7 or 8, a child with interest and aptitude is probably best suited for the Basic Piano Course 1A linked above, but the Prep course I think is also  a great option if you want to take it a little slower.

Alfred’s piano course includes a number of books, obviously in part for moneymaking reasons.  Honestly, the only one you *really* need is the lesson book.  I learned piano with little or no theory, and I derived great enjoyment from playing despite doing things “wrong.”  Nevertheless, we initially bought the lesson and theory book.  L doesn’t love doing the theory, but I think it is very useful specifically at this level for learning note names, rather than simply associating a written note with an unnamed piano key.  I’ve also decided to purchase the recital book going forward, as learning more songs enables us to slow the pace a little.  With regular practice, you can progress through the lesson book quite rapidly, which can start making it increasingly difficult, which can be frustrating for an 8-year-old.

I have been surprised that Bri, at 5, is capable of productive practice on her own.  We are skipping theory with her so far, and in addition to the lesson book, I bought a Christmas song book (since at her age, Christmas is the best thing ever), and the two books have proved a good combination.  She’s progressing slowly but enjoying herself.  I hope we can keep it up once school starts.