Music theory can seem complicated, especially when you’re trying to teach the basics of piano chords to children. But, whether you’re a parent or a teacher, there’s one rule of thumb that’s essential to remember when teaching major and minor chords to kids during piano lessons in Miami: keep it simple! There’s no need to dive straight into theoretical applications with kids. Communicating the excitement and the potential of piano playing should be the goal with kids, and the understanding of music theory and how chords relate will follow.
Describing Chords using Emotional Language
Like adults, if you play music for a child, they will be able to tell you what emotion that music conjures up. It doesn’t have to be incredibly articulate- but children know the difference between whether or not sounds are happy sounding or sad sounding. These are understandable qualities to children, so when starting the education process around learning chords for piano, start by playing some chords and asking kids what type of sounds they hear. Do they hear happy sounds or sad sounds? Planting this seed helps make connections for kids that music can create emotional responses and different feelings by playing different notes and keys. Not only are you teaching them the difference in major and minor chords, but you’re also reinforcing the skills of ear-training.
One way to help reiterate the difference between major and minor chords is to teach children to recognize four different types of sounds: happy, sad, weird, and dangerous. These are emotions that children can recognize, articulate, and learn to correspond to different chord types. The happy emotion corresponds to a major chord, the sad to a minor chord, weird to an augmented chord, and dangerous to a diminished chord. There are an infinite number of ways you can reinforce these emotional cues. Can a child recognize a TV show or movie with this emotion or music in it? Can they tell you a story involving those emotions, and you can play corresponding chords along as they tell their story?
Visual Cues to Teach Chords
Even without any sheet music to reference, chords are easy to comprehend visually. For those Miami Piano teachers and parents helping children learn piano through lessons, there are some easy exercises you can do to reinforce learning major and minor chords.
If you take 8 white keys, starting with middle C and ending with C note as well, you can number each white key 1 through 8. Instead of asking children to play certain chords or to play music from a sheet, you can challenge kids to play certain key numbers.
For instance, to play a major chord, you’d play keys 1, 3, and 5. These would be notes C, E, and G. For a minor chord, you’d ask children to play keys 2, 4, and 6. These notes would be D, F, and A. For an augmented chord, you can play keys 1, 3, and #5 (#5 is the black key in between 5 and 6). And for a diminished chord, you can teach kids to play 1, b3, and b5 (b3 is the black key between keys 2 and 3, while b5 is the black key between keys 4 and 5).
If you can get your children comfortable playing by number and associating numbers with different sounds, they are given the building blocks to play around and figure out differences in sounds and chords themselves. You can almost think of the keys as legos for children taking piano lessons in Miami, and they are getting to build a masterpiece using all the pieces.
Having perseverance with learning chords and notes is a great way to hook kids on piano playing. Chords open up a whole new world of possibilities when playing the piano. Teaching students that putting chords into contexts of emotions and songs can be extremely motivating. By allowing kids to understand the relationship to the keys they play, the sounds they hear, and the emotions they associate with those sounds, you’re giving kids a great foundation on which to build a lifelong relationship with playing the piano.
If you and your family are interested in piano lessons, contact us today! Our teachers come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. Our online music lessons are taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to your family!