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Review of Music Discoveries

 

 

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usic Discoveries, by Anne Crosby, is an easy-to-teach beginning piano method for young children. While many aspects of these books are similar to those of other beginning methods, Music Discoveries includes some innovative features that set it apart from other method materials. It is currently limited to just two books, with some valuable supplementary materials, so the teacher will have to transition students using it to other methods as they complete the books. Its purpose is to provide a playful and effective start for 5-7 year old beginners.

 

keyinfo.gif (1045 bytes)According to its author, Music Discoveries is no longer available. We will maintain the review for those who may acquire a used copy.

 

The Music Discoveries books are currently available in two levels (Part A and Part B). Also available is a CD and MIDI disc, which conveniently includes accompaniments for both books on one disc. A unique and essential component of the Music Discoveries method is the "Music Discoveries Treasure Chest," filled with game pieces and learning aids.

The first book, Part A, utilizes a very gentle approach, ideal for children aged 4 to 6 with no prior music experience. In this 63-page book, pre-staff pieces in the first 24 pages are all played on sets of two black keys. For a young beginner with no previous preschool music education, this pace allows for thorough grounding in the basics of finger numbers and rhythms (quarter, half, dotted half and whole notes). Rhythm is taught using a combination of counting systems: "tah" for quarter notes, but "half-note," "half-note-dot" and "hold-that-whole-note" for those notes. Pages 25 to 35 have the student playing pieces on sets of two and three black keys; the remainder of the book teaches letters of the music alphabet and continues pre-staff notation in white key pieces. Time signatures of 4/4 and 3/4 are taught near the end of black keys pieces. Written work and games utilizing the Music Treasure Chest are scattered throughout the book, eliminating the need for multiple books. All pieces have a corresponding accompaniment on the CD or midi. The CD has only one accompaniment per piece, rather than a slower practice tempo plus a faster performance tempo, which the CDs for most other methods offer. Book A (all pre-staff) does a nice job of moving the hands around (not moving hands within a piece, but rather, various pieces are played in different positions).  Each piece has a keyboard picture at the top to show which fingers will sit on which keys.

The second book, Part B, introduces the grand staff right away. Throughout the book, landmark notes are taught through association with "Barnyard Friends," various animals and farm characters. For example, Cici the Cat represents middle C, Farmer Fred represents bass F, etc. The pace of Part B is quicker than Part A, with the student learning the five landmark notes of Low C, Bass F, Middle C, Treble G, and High C by page 18. Pages 18-30 give the student practice playing pieces using only the five landmark notes, and pages 31-78 introduce other notes one or two at a time, with ample practice after each new note. By the end of the book, the student has played pieces using all notes from Bass F to Treble G, plus Low C and High C. Part B continues to incorporate written work and Music Treasure Chest games throughout the book, as well as composition and sight reading pages at the end of each chapter. One surprising observation is that Music Discoveries uses a system of naming some notes differently than this reviewer was accustomed to, for example, bass clef space 2 is called "Low C" rather than "Bass C;" treble clef space 3 is called "High C" rather than "Treble C." Book B is almost entirely Middle C or C position (only 2 songs are not). But since intervals are not mentioned, one would have to call this positional playing. Personally, I see this as a disadvantage, but some teachers see value in positional playing.

The Music Discoveries Treasure Chest, a plastic case filled with colorful learning aids for Part A and Part B, deserves detailed explanation. The Music Discoveries books cleverly include numerous activities utilizing the Treasure Chest, making this kit an essential component of the method.

Items in the kit to be used with Part A are:

  • Music Alphabet Cards, made of bright foam. Letters are printed on one side, keyboard location is displayed on the other side.

  • Rhythm blocks, made of wood and painted in bright colors. Each block has a size representative of the various note values (quarter, half, dotted half, whole).

  • Dry erase marker with built-in eraser, to be used for games on inside back cover of the books.

  • Items in the kit to be used with Part B are:

  • Barnyard Friends wooden disks. Each has an adhesive picture of an animal or farm character representing a landmark note or note adjacent to middle C.

  • Mini Key Cards are laminated rectangles to fit on the piano keys. Each has a picture of a barnyard friend plus its corresponding note on the treble or bass staff.

  • Laminated Flash Cards, for each note taught in Part B. One side shows the note on the grand staff, the other side shows its location on the piano keys.

  • All pages in the books of Part A and Part B are in black and white, relatively uncluttered, generally with one small picture related to the song title. Most pieces have words, and include a teacher accompaniment in smaller notation at the bottom of the page. Written work pages have clear, concise instructions. The reviewer’s young students (ages 5 and 6) who tested these books enjoyed the pieces, the accompaniments, and especially the Music Treasure Chest activities.

    The Music Discoveries method has several strong aspects. Its slow and gentle start is ideal for young beginners. The hands-on pieces from Music Treasure Chest give kinesthetic and visual learners additional activities to increase understanding. The books include lots of written theory work. The landmark approach cements Bass C, Bass F, Middle C, Treble G, and Treble C in the student’s mind through written work, Barnyard Friend disks, and numerous pieces to play. The accompanying CD helps students develop a steady beat.

    There are some aspects of the method of which I think teachers should be aware. There is no mention of intervals. Notes other than landmarks are simply taught by name. Ear-training is given only one page in Part A; none in Part B. The CD has only one tempo for each piece. The terminology for "Low C" and "High C" is different than most methods use. I also found that the Music Treasure Chest foam Music Alphabet Cards had stuck together, with damage occurring to the painted letters. The author reports that "I have fixed this problem, by using soft foam rather than the little plastic 'eyeballs' to mark the key locations." Past experience with items similar to the Mini Key Cards has taught me that these small cards can slip between the keys and become irretrievably lodged there. Children should never press the keys down while using Key Cards, and should have adult supervision. Finally, there are only 2 levels available at this time; it is unclear if future levels will be added. According to the author, "Music Discoveries stand as is, with no plans for further levels. Part B ends in such a way that the teacher has the flexibility to transition easily into an intervallic, middle C or positional method."

    Music Discoveries has the seed of a fine method for teaching piano to younger children. Since only two books are available at the moment, the teacher will have to give some thought as to how one might transition a student to another method or approach, once they've moved on to more advanced training. Clearly, the teacher would need to do some backtracking regarding intervals and in getting the student out of the positional mode of thinking. Music Discoveries does not seem to be clearly distinguishable from other methods, in terms of the presentation of notes, although the Treasure Chest items and activities included specifically in the book are a nice variation from the norm.

    Kathy Hardisty

    Music Discoveries Part A, ISBN 0-9736621-0-7, Canadian $14.95; Music Discoveries Part B, ISBN 0-9736621-1-5, Canadian $15.95; Music Discoveries Treasure Chest ISBN 0-9736621-2-3, Canadian $18.95. CD and MIDI disk are available, but pricing information is not available on the website. E-Mail: anne@annotationmusic.com Music Discoveries is no longer available for order.

     
     
     
     
    Page created: 7/6/05
    Last updated: 01/30/15
     
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