A Simplified Method of Teaching to Play Music on a piano keyboard, (for the intellectually disabled and also for young children)

music keyboard

This book is under the patronage of  The Holy Infant Jesus of Prague, St. John Bosco a great teacher of youth and St. Cecilia the patron saint of music.  Holy Infant Jesus of Prague please grant blessings and success to this work.

infant-jesus-of-prague-for-blog

St. John Bosco and St Cecilia pray for us and for the success of this work.

An overview of the method

This music learning program is based on a method that was devised and taught by Richard Weber, an American music teacher in late 1950’s and in the 1960’s.  I found an outline of his method in an old magazine article and picked tunes that fitted in with the method. The only notes that are used in this method are the following consecutive notes:  C  D  E  F  G  A.

The C note involved is Middle C on the piano.  Middle C is the C note, which is nearest to the middle of the piano keyboard. (There is more than one C note on the piano).

Many tunes cannot be used, because they require additional musical notes to the six that are listed. There are no sharp or flat notes. (They are the black notes on the piano keyboard).  B notes are also not used in this method.

The method is a simplified method of teaching music because only six notes are used. This simplicity makes the method suitable for teaching mentally disabled children and adults and young children. It is therefore a method that can be used as a stepping stone for further musical development if that is appropriate. More notes and tunes can be introduced later on, if the student shows that he or she can progress to a higher level. It has been noticed that the application of this method helps mentally disabled children and adults to learn better by stimulating their interest.

Richard Weber had great success in teaching mentally disabled children and adults with this method.  Some of them went on to progress in learning other subjects which they previously could not do. It also helped to improve the behaviours and moods of the disabled children who were taught the method. Two music song books using Richard Weber’s method were published in 1968, unfortunately they are no longer available, that is why I made this book.  I have not been able to obtain the books that Richard Weber published, but I hope that somehow I will be able to track them down. If anyone can help me to find copies of these books, please contact me with the details.

Some of the songs included in this book are whole tunes and some are only sections of songs. In the partial songs, the students plays the notes that are supplied and then the teacher can play the rest of the tune or help the student to sing the rest of the song.

The first part of the method is to teach the student to sing the songs so that he or she knows how they sound. Make up two sets of cards that have the individual note letters on them, (One note to each card e.g. C). Show the letter (note) cards to the student and teach him or her what the notes on the card are and then get the student to match the cards with the other set of corresponding cards. Paste or stick the six notes on the piano or the keyboard, even a glockenspiel is suitable. It is an instrument that has metal bars which produce a chiming sound when it is played. These are available from stores which sell musical instruments. There are shops which sell sheets of stickers with letters on them, which are suitable for putting onto the keyboard.

When starting out to play a tune on the keyboard or piano, say to the student. “John we are going to play:  (name the tune here) e.g. Mary had a little lamb”. This is important because music is made up of notes of different lengths.  The song would not sound right even if the right notes were played if the notes were all the same length.  Of course we are dealing with intellectually disabled children and baby steps have to be taken.  Even a small child can sing a song with notes of the right lengths e.g. fast, long etc.  Announcing the name of song helps this concept in the child’s mind.

(When you read music from a music book the music is written in a way which indicates everything that the musician needs to know: which notes to play, how long to play the notes, pace, beat, etc).

When I finished the trial edition of this book, I brought it to my niece who is a normal five year old child attending kindergarten.  She has been taught the alphabet by her mother and she took to it like a duck to water, playing a tune by looking at the notes in the book and matching it to the keys on her electronic music keyboard, which had the six notes stuck onto it, using commercial letter stickers, that her mother had purchased from a bargain store.

To see this success was satisfying, because my niece had been asking if she could go to music lessons like her friends do.  Finances are a bit tight for her parents and the method is going to get her up and running in the music department.  She can take formal music lessons later on, or learn to play the school descant recorder. The instrument and the instruction book are inexpensive. My niece worked out the notes, for the parts of the songs, which I did not supply in full, because they fell outside the six note range which this method is based on. It is good that she can do this, and it points to the fact that this method helps the student to think things out for themselves, and to develop an ear for music.

The school recorder book is so good that students can teach themselves to play the recorder without a teacher. In fact when I was eight years of age, I was taking descant recorder lessons at school taught in a group instruction of about forty children.  I did not have a clue what the teacher was talking about, but one Saturday morning I sat down with the recorder and the book and in a short while I learnt how to play it.  The book was my teacher not the school music teacher!

The recorder is a real musical instrument not a toy. It was once played by the notorious King Henry VIII of England and also by the well known Von Trapp Family of Austria, who were the inspiration for the film The Sound of Music.

This method outlined in this book does not teach music in a formal way going through the usual steps like learning to read music etc.  because it was designed with special needs people in mind and many of them cannot learn music in the ordinary way.  If they do develop their capabilities in this area that can be addressed with more formal music lessons.  I should point out here that some people who have intellectual disabilities, especially people who have autism, actually have special musical abilities. Methods like the one outlined in this book can help to bring them out and develop them.

One of my daughter’s carers mentioned that she is working with a blind girl and lamented the fact that the method could not be used to teach her, the idea then came to me that this book might be able to be  translated into Braille and also that the notes names in Braille could be pasted onto the music keyboard. Learning music in this way might be a bit slower for the blind, than it is for a sighted person, but the student would still learn music, learn the sound of the notes, the position of the keys and could memorise the notes for the tunes.

Formal music lessons (that are specially designed for blind people) could be taken at a later stage. Later on the student could learn to play by ear. i.e. hear a tune and play it. Playing by ear is a natural talent that some people are born with, or this skill can be developed after the person has learnt to play music. The simplified method of teaching music which is presented in this book would be suitable for blind people who have an intellectual disability. It would probably be better for other blind people to learn music by more formal methods.

I do not have any experience working with blind people, so  I am just presenting these ideas as food for thought, for those who do have teaching experience with them, especially in the area of teaching music. The songs included in this book are familiar childrens’ songs, including several nursery rhymes. I mentioned my niece in this posting.  She asked for some Christmas carols written up for her in the format that is outlined here.  First of all;  the carols needed  more than the six notes that this method employs.  Since my niece is of normal intelligence and can read and spell, it was  time for her to learn to read music, but she had become used to the method outlined in this posting. In order to help her, there is a book of Christmas Carols in the EZ play today series. The series has special musical notation, which is very helpful for those who do not have a teacher to help them to learn to play an electronic music keyboard. If you would like to see how they write up this musical notation, have a look at this location on the internet for a sample picture.

http://www.halleonard.com/series/seriesnotation.do?series=EZPLY

and then return to this posting and read on.

I translated the notes into numbers and wrote them down on an old copy of the Christmas Carol music book.  The numbers were put onto stickers and pasted onto her electronic keyboard.  She took to this well.  Later on I will give her a new copy of the book and the numbers will be no longer needed.

music keyboard_with _layers

The piano music keyboard which is pictured above, shows the positions of  the notes which are used in this method.

Click here to see a larger picture of the piano music keyboard  (with the notes for the method).

Index of Songs

Michael Row the boat ashore
Kumbaya
Mary had a Little Lamb
Row Row Row your boat
Old MacDonald had a farm
It’s raining, It’s pouring.
Heidi Heidi Ho
Jingle Bells
Three Blind Mice
Oranges and Lemons
I wrote a letter to my mother
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
London Bridge
Lavender’s blue
Little Bo Peep
Ten Green Bottles
Silent Night
Mamma’s Little Baby
Looby Loo
O Sussana
Brother John (to the tune of Frère Jacques)

Michael Row the boat ashore
(The whole tune)

C    E    G    E   G

A    G   E

G    A    G

E     G    G   E

F    E   D

C   D   E   D   C

Michael Row the boat ashore alleluia,
Michael Row the boat ashore alleluia.

Kumbaya
(The whole tune)

C    E    G    G    G

A   A    G

C   E     G    G    G

F    E    D    C

E    G    G    G

A    A    G

F    E    D    D

C    F    E

D    D    C

Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya
Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya
Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya
O Lord Kumbaya,
O Lord Kumbaya.

Mary had a Little Lamb
(Whole tune)

E    D    C    D

E    E    E

D    D    D

E    G    G

E    D    C    D

E    E    E   E

D    D    E    D    C

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.
Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.

Row Row Row your boat
(Part of the tune)

C    C    C    D    E

E    D    E    F    G

Row Row Row your boat gently down the stream
Merrily merrily merrily merrrily, Life is but a dream.

(Play the non-bold section, sing the bold section).

Old MacDonald had a farm
(part of the tune)

G    G    G    D

E    E    D

Old MacDonald had a farm,
E I E I O
and on that farm he had a duck
E I E I O

(Play the non-bold section, sing the bold section).

It’s raining, It’s pouring.
(Whole tune)

G    G    E    F

G    E    E    G

E    F    G    E

E    G    G    E

E    F    G    G   E

E    F    G    G    G   E

E    A    G    E

It’s raining, It’s pouring,
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and he
bumped his head and he
couldn’t get up in the morning.

Heidi Heidi Ho
(Full tune)

G    E    G    E

C    C    D    D    D

E    F    G    E

C    G    E    G    E

C    C    D    D    D

E    D    C

E    F    E    D    F

E    D    C    D    E    F

E    D    F    E    D    C

G    E    G    E

C    C    D    D    D

E    D   C

Heidi, Heidi Ho,
The great big elephant
Is so slow,
Heidi, Heidi Ho,
The elephant is so slow.

He swings his tail from side to side
As he takes the children for a ride.
Heidi, Heidi Ho,
The elephant is so slow.

Jingle Bells
(Part of the tune)

E    E    E

E    E    E

E    G    C    D    E

F    F    F    F    F

E    E    E    E    E

D    D    E    D    G

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
O what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
O what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.

(Play the non-bold section, sing the bold section).

Three Blind Mice
(Part of the tune)

E    D    C  E

D   D    C

G    F    E   G

F    F   E

Three blind mice, see how they run, three blind mice see how they run. They all ran up to the farmer’s wife. She cut off their tails with a carving knife.  Did you ever see such a sight in your life as three blind mice.

(Play the non-bold section, sing the bold section).

Oranges and Lemons
(Modified version of the tune)

G    E    G    E    C

D    E    F    D    G    E    C

G    E    G    E   C

D    E    F    D

G    E    C

Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements,
When will I see you say the bells of Old Bailey.

I wrote a letter to my mother
(Part of the tune)

C    F    F    G    A

F    A   G    C

F    F    G    A

F    E

I wrote a letter to my mother on the way I dropped it.  Someone must have picked it up and put it in their pocket.

(Play the non-bold section, sing the bold section).

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
(full tune)

C    C    G    G

A    A    G

F    F    E    E

D    D    C

G    G    F    F

E    E   D

G    G    F    F    E

E    D

C    C    G    G

A    A    G

F    F    E    E

D    D   C

Twinkle twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are,
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are.

London Bridge
(Full tune)

G    A    G    F

E    F    G

D    E    F    E

F    G    G    A

G    F    E    F    G

D    G    E    C

London bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
London bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

Lavender’s blue
(full tune)

C   G    G   G

F    E    D    C    C

A    A    A    C

G    G   G   F   E   D

C    F    E    D    C

Lavender’s blue dilly dilly,
Lavender’s green,
When I am king dilly dilly
You shall be queen.

Little Bo Peep
(Part of the song)

C    C    C    C

D    D    D    D

E    F    G    G    F

E    E    D

Little Bo Peep,
Has lost her sheep
And doesn’t know
where to find them.

Leave them alone
and they will come Home,
with their tails
behind them.

(Play the non-bold section, sing the bold section).

Ten Green Bottles
(Part of the tune)

C    C    C    E

D    C    D    E   C

E    E    E    G

F    E    F    G   E

Ten green bottles hanging on the wall,
Ten green bottles hanging on the wall,
And if ten green bottles should accidently fall,
There’ll be nine green bottles hanging on the wall.

Silent Night
(Part of the tune)

G    A    G    E

G    A    G    E

Silent night,
Holy Night
All is calm
All is bright
Round yond Virgin
Mother and child,
Holy Infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

(Play the non-bold section, sing the bold section).

Mamma’s Little Baby
(Whole tune)

C    C    A    A

G    A    C    A    G   A

C    C    A    A

G     G    A    E    D   C

Mamma’s little baby
Loves shortning, shortning
Mamma’s little baby
Loves shortning shortning bread.

Looby Loo
(Whole tune)

C    C    C    E

C    G    C    C    C

E    C    D    C    C    C

E    C   G

G    A    G    F

E    D   C

Here we go Looby Loo
Here we go Looby light,
Here we go Looby Loo
All on a Saturday night.

Part 2 of the song: I put my right foot in (hokey pokey)

D    C    C   C

C    C    D    E    E

E    E    E

F    G    G    G    G

G    G    F    E

E    D    D

I put my right foot in,
I put my right foot out,
I put my right foot in
And I shake it all about.
I do the hokey pokey and I
turn around and that
what’s it all about.

(Play the non-bold section, sing the bold section).

O Sussana
(Full tune)

C    D    E    G

G    A    G    E

C    D     E    E

D    C     D    C

D    E    G    G

A    G     E

C    D    E    E

D    D    C

F    F    A    A    A

G    G   E

C    D    C    D

E    G    G    A

G    E   C

D    E    E   D    D    C

O I come from Alabama
with a banjo on my knee,
O I come from Alabama
with a banjo on my knee

O Sussana O don’t you cry for me
cause I come from Alabama with a
banjo on my knee.

Brother John (to the tune of Frère Jacques )
(Almost the full tune except for Ding Ding Dong, Ding, Ding Dong).

C   D   E   C

C   D   E    C

E   F   G

E   F   G

G   A    G    F    E    C

G    A   G    F    E   C

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John,
Morning bells are ringing,
Morning bells are ringing.
Ding, Ding Dong,
Ding, Ding Dong.

Special note: If the notes names for the songs in this music book are made bigger than they are in this posting, they will be able to be seen and identified more easily by the student. The tunes can be copied into a word processor and the size of the text enlarged. Choose a large size text.

I would appreciate any feedback or ideas that you have on this book, to help me to develop it further. Thank you. I can be emailed at:

catacomb@bigpond.com

My name is Mary Ann.

I made up this book primarily for my autistic son, now it will also be used for my autistic daughter as well.  I am keen to share the book with anyone who can benefit from it, e.g. mothers with small children, pre-schools, centres and schools for the intellectually disabled etc. Please let others know where the link to the book is.  Thank you.

If you are not familiar with these songs, purchase a CD or two from the shops.  I purchased two, that were on special yesterday with nursery rhymes songs and other familiar children’s songs. Play the CD to the students. The ones which I purchased were pleasant to listen to even for an adult. I am playing them to my autistic daughter.

Some other matters of interest

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Read my book: Help from Heaven (Answers to prayer),

free on-line at the link provided.

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14 Responses to “A Simplified Method of Teaching to Play Music on a piano keyboard, (for the intellectually disabled and also for young children)”

  1. Jack Says:

    This is very interesting, Mary Ann. Music really can be a big help in teaching children with special needs.

  2. Frora Bosh Says:

    Great post — Thanks for giving the tune of all these songs especially on “Twinkle-Twinkle” .I’ll definitely try these……once again thanks..

  3. Piano books for children Says:

    Great article and we agree that music really can help children with special needs. Dogs and Birds books are a highly successful way to teach the piano to very young children, from ages 4 to 7. It uses animals to symbolize musical notes, for example Dog for D, Bird for B and Cat for C.

    Keep up the great work

  4. brendakaren Says:

    I had a look at your website and I really like your ideas. I actually have thought of something like that, (sticking pictures of animals onto the keyboard and making up the song book with the required animal pictures for the tune), but you have taken it a step further and put the animal pictures into the written music as well. It is great idea.

    One of the music books that I purchased, which is written for older children and adults (who do not have intellectual disabilities), has the note names e.g. D placed inside the written music notes.

    There is one other thing that I would like to mention regarding your method. I would have preferred the pictures not to be repeated in each octave, for instance: C for cat, then the next C could be for car (sticking to the need for a one syllable words), however your method is obviously successful and that is that. It is a very good method for children who have normal intelligence.

    The method in this posting sticks to a limited selection of notes, just six consecutive notes: C D E F G A. That is what makes this method different. When I begin to make this book I had to toss out so many songs, because they did not fit that criteria. I was starting to wonder how Richard Weber the American music teacher who devised the method ever found enough songs to fill two song books, but eventually I mananged to come up with some. The songs are nursery rhymes and songs that intellectually disabled people might know. A modified version of your method based on the six notes would be useful for them. I am very impressed with your method.

  5. Facinating progress with autism by one of our readers! « blogging●The●Immaculate●Mother●of●Mercy Says:

    [...] instruction book with an overview of the music teaching method on my blog at the following link:   http://brendakaren.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/overview-of-a-simplified-method-of-teaching-music/   I will share it with pre-schools, home schoolers, infants schools and centres that cater for the [...]

  6. Jenn Says:

    Hi Mary Ann. I have been searching lately to no avail for a music program for my son who has a speech delay (we are working on determining if he is autistic). I “stumbled” across this while looking on the Catholic Exchange website for homeschooling information. My thanks are too innumerable to mention. Thanks be to God for making such a generous person as yourself to share this with us. May God bless you and your family. – Jenn+ from the USA

  7. brendakaren Says:

    God gives everyone talents and it is our duty and our privilege to use them to help others.

    Regarding your son’s speech delay, perhaps I can help. This is the article that I wrote regarding how I taught my autistic child to speak. (I actually have more than one autistic child).

    http://missionbell.homestead.com/teachingautisticchildrentospeak.html

    It is a simple uncomplicated method and you make up the teaching materials yourself from easily and cheaply found recourses.

    Also please pray to and for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and ask their intercession for your son to learn to speak:

    More information here:

    http://missionbell.homestead.com/Afavourgrantedbytheholysouls.html

  8. memo Says:

    Its a brilliant method for first timers, for learning to play,
    amazing.

  9. cadscad Says:

    It is bad.

    In what way? (Mary Ann) the owner of this blog.

  10. cadscad Says:

    You should have the full songs.

    The method is based on six notes only. It is for the intellectually disabled. It is not an advanced course for those who have stronger intellectual gifts.

    These songs were picked to fit in with the six note formula. Some of the songs which I picked had more than six notes, so I left out the extra parts which went outside the six note formula.

    There is enough information in the article, to show anyone who cares to see, that this is what is happening.
    (Mary Ann)

  11. Kiki Mann Says:

    Hi Mary Ann — this is a GREAT way to start off with any young child.
    I did a similar thing with my children (starting around age 2), only I used numbers (1 2 3 4 5 … with 1 being middle C ) instead of the note letters — this let me move beyond 6 notes later on and eliminated the confusion of a low C (1) and a high C (8). I also found a little book of nursery songs that had an 8-note electronic keyboard attached with a different color for each note and the music notated with colored notes — that worked great as well — especially for learning colors and music).
    I would recommend that you keep each musical phrase in a single line if it’s not too much for your student to handle — i.e. London Bridge:
    G A G F E F G
    D E F
    E F G
    G A G F E F G
    D G E C
    I also put longer notes further apart and shorter notes closer together to help show the rhythm — such as:
    G A G F E F G
    D E F
    E F G
    G A G F E F G
    D G E C
    In numbers (middle C is 1):
    5 6 5 4 3 4 5
    2 3 4
    3 4 5
    5 6 5 4 3 4 5
    2 5 3 1
    I used several toy keyboards and a toy xylophone (works great as well and is fun for rhythm). Then I put the numbers on the full-sized piano — the kids had great fun playing the same songs on different instruments. I also recommend using imitation — somewhat along the lines of Suzuki’s method) — i.e. “can you do what I do?” Play a simple phrase from the song — see if they can imitate it — repeat for each phrase of the song. Then present them with the “notated” song (as above) — they will be pleased to hear that the song they are playing from the notation is the same as what they just heard/learned by imitation. Above all — make it fun! Have FuN!! :-)
    I hope you continue to have great success in sharing this ministry of music. There are so many benefits to be gained from even simple involvement with music — even if no formal “lessons” are available. I think that many people miss out on this because the “traditional” perceived approach is “music lessons”. (I am a classically-trained organist and pianist, play drums and percussion, and have taught “music” — keyboard, percussion — at many levels from my own very-young children to adults).
    “Kiki”

    Good advice.

  12. Kiki Mann Says:

    oops — it’s looks like the post scrunched all the notes together so the long and short notes don’t show up — I’ll try it this way:
    G — A – G – F – E – F – G
    D – E – F
    E – F – G
    G — A – G – F – E – F – G
    D — G — E – C

    Yes, I have not made a provision for the length of the note, e.g. short, long, etc. This is left to the mother of the child, who guides the child in how long to strike the key. The tunes provided are well known, so the mother would know how long a note should go for. We all know how to sing a tune.

    If there are too many symbols on the page, a child with learning difficulties, might not be able to cope with that. I originally wrote what in in this posting for my two youngest adult children, (who have severe autism and learning disabilities).

    Your method is good for children who have normal intelligence. If my two youngest children were not intellectually impaired, I would use your method first, and then I would teach my children how to read music and play the recorder and/or piano keyboard.

  13. UDENZE RICHARD Says:

    I WANT TO LEAN HOW TO PLAY THE KEY BOARD TO HELP MY CHURCH

  14. UDENZE RICHARD Says:

    I WANT TO LEAN HOW TO PLAY THE KEY BOARD TO HELP MY CHURCH I AM A CHURISTER BUT I CAN NOT PLAY THE KEY BOARD


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