Piano Lessons for children in English
Jacob's International Music School
Tokyo/Kamata Piano/Guitar/English Music School.
Study music in English with professional musicians.
Learn piano in English with a jazzy approach!
We offer group, private and pair (2 children) piano lessons for children starting from age 3. Our lessons and curriculum is based on a jazzy approach and is the complete opposite approach of most other piano schools in Japan for children. We do not only teach the technique of playing piano but we teach a balanced diet of sight-reading, improvisation, analytical thinking, composing, ensemble playing, ear-training, groove etc.
What is a jazzy approach?
A jazzy approach is really a complete approach to learning music. A typical jazz musician is someone who can not only read music written on the page but can analyse and understand what is happening with the music. They can improvise their own melodies based on chord-symbols and groove to any type of rhythm. They can hear what other musicians are playing and intuitively react to what is happening and create music on the spot. Some teachers think it is unrealistic to teach these type of things to young children but I think they are greatly underestimating how intuitive and smart children are. Children thrive when they are given the opportunity to be creative and benefit greatly by having to use analytical thinking. Our goal is not to have children learn a piece of music by spoon-feeding them the notes by imitation but teach them useful musical skills so that they can learn any piece of music on their own either by reading the music or by using their ears.
Why group lessons?
Because it is more fun…
Piano is a rare instrument in the fact that it can be played and sound totally full as a solo instrument. A skilled pianist can make music that sounds like an entire orchestra. There is really no other instrument that has the range and sonic possibilities of a piano. However, because of this fact it is often taught in a solitary way. Most people that study piano only play music by themselves and have very little or no experience playing music with others. To me, the best part about making music is being able to create music together with other people. In our group lessons children get a chance to make music with other children on a regular basis. Not only is this fun but it is extremely beneficial to learning music. Having to listen and react to what you are hearing is the best way to learn how to play music. Although there are many technical aspects to learning piano the most important aspect of learning music is learning how to use your ears and relating what you hear in your mind with the sound of your instrument. When you only play by yourself you don’t need to listen and react to what is happening around you. Also, in a group lesson we are always playing to a steady beat. One big issue with pianists that have only played by themselves is that they can’t keep a steady beat.
This is because they never had to in their lessons. Although certain styles of classical music doesn’t require a strict steady beat, pretty much every other style of music does from jazz to rock to pop to classical. Rhythm and groove is the most fundamental aspect of music and is something we put a lot of emphasis on at our school. A lot of piano schools focus entirely on one genre of music. In our group classes we learn all styles of music including jazz, classical, pop and rock. I have found that the students in group classes have a much deeper internal sense of rhythm than students who take strictly private lessons.
Because it is more stimulating
There is an energy in our group classes that stimulates the students to learn. This stimulation doesn’t happen in private lessons. When we learn new ideas, songs or concepts we talk about them, experiment on the piano, play games together to reinforce the ideas. After many years of doing both private and group lessons I can say without a doubt that the environment of learning music in a group is far more stimulating, fun and beneficial for children than private lessons.
What if one child is clearly progressing faster than another?
Everyone progresses at a different rate. This is no different with group classes. Because our classes are small the teacher has a very good idea about the skills and ability of each student. We are always assessing the progress and levels of our students as well as their motivation to practice. If one student finds the regular assignments to be too easy we give them additional assignments to learn on their own. We give our students a CD of bonus music that they can decide to learn for extra credit. We also always take requests from students and parents about songs they would like to play. If one student is clearly way ahead of the other students in the class and is bored than we will look for a solution that could involve moving them to a higher level class or possibly private lessons if there is no suitable class for that child. If a student is clearly struggling to keep up we would try to find a class that they could do better in. In my opinion the ideal way to learn piano would be to take group lessons as a base and take 1 private lesson per month. They will have fun learning new music and all the fundamentals of piano and music in the group class and during the private lesson they can learn a more difficult song that they really want to play.
Will my child be able to play Chopin after 1 year of group lessons?
If you were to try to learn a new foreign language like French would you start off by taking 6 months to memorise strictly be ear a very difficult piece of literary poetry before you could even introduce yourself or ask about the weather. You may be able to impress some people with your ability to imitate the sound of the language but you will have probably gained little to no ability to actually communicate in that language. Trying to learn a difficult piece of music before you have developed any basic music skills is no different. You may be able to impress some people with your ability to play 1 difficult piece of music but once you stop practicing that song you will forget it in a couple of months and have very little music skills to show for all the effort. In our school we focus on teaching our students musical skills rather than difficult repertoire. We focus a lot of energy in the beginning on reading music and learning how to use our ears. Once students get the basic idea of reading music down we then start learning about improvisation, composition, harmony etc. I think a lot of piano teachers underestimate how smart kids are. Kids will learn basically anything you teach them. The first time I tried to teach young children about improvisation I was pleasantly surprised because they did better at it than most of my adult students. They don’t have preconceived notions that these things are really difficult. When they can read music and understand the music they are playing they have so much more fun with it. After one year of our group classes most of my students cannot play Chopin but they can read well in both treble and bass clef, they have a very solid sense of rhythm, they can improvise and write melodies and they will have played and learned over 100 songs. Even if they quit after 1 year they will have skills that will stick with them for the rest of their life. My goal as a teacher is to give my students essential musical skills that they can use to enjoy music for the rest of their life.
What if my child doesn’t speak any English?
Many of the students at our school have very little or no English skills when they start. We offer 100% English classes as well as classes with mixed English and Japanese. In these classes many of the basic commands are in English but the more difficult concepts are explained in Japanese. In piano lessons there are many commands that are used repetitively and students catch on to these fairly quickly. For example, “one more time,” “right-hand/left-hand,” etc. Some students who speak no English are able to integrate and fit in without any problem in our all English classes. We also have a bilingual receptionist who is available if there are some communication problems.
What kind of songs do you teach?
We learn all kinds of songs from Mozart to Jazz to Ghibli to Michael Jackson. Here are some of the famous songs that we teach. Fur Elise, Ode to Joy, Tonari no Totoro, Jingle Bells, Let it Go, Mickey Mouse March, Billie Jean, Take the “A” Train etc.
We also learn many songs with simple basic English lyrics. We usually sing the lyrics first and then learn how to play them on the piano.
Kids have a lot of fun playing songs that they have heard before so we try to incorporate these songs into the lessons. We also try to introduce them to lots of new music.
What books do you use?
For our younger children we use a very popular American piano method book called “My First Piano Adventure” by Faber. We also use books written by Jacob Koller called “Let’s Play Piano.” These are a set of original and traditional English songs that are meant to be played on the piano. We also use workbooks written by Jacob Koller for each class where we study sight-reading, ear-training, composition, harmony etc. Each lesson has a worksheet that we do together in class and there is homework assigned at every class similar to the in-class worksheet to reinforce the new concepts that we learn in each class. All the books come with CD’s and it is required that the student use the CD’s at home to listen to and play-along with. Students that play with the CD’s develop a much better sense of rhythm and have more fun playing.
We offer 1 free make-up lesson per month for our group students only. This means that with proper notice you can come to a class on a different day of the same level. We recommend that students try to come to their regular assigned class as much as possible and try to keep make-up lessons to a minimum. There are no make-up lessons for our private and pair lesson students. We accept students of any level but in order to improve there must be a commitment to the lessons. We take the lessons very seriously and we want each of our students to also take the lessons seriously.
Is it possible to take group and private lessons?
Yes. We offer a discounted private lesson rate for our group students. I think it is ideal to take group lessons as a base and take 1 extra private lesson per month. It is not possible for private students to take irregular group lessons although we do offer ensemble opportunities for the recital.
We have 1 yearly recital that is required and 1 jazz jam session that is optional. At each recital we hire a professional bassists and drummer to perform with the children. Children get a chance to play with a jazz band as well as play by themselves.
Should parents be involved in the lessons?
It is highly recommended that parents be involved especially in the beginning for our students 5-7 years old but it is required for our 3-4 years old students. 3-4 year old children need encouragement from their parents and help at home to work on things that are learned in class.
For our 3-4 year old children we recommend only 5-10 minutes of practice per day. Of course if the child has the attention span to practice more that is great but most kids at this age can’t regularly do much more than this. For our 5-7 year old children we recommend at least 15 minutes of practice per day or a minimum of 1 hour of practice per week. Daily practice is essential to learning music or any language. Before you sign-up we ask you to make a commitment with your child to dedicate a certain amount of time to practice. Playing the CDs from the books at home and singing the songs even when they aren’t practicing is a great way to motivate kids to practice.
3 times per month（30 min）￥12800
3 times per month（45 min）￥16900
Sign-up Fee ¥12000
Fridays and Saturdays
English, Japanese, German
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
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