I am a piano teacher. I love what I do. I love the children, I love their parents and their families, I love the relationships I build through teaching, and I love being able to be a part of their lives teaching what I believe to be the single most important thing I could teach...the gift of music.
I have recently been looking for a different, possibly better, way to teach piano. I consider myself an excellent piano teacher, with years of experience and 'proof' of what I do best...teaching students how to play piano. I have always been looking for a better method in which to teach. I became frustrated with the current methods, which, although they are good and sometimes effective, were not always so. I had too many experiences with students who had been playing piano for 3 years, but still did not read music. They were reading finger numbers through hand positions. It was not for a lack of trying. These students diligently practiced. They worked hard. It just didn’t work for everyone, and some eventually burned out and quit. I knew there had to be a better way, and thus began my search.
While I was surfing the internet, I came across Hellene Hiner’s website doremifasoft.com, introducing the ‘Soft Way to Mozart’. I became intrigued. I phoned Ms. Hiner, who answered the phone personally, and told her I was interested in learning more about her software. Could I come to Houston? Emphatically and enthusiastically she answered ‘YES’.
I flew to Houston in the next couple of weeks. She met me at the airport and after checking me into the motel (which she had arranged herself), took me into their home and their studio to introduce me to this amazing software. After observing several students that first day, from 2 year olds to 45 year olds, I was more interested
than ever. Sweet little what seemed to be no more than babies were successfully playing ?Hot Cross Buns?
with both hands. A 14 year old boy was playing the theme from ‘Harry Potter’. He had taken piano for three months. A 45 year old mother was learning how to play because it was her dream to learn to play the piano, and was thrilled to be playing a Bach Minuet. She had been playing 7 months. They were all reading music. Yes, it was on the computer screen, but it was some form of music. All of these students were every day students like I have taught my whole life, from every day families. They were not geniuses. They were real, and they loved what they were learning.
I had several concerns going into this training. My first one being that I was not willing to give up the one-on-one instruction I so loved doing. That fear was alleviated quickly as I watched Ms. Hiner teach. The software enhances her teaching, and actually makes it easier and more fun. It replaces the method books, and is a wonderful teaching tool.
Another big concern I had was the keyboard. I am a classically trained pianist, and have taught classically for 20 years. I have a lot of pride in what I do, and love the acoustic piano for the lovely instrument it is. I dislike the sound of electronic keyboards, and do not want the children to exclusively play on them, without experiencing the acoustic piano. I was concerned that the keyboard would not properly train the muscles in the hands, and that the children would become mechanical and lazy in their playing. It was at Ms. Hiner?s Winter Recital that I got to witness every one of her students, with the exception of a couple of 2 and 3 year olds, go straight to the
grand piano and play for memory some amazing literature, and play them very well. They were playing with free hands, and some of the more advanced students were actually figuring out for themselves correct hand placement and correct fingering. And, they were smiling, even though the small errors they were doing.
While I was with Ms. Hiner, I saw her dream...to give every child an opportunity for true music education. To teach them how to read music. To teach them how to sit down at the keyboard and actually play real songs. To teach them the joy and the magic of the great composers. To give them an alternative way that actually works better than the age-old methods which keep them playing boring songs in a few hand position for years, without truly teaching them how to read music. I saw her dream, and became infected with her passion.
If you are a classical piano teacher with doubts, fears, and anxiety about this program, I implore you to think ‘outside the box’ and open your minds to a new way of teaching. Ms. Hiner is not out to destroy
piano teachers. She is here to help you, to help your students, and to introduce you to a brand new,
incredible way to teach students how to read music. She is not out to raise piano performers. She is not here to teach perfection in performance. She is here to teach students how to successfully read music and to give them an appreciation for the classics and to have fun while they are doing it. From there, classical musicians will be raised, for if they find they have a true gift and love for playing the piano,
the foundation is laid beautifully.
I have the training of a concert pianist. I begun taking piano lessons in Ukraine, Odessa at the age of 5. When I turned 11, my father took me half around the world and brought me to America.
During our journey, I practiced at the back of an old Cathedral in Rome, where there was a small upright piano in the basement . At age 10, my repertoire consisted of Bach Inventions; Schubert Impromptu, and Mozart Sonata in C.
When I came to the US, I auditioned and was excepted to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where I continued my Music education.
What I found really strange as still a child, is that I immediately had to learn a new Method of the Alphabet as the name for notes. I never heard of this method before and didn???‚?„?t even know it existed until I came to US. The way I was taught was through Solfeggio Method or Do Re Mi........I had Solfeggio and ear training in the Music School once a week and 2 piano lessons at my teachers house for 45 min. each.
I began teaching seriously about 15 years ago.
Wanting to understand more about the teaching system in the US, I went out and purchased many books on teaching as well as various Method books.
One of my favorite and very useful book I read was ???‚??A Soprano on Her head???‚?? by Eloise Rstad, published in the 80's
Through the years, I have looked at almost all the Methods that are available for Piano Teachers and tried to teach with many of them.
I suppose it takes a certain amount of time to really see the results of any given system.
and since I was not taught with the American System of 5 finger position, or intervalic system, etc.... I really had no idea of the outcome of teaching with it.
What I discovered is the students where having a hard time learning and remembering their notes on the musical staff. I tried the Every Good Boy Does Fine for line notes and FACE for space system and still got very poor results from my students. I also noticed that they rely on the 5 finger position and remember what key to press by finger numbers and not knowing what are the actual notes under their fingers. I noticed that it was also effecting their technique development in the fact that they would hold on to the keys and their 5 finger position as if their life would depend on it. In other words, there was no connection to each individual key and that key???‚?„?s assigned sound to the individuals ear.
I began looking for a solution and found the Faber and Faber Method.
It seems that this method recognizes something on the fact that you don???‚?„?t have to necessarily play C with finger #1 but gives you a Key finger that is outside perhaps of the 5 finger pattern and circles the key finger. But still there was a problem somehow of inner ear connection to each note.And as far as I am concerned kids still don???‚?„?t see these finger #???‚?„?s even if you circle it and even highlight it for them.
Having the Russian School of Piano as my base and a bunch of Material that I was lucky that we brought with us, I began searching for some kind of a way out and as a result have Compiled pieces in my own way of teaching my student's trying to combine the American and the Russian School. I have given this a lot of thought and a lot of years of trying to figure out where the problem was and why majority of people are having such a difficult time learning to read music and getting it.
In search for a Solfeggio Method, I accidently landed on the do re mi fa soft site and found that this method uses Solfeggio. I also noticed that this program is presented in a form of a computer software.
As mentioned earlier, having tried nearly all available methods in books or computer format, I was skeptical from all the disappointment. Not willing to give up, I contacted Helen Hiner herself to learn more about her Software.
To my surprise I learned that Helen is originally from the Ukraine and we share the exact same background in music education. I found that I could speak with her about my concerns as a teacher in a honest and intelligent way. Helen is a delightful, intelligent, and Compassionate woman.
A visionary and a person who has devoted more then half of her life looking for answers on how to help improve Piano Education. Her research lead her to the Seed Root of the Problem of 'How we learn and how we perceive and receive informationin' other words 'How does our Brain works.'
I purchased the software and bought a Yamaha Keyboard and hooked it up and tried the program myself. In order to really understand the benefits, I pretended to be the student and took myself through the entire program. Much to my own surprise, I found something incredible happening.
My ears where being fine-tunned with ear training games, The games are designed to go with the level of the student from the very beginner to first year College Proficiency Advanced level. It knows and finds your level and adjusts to you, your speed.
The games teach you more then theory, but develop hand and eye coordination, train and tie the ear to each note on the keyboard, teach you note duration, and has a very neat aspect to train the ear to hear music in your head and write it down in a form of 'Notation Dictation by Memory' Also training the ear to pick up the Chord Cadence in the left hand to any simple melody by ear.
It turned out to be a deep program for teaching and a great Teaching Tool for a Piano Teacher.
A month later I found myself going to Meet Helen Hiner in Houston.
Helen picked us up from the Airport and my husband and I where welcomed to Helen's Home where I went through intense training.
I had the privilege and honor to observe Helen teach her students. The training took 2 days and there was a lot of information to observe. I tried to take as many notes as I possibly could.
Honestly speaking, still being skeptical, and unsure about certain issues on teaching, I watched all my fears disappear as I observed children finding their own fingerings and correct hand placement on the piano without any force or any physical and numeral demonstration by the teacher.
I saw babies reading music and developing a hand and eye coordination. I saw older kids taking written dictations and music notation on a clean staff paper.
I saw how much kids enjoyed coming to their piano lessons. I also observed how non of the children had raised shoulders or held on to 5 finger positions, or counting with their body's and wrists going up and down like a bouncing ball while they played. I saw them performing at the Grand Piano with confidence and freedom. These where ordinary kids!
Piano is our mirror. What we think and feel, will come out on the instrument
If we feel uncertain or insecure, then it will come out in our playing and affect our technique. Same thing applies to if we feel confident then our playing will sound confident. It's all in the mind
I watched ordinary kids sight read with no problems and having the ability to memorize multiple songs as well and learn their pieces! Really Learn and know them !!!
When I returned home and begun teaching with Mozart Soft , I have noticed immediate difference in the results on my excising students playing and reading music.
I have also noticed that my students and I both feel an enormous amount of Joy and Enjoinment, Love of Music, and the room somehow fills with a lot of light when we work with Mozart Soft.
The results have been Amazing!!!! I am now also able to teach kids from 2 years of age which I never though would be possible.
Look, Helen Hiner did not invent anything new herself, like Solfeggio or flipping the staff vertically , as demonstrated in the book 'Soprano on her head' by Eloise Ristad but merely combined some of the excising ingenious ideas together in a creative and interactive way for us.
I would only say too you that this is truly a compassionate and wise method written by compassionate, thoughtful and caring people!
Thank you Helen.
Let me introduce myself briefly. My name is Juliann French, I live in Los Angeles and work as a professional performing and recording violinist, since graduating with a performance degree from Eastman School of Music. I have as well received training to be a Certified Suzuki Instructor on the violin, and as well, have taught music for a good part of my career here in So. California. Although I play the piano and began lessons at an early age of 4ys. I mostly used my piano skills to assist in my violin teaching and always have accompanied my students in recitals as well as playing for joy. Many parents asked me to teach the piano when they considered the idea that violin was not suited for their child. I usually encouraged my parents to consider trying the piano as an alternate to the violin if they really wanted to continue music training for their child. But with a full studio of violin students and a life of performing and recording dates, I could not imagine taking on more,
and trying to find what methods I would even consider using to teach piano to someone else.
I began teaching my own daughter, when I placed her at the piano freguently from the age of two (2), and seriously took it upon myself to indulge in piano methods from which I could give her a solid piano foundation. I found myself frustrated at the lack of materials which supported my wish to give her a foundation using solfege. With all of my new piano students, I was using snippits of material from such a variety of books, but the collage effect was frustrating, and incongruous to me. I wanted to make sure they had ear-training, singing, rhythm, and I was determined to use solfege, instead of the American A-B-C-D-E-F-G typical frustraing direction.
So I went to GOOGLE and put in some key words. To make a long story short, I found myself invited to look at a website which intrigued my eyes called DoReMiSoft.com. After reading the opening article written by the creator Olenka Hiner on music education titled, "How traditional piano lessons cripple our children", I felt she related my frustration and concerns regarding the direction music training or the lack of music training is going for our youth today. I am completely frustrated in the thousands of method books out there in stores in which to buy. What do they teach? I need something which supports ear-training, sight-reading, and playing skills. There is so little in the way of Solfeggio and one is forced to comply with the idea that A-B-C-D-E-F-G is "the way to teach", therefore "the way to learn",
I do not agree.
Now with the busy lives and demands on families and working parents, children are left with such little supervision in their home practice time. Due to the lack of music in schools, most students are not even exposed to singing with their own voice anymore. They don't know how to listen or even understand what they are hearing. The progress one can expecis little although one hopes that a child could end up with valuable music tools to use for their lifetime and enjoy the instrument they have spent time attempting to learn. At least considering the finances spent for private or group lessons, one would EXPECT a good music education in the very least.
What I found intriguing in DoReMiFaSoft Mozart computer based system, was the idea that listening, ear-training, sight-reading, and practicing could become constant throughout the week between lessons. The students (children and adults) have an educational tutor to guide them by using the interactive software program which is designed with such care and pacing to assure a solid music foundation. It is not a music game with 3D animation in which to purely entertain, delight or distract the ears and eyes, but better, well throughout games, and musical pieces which provide a continuous pace for learning.
There is no doubt if you do your research that there is an surgence of Solfege training coming back to the music training, and the european method of learning music using Solfege, sight-singing, and interval training for the voice and ear is essential. Good teachers are clammering to find materials which support this concept.
What a relief to have discoverd the best kept secret...oops, I just let it out! This software is such a welcome tool for teaching the piano which incorporates both solfege and letter names as the basis for learning and a unique concept for reading notes on the grand staff. I have just spent several days in Houston with Ms. Olenka Hiner, watching, listening, learning and applying hands-on training in becoming Certified in using the fabulous program in my private studio. Not only will my piano students be rewarded when I present this new software approach to them, so will my violin students...(they just don't know it yet!)
How exciting to be able to play the piano almost instantaniously, a melody with both fingers, and read the notes. I feel like I want to keep this jewel of a program, my own little secret, but truly I cannot. My mission in teaching music is to do the best I can to provide a nurturing, stimulating and effective way to learn, and to share the gift of music so that many can love what they set out to do.
Ms. Hiner has researched tireless hours and designed a software program which deserves the notice of even the highest music conservatories of the world. You won't be dissapointed. Bravo Olenka, I am so grateful to you for your brilliant ideas which you are sharing with all of us. I expect to see this DoReMiFa software program in music schools, public schools, private studios, and in thousands of homes in which adults, parents and children can learn. An extensive library of musical songs is provided and a guarentee of this to be an ever
expanding resource for you.
I encourage you to take a more indepth look, and begin to "think outside of the box". Everyone can enjoy using this software program in your lessons and home. The rewards will be signifacant to the student and teacher. You'll wonder why this way of learning the grand staff, wasn't thought of hundreds of years ago, two year olds can get it!
Oh, and can I tell you that it is truely thrilling to be the first and only Certified Instructor of Soft Mozart program method in the entire Los Angeles area. I can guarentee it won't be for long because I intend to pass it on!
Music Page Studio Violin & Piano Instruction Studio City, California
My students at Music Generations have been accustomed to using the computer with music software for several years now. Now they use nothing but Soft Way to Mozart (SWTM) and they love it!
Not only do they practice with the program at the studio, but also at home on their own Soft Way to Mozart system (a computer loaded with the software and keyboard linked with a midi cable). Out of all the students that have chosen to add SWTM at home, none have complained or reported not using the program to help with their home practice. Most have reported more practice and improved attitudes about learning the piano.
My music lessons, both group and private, are so much more stimulating for the child with SWTM. I can demonstrate and allow quick interactive learning for almost any musical concept I am trying to teach. The children like to have hands-on learning, where they are in the driver???‚?„?s seat, versus you doing all the talking and telling them boring things about music. They want to be playing songs and showing how they can get better with each try. With the software, they can repeat, repeat, repeat, and see their own improvement. I just cheer them on, and offer bits of advice and guidance along the way. This form of teaching is very effective for groups and classroom teaching. It allows each child to be on task quickly and continue with the task regardless of what the rest of the class is doing. This frees the teacher up to walk around and give individualized attention to each child as needed.
I highly recommend any music teacher use the software, read Hellene Hiner’s philosophy, and become trained to be a SWTM teacher. You’ll never look back!
Tonya Billingsley, Owner/Instructor, Music Generations, San Diego, CA
Kay Lowry, NCTM
I am very excited about the "Soft Way to Mozart" program. I have spent an entire day with Helen Hiner, listening and learning about this new technology. The most attractive thing to me is the way the children can learn to read music in a very logical, sequential, and age-appropriate way. I also am thrilled that I can teach my students to sing solfege. I feel that the syllables greatly enhance the student's ear. Singing solfege "sticks" in the brain and helps in melody recall. This software program will be a new adventure for my students, and myself!
"Mommy, is it 2:00 o'clock yet?" This is what my little six-year old student continuously asked her mother all day long until finally arriving at my studio. This eagerness, excitement and love of learning is typical of my Soft Way to Mozart students.
I have been teaching for many years, and I have not seen this level of enthusiasm from each of my students. It is truly remarkable but not as amazing as the results. The students are learning to read music, developing their ears and memorizing. They are performing these skills without fear, condemnation and criticism but self-discovery.
All the students, including the adults, ask MY permission to play it again. In the past, when using traditional method books, I would ask them to play it
"just one more time." There have been numerous positive experiences that we have all gained since using DoReMiFaSoft.
I am confident that my students will gain so much more from this method than from the old-fashioned traditional approach. We have finally reached the 21st Century in developing musical skills in a musically correct and FUN way.