General questions about our software and method. The answers to many frequently asked questions about the Soft Way to Mozart music and piano learning curriculum, explaining the specific approaches of the program as well as the philosophy of our system of piano and music education.
Click the questions below to expose the answer. If you don't find your particular questions, please feel free to contact us here.
About our music teaching method
1. Do we really need a new method for teaching piano?
If you think that general piano education is adequate, can you answer one simple question - how many people of your acquaintance are able to play the piano? Not one or two short tunes for two fingers, remembered from the school days, but the serious music of Chopin, List or Gershwin, reading it from music sheets, or playing it by heart. Moreover, how many people that you personally know can sit in the Christmas time at the piano and play a nice Christmas tune?
As a result of the ineffectiveness of the common piano (and music generally) teaching methods, most people are musically illiterate. The difficulty and inefficiency of the usual teaching approaches have created a wide public conviction that successful piano education is possible only for a few prodigies, or must be very expensive for an average student. This situation is amazingly comparable to basic education in the Middle Ages, when the ability to read and write was considered as a privilege of talented or rich people. In those days, the methods of teaching the Alphabet were often based on reading and memorization of large extracts from manuscripts, written in Latin. When education moved from the cramming of texts written in an unknown language to the usage of specially designed ABC books for children, it became really effective and affordable for the wide public.
We are sure that piano playing can also be taught as naturally and easily as reading, and become effective and affordable enough for anybody. We think that our new method of teaching piano is going to change children's notion that piano playing is something dull, complicated and incomprehensible. We want children, and all people, to consider piano performance as easy and entertaining as reading, video games or sports.
2. Is a computer program really able to teach music effectively?
For centuries, music education has been based on the individual approach, which has been custom made for selected music lovers. The difficulty of learning music with the old means, especially for beginners, has always required constant help and supervision from the teacher. New computer technologies with interactive forms of training, especially our unique program, are capable of providing effective help and control during self-study, group, and home music practice. Our software can relieve the teacher from all of the monotonous work of building essential music skills. The learning of how to differentiate music symbols and read the music score, and the training of eye-hand coordination require hundreds of routine exercises, where the presence of a music teacher is not any help, but is sometimes just additional stress for beginners as well as for the teacher. Using interactivity, the Soft Mozart software can effectively control and guide students when they play and learn songs without a teacher's supervision, checking the strict correctness of their performance, and helping them in difficult places with visual hints. The computer will allow you to make hundreds mistakes, and will correct them all, without even raising its voice. Our program doesn't dismiss the importance of the music teacher when it comes to improving and polishing the student's music performance. It is rather an efficient tool for group and home lessons, and an invaluable instrument for self-study.
3. Does your software dismiss the music teacher?
The Soft Mozart program may dismiss a bad teacher, who charges you thousands of dollars for lecturing you on what the Treble Clef and Bass Clef are, when all you want is to learn a song. Soft Mozart provides the student with effective training of the basic skills needed for playing piano and reading music notes, which you can do without any teacher during home practice. With this piano teaching software, it's possible to conduct an effective piano self-study by playing and learning songs.
However, our program can in no way substitute a knowledgeable and concerned music teacher who can give you a goal, bring your music playing to a performing level, and stimulate you to further achievements by being your most demanding audience. Such a teacher improves and polishes your piano performance, adding the technique and soul to it which can't be done by any software. Our software is big help for such a teacher, because it can relieve him from the long and monotonous work of teaching a beginner the essential music skills, like finding the correct key and distinguishing music symbols, and can drastically improve the student's home practice.
4. Is this program in conflict with all of the other traditional methods?
The winning point of our invention is that it doesn't conflict with any reasonable method of teaching music, and can be accommodated by all of the leading methods in the world. To the methods based on ear training, like Suzuki, the Soft Mozart can add effective training of reading skills. For the classical approach, our software can add effective music practice and ear training from the first lesson, in a group setting and at home. Any music teacher can easily use some, if not all, of the Soft Mozart computer games, to improve certain music skills of their students.
5. Do we really need to teach our children the piano so early?
The language of music is very similar to the language we speak. It is interesting to know that the two centers of the brain responsible for speech and musical development are located close to each other. The main development of those two centers continues until the child is thirteen years old. Dipped in a new language environment, a child can easily learn to speak it without any accent, which is almost impossible for adults. In music education, small children can easily build music skills, effectively develop their music ear, and intuitively absorb all of the important laws of musical art. The playing and hearing of music can become as natural and easy for them as speaking. You can't achieve the same results with teenagers and adults. Many famous pianists and composers were lucky to start their music education in early childhood.
The notion that children should start serious music learning only when they are 7 years old, and maybe even older, after they can fluently read and write, may be explained by the inefficiency of the usual teaching approaches, and lack of effective home piano practice. The usual method of piano teaching is quite straightforward and designed for a student with an already developed sense of abstract thinking. For a small child, such an approach is very stressful and ineffective. Also, if the student's parents have no music education, it has been impossible to provide a productive home practice until the child is big enough to do it by himself. The fact that many children of musicians start to proficiently play on the piano at a young age shows what you can achieve with regular home lessons and a considered approach.
Apart from the enjoyment of playing music, and even prospects of a future music career, piano lessons give the child the much needed boost to their mind development. Piano lessons develop the child's cognitive ability, concentration, memory, and train their fine motor skills, when their mind coordinates the complex motion of two hands and all ten fingers.
6. Are the lessons with the piano keyboard "real" piano lessons?
The most common public misconception about the piano is that the PIANO is something big, wooden, and preferably of black color. This notion is taken from movies and concert halls, and chiefly based on the fact that a very limited number of families have any piano at home, and an even smaller number of people can actually play on it and do it regularly. This misconception may be eagerly supported by a sales staff in a piano shop who would like to persuade you that starting piano lessons on a piano that costs less than several thousand dollars is just a waste of your time. Everybody looks at the piano keyboard merely as a toy for children, or a loud teenager's instrument for primitive tunes. Some teachers even support the opinion that playing a keyboard can spoil a child's playing apparatus and forever ruin their piano playing technique. It's interesting that for the guitar, a more widespread instrument, people are not so concerned about material and size it is until the instrument produces a good enough sound. And nobody says that, if you take an electric guitar in your hands, it will ruin your ability to play the acoustic guitar.
We found that a modern piano keyboard, even the cheapest one (we do not mean the toy-pianos) is a very good instrument for any beginner, especially for children, to start piano lessons with. Having a "light" touch, it relieves children from the additional stress of the need to press the piano keys with enough strength, and helps to focus their attention on finding the correct keys. After playing and memorizing a song with the piano keyboard, a student can easily be moved to the piano and concentrate on the "hard" touch of the piano keys to produce the needed sound. In several lessons, even a small child can freely play the song on the piano.
The most invaluable feature of the electronic piano keyboard for music education consists of the possibility to connect it to the computer, and to use the power of interactive learning software. In this way, it's possible to enhance private piano lessons, introduce effective and inexpensive group piano lessons to wide public education, and realize a long dream of all piano amateurs for really easy and productive piano self-study at home.
The types of electronic piano keyboards range from the simplest portable keyboards to evolved digital pianos that closely simulate the real piano in all aspects, and even can surpass an average piano in sound quality. Nowadays, even inexpensive piano keyboards have a good enough sound to be a serious musical instrument for learning and self-expression. After mastering the piano keyboard, you will be able to appreciate and enjoy the sound power of a good piano, and will not let it peacefully collect dust in your main room.
7. Will keyboard playing skills spoil the ability to play the piano, because of the difference in touch?
It is a myth that beginners MUST start with the piano in order to correctly develop a piano playing apparatus. This myth originated from the elitism and conservatism of modern piano education that focused only on raising of a few concert performers. In reality, playing on any other musical instrument, including the piano keyboard, can only improve the piano performance of your child.
More over, we recommend that children start learning the piano with the piano keyboard. The regular piano is very physically challenging for beginners, because it requires physical strength along with advanced coordination and perfect orientation on the piano keys. The majority of problems with piano techniques start with the lack of confidence in beginners. When the student has built his eye-hand-fingers coordination by playing on the piano keyboard, the task of mastering the "hard touch" of the real piano is much easier to handle. Freedom and flexibility of the apparatus appear gradually with the confidence of the student. Being a 3-year-old child, Mozart started with the harpsichord (with the touch of a modern keyboard). It didn't spoil his apparatus at all!
About the piano learning software
8. Is Soft Mozart just another software attempting to help beginners to learn piano?
Everybody who has made even a short acquaintance with the Soft Mozart piano teaching software agrees that what they saw is something absolutely new and revolutionary. What are the main differences between this program and other existing piano teaching programs?
First of all, Soft Mozart was created by a music scientist and piano teacher with 25 years of teaching experience, Ms. Hellene Hiner, with a special purpose to use it during her piano classes. This computer software implements revolutionary approaches to piano teaching which Ms. Hiner invented and has used during her work with children. For the last two years, Soft Mozart has become the main teaching tool during Ms. Hiner's piano lessons and home practice for children from 2 to 12 years old. Under trial by children, the most demanding clientele, the smallest details of the program design have been taken into account to make the software more attractive and comfortable for a student, without losing of any power of the teaching approach.
Soft Mozart is absolutely different from many computer programs that mechanically translate classical piano lessons into some kinds of electronic piano teaching manuals, where the flow of instructions is interspersed by a few artless exercises. Soft Mozart involves any student into intensive music practice from the start, skipping all lectures and explanations. In reality, our program turns all of the usual conception of piano learning upside down. Instead of months of preparatory lessons that include the stuffing of the student with needed and unneeded music theory, and testing his will power with endless music scale exercises, our teaching software gives the possibility to any beginner to play and practice real music from the start, and as much as he or she wants. Instead of long struggles with a simple music score by reading and memorizing note by note, Soft Mozart introduces a revolutionary method (U.S.A. patent pending) to help any beginner, even a small child, to start to read music notes from the first lesson.
Throughout the program, Soft Mozart extensively uses many unique and innovative approaches for teaching and training the beginner or child how to fluently read music notes and proficiently play the piano, including the wide use of colors, shapes and sound for the conscious and subconscious help of a student. All of these approaches, like a mosaic, constitute a harmonious and efficient piano teaching system.
9. Is the Soft Mozart software for small children?
Our program is for anybody beginning from the age of 2 years old. This is hard to believe, but our software is designed in a way that any student, child or adult, beginner or advanced, may learn and benefit from the same interface, developing their skills at their own paces. The flexible, intelligent interface automatically provides you with a suitable level of challenge, depending on the rate of your progress. This level may be easy enough for a small child in their first piano lesson, and quite challenging for an experienced student interested in improving his skills of fluent music reading. Very smart parents of my students use our software as a piano learning tool too, as well as their children. You can fully grasp the universality of the program while practicing and memorizing songs. The Gentle Piano game helps a 2-year-old child to play his first song "Mary had a little lamb" by reading a simplified music score, or can efficiently teach you to read from the normal music score and play Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata".
10. What do you mean by claiming that the Soft Mozart program teaches music in the most natural way?
To learn naturally means to learn gradually and permanently. Our program has succeeded in converting piano learning into a gradual process, when the new information comes in quantities just big enough to be comfortably accepted and adopted by your mind. The Soft Mozart method does not require a big jump from you - a drastic improvement in your skills for successful advancement, like months of studying and memorizing music notation before being able to read and play your first song. You will progress and enjoy your learning using small steps - continually developing your reading and playing skills, without working too hard, or struggling with boring drills.
To learn naturally means never to lose the objective of your learning. Many students, especially children, have lost their interest in piano lessons during the initial months of lectures and abstract exercises, without the ability to perform real music. With the Soft Mozart software, any beginner starts to play actual songs from the first piano lesson.
The human mind can easily absorb information only when motivated. It is just a waste of your time to listen to long explanations without the ability to immediately apply them to practice, because your mind is usually indisposed to remember something that you currently don't need. Soft Mozart introduces any new information through teaching exercises, so you immediately start using your knowledge in your music practice.
To learn piano naturally means to use and harmoniously develop all of your musical skills. Some teachers, eager to get results as fast as possible, just memorize with their students several tunes to play on the piano. With the ability of a child's mind to absorb information, it should not be regarded as something extraordinary. However, without a developed musical ear and the ability to read music notes, such piano learning becomes for the child just mechanical memorization of the order in which to press the piano keys. The child's mind fights back, unwilling to remember senseless information, and very soon, the child loses any interest in the piano exercises. With the Soft Mozart method, the child develops all music skills - their memory and musical ear, the ability to read music, and eye-hand coordination. Soft Mozart does not demand already developed music skills from a child, like a trained musical ear. Most important, all skills support each other during the music practice and piano performance, e. g. the developed musical ear enforces reading abilities and motor skills, and reading abilities help to improve the musical ear and memorize music. With harmonious development of the student's skills, Soft Mozart ensures the most comfortable piano practice, and fast piano learning.
To learn piano naturally means to get support whenever it is needed during the entire practice. The student never should feel lost, frustrated from being stuck and unable to move forward, uncertain of results, or afraid before a too difficult task. Soft Mozart provides such support to guarantee intensive music practice and the student's satisfaction from piano playing. The program assistance includes interactivity, visual hints, and sound. The teacher can always choose the level of support to provide needed challenge for an individual student.
We easily learn a lot of things in our life subconsciously, indirectly, through our eyes, ears and sense of touch. Additional visual information is especially important for helping children to understand the abstract features of the music notation. Many of the teaching means used by the Soft Mozart method, like colors and shapes, the scheme of the piano key stickers, and sound, are designed to produce a subconscious impact on the student's mind to make the study more effective.
11. Doesn't your computer program teach the child to play music "mechanically"?
Many piano computer programs, and even some teachers, try to teach children to play the piano only by memorizing the order of the piano keys to press. This approach has the same sense as learning a foreign language by memorizing big pieces of text without the ability to read, and having a very slight idea what those texts is about. After such learning, a child, playing a song on the piano, looks more like a mechanical doll whose mechanism may stop if the child forgets what next key to press.
The Soft Mozart teaching method harmoniously develops all musical skills in children for conscious and creative mastering of piano playing. It develops their musical ear, musical memory, eye-hand coordination, and, what is most important, music reading skill. By giving the ability to read music, Soft Mozart provides the student with extensive and comfortable piano practice, and ensures enjoyable, intelligent piano playing. The students feel free to express themselves in music without the fear that one forgotten note will ruin whole piano performance.
Learning piano with the Soft Mozart program has nothing in common with the image of a child who, like a robot, repeats all of the commands of a heartless computer. In reality, we changed the whole attitude of children towards piano lessons as a dull and tiresome time you spend, returning to piano play its meaning of "play", not of "drill". For them, we transformed piano practice into a colorful video game, and the piano keyboard into a 61-key game controller. From a player, this game demands attention, keen eyes, fast reasoning skills, patience, good memory and the deft command of all ten fingers. While learning a song by playing our Gentle Piano game, a child is relaxed and resolute to beat it, unconsciously involving and developing different musical skills, including visual music symbol recognition.
Gentle Piano gives big tolerance to the way the student is allowed to play music notes, giving the student much freedom during a song performance. The main restriction is based on the basic musical rules specifying which notes definitely have to be played, and which notes definitely need not be played in a certain point of a song. If you have pressed the wrong piano key, or have not pressed all of the needed keys, the program will not allow you to go further until you play all of the notes correctly. In this way, it removes uncertainty, and gives the beginner confidence during self-study. Also, the program does not allow a student to "cut corners" by playing a note too long, or releasing it too early, disciplining the advanced student during their piano practice.
In the initial stage, the program gives the student a certain "ideal" tempo of a song to play, but the student is allowed to play as slowly as desired, learning the correct piano keys. Later, the student can try to follow the rhythm of the song, studying the relation of different note lengths. After a student has learned to play the song in a certain tempo, they will be able to correctly perform it in any desired tempo, and Gentle Piano gives the student an absolute freedom on how quickly to play the song in the advanced level of the program.
Initially, just after you learned a song, with a computer program or without, your performance usually lacks the freedom of self-expression, and looks somewhat "mechanical". The guidance of a good piano teacher can help you polish and improve your performance, adding virtuosity and the warmth of human emotions to it, and converting your piano playing to a real art.
12. Does the Soft Mozart program give the student enough room for challenge?
The universality of the Soft Mozart piano learning software, designed for a wide range of students from beginners to advanced ones, gives the ability to the teacher, or students themselves, to choose the desirable level of songs, and required level of support to play and memorize these songs. You can play nursery songs from one of the five simplified music representations, or read the original music scores of Mozart and Beethoven. So, the program can be as challenging as is desired by the teacher or the student. It is interesting that, feeling confidence from total support and extensive practice, students constantly challenge themselves by choosing more advanced songs to play, and trying to read songs from a more complicated score representation. In theory games, the program itself defines and sets the optimal level of difficulty for students depending on the level of their skills. We built a smooth and gradually rising road for you, and it is up to you whether you walk up it, run up it or jump up it, as soon as you show strong progress and are feeling confident. We provided you with a comfortable and effective piano learning tool, and it is your choice how far and how fast you go in your piano studies.
13. Isn't your teaching software excessively supportive to piano learners?
One of the most important concepts of the Soft Mozart piano teaching method consists of providing total support during music practice for students of all levels, beginners and advanced ones. We don't believe there is such a thing as excessive support when it comes to learning, especially for children. It is better to know that help is always there than to be confused and feel betrayed. A high level of challenge, and the lack of sufficient support in the initial stages of piano learning with the usual teaching methods, result in overstrain and loss of the self-confidence of children and beginners, and a low intensity of the piano practice. It is one of the main reasons why so great a number of beginners quit piano lessons.
The evolved system of the program support includes real-time interactivity, extensive visual hints, and sound. It enriches and transforms the complicated music score in order to make it naturally understandable, even for children. With such support, the Soft Mozart software provides intensive music practice for all students, regardless of the level of their reading and playing skills. It is most important that you can gradually remove all program support to learn how to read from a sheet of music, and play on the real piano.
With the assistance of the unique support system of the Gentle Piano game, included in the Soft Mozart package, any beginner, even a 2-year-old child, can read and play real music pieces. Of course, in the beginning, they do it very slowly, but constantly improve fluency with more practice. A student, even a beginner, never gets in a position in which they feel lost, and can't move further. The program helps them to find and play any needed note without overstrain and frustration, and gives them the feeling of satisfaction from the music practice. It may seem surprising, but after a few lessons and a closer acquaintance with Gentle Piano, any beginner is able to play, though slowly, any song, including very advanced classical songs like Mozart's and Beethoven's pieces!
14. Doesn't the Soft Mozart system fail in teaching children to work hard with its extensive support?
It only seems that, while providing extensive support in the piano learning, our program might spare the student from intensive work during piano classes and home practice. In reality, all students who work with Soft Mozart, and their parents, have found that this piano teaching software just boosts the student's activity. If, before the introduction of the program, a student could repeat a song only three times during a lesson, now the same student can play and repeat a song ten times, and even more. At the end of a lesson, to get some rest from playing songs, the student is usually switched to theory games that provide intensive exercises to improve the student's specific music skills. Often, the student leaves our piano classes tired, but never frustrated. What is the secret?
Effective music reading and piano playing requires many basic musical skills from the player that must be developed to a certain level. The lack of even one of these skills results in the impossibility to independently play piano, and even productively practice. In the common approach, before playing even the simplest musical piece, the student must spend first several months trying to conceive all complications of music notation, and build their skills with monotonous drills. Behind abstract learning and senseless exercises, the student loses the goal of whole study, and, as a result, loses the interest to work hard. Even after the student starts to play real music, their practice looks more like a struggle because of insufficient skills, especially music reading skills. This gives the feeling of dissatisfaction and even frustration.
The main principle of Soft Mozart consists of enabling beginners to play piano from the first lesson. Effective program support helps the student to overcome the lack of certain skills while playing real songs on the piano, providing the possibility of intensive music practice. This approach not only efficiently develops the most important music skills, but gives the student enjoyment and satisfaction from music lessons, and motivation for hard work.
15. Is it important to learn how to read music from the start?
The Soft Mozart piano teaching method considers the ability to read music as a pivoting point of music education. Only the reading skills of students will allow effective and inexpensive group lessons, productive home work, and the possibility of piano self-study. The reading of the music score adds the visual, graphical perception of music, helping the student understand and learn a music piece better. Supported by reading skills, a student feels more relaxed while playing the piano, and produces a more intelligent and artistic music performance.
Without the ability to read music notes, the progress of any student is restricted by the teacher's available time, or the ability to memorize a tune and reproduce it. Methods that rely on the student's capability of catching the song by ear are efficient only for students with developed musical ear to discern every musical note in a simple melody, to say nothing about polyphony, and enough skills to easily find and reproduce each note on the musical instrument.
The usual approaches to the teaching of music reading are very complicated for children, and take long enough to discourage many beginners from piano lessons. So, some music methods, trying to provide as much music practice as possible, eventually gave up the attempts to teach the child and beginner how to read music. Methods like Suzuki use audio records to help children to reproduce and learn their songs. Other methods have simplified the music notation, as well as music itself, to a certain number of chords to learn and play. Many teachers just slowly memorize a whole song with their students, note by note, until the students can play their songs by heart at the next yearly recital, and successfully forget it in a few months.
In order to give every student, including beginners and children, the ability to efficiently read music, Soft Mozart has introduced the specially modified music score representations. By using total interactive visual support, our software helps even small children to successfully practice the piano without assistance from the teacher. Gradually, students learn how to read music notes from a normal music score.
16. Isn't it more natural to start playing music by ear than learning how to read music?
There exists an opinion that it is better, and "more natural", to start music education by teaching the student how to play songs by ear, and by memorizing songs, and only much later to start teaching them how to read music notes. You might hear the phrase - "Children start speaking before they learn the alphabet, isn't that true?!"
This opinion might be correct only if our children have been surrounded by people playing music as much as they have been surrounded by speaking people. Nobody gets surprised if children of musicians start playing musical instruments from early childhood. In real life, most children have nobody in their close surroundings who can play music, giving them a good example and constant everyday support. Moreover, most parents, being musically illiterate, can't even help their children with home music assignment. Only the student's capability of reading music can help them productively practice at home or in a group setting. The Soft Mozart teaching software not only gives children the ability to efficiently read music notes and practice, but provide total control and support, considerably reducing the need for parents' involvement.
To start effective learning how to play music by ear, a student must already have developed music ear and music memory, or be extremely talented. The students' repertoire is usually limited to simple tunes, more suitable for the violin or a wind musical instrument. To easily discern all musical notes in a polyphonic music composition by ear may be trying even for an advanced student with several years of music practice.
The Soft Mozart software allows children to read, play and memorize complex, polyphonic melodies from the very start of their piano learning. Our method does not require special skills from a student, but uses and develops all of their skills and abilities in the most natural and comfortable way. In this approach, the music reading abilities of a student support their ear training, and a developed musical ear helps the student during their reading practice.
17. What sense does it make to turn the Music Staff sideways?
Our program presents the Grand Staff sideways for a couple of very important reasons.
1. The sideways Music Staff can be associated more easily with the piano keys, especially with the use of our piano key stickers. It helps a beginner or child to understand the correspondence between piano keys and lines of the Music Staff, and momentarily find a correct piano key for any note.
2. Every beginning piano player is confused by the fact that notes on music sheets go up and down, and the corresponding piano keys go right and left. When we turn the Music Staff sideways, we synchronize the movement of the music notes with the direction of the piano keys, and avoid a lot of unnecessary problems for beginners in music reading. It helps the student to concentrate on the development of the fine motor and coordination skills.
18. Will my child ever play music notes the regular way?
Absolutely! All of our system is designed to teach children to read notes from a regular music score, but with a gradual stress-free approach. We start teaching beginners using special, transformed note representations to help them to read notes and play piano from the first lesson. These representations, saving the most important features of the music score, naturally associate music notes with piano keys, and are easily understandable, even for small children. The gradual transition from the simplified to the normal music score representation provides the most effective and painless method of learning piano, especially music reading. The speed of this transition depends on the abilities of a particular student, and must guarantee a productive and comfortable piano practice.
How fast a student can learn to read the regular music score depends on their age, abilities and amount of practice. If a 10-year-old beginner can move to the normal music score representation in several months, a 4-year-old student usually stays with the simplified score representations for the first few years. In order to avoid unnecessary stress to the child, the parents should not be too concerned with teaching their children to read regular music sheets as quickly as possible. It is most important that all the time from the beginning, a child is able to read the music notes and enjoy playing music, constantly improving their musical skills and memory.
19. What if my child will never want to place the music notes the regular way?
I don't think that this would ever happen, but if it does, who cares? It is better to learn how to play piano and read any song you wish by placing the music sheets in the most comfortable way for your understanding than to quit music because it is too much of the hassle to learn how to play the notes.
However, our program has a strong and supportive method of teaching the regular music notes in their horizontal presentation. Gradually, with the help of interactive computer technology and our smart methodical approach, we bring you to a point where you can fluently read the Grand Staff the traditional way, and nobody will even guess that at the beginning it was otherwise.
20. Why are the music notes and staff lines colored in you program, and what sense does it make?
Did you ever notice that children love to read books with pictures? It is an old builder of our minds. Our brain has two hemispheres. The right was the leading hemisphere for a long time, when humans were hunting, fishing, and being wild and uneducated. The right hemisphere handles all of the emotions, spatial and temporal thinking, colors, images, sounds and ... music. The left hemisphere developed much later, and is responsible for abstract thinking, logic and math. All children start to learn to use the right hemisphere at first, "repeating" the evolution of a human's mind development. Colors, images, tactual experience, and sounds are a big help to the child's mind in collecting information and the development of abstract thinking. Traditional music notes are part of a very complicated, abstract system which is quite confusing even for adults. Colors, which I used, help beginners to differentiate musical notes directly or subconsciously.
All of the music notes are placed on the line or between the lines. To bring the attention of any beginner to that very important part of the music learning, playing the main role in music reading and music theory (chords, intervals), I colored all of the space notes in blue, and all of the line notes in red. Also, I widened the lines to the thickness of spaces to highlight the fact that they are equal measures. I also colored the five lines of the Bass Clef in brown, and Treble Clef in green, like the trunk and leaves of the tree. All of this was done to provide the best support ever for an unprepared mind to understand the logic of music grammar. However, as soon as the beginner will once and for all learn the difference, the black and white music world will become as easy to read as one, two, three.
21. Do I really need to place the stickers on the piano?
Well, you don't have to, but I recommend that you do place our stickers on the piano keys if you, or your child, just started learning piano. In order to easily move through a dark room and not to be hurt, you have to be in it many times with a light on to remember the plan of this room and every piece of furniture in your way. My stickers are like "electricity" - a light that helps you to understand the plan of the piano "room". They will help you not only to just find the correct key, but also will give you very valuable visual information of the place of each particular key on the Grand Staff. You can avoid hundreds of hours of boring drills in order to memorize every note on the music staff. The knowledge will come to you naturally, like the Japanese language comes naturally to those who were born and raised in Japan. Don't hesitate to place the stickers on your keys, if you want to learn how to play the piano - and this is your real goal. You don't have to prove to anybody that you are a genius, so don't be hard on yourself. Enjoy your learning and make your progress a little step at a time. It is better than quitting. With practice, you will find soon that you do not need these stickers anymore, and can remove and play without them.
22. Is it possible that my child will get used to the piano stickers and will always need them?
When we teach our child the Alphabet and how to read, we largely use images. Images help kids to translate the easily understandable world of shapes and colors into the abstract world of literacy. Even later, when the child can already read, for a long time, he will prefer books with pictures, that support and enhance the meaning of the written words. We are not afraid that this child will stay forever with pictures, and that the ultimate achievements of such a child will be reading comics books. The same can be said about piano key stickers. They provide very effective visual support for any beginner, but the more the child plays the piano, the less he or she depends on the stickers. In the most effective approach, it is better to have an electronic piano keyboard with stickers, and a piano without stickers. After learning a song on the keyboard, the child could be asked to play the same song on the piano. With practice, children need to look at the piano keyboard to find a correct note less and less. It is a good sign to start gradually removing stickers from the piano keys, beginning from the space notes. By doing so, you should try to spare the child from over-pressure, and do not drop the efficiency of piano practice. Usually, after a year of practice, even small children start effectively playing the piano without any stickers.
23. Will the stickers ruin my piano keys?
Not at all. We make the stickers on special, high quality, removable paper and when worn out, or perhaps when you don't need them anymore, you can easily remove them from your keys without any marks left on your piano keys.
24. When can I remove the stickers off of the piano keys?
As soon as you feel like it. While practicing one day and playing one song after another fluently ( and it will happen sooner than you think), you will realize that you don't look at your hands anymore, and you know every key on your piano like your own name. I recommend that after the removal of the stickers, you play the Guess Key game again. If you can finish the game in 20-25 minutes, you won't have any problems playing your instrument without stickers.
Playing the piano
25. When will I start to play the songs that I have always wanted to play?
You may start learning your song right now! You may need just a lesson or two for learning the basic functions of the Gentle Piano game, and understanding the visual hints the program provides for your help. Of course, we would rather you start from a simple song, and gradually increase the level of the songs you play and learn for the comfortable development of your music reading and playing skills. However, we found that the motivation to play a favorite song can help a student, especially a teenager or adult, to successfully learn a very advanced song. The support of the student's desire to play and enjoy real music from the very start of learning lays in the basis of the whole Soft Mozart teaching method.
With the Gentle Piano game, you may start learning your song by listening to it, and trying to play it with one hand using a simplified presentation of the Grand Staff. The pictures and stickers will help you to easily find the correct notes, and the complimentary sound of another hand will prepare your music ear and reinforce your memory for further learning. You will never feel uncertain and lost, because the program will control and support you in every step. The Gentle Piano program gives you the ability to select a part of your song, and master it separately. How fast you will learn the song depends on your initial level, talent, and ability to practice. However, if you feel that the song is too hard for you, leave it for a time, and start learning something simpler. After you developed your reading and playing skills, you can always return to your song, and learn it much faster and more easily.
26. How long should I practice?
It is all very individual. You may practice as long as it is enjoyable for you, and as often as you can find the time for it.
On the other hand, the Soft Mozart piano teaching software intensifies the learning progress in a such a degree that, even in a 15-minute lesson, the student can get sufficient training. We found that 30 minutes per lesson is quite an optimal length for an average child. As with any building of skills, for the piano learning, it's better to practice more frequently, even if for a shorter amount time. If you practice twice a week, it is a big plus. If you practice for at least 15 minutes every day, the results are going to amaze you and your friends.
27. How far can I advance using your software?
As far as you want to go. The software we developed has a very extended library of music pieces, and we are planning to add more and more songs to it. Our software is a source of essential exercises that teach to read the music score on the fly. The theory teaching games may be played in different stages of development. The goal is not to beat a game, but complete it as fast as you can. In reading, the music speed is essential. This is why there is never a limit to perfection when it comes to training skills.
28. Does Soft Mozart teach music theory?
The Soft Mozart program has no lectures about music. All theory, which is really needed for effective music reading and piano playing by the student, is introduced gradually in the most visual and intuitive way during actual music exercises. That gives the ability to all piano amateurs to skip an introductory period, and start to play and practice real music from the first piano lesson as much as they want. Any elaborate music theory is worthless and uninteresting for a student without the skills of reading notes and playing a music instrument, like grammar for a person who cannot speak and read. Our program can fill the empty gap in wide public education by providing an effective, attractive and affordable method of teaching music literacy to students of all ages.
29. Does Soft Mozart help teach the rhythm of songs?
Yes, it does. First of all, take a close look at our Note Duration game. Instead of the dull repetitions of different beats, you start playing songs, but using only one key. You will have to follow the rhythm of different songs by pressing the space key on your computer keyboard for a period of time depending on the duration of each note. In this exercise, your attention is concentrated on the note durations and the rhythm of a song, but well known melodies activate your musical ear to give an effective conscious or subconscious support to your feeling of rhythm.
The Gentle Piano game is a very sophisticated program designed for learning songs, including study of their rhythm. Music is a process that happens in time, and this is reflected in the live images of our teaching software. Notes move, change their color and blossom with the time flow and rhythm of a song, enabling even a small child to correctly press and release piano keys, and follow the rhythm of this song. Visual hints, together with the song melody, consciously and subconsciously help the student catch and keep up with a needed tempo, training their rhythm perception. The amount of time you are behind the "ideal" tempo of the program is clearly reflected in the score. The Gentle Piano game develops not only the rhythm of a student, but also the eye-hand coordination, when the image of a note directly guides your hands, and you start feeling the different measurements of notes in the tips of your fingers.
30. How can I learn the right fingers?
Soft Mozart doesn't have special finger tutoring in order to not divert the student's attention from the task of music reading and finding of correct keys, and to spare a student from the fear of pressing a piano key with the "wrong" finger. The position of fingers is the naturally most comfortable and effective position while playing a song, rather than a rigid artificial scheme, and the management of the fingers should advance with piano playing. While playing, try to use all your fingers, without unnecessary motion of your hands. We use the Bastien Piano Library at the very beginning level, where the songs are carefully picked by their hand positions. When learning very advanced songs, we would suggest consulting a teacher or a pianist to help you with the difficult places. With the development of coordination and experience, any player can find the most comfortable order of fingering naturally, without being distracted from music score reading by special fingering instructions.
31. Does Soft Mozart provide ear training?
Soft Mozart provides a very effective ear training. With a system of exercises, this method effectively helps to inwardly tie the student's ear, voice, hand coordination, memory, visual perception of music graphics, and the music note naming together. Below are the most important approaches to ear training, that may be used by all music students, including singers:
- In all of the Soft Mozart games, any note, in any representation, produces sound. During the entire practice, consciously or subconsciously, a player is trained to connect the name of the note, or position of the note on the Music Staff, with its corresponding pitch.
- Before playing a song, the student can pre-listen to the song as many times as needed. By hearing the sound of the song, students activate their memory, and prepare their reading and playing skills for a conscious reproduction of the song rather than just the mechanical memorization.
- In most of the Soft Mozart games, the player may be asked to sing all of the played notes by their names. The symbol of a note, or its position on the Music Staff, helps the student to name the note, and the complementary sound of every played note helps the student, by providing an ideal pitch, to sing it correctly. The student forms a very important inner connection between the pitch of his voice, and the note names. This approach is very effective if used with the Gentle Piano game, when a student sings music notes while playing a song on the piano. During this exercise, the student's ear, voice, reading skills and memory are developed and supported together.
- The Guess key game can support the advanced ear training of students by asking them to find a correct piano key only by note sound, without looking at the computer monitor.
- With the Gentle Piano game, students can comfortably learn to play songs by ear or by heart. This interactive program assists them in difficult places, making musical ear training to be highly productive for students of any level.
32. Does Soft Mozart teach students to play songs by heart?
The Gentle Piano interactive computer program converts song learning from a dull routine to a naturally comfortable, enjoyable and highly effective exercise. First of all, students have the option of choosing any part of a song to play and master, if the song is too long, or they have difficulties with a particular part. They are able to listen to this part as much as they need to in order to use their musical ear as important support during the song learning. Students have an option to play with both hands, or choose which hand to practice, while the other hand will be played and sounded by the computer automatically. The ability to easily read music notes with the Gentle Piano program gives the student the ability to practice much more intensively, and memorize a song much faster. It's very important that in this process, the student does not mechanically memorize the piano key order, but activate their musical ear, and visual and motor memory.
After students are ready to play by heart, they can use the Gentle Piano program to "hide" the music notes on the Music Staff, and try to play the song with one or both hands, using their memory and musical ear. Whenever they make a mistake, the program gives a tip about what note to play, helping the player to overcome difficult places, and successfully accomplish their practice. Students can't get stuck because of one forgotten note and feel lost, so they comfortably continue practicing the entire song, gradually improving their performance.
Music theory games
33. Do I really have to play the theory games, or it is just enough to learn the songs?
The theory games that are included in the Soft Mozart piano teaching software are very important in building the essential skills needed for playing and learning songs. You may skip the "game" part, but without it, the process of learning songs won't be as smooth and enjoyable as it could be. Instead of having a fair speed of music reading, you will make many stops and your performance will lack fluency. We have carefully studied the problems in music reading and built up a very smart system of unique exercises to solve them. For example, while reading the music Staff, your eyes have to perform a very advanced task of momentarily differentiating the small music notes located on and between the thinnest black lines. Our games will prepare your eyes for that performance, and you will never have to stop at every note to count what line or space it belongs to. All of our games are very important tools of improving your reading and performing skills, and training your musical ear.
34. Why do you have to start every theory game over every time you play?
The purpose of our theory computer games consists of the intensive training of your skills needed for momentary recognition, differentiation and reaction to the symbols of the music language. The timing is crucial for those sorts of exercises. It is not enough to somehow finish our game - it is more important how fast you can go through the multitude of simple actions to improve your skills. To begin such intensive training is better from simple exercises in order to efficiently focus on the needed skills and adapt the rhythm of the program. Thus, every time you must start the game from the beginning. However, the flow of the game depends very much on your aptitude. The program was designed in a way that it responds to every player individually, and produces enough of a challenge to develop the skills in the most optimal way. The advanced player is quickly transferred to the more difficult stages, while the beginner stays in an initial, easy stage for a long time. Do not be surprised that at the start you will not be able to finish the game in a reasonable time. Every game should be played in 20-30 minutes. Every time you play the game, keep recording your time and score. You'll see how fast you progress with more practice. Mastering skills is a very exciting builder of self confidence!
35. What if my child is too small to finish your computer game?
Young children and the very beginners don't have to finish the whole theory game. The best way to benefit from our program is to play each game by time. Set a goal to play a game for 5 minutes first. When the time will show 5 minutes on your monitor, pause the game by pressing the F1 (help) button on the computer keyboard. Don't forget to write the score down - how many points you got in this time. Next time, play the game for the exact same amount of time and write the score down again. If your score increases, you may increase the number of minutes for the game.
Be prepared that children, while playing, will quickly tire at first. Our computer games, though having entertaining appearance, demand intensive intellectual work from a player while training their musical skills. The more a child practices, the longer they can keep playing a game, and the better results they achieve.
36. Why don't you use mouse control in your computer games?
There are two main reasons why we utilize the computer keys instead of the mouse in our games.
1. Our games are designed not just to entertain students, or examine their knowledge, but rather provide the intensive training of skills needed for the momentary recognition, differentiation and reaction to the symbols of the music language. The ability to make a fast choice is crucial for those sorts of exercises. Key control provides much better timing than mouse control.
2. In our games, computer keys successfully simulate piano keys, so the student develops additional eye-hand coordination by playing theory games. The mouse can't provide the same training.
37. Why can't a player use the Up- and Down-arrow computer keys while playing theory games?
While playing some of the Soft Mozart theory games, some novices complain about being forced to play notes in the up and down directions by pressing left-arrow key or right-arrow key instead of the more intuitively comfortable up-arrow or down-arrow keys. Our games are designed for teaching, not for bare entertainment, and this special feature helps to develop very important eye-hand coordination for piano playing.
A very big difficulty for a beginner, especially for a child, while reading and playing music notes consists in relating the vertical direction of the music notes on the music score with the horizontal, left to right, direction of the piano keyboard. Children lack enough abstract reasoning skills to easily connect the vertical and horizontal directions. Our approach gently, in an entertaining manner, but very effectively, trains the eye-hand coordination of a player by forcing them to play a higher note using the right direction with right-arrow key, and a lower note using the left direction with the left-arrow key.