Melody J. Smith, a teacher at the New Zealand Modern School of Music, seeks to make learning music easier for children with her book Help Me Learn Music.
The book consists of short illustrated lessons, followed by worksheet pages where students can practice writing notes, clefs, rests, and eventually their own compositions. The lessons tend to be brief refresher notes, rather than those intended to provide a complete and independent understanding of musical concepts. For example, the book doesn’t start with a discussion of rhythm and beats, as might be expected to lead into examples of whole notes, half notes, etc., but instead has students practice drawing those notes, while saving the discussion of rhythm—what the notes actually mean–until later in the book.
This is, in fact, the book’s biggest detriment: Illustrations and explanations often seem to lag their cues by a page or more, and the lessons would be easier to follow if they were better structured. For example, in the section called “Middle C,” a picture showing middle C on a keyboard comes a page behind the statements: “All the notes on the right of the Middle C are in the Treble.” And “All the notes on the left of Middle C are in the Bass.” The question “What is Middle C?” could, and probably should have been answered at the very beginning of the section, to establish a reference point with a simple definition or illustration.
Although these sorts of questions aren’t always answered ideally, Help Me Learn Music is intended as a supplement to music lessons, not a replacement. The book’s quizzes and instructions should prove helpful—though they might have been more helpful if answers to the quizzes were provided, for students to check their work.
Still, when used in conjunction with personal instruction, Help Me Learn Music may aid students in getting more out of their lessons and feeling more confident in their musical abilities.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.