I just have to say a massive thank you to the pianist, teacher and composer Diane Hidy for introducing me to Japanese Puzzle Erasers!! She has been advocating them for years but I had never seen them in the UK until the wonderful day when Paperchase opened a branch in Worcester! I was browsing for a gift for my son’s clarinet teacher and suddenly saw them hanging temptingly on the wall. My fellow customers probably gave me funny looks behind my back as I squealed with delight. Yes, I know! I’m clearly crackers.
Why was I so excited? Well I just knew they would work wonderfully with my DoReMi Piano students.
DoReMi Piano starts by introducing students, via the concept of high and low, to the pitches, solfa or singing names of “so” and “mi”. These two pitches are the easiest for beginner musicians to sing since they commonly occur in many playground songs and of course the irritating “ner ner” taunt! The students learn to sing these pitches through songs and games. Then they learn where to find them on the keyboard.
Once students are confident with these two pitches they are ready to add a third pitch “la” which also commonly occurs in playground songs and taunts.
Some students apply these pitches to the keyboard with ease. Others have more trouble. Any key on the keyboard can be “so“, which means there are many correct locations. We start with the black keys to limit the options and eventually we move to the white keys. This is where the puzzle erasers come in!
For students struggling with the locations of “la”, “so” and “mi” we can use the cute animals to find our keys. We build them up by starting with “so”, then “mi”, then “la”. They love choosing from my bag of “friends”. This student has placed the tiger on “so”, the piggy on “mi” and the cow on “la”.
You can see how the animals sit nicely on the keys and if they’re played gently they don’t fall off. Plus they are kinder to the keys than the Lego mini-figures I had been using!
But that’s not all they can do! When the student is ready to move to the white keys, they make it really easy to show how “la”, “so” and “mi” can move. One animal can’t move on its own though, if one moves they all have to move. Getting the students to move the animals themselves gives them an understanding of the nature of transposition. Not that we use that term just yet! If they make a mistake, all they need to do is play the keys and they soon hear the problem.
So thanks Diane, on behalf of my students and myself. Our lessons are not only full of joy, they are also more effective.