A blog on piano teaching, practicing, performance and competition

The main differences between Harmony Road program’s “Toddler Tunes” & “Music in Me” vs. other toddler/preschool music programs August 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Melody Ouyang @ 10:33 pm

Harmony Road’s “Toddler Tunes” and “Music in Me” are quite different from all the other toddler/preschool/kindergarten programs.   We do everything the other programs do–but so much more.  Here are a list of the main differences:

1. The requirements of certification–Harmony Road’s teachers have to go through extensive training and be good all around musicians with previous performance and technical/theory knowledge.  Other teachers may not have this broad based training.  Many of the teachers in Kindermusik and Musikgarten are instrumentalists or singers with little orno keyboard background, and there is a segement that may be only able to do some rhythm and singing and storytelling–as daycare workers.  A friend of mine took a MusikGarten training seminar–2 of them were music teachers, the other 20 were daycare workers, many with no musical skills, some barely knows how to read music.

2. All the Music Materials are written to convey and to promote an understanding of specific music concepts.  So Children learn music concepts through fun and games, singing and movement without knowing that they are actually learning something.  Other programs are fun but the students don’t necessary learn music concepts.

3. Harmony Road introduces keyboard skills and keyboard geography on top of introducing rhythmic instruments.  Other programs only introduces rhythmic instruments.

4. Music Reading–Harmony Road employs active physical movement, directional pitchsinging, and construcion/tactile activities to help the students develop an understanding of basic note reading concepts.  In other programs, music reading concepts may not be developed.

5. In Harmony Road Program, many of our music and activities are layering for later experiences with singing and keyboard playing.  Students of all ages are most confident when learning experiences go from familiar to unfamiliar.  Other music programs provides musical experiences with different music at each age.

6. The music in all our CDs are performed by children, which keeps the students excited to listen while the other programs music are sung mostly by adults.


I have finally found you, Harmony Road!! July 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Melody Ouyang @ 10:53 pm

I was brought up with both traditional private lessons and group lessons when I was young.  I started traditional lessons when I was 3 1/2 with my mom, then had both type of lessons from age of 5 all the way till 11 years old.  The group lessons I had was at a Yamaha group lessons facility.  I remembered how much fun I had when I was a Yamaha kid, and most of the music concept the Yamaha courses taught me were proved to be useful through my music career.

Starting a music school has always been a dream for me.  And for years I have been searching for a group lesson curriculum (why group? please see my other posts on “Music Wonderland” on group lessons) that is “good enough” to put my name on.  The Yamaha curriculum is not one of my choices since the franchise now dictates the use of electone, an instrument that is similar to an organ that has two separate sets of keyboard.    And obviously, no one uses electone in the real world, so why teach it?!?!  Just a few months ago, I came across a curriculum named “Harmony Road,” and decided to send myself to Portland, Oregon for training seminars taught by the creator of the program, Jan Keyser.

Harmony Road has proven to be a great choice.  It is a very solid, research based, age appropriate program.  There are different courses very appropriately design for students from toddlers 18 month to adults.  The program takes an holistic approach to teach all aspects of music, including note reading, rhythm, melody, phrasing, harmony, improvisation, and composition.  Students who have gone through Harmony Road truly understand music, and the concepts of music become so internalized, they read and feel music with ease.  It is truly amazing to see that instead of becoming a slave to the practice rooms, it is music that drives the students’ interest.  I mean, honestly, how many people really get to become a concert pianist??  To my opinion, Harmony Road does go a little bit slower in pace, however, I guarantee that the graduates from the program are equipped to be able to LOVE music, read music sufficiently, and able to accompany any music they would like.  It might sound easy, but to a musician, or anyone who has gone through music training, that means A LOT!!

It is surprising to learn that there is not a school that runs the Harmony Road program here in the Dallas area yet, since there are already close to 200 locations in the U.S. along that are conducting this program, and in the recent years, the program has became a global recognized curriculum.  I realized that it is mainly the space ( you have to have a space large enough to put 10-15 keyboards per room), and the investment on the large quantity of keyboard and rhythm instruments that prevent music studios to include the program.  I feel fortunate to be able to introduce Harmony Road and to share the joy of music in my future music school.


Metronome or no metronome June 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Melody Ouyang @ 9:41 pm

I have parents and students asking me all the time, especially beginners, if they should be using a metronome.  My answer is, always, yes, the student has to learn how to follow the metronome while the music is still simple.  A lot of students are not expose to playing with metronome, therefore, when their piece becomes more complex, they have a hard time following.   However, metronome should not be use to replace student’s feel for rhythm.  For those who are beginners and early intermediate students who use the metronome all the time while practicing, you are running a risk of relying on metronome rather than developing a sense or a feel of rhythm internally.  I have had transferred students relying on metronome so much, when you shut down the metronome, the students plays without a sense of pulse or rhythm completely!

For intermediate and advance students, because of the complexity of the pieces you are playing, one shouldn’t be using the metronome through out the piece.  However, you should check tempi of all sections in the same piece of music to make sure that you are keeping the same tempo throughout the piece (unless there are tempo change indications by the composer, or to serve certain interpretation needs.)

Metronome is also a great tool for practicing.  I have always use metronome when I try to perfect a certain section in music that is especially technically challenging.  I start with a very slow tempo, usually slower than the tempo that I am already handling well, then increase one click every few times of repetition and slowly bring it up to tempo.  This way, when your teacher ask you to practice slowly and increase the tempo slowly, you will know exactly what to do and to follow.  I have tried this method over and over, and it never fails.  You will learn how to play slow and fast and all the in between tempo of the same section, your fingers will develop great muscle memory, which will make your performance most secure even if you are too nervous to remember anything!!


Hello world! May 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Melody Ouyang @ 4:31 pm

Today is the birthday of Music Wonderland.  I have finally decided to be a blogger!!

Love to share my expertise, thoughts, and experiences of my music journey.