An insightful new way to teach young kids (ages 4-9) to read and play music. By Hannah Reimann, illustrated by Lisa Kaiser
New Piano Primer is 1 2 3 Do-Re-Magical
Most everyone remembers the scene in Sound of Music when Julie Andrews bursts into song in the hills of Austria, bicycling with her famous Von Trapp family.
Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-bee-see
When you sing you begin with do-re-mi
DOE, a deer, a female deer
RE, a drop of golden sun
MI, a name I call myself
FA, a long long way to run…
Maria Von Trapp may have just found her match. Hannah Reimann has struck gold (or should I say gold stars) in her new children’s book 1 2 3 Do Re Mi, a charming, colorful, and insightful way to teach young kids (ages 4-9) to read and play music. Illustrated with charming brushstroke acrylic and spray paint swirls by Lisa Kaiser, 1 2 3 Do Re Mi is a basic how-to keyboard primer, whose words, notes and pictures bounce off the page in harmonic delight.
Move over, Montessori. This 24-page book is packed with smart, simple, joyous learning techniques customized for curious minds to recognize the 10 keys on the piano; read simple melodies; understand keyboard fingering and basic technique. Kids can explore fun methods like clapping, tracing the fingers of each hand, speaking notes and numbers aloud. Reimann makes learning rhythm and notes appealing and fun, while teaching sophisticated concepts like downbeat, counting, and improvising.
Frustrated with overly simplistic or complex piano instruction books, Reimann created a batch of exercises in ear training, fingering, and note-reading, using methods of repetition and motivation, short tunes and small tasks. Songs include Dreidel, Dreidel and Jingle Bells (which they can learn by Chanukah or Christmas)! After all, watching a child’s face light up with accomplishment is priceless, not to mention the beauty of parent/teacher/student bonding. Reimann’s recipe is a blend of sounds, syllables and rhythms “to introduce basic elements of music and piano playing…step by step in a way that is personally rewarding.”
Hey, look, I was a lucky kid. Remembering childhood afternoons practicing scales as the fragrance of my Mom’s chicken soup wafted through the air, I am also well aware of the humdrum portion of piano lessons. Hearing a teacher or parent’s voice drone on can be challenging enough during these Covi-delicate times. We all need a drop of magic to transform drudgery to sparkle. Amidst the daily mundanity of meals, math and morning chores, kids can certainly use a sprinkling of the imaginative Do Re Mi.
So listen up, young Mozarts. Check out 1 2 3 Do Re Mi. First, there are the creatures. LH Bobo & RH Chicky may sound like rap artists, but they’re actually two adorable animals to help readers associate with the child’s left (LH) & right (RH) hand. Bobo & Chicky pop up in vibrant shades of jade, kelly green, chartreuse, and pink, with expressions so encouraging they seem to hop onto the reader’s shoulder, cheering you on.
Second, the lessons. Reimann gently instructs the reader to try out some simple hands-on (no pun intended) activities from “Touch all keys on piano” to “Find groups of two and three black keys.” Tracing your right and left hand while saying out loud the numbers of the five fingers helps children learn how to associate fingers with the keys. There’s a touch of razzle dazzle motivation and reward in learning a song like Mary Had A Little Lamb, as Reimann suggests the child “draw a star every time you recite finger numbers or sing Mi Re Do.” In her First Lullaby lesson, Hannah cleverly uses sheep to illustrate sounds of Go To Sleep and Do Re Do.
Each assignment (“Count to 2, 3, 4”) is accompanied by words, notes, and pictures to reinforce the idea. Reimann’s ingenious Rhythm Games use chunky bold outlined black and white (whole and half) notes to emphasize visuals, sounds, and syllables. On one lesson page, Bobo sits atop a big drum, as the words accentuate the idea of Marching To a Drum Beat. Do Re / March-Ing/ Do Re Do-O. I can practically see the child dancing a hip hop waltz to Reimann’s lesson of 1-2-3: Rid-Ing A Tri-Cy-Cle Is So Much Funnnnn.
A performer, composer, singer and recording artist with roots in the classical tradition, and interpreter of the music of Joni Mitchell and Astor Piazzolla, Ms. Reimann has been instructing pianists and singers for over three decades. Passionate about encouraging musicians of all ages to find their own style of expression, Reimann exclaims, “This is an egg that’s been hatching for eight years. It’s given me and my students so much joy to discover what kind of musicians they are at such a young age. Music is a miraculous intangible that awakens a child, and that reaches all of us on a deep level.”
Review by Mia Berman
Parents of children at PS 3 and PS 41! With holidays around the corner, we’re looking at a lot of down time with the kids. And with winter coming, I anticipate hours on the iPad—from the dreck of Youtube to The Mandalorian. The favorite in our house? Elsia and Annia videos where our kids watch other kids play with toys! What is a parent to do?
West Village composer, performer, and teacher Hannah Reimann has one answer. She just published a short fun book teaching kids (4-9) the very first steps of learning music.
Colorfully illustrated, this may just be the gateway drug to getting your child interested in piano lessons. Frog Bobo (no relation to the restaurant at 10th St. and Seventh Ave.) and bird Chicky introduce basic elements of music and piano playing: rhythm, pitches, fingering, and melodies in a step-by-step rewarding way.
Children should enjoy accomplishing small tasks with tunes that are only a few bars long. There will be actual music making by the end of this 26-page book. You’ve been forewarned!
Reimann wrote 1 2 3 Do Re Mi, when she had a sudden influx of 4-year-olds sign up for lessons. She found other beginner music books were either too easy or too difficult for young children. She wanted something playful and appealing that presents musical elements clearly and repetitively, introducing a way to practice.
Reimann starts by only using the black keys (flats and sharps) which is probably very smart when dealing with smaller fingers, also because they are easy to find.
Getting the rhythm (counting) of music right in the book is explained so effectively by simply changing fonts of the time signature. How to convey a song in 4/4 time? It’s easy:
1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4
If your child has a grasp of sounding out syllables, this should work just fine.
And if you have not studied music yourself, this is a pretty good primer for any adult. Reimann is smart to offer a book that is easy and accessible for parents—learning from her book is not long division.
But unlike an iPad, this will not be something for your child to handle solo. I suggest going through it yourself first (26 short pages) then walking your child through the simple lessons, games, and songs. (Note: on page 3, where Reimann instructs the child to “improvise,” you’ll need to step in and explain.)
Ah, you will also need a piano or keyboard! If it’s not already in the house, I recommend a multi-color roll-up for $25 on Amazon, or one of the sturdier Schoenhut Toy Pianos. When they master this Primer, move up to an upright or excellent electronic model — spring for the Steinway when your child is asked to play Chopin at Carnegie Hall. That said, the book was designed as a primer for any instrument, just like Reimann’s upcoming Level 1 volume that follows it.
In lieu of Chopin, your child will be playing “Jingle Bells” (1, 2, 3, 4 1, 2, 3, 4) before the end of the book and just in time for Christmas. So, instead of Elsia and Annia, you and your household can look forward to listening to that 400,000 times over the holidays! You can sing along.
Review by Webster Stone