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Monday, January 5, 2009

KinderBach Review

Before the TOS Crew was given this assignment, I confess I had never heard of KinderBach...but lots of other Crew members had and they were very excited to try it out. Their excitement was contagious! But as someone with an older child who is quite a proficient piano player, I knew what some of the other more conventional piano courses on the market looked like, so I was eager to take a look for a different reason than some of my Crew mates.
KinderBach has a printed piano series, but what we were asked to review was their online curriculum. Their target age range is 3-7 and they seek to introduce them to many fundamentals of music over the course of 60 weeks of lessons which you student works through at their own pace. Each lesson involves watching a short video on the computer and usually doing an accompanying activity. The activities vary; sometimes it's a worksheet, sometimes it's clapping the beats to a song, sometimes it's playing short pieces on the piano.
My 7 year old son has been using the program for a few months now. My 3 1/2 year old daughter has "audited" it-she has done and watched much of what he's done, but she has done it on her own with no help from me. KinderBach has many "pros" going for it. First, they have hit their target audience very well in terms of how the materials are presented. I hear my youngest repeating things she's learned when she sits down at the piano to "play" just like her siblings. I'm impressed with the musical concepts she's picked up just by being exposed to the information in a very child oriented way. And my son has really enjoyed it. He does about a week's worth of work at each sitting, and doesn't even think of it as "school" but as a fun thing he gets to do. KinderBach is good about telling you what materials will be needed for each lesson, and is very multi-sensory. The kids cut and color things, march to the beat of songs, and tap rhythm instruments in addition to sitting at the piano/keyboard or at the computer for their lesson. The lessons are short enough to cover each topic but not exhaust a young child's attention span. Also, parents do not have to know anything about music for their children to be able to use this program successfully. And the price can't be beat. If you pay by the month, it is $14.95 a month. If you pay for a year at a time, it is $85.95 a year which makes is $7.16 a month. ("Real" piano lessons run between $15 and $20 a half hour.)
Some of my 3 1/2 year old's work

I would say there are a few "cons" too. First, and the biggest issue, is that you must have a computer and piano/keyboard very close together for this to work well. Or you can print out a keyboard template and let your child "fake it", but obviously that's not optimum. We happen to have a computer right next to the piano, so it wasn't a challenge for us, but it could be for others. Second, you must have the materials printed out ahead of time for you student to do while they watch the video. It took me a few times to remember that, and trying to print the activities while the video was running made my computer freeze up. Lastly, this is NOT a full curriculum and it uses some non-traditional ways to introduce some concepts (like calling quarter notes "walks" or beats "beat bugs"). I'm a big believer in just calling things by their real names, especially if you introduce the real name a week later anyway. We have not made it through the whole curriculum yet, but I do wonder if students would have problems segueing into a different program when KinderBach ends when you don't call things by their correct musical name.
The bottom line for me is that my son wants to continue doing KinderBach and he's never shown an interest in piano before despite (or maybe because of) having a brother who plays well. I think KinderBach is definitely best suited to the 3-7 age range, but it impressive that they even try to reach so young since many piano teachers won't take on Pre-K'ers. KinderBach is an amazing value. I know, because I write checks out to our piano teacher every month.
And KinderBach use some creative and easy to remember ways of introducing notes and their "homes" on the keyboard (see above) which has really worked for my son. KinderBach offers a FREE two week trial, so you might as well check it out and see what you think. I'm sure you won't regret it. Go HERE to try KinderBach for yourself.
To see what other TOS Crew members think, go HERE.
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4 comments:

Julie said...

Wow, this sounds really interesting, thanks for the information!

Cheryl said...

I loved that magazine when the kids were younger. How cool that you get to review the products... I always look for every review I can google up before I buy.

(can't help it... the wv is "mathed"... it just fits, sorry, I had to tell!)

Sharon said...

Hi, I just came across your review and was wondering if you had an additional comments to add to the post about Kinderbach since it was written almost 2 yrs ago. I also homeschool my children--ages 7, 5, 5, and 2 and even though I play the piano, I think this would be a great benefit for them to start out learning the basics.

oneblessedmamma said...

Hi Sharon. Honestly, my younger son who was enjoying it has decided soccer is his real love, so not long after this review, he stopped using it. But there is a girl from the Crew who is still using it and writes a monthly newsletter for Kinderbach. Her blog is http://blog.nerdfamily.com/ .
She might be able to give you more feedback. I do have a 5 year old who I may start on Kinderbach after the new year, but that's all I can offer right now. I do still get their newsletters, and I can tell you they really do care deeply about kids and teaching them piano in an easy, fun way.