Wednesday, April 6, 2011
***Below is my original review of KinderBach. Since some information has changed since my original review 2 year ago, all my "new" thoughts or corrections to information in the older post will can be found at the bottom of this original post. ***
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.)
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.
Edited to add:
For this go around, my then 3 1/2 year old, who now just turned 6, was the one who got to use the program. She LOVED it. Sari walked around the house singing Dodi's song, begged to do her KinderBach, and then wanted to keep doing more and more so that each time she did about a week's worth of work. Not only that, the fact that she was playing the piano inspired her siblings to tickle the ivories too.
As you can imagine, in the past 2 years, the pricing has gone up a bit. KinderBach is currently $19.95 a month or $95.88 a year (which brings the cost to $7.99 a month). That's still a steal compared to private piano lessons, which are almost universally $20 a half hour in our area.
I did have WAY more problems this time with the videos taking a long, long time to load, and we have a relatively fast internet connection. I'm not sure why they took so long, but it was frequently at least 5 minutes and the videos themselves aren't even that long. I'm not aware of other members of the Crew having that problem, but you can read their reviews HERE to see for yourselves.
KinderBach now has 6 levels with a 7th already planned out, and you can read about what each one covers HERE. They also have DVDs you can buy if you have a slow internet collection or have problems with the videos taking a long time to load like I did. Information about those DVD packages is available HERE.
The bottom line is that I still think KinderBach is a great value and is the BEST resource available for teaching young students to play piano. It's fun, it's effective, and it's easy to use. My daughter definitely wants to continue using it, and I'd recommend that anyone who is interested checks it out, especially given that you can try it out for free.
You can read about what other members of the TOS Crew who also reviewed KinderBach had to say HERE.
Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received access to KinderBach online for the purpose of giving my honest review. That access is the only compensation I received.