TO BANG OR NOT TO BANG: Your Child's First Keyboard

Making up a tune on the Play-A-Toon Virtual keyboard from TOON IN MULTIMEDIA's first episode, TOONING UP.

My first piano was a toy piano with 16 white keys and 10 black keys. I spent many blissful hours playing and singing my songs, clunkers and all. But by the time I graduated to a real piano I could find those keys anywhere.

The piano is classified as a percussion instrument, the sound being made by small hammers striking wire strings. So when young children get their hands on one, the first thing they generally do is bang. I wish I had a dime for every time I've heard a parent say "stop banging!" Actually the child is feeling pretty powerful about all the sound he or she is making.

Exploration of rhythm and range comes first. Given enough time the child will discover that they can play individual notes on the piano to make a melody, but limiting the melody to a short range of notes can be helpful. Start with the C major scale. It doesn't have any sharps or flats, and its range is easy for little voices to sing as well as play. You can mark the notes by putting removable stickers on your keyboard or piano. My advice to parents: patience & little steps.