Monday, January 5, 2009

A Review of Kinderbach

Even when my kids were tiny, I knew that I wanted them to study piano. Not only did I want them to have the joy of playing a musical instrument, the study of music has been linked to academic success in other areas. As soon as my daughter turned 4, I started to inquire at local studios about lessons. My musical ability is very limited and I did not feel I could give instruction at home. Much to my surprise, starting formal music lessons before age 7 was discouraged. Ability to read is often a prerequisite, but even though my daughter could read at 4, there was still some hesitancy. However, I believe that children can enjoy learning music even before they are ready for formal academics. We did eventually wait until my daughter was about 5 1/2, with my son starting about the same age. However, I wish a resource to teach preschoolers music at home had been available to us in those early years of learning the basics.

Kinderbach is an online music instructional program for ages 2-7. Karri Gregor, Kinderbach founder, teaches children the basic principles of note reading, rhythm, singing, identifying patterns and playing the piano through over 300 web-based video lessons. The 60 lessons included are considered to be 2 years of instruction. You can view a syllabus of the curriculum by level here. The weekly lessons are further broken down in four sessions, each approximately 3-5 minutes long. Printable PDF coloring pages and worksheets accompany the video instruction (see below). All that is needed is a piano or keyboard. Even an inexpensive toy keyboard will be sufficient.

The video presentation is a combination of real people (and animals!) and simple cartoon drawings. With Karri directing information and questions toward the child from a cartoon room, the look reminded me somewhat of the popular PBS show, Blue's Clues. However, keeping distractions at a minimum, the characters are not animated. Characters are used as visual aids, either as drawings or puppets with Karri, in the story line. Frisco and friends, starting with Dodi the donkey, who lives at the two black keys, explain musical concepts and note reading in a way that a young child can understand and apply to future music training. For example, the first letter of each character's name corresponds to a letter key and each character has a place on the keyboard. Children who can neither read nor have letter recognition can experience beneficial music instruction. Lessons can be repeated at any time during the subscription period.

There are several levels of programs and payment options. I reviewed the Bronze online membership.

Bronze Membership, includes 60 lessons and PDF worksheets
1-year subscription, payable monthly, $14.95
1-year subscription, payable in one payment, $85 (over 50% savings)

Other online membership options are in development and can be viewed here.

The first year Kinderbach curriculum is also available in DVD for $214, which includes the following:

Lessons 1-30
6 - Instructional DVDs
6 - Activity E-Books
6 - Activity Audio CDs
Patriotic, Everyday, Hymns and Christmas Songbook Package
4 - E-Songbooks
4 - Corresponding Audio CDs

The DVD option is the best choice if you have a slow internet connection or if you have younger children who could benefit from the program at a later date. It is at a much higher cost, but you could also resell the program to another homeschooler when completed, reducing your expense. There are several other DVD packages, which can be viewed here.

Compared to private instruction, Kinderbach is a steal with a one-time payment of $85 for a yearly subscription. In private lessons, the rate for young students learning the basics is the same for the experienced student studying complicated classical pieces. Learning the basics at home will save you the expense of those first private lessons. For comparison, we currently pay $24 for a 30-minute lesson. The 1-year Bronze online membership is equivalent in cost to less than four weekly private lessons in our area. For 60 lessons, our annual cost for one child would be $1440! If you have more than one child in the targeted age, Kinderbach can be used by both for even more savings. Furthermore, lesson are done in the privacy of your own home, at your child's pace, and with no parental experience in music required.

At ages 9 and 11, my children have been studying piano for 4 and 6 years respectively. They are a bit too old and experienced to test run this product for review. However, I believe they would have both enjoyed this program at the preschool age as an introduction to formal lessons. I did feel that the lessons were too short for a child on the older end of the targeted range and that the content and presentation was geared more towards preschool or early K. Do not expect your child to be playing Bach at the end of this program; Kinderbach is an introduction to music study. Some sessions were devoted to listening to songs and the progress was slow going. However, all 4 sessions could easily be watched in one sitting, for a weekly 20 minute lesson. Most private lessons are about 30 minutes, with probably a good 10 minutes devoted to items other than direct instruction.

Kinderbach will appeal to most young children and engage them with its fun presentation. If you are considering formal lessons for your young child, this would be an excellent resource to give them an early start. If you aren't sure your child will have enough interest in studying music, Kinderbach would be a good way to try out readiness and interest without seeking out a private teacher and making a purchase of an expensive piano. The Bronze online membership is the most economical way to try the program and will give your child(ren) a full year to explore music.

Try out the first two lessons for free here and see if Kinderbach is the resource for your family to introduce your young child to the joy of music. All products carry a 30-day no hassle return policy.

Visit the Official Blog of the TOS Crew to read more reviews on Kinderbach.

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