Best Start Music Lessons by Sarah Broughton Stalbow
Student Books 1 and 2: Best Start Music Lessons is formed from ideas of Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze among others and, if you link to the Best Start website, there is a list of supplemental reading too. The student book offers a detailed, short introduction to students and parents (and teachers) about what to expect in the book. Each lesson has a variety of activities for singing (solfege), dancing, listening, learning rhythms, improvising, composing, drawing and more! It is laid out with colorful boxes and pictures to organize your lessons. Balloons are provided with each section of the lesson for students to color ONE balloon in each time they complete an activity, which is intended to encourage repetition. The fingering chart reflects which finger(s) and key(s) to use when new notes are introduced. Concepts are repeated in a variety of different ways including listening to “real” music, such as Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy or Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter, and by adding lyrics to pieces for phrasing, breathing, and rhythms. The layout and instructions in the books make it easy for parents to help students as they practice at home. With YouTube and recordings on the accompanying website, parents should have no problem even if they don’t own a piano or keyboard. At the end of the book there is a time for reflection on techniques the student couldn’t do before starting this book. Another notable feature is the fingering charts offering horizontal fingerings for flute/fife and vertical fingerings for recorder.
Teacher Books 1 and 2: The teacher book consists primarily of piano accompaniment for both playing the instrument and singing solfege songs. Most of the piano accompaniments are easy enough for all skill levels. Before all the piano accompaniment is a reassuring introduction about how to use the method. There are tips on language, solutions to a lot of young beginner challenges, teaching tools, and descriptions on each of the lesson components. I strongly recommend purchasing the teacher book as well as the student book if you are considering this book to understand the methods behind the book.
From the Author:
Best Start Music Lessons Book 1 came about when I was asked by a number of parents to provide a music class for their young children, some as young as 3 and 4!
The parents wanted their children to experience music making and to have an introduction to music lessons. My aim was to provide a valuable learning experience where the children not only had fun, but began to develop a solid foundation of musical skills that would benefit them irrespective of what instrument they chose to play as they got older. Therefore, the focus of the book is geared towards developing a range of musical skills, rather than focusing on specific technical skills related to a particular instrument. Individual teachers may choose to concurrently focus on specific instrument skills, for example blowing across the embouchure hole of a flute, if that suits their particular lesson situation.
I also wanted to create a book that children could engage with in lessons and at home, so that
children (and parents!) could start to learn about creating a regular home practice routine. I initially used the book for group lessons, and then for individual lessons for very young children.
When putting the book together, I identified the following as being important to me:
● Recognising that musicality can be developed from the early years.
● Overcoming preconceptions about learning an instrument based on a child's age or physical development.
● Developing good habits early on: technique, musicality, musical knowledge, creativity, practice routines, performance.
● Giving children the tools and knowledge to self teach and self correct.
Book 1 and Book 2 can be played on recorder, flute, fife, Nuvo TooT or Dood. They are set out as a series of 10 lesson plans. Each lesson comprises a range of different activities which build musical skills. For example, whole body movement activities, clapping and counting games, short songs, basic theory activities, singing, composing and improvising. There are balloons for the student to colour in each time they complete an activity, promoting the idea of repetition and good practice habits! Each lesson plan has enough material to be used more than once with a group or in individual lessons.
I had great fun writing the songs for the books! The songs gradually introduce notes and have been carefully sequenced to develop finger technique, and eventually music literacy. Teachers may choose to teach the songs aurally to very young children, however the written music is there to provide exposure and develop familiarity with musical symbols. There are tracks to play along with on YouTube and https://www.beststartmusic.com/audio. The audio tracks encourage the songs to be repeated more than once, as they generally include an instrumental fill followed by a repeat of the song.
There are companion books for teachers which include piano accompaniments for all of the songs, as well as suggestions and explanations for teachers, and examples of aural activities.
Because these books can be used with a range of instruments, and they can be used for both group and individual tuition, I don’t think there is one correct way to use them - every teacher and student situation will be different and teachers can choose what works best for them. For example, I have used Kodaly rhythm names throughout, however teachers may choose to introduce their own rhythm names. Also, there is no need to complete the activities in the order they are set out in each lesson. Teachers may choose to skip some activities altogether and return to them at a later time, or substitute one of their own games, and students may choose to repeat some favourite activities!
Audio tracks: https://www.beststartmusic.com/audio
· Written for ages 4-7
· For recorder, fife, flute, or toot
· Horizontal fingering for flute/fife; vertical fingering for recorder; show which finger to use on both
· Uses Kodaly rhythm names, can easily substitute out counts or do both
· Pulls from Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze, and a few other methodologies
· Listening exercises find the beat, meter, rhythms, instruments, style, dynamics
· Composition and improvisation projects
· Long note challenges
· Lyrics to promote breathing, phrasing, and rhythms
· End of the book provides a space for students to write everything they couldn’t do when they first started the book
· Range of notes: B1-G1
· Order of notes: B1, A1, G1
· Rhythms: quarter notes/rests, half notes, dotted half notes, eighth notes, whole notes
· Time Signatures: 4/4, 3/4
· Key Signatures: no sharps/flats
· Other: Repeat sign
· Range of notes: (Review B1, A1, G1), C2, E1, F1, D2
· Order of notes:
· Rhythms: quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, whole notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, syncopation,
· Time Signatures:
· Other: multiple measure rest, slur, staccato, dynamics