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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Product Review: Kinderbach

KinderBach is an online piano program that uses playful characters to teach note reading, rhythm, singing, and composition. The program is intended for ages three to seven and can be used on your schedule, at your pace, and from the comfort of your own home.

The program is more than just piano lessons. In addition to piano playing, your child will With KinderBach, children will sing, play songs with entertaining characters, as well enjoy games and puzzles. It can be used with any sort of piano or keyboard and costs about 75% less than traditional music lessons. Prices start as low as $7.99 a month for online usage, or $40.45 for DVD courses. Click here to see the complete pricing information.

What worked well for our family:

We used Kinderbach with Henry (age 5) who has no formal piano training. He has some basic familiarity with music through choir practice and some informal music training on a hammered dulcimer. So, he's not a total beginner, but close to it.

Henry jumped right into Kinderbach and really enjoys doing it - what parent would not be excited about a piano program that kids beg to do! The program uses coloring books and cartoon characters to help the students 'visualize' and relate to what they are learning. The individual lessons are short and gradually introduce them to musical notes, rhythm, loud and soft notes, and to how the notes on the piano are related to each other (e.g. high vs. low, black vs. white). The songs used are catchy and teach basic lessons so that, by the end of the first year, the students can play basic melodies.

What didn't work for us:

Since our family has a decent background in musical theory and practice, it was hard for us to see how this program would be completely successful for somebody with no music background. Take rhythm, for example: Henry was not getting the rhythms down as he played along with the video, and obviously the video won't notice his mistakes and help him correct them. Unless we were there to observe and correct him, he would have persisted in his mistakes. So, I would not recommend this to somebody who is not planning on being involved at least on some level in his or her child's music lessons.

As for the general approach of the program, we are not fans of the cartoons, rock-based songs used for instruction, and general emphasis on entertainment. Children can learn to love music without these, and our concern is that the program does not expose the students to classical or even folk music. Learning music should be partly aimed at cultivating an interest in more ennobling music than can be heard on pop radio.

Finally, we felt that relatively little is learned in each lesson or even over the course of the week. Although the course is not expensive, we felt that our money is better invested in private music training. James and Isaac have a private music instructor whom they adore, who motivates them and can help them correct their mistakes, and who teaches them more in a half hour than they would learn from a week's worth of Kinderbach instruction. While there is no doubt that a private instructor would be more expensive, in the long run this investment will pay off, and you can also help support and get to know a budding musician in your area!

I feel that our views on the program are a little biased because Michael's family has been blessed with abundant musical gifts (part of the family writes the Bastien piano books), so I encourage you to check out the Kinderbach website yourself to see if this program is a good fit for your child. Kinderbach offers free sample lessons that you can obtain from their website. With no commitment it will be easy to see if the program is right for you.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Group I received a free subscription to Kinderbach lessons in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

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