Saturday, August 21, 2010

Key Knowledge: The Piano and Other Keyboard Instruments by Rita Storey

For a "just the facts, Ma'am" introduction to pianos and other keyboard instruments, Rita Storey's The Piano and Other Keyboard Instruments (Let's Make Music) (Smart Apple Media, 2009) offers plenty of spotlighted color photos to introduce the very young to this family of musical instruments. Storey begins with the fundamentals:

The piano is a musical instrument. You sit down and use both hands to play it.

To make a sound on a piano, press the keys with your fingers.

Each key makes a different sound or musical note. You can press them one by one or several together.

The author tells the reader that there are 88 keys, white and black notes, their sound produced by the action of metal strings caused to vibrate by the strike of a hammer and stopped by dampers triggered by the key's release, facts which are accompanied by featured photos of an upright with the front cover removed. She then discusses pitch, the types of pedals which change the dynamics of the notes, and a color-highlighted text box shows the basics of the scale and chords, with a diagram of the musical staff showing notation.

The discussion then switches to a brief presentation of the upright and grand piano forms and the difference between the natural (white) keys and the sharp and flat (black) keys. The discussion then broadens to the various uses of the piano for vocal and instrumental accompaniment, as a solo instrument, and as part of groups from duets, trios, and quartets to symphony orchestras, followed by a brief explanation of the harpsichord, electronic keyboard instruments, pipe organs, electric organs, MIDI keyboards, and even the accordion.

A final section describes the styles--from jazz to rock--in which the keyboard instruments are used. The final section titled "Listen!" is a very useful list of web sites, such as where youngsters can click on any key and hear the note or listen a melody played on different instruments and in different rhythms. At http://www.classics for, kids can compose their own tunes and visit the Composer Time Machine. A suggested list of CDs to supplement the book is provided in the appendix, along with a valuable glossary with simple definitions of terms introduced in the text, and an index.

For the parent or teacher introducing the wonders of music and the myriad of instrumental types to youngsters, this book and its Let's Make Music series companions, which include The Drum and Other Percussion Instruments (Let's Make Music), The Violin and Other Stringed Instruments (Let's Make Music), The Recorder and Other Wind Instruments (Let's Make Music), The Violin and Other Stringed Instruments (Let's Make Music), and The Voice and Singing (Let's Make Music), could be the start of something big for a young musician.

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