Lesson 1: Finger Separation Sorry, your browser does not support inline SVG.


Lesson 1: Lesson 1: Finger separation – Give a Dog a Bone

Since this is the first lesson, you will have a lot to prepare for.  You can watch the videos of this lesson by clicking the "Lesson 1" button at the top corner of the page.

Here, we will focus on identifying each finger with a number, and also the learn first five notes of the C major scale.  Most of the beginning exercises will use the same fingering for the same notes, so we are also here establishing our hand position.

Preparing the child's mind and ear for the first lesson

Lesson 1 starts our children using all their fingers, so it is important that your child already be used to playing the piano with one finger before beginning this curriculum.  For instance, you may want to wait until your child can play a one-finger version of Twinkle Twinkle before this first lesson. One-finger melodies are an excellent way for a young child to begin the journey of learning the piano, since they get to play without being bogged down in technique.  Here is an great video tutorial by Austin State University professor Mario Ajero:


How to Start Piano Lessons for Pre-School Aged Children: Piano Professor Mario Ajero engages 3-year-old daughter Olivia

In the video, the professor and his his three-year-old daughter demonstrate the value of daily preschool activities with the piano.  She plays several one-finger melodies using her index finger braced with her thumb.  They spend time every day at the piano after dinner, and the little bit of progress made each day really adds up over time!

Preparing your piano with stickers

To make these first lessons as painless as possible, your child needs for you to put some 3/4 inch round removable stickers (available online or in most any office supply store) on some of your piano keys.  I prefer using a permanent marker on a sheet of stickers to mark the letters.  Since permanent ink will bleed, you need more than one layer, to prevent getting the permanent ink on your piano keys. I recommend an insulation of two blank stickers under each marked sticker.  Finally, to make the stickers easy to remove, I recommend wiping the surface of the piano keys with some oil soap, and then wiping again with a dry paper towel. The very thin layer of oil soap residue remaining on the keys will be just enough to keep the first layer of stickers from adhering too much when it is time for removal.  You can use a paper towel moistened with water to remove the remaining oil soap residue on the keys after putting the first blank stickers on.

If you have a grand/baby grand, be extra sure not to let the oil in the tuning pegs! 

Mark two sets of notes C, D, E, F, G, which will be placed on the piano keys starting at Middle C, and the octave below:

The stickers serve three functions:

1. Easier to find notes.

2. Wow factor: "Look at what I've done to our piano to help you learn!"

3. Stickers prevents your child from learning to finding keys in the traditional way (i.e., by looking for the groups of black keys), so that when the stickers are suddenly removed, the child uses his ear to find notes. Very cool.

The right and left hands will be helped by the stickers for the first 14 lessons, with a few more stickers being added in lesson 9.  The stickers will then be removed in lesson 15 and the child's fingers will be guided by his musical ear.

Learning the exercises

As with all the lessons, you will need to master these two exercises (one for the right hand and one for the left), and be able to play and sing them with confidence to your child. For these two exercises, we don't care about legato or finger posture, just playing the correct notes–and only the correct notes–while using the correct fingers.

The two exercises in the first lesson each have three verses that you will play and sing:

Give a Dog a Bone, Right Hand

Verse 1:




Verse 2:

One two three four five,


Five four three two one.

Verse 3:

Give a dog a bone.


Doggie wags his tail.

Give a Dog a Bone, Left Hand

Verse 1:




Verse 2:

Five four three two one,


One two three four five.

Verse 3:

Give a dog a bone.


Doggie wags his tail.

Notice that the second verse is different for the right and left hands!

OK, you should not only learn the two exercises of this lesson, but the all the exercises in the next four lessons.  Staying ahead of your child each week will help you better understand what he is doing and why.  Here are the next four lessons:
Lesson 2: Pinky Strength – I'm a Happy Doggie
Lesson 3: Legato – I'm a Happy Doggie
Lesson 4: Hands Together in Contrary Motion – I'm a Happy Doggie
Lesson 5: Hands Together in Parallel Motion – Walking Up and Down the Stairs

Preparing the practice chart:

The practice chart has places for each exercise of each day of the week that the child can check off after completion. It also offers a screenshot of the sheet music for each exercise, even though we are not teaching reading.

Before you begin this lesson, prepare the practice chart with the child's name on it, and select the day's date to begin the lesson.  Test out checking off the exercises to make sure that it behaves as you would expect on your mobile device.

Marking your child's fingers

Write letters and numbers on each of your child's fingers with a washable marker.

After introducing the finger numbers to your child, draw those very numbers (1-5) on all ten of his fingers, starting with the thumb: 1-thumb, 2-pointer, 3-middle, 4-ring, 5-pinky. 

Then, below the numbers, draw the letters accordingly.  For the right hand mark "C" below the "1" (thumb), "D" below the "2", "E" below the "3", "F" below the "4", and "G" below the "5" (pinky). For the left hand, reverse the process, and make a "C" below the "5" (pinky), "D" below the "4", "E" below the "3", "F" below the "2", and "G" below the "1" (thumb). 

You will only need to draw the numbers and letters on your child's fingers the first day of the lesson, and he should remember after that.

Practice every day!

The most important tenet of this and most any other music learning method is that it be done every day.  Figure about ten minutes to introduce this first lesson to your child, and an average of two minutes a day to practice it. Oversee that he correctly play the two exercises every day, but allow for more time so that your child can explore.  One of the main purposes of giving exercises to children this young is so that they can have more tools with which to explore, and in the process, develop a better ear for music.

Above all, make it fun! Some suggestions: schedule a play date with another four-year-old and a like-minded mother before introducing the lesson.  Or...give him a stuffed doggie to "help" him make sure the fingers are on the correct notes. I welcome other suggestions!


Give a Dog a Bone, demo videos

Right Hand


Left Hand


Lesson vlog



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