Stave House is a method of teaching children to read, write and play music. It uses a magnetic board and magnetic characters to represent the notes on the stave, and the children learn musical notation through stories, games and songs. My mum, who is a music teacher, has been teaching Aaron and Tabitha using the Stave House method since the beginning of the year. Over the Easter holidays we borrowed the kit so that the children could show me what they’ve been learning. I was so impressed that I decided to write this review.
How does it work?
Stories about the characters explain where the notes belong on the stage and games are used to reinforce learning. The children can place the notes in the correct place whilst singing along to the catchy songs on the CD. Tabitha was 2 years 9 months when she started learning Stave House, and after just 3 lessons she gave me a demonstration of placing the notes F, A, C and E on the stave. After a term she can do all of the treble clef notes.
The teacher’s manual outlines nine basic steps to introduce the treble clef notes, rhythm and composition. Younger children might stay on the first few steps for up to two years, whilst older children can combine the basic steps with composition, theory exercises and playing an instrument.
The stories and songs do an excellent job of explaining that the bass clef is just a continuation of the treble clef.
The rhythm family introduces note values and timing in an easily understood way. Eventually this can be combined with notes for composition and sight reading.
What are the benefits?
I’ve always been keen on introducing my children to music at a young age, but until I encountered Stave House I would never have believed that two and three year olds could read music without the aid of colours, numbers or some other gimmick!
The first thing I’d have to mention is that it is fun! The stories really capture the children’s imagination and make music approachable for children as young as 2.5 years old. Apparently it also works really well for children with special educational needs. I can imagine it being very suitable for active children, especially boys, who might not get along with more traditional methods of music teaching.
Secondly, I love the fact that it builds musical foundations for life. It is “real” music and there are no bad habits to unlearn later, unlike some other methods that I’ve looked into. The skills learnt will apply to any instrument, music or teacher. Aaron has now started reading simple standard music for the keyboard and has found the transition easy. Chime bars, recorders and violins are also popular starting instruments.
Finally, you don’t need to have a musical background in order to use Stave House with your children, as it is very simple for anyone to understand. Nor does it require hours of practice every week, so it is easy for busy parents to fit in.
Who can use it?
Parents, parent and toddler groups, nurseries and preschools, home educators, home-ed groups, schools and clubs to name just a few!
Although Stave House is a brilliant method for introducing very young children to music notation, it certainly isn’t limited to that age group. The teacher’s manual recommends that it can be used for 10 and 11 year olds, and my mum has even used it with some of her secondary school pupils!
Stave House can be used either in one-to-one situations or in group settings. Ruth Travers, the creator of Stave House, worked in a Montessori school and based the method on Montessori principles, so it is ideal for use in Montessori settings.
Where can I find out more?
You can find out more, watch some video demonstrations and buy a complete pack at www.stavehouse.co.uk. There is also an interesting report about Stave House in the London College of Music magazine.
Disclosure: I offered to write this review because I genuinely think that Stave House is fantastic and all the opinions in this post are completely honest. In exchange, the lovely people at Stave House are sending me a pack so that we can continue to enjoy using it at home.