"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, piano addict, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons and parental support, piano pedagogy, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, teaching piano to children, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Piano Lessons: Starting Rina, a 4-year old, using Irina Gorin’s “Tales of a Musical Journey” Book 1 (Videos in 5 parts)

Lesson # 1, 8/4/2011

(I will be extracting excerpts from all of Rina’s subsequent lessons with commentary, suggestions)

Today was a musical adventure for myself and a delicate, world-traveled, 4-year old child who had significant exposure to Music Together classes. Having observed her in this group setting, and knowing her parents’ love for the arts, we all decided to begin an experimental journey to the Magical Kingdom of Sounds, with King Meter and Fairy Musicalina who presided over a cosmos of melody, rhythm, soft, loud, sweet and sad sounds.

Following the lesson which I videotaped and had father do the same, I sent an e-mail to both parents going over what we had accomplished in the introductory lesson and what goals needed reinforcement during the week. (This is where parental involvement is pivotal with students of a tender age)

Video, Part 1: I introduced Rina to the piano, its inside, hammers, etc. and then seated her at the bench and read the opening to Tales of a Musical Journey.

Video, Part 2: Rina learned how to sit at the piano bench

Part 3: Rina learned about Finger numbers and found high and low notes, using two soft round balls to reinforce a gentle round hand position.

Part 4: More examples of high and low sounds; Rina traveled over the arc of a rainbow from mid-range to high; and mid-range to low

Part 5: Relaxation techniques: being a soaring eagle and then a weeping willow tree.

Before I share my e-mailed comments, I wanted to make some suggestions about Irina’s book that I think are worth noting. I told her I would have such commentary as I went along, since this is my first exposure to her series and I usually do not start students as young as 4 years of age.

Book I’s introduction with the colorful picture of a castle, the king, his children and fairy Musicalina is a bit bogged down with too much text. I found that reading directly from the album diverted the child’s attention elsewhere. For other teachers sampling “Tales of Musical Journey,” I would recommend paraphrasing the opening so it reads easier and quicker. For Irina, I would make the suggestion that in the future she should have more pictures with less text as children are very visual, and at ages 4, 5 and 6 they have a limited ability to digest too many words on a page.


Here’s what I wrote to Rina’s parents today as a recapitulation of our first lesson with desired goals to be met.

“I thought Rina did very well.

“This will not be an espresso learning experience both from a philosophical and practical vantage point .

“The Russian style of teaching synthesized with American concepts imbue the SINGING Tone, relaxed, round hand position, gently curved fingers, flowing arms. etc.

“The goals for today circumscribed proper seating and position at the bench; identifying finger numbers; tension free arms, wrists and fingers, especially round hand and fingers; (using the soft spongy balls to advance this while preserving the relaxed images of a spreading wing eagle and weeping willow tree) We practiced smooth motion from middle range to upper range notes, using finger 3.. you can alternate finger selections for this.(Making an Over the Rainbow arch from note to note over a large spread)

“And the same for middle range to lower. (you can divide the piano in half for this purpose.. Right hand from middle area to upper range, Left Hand from middle area to lower range)

“We identified Middle C.

“We also spent time with ear training (Identifying high, low, and mid-range pitches) and I played “live” examples at the piano to demonstrate.

“Student should listen to the first three selections from the CD included with Tales of a Musical Journey to identify various ranges of the piano: 1) Kabalevsky,” Porcupine” 2) Rebikov, “The Bear,” 3) Rybizky, “Cat and Mouse.” Play through these samples many times.

“There are also pictures of animals (p. 15) that make either low, high, or middle sounds. This exercise gives the student an opportunity to pick out notes that mimic the animals using a relaxed hand and finger. (The soft ball can again be employed for reinforcement)

“I will not be taking any short cuts, or trying to teach little rote ditties, as I totally concur with the contents of book, and in fact, I advanced progress on it today, and did some modification that I believe was in order.

“Four years old is a very tender age, so the best thing to do is to have very short range goals but still be true to the art of playing the piano.

“The habits we develop now will factor into long-range piano study into beginning repertoire.

“By the way, Rina received an Excellent sticker today for her riveted attention.

“See you next week.”

See Irina Gorin’s you tube video for an overview of her teaching material:


MTAC, FALL 2012, California Music Teachers Magazine:



Two short excerpts of Irina Gorin’s teaching a 4-yr old child using Tales of a Musical Journey



Rina’s Second Piano Lesson:


Rina’s Third Piano Lesson:


EXAMPLE of fluid playing by a young child: from PTNA You Tube Channel


5 thoughts on “Piano Lessons: Starting Rina, a 4-year old, using Irina Gorin’s “Tales of a Musical Journey” Book 1 (Videos in 5 parts)”

  1. I bought this book at the same time as a couple of the John Thompson books. Even though I learned with the John Thompsons, I think this book is great for early learners because it starts simply with finger numbers and pictures of the keys, without trying to teach note reading at the same time. My five year old is really enjoying the book so far and is enthusiastic about learning the piano. He is young enough that if you try and fit too much into the lesson at once, he loses interest. I definitely recommend this book for young ones.


  2. Hello, my name is Crystal. I am a single mother of a Mr. Four year old. He will be five in Oct., and in Aug. he will be entering kindergarden. I am super excited to say that he got accepted into Bullard TALENT school of the arts, it’s K-8, and I even when to that school when I was a child, so I really know how amazing it is to get into this school, here in Fresno, Ca. When I got the “CONGRATULATIONS…..” letter, I was crying. Ok….i could go on about this for a while. My son, Ayden, is in preschool, which is impacting his life tremendously, but i realized, this kid needs some discipline. Some type of structure. So I thought what would benefit most, karate….piano? He’s totally got a softer side, being raised by his mother, only. But I’ve even seen the toughest guys play musical instruments. As so did I for ten years. He loves the whole rockstar thing, he loves to sing, dance around with loud music. I can’t think of a day that music isn’t in our lives in some way. I’ve actually sat him down and explained to him to the best I could what music lessons are, I’ve showed him a piano and a keyboard, I’ve let him listen to various songs played by a piano. He has showed much liking to it. So my question to you is…Is he too young to start? WOuld it be a waste of my money? If he did start playing now, at what kind of pace or progress can I expect to see from him if I did start his lessons before the new school year? I am totally amazed at the youtube video you have playing, and when I GOOGLED piano lessons in Fresno, ca, your link came up, soooo….do you know of anyone who gives lessons in our area? I would appreciate any input you may have. Thank you so much, Crystal G.


    1. He may or may not be ready for piano lessons at 4. The best thing to do is go to MTAC.org and scroll down to the Fresno Branch website. Read the bios and qualifications of the teachers listed there and call a few and describe your son as you have to me. Perhaps a few will want to interview him for readiness.

      I, myself, am not taking any more 4 year olds, but others may be excited about the prospect.

      I hoped this has been helpful.



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