Yamaha Junior Music Course – good or not?

Little YT at Yamaha

I started learning piano at the age of 15. I don’t come from a well-to-do family and was really happy that my parents could pay for my love of music back then. I stop during ‘O’ levels but continued from University days which I paid off my piano fees using hard-earned money from giving private tuition to Primary and Secondary students. I had a China made piano which could only allow me to reach Grade 4. I skipped grades and my first ABRSM exam was Grade 4 practical which I got a distinction. To go on to Grade 5, my teacher told me I needed a better piano to hone my skills. After much thoughts and struggle, I told my parents and they agreed to buy me one costing 5k. I was extremely touched as I know that’s a super expensive and luxury item to ask of my dad who was the sole income provider earning not much and raising 3 children. My parents are perfect parents in my eyes who want to give me the best to pursue my interest. I cried quietly in the night, touched.

Then things didn’t really go as it should have been. To take a Grade 8 exam while staying in the University hostel requires lots of discipline and perseverance. I was so busy and was shy to use other hostel’s piano for practices. I could only practise at home once a week. So, the inevitable came, I flunked Grade 8.

I was devastated yet I saw it coming. I felt I disappointed my parents thoroughly. There were many times I tried to pick up where I had left and continue my passion. But at those times, I started work, got married and motherhood came fast and furious. I didn’t have time for my interest.

Like many parents, I started to place hopes on my children. I don’t know if it’s to put my passion on them to fulfill something I had never accomplished or I truly believe the benefits of learning piano. Learning music has advantages for learning Mathematics, great coordination of both hands and legs, working on patience and perseverance. I decided that since Kel and I do not want to spend money on extra academic lessions, we shall spend on cultivating a skill and interest. As I have a ready exam model piano from KAWAI, I enrolled my kids in piano courses without consulting if they like it. What does a 4 yo know about choosing an interest?

I know that Yamaha Junior Music Course (YJC) is a good course from my teacher. They train 4yos on their hearing ability. They believe at 4 years old, it is the best age to pick up musical notes and if they are trained well, they will be able to play by ear! That’s so important in learning music. Once you pass that age, you have to be real talented to be able to acquire this ability in future. I can’t play both hands by ear although I could do it with just melody, but not without trial and error.

I signed up Yamaha Junior Music Course (JMC) for XX and YH before they turned 4. They are really strict on the age and the child has to pass his 4th birthday in order to start the class. Parents could accompany their kids in this group music class for the initial 2 years. And they are supposedly to be independent from 3rd year on with occasional sit in by parents during the last 15 min of the class to be aware of how their kids progress.

Yamaha Junior Music Course (YJC) is an 8 year course. The first 2 years are foundational stage called Junior Music Course (JMC). The children will be taught 3 elements of music: rhythm, melody and harmony through singing, hearing and playing. The main objective is to develop the children’s sense of pitch and ability to identify sounds. The song pieces are catchy, beautiful and you will be surprised that your child will be able to play with both hands 4-5 lessons later.

The next 2 years are the Yamaha Junior Extension Course called JXC. At this time, you child will be about 6-7 years old. They will be playing more pieces and the songs get more and more beautiful. I really love how they cater the songs to kids, and adults love them too. This is the time where the kids will be starting to be independent. Parents are not allowed in the class but usually there will be a transition period where parents join in for the first 3 months and gradually only join in for the last 15 minutes to let them know how the kids are doing. It’s a good training for them to start independence before Primary 1 as they have to listen to teacher and take down notes without a parent beside them.

After 4 years, children can go on to Junior Ensemble Class (JNC) where they will be playing more and more difficult pieces and learning more composition of songs. In fact, even at foundational stage, kids are already starting to compose simple motifs (2-4 bars) and even submit composition of 16 bars (melody and accompaniment) for competition! Can you imagine your child composing at the age of 5-6? You’ll be surprised, all of them could! And if their composition is selected, they will be invited to play in the Junior Original Concert. There are lots of opportunities to perform in the YJC Course. At the end of each half year term, they get to have a mini class concert where they will play together in ensemble style and play individually for everyone. This is something you will not get in private lessons.

Usually by JXC, many would have quited for individual private music lessons at home to do the ABRSM course. For Yamaha, at the end of 2 years (JMC), they have a foundational test and after 4th year (JXC), they will take Yamaha Grade 9 exam (which in my opinion is ABRSM Grade 1-2 level). Then at the end of 6th year (JNC), they will take Yamaha Grade 8 exam (in my opinion is ABRSM Grade 3-4). If you appreciate the beauty of the teaching style of the Japanese, you could go further to Junior Advance Course (JAC) where the children will be taking Yamaha Grade 7-6. Beyond that, it will be Teacher’s Grades.

As my girl XX, is currently at JNC level (her 5th year) and YH is at JXC level (his 3rd year), I have no experience in the course beyond JNC. Hence, I do not have enough information to share here.

Now, for the initial period of learning music, I was really touched when I see how my kids can start playing with both hands! It was exhilarating! Children pick up anything very fast especially music. Then some months later, my kids, at times, will tell me they hate piano, don’t like using electone (YJC is taught using electone), they want to play violin, drum, etc, etc. My reaction is a poker face one.

Parents woes – how to address kids’ rants of quitting music:

“I hate piano!” 

I believe that my kids have some talent in music judging by the way they could play a brand new piece of song after just 2 tries on the piano using both hands! They don’t even look at the score! Kel has even told me not to force them to learn. But, if my kids were to tell me that they hate school, do I also say yes, you can stop going to school? Especially, when I know they are good in music, how can they give up just because of a spur of moment laziness? So, I told them,”You don’t have a choice, you have to have perseverance to learn something, in this case, piano. Till the day you pass the final exam(ok ABRSM Grade 8), then it will be up to you to stop. I can’t possibly allow you to stop school if you say you hated school.”

“I don’t like using the electone in class!”

Learning another instrument is a skill. Seeing my kids switching effortlessly from using electone in class and to using piano at home, I am so proud of them! Electone has a 2 layer keyboard, multiple pedals and come with many interesting sounds. So I encourage them to see that they now are good in 2 instruments!

“I want to learn violin, drum, etc…”

Piano is the easiest to make sense of musical sounds. I want my kids to persevere through learning an instrument. Many people learn piano and violin at the same time. But for us, investing in a violin or drum set and bringing the kids to another extra class of music, is too much for us. Time and money are big consideration. So, I told my kids that only when they are good in piano (reaching at least a Grade 5 in ABRSM exam), I will not consider a 2nd instrument or changing instrument for now.

And if you find difficulty to bring your kids to the piano for practice, read how I make my kids enjoy piano practice from dreading it to loving it here.

I totally love the Yamaha music experience. I love their pieces, love how they train the kids to play by ear, love how they emphasize on music composition as well. However, there is a low side of it that parents have to pay attention to. There is not enough teaching on theory and piano playing techniques. Hence, many parents will supplement that with private lessons at home while doing the YJC at the same time to have the best of both worlds. For private lessons, children’s hearing will not be trained and that’s something really important to have. So, for me, I will allow my kids to go through the entire YJC course then switch them to ABRSM. That’s at least my plan for now.

I feel that encouraging my kids to play an instrument help them to acquire a skill that they can show off while boosting their self-esteem, allowing them a way to release emotions, enabling them to persevere in learning an instrument, and training their patience through the many practice sessions.

Many parents have asked me about the Yamaha Music Course, I hope I have addressed their concerns here. Feel free to ask me questions and leave a comment to share your experience too! I would really love to know to decide if I should allow my kids to take up individual piano lessons or picking up a 2nd instrument too.

17 thoughts on “Yamaha Junior Music Course – good or not?

  1. I played the flute as a kid, I taught myself some Piano then, but now I don’t know if I could even read the notes. I really want zoë to take music lessons as soon as she can, she loves music and playing any instrument she can get her little fingers on. Thanks for the info on this!

  2. Interesting to read about another parents view on extra curricular activities. How long days do your kids have at school? Do they have other hobbies too? How much do you expect them to rehearse the piano? I’m curious as the balancing act between work, daycare, hobbies and freetime is always there.

    • I am really a laid back mum Vilmar. We only have one enrichment class outside school and that is piano lessons. It’s an hour each Saturday. I try to make them practise at least thrice a week, which is not really sufficient, but they pick up real fast. Each practice session is at most half an hour. During weekends, we bring them out to play, there are no other private academic classes after school. We believe kids should enjoy their childhood as much as they can. Time to play is extremely important to us.

  3. I would love my kids to learn music, but I don’t want to overload their schedules so I haven’t started formal lessons yet. P already does a couple of enrichment/sport classes – two that he wanted to do himself and one that I need him to do (Chinese)! I think drums would be a winner for P but for my sanity I’d have to buy a noiseless kit – not cheap!! At the moment they play around on a keyboard we bought at a second-hand sale and they sing, but that’s about it. T has only just started at nursery school so no extras for her yet.

    There’s definitely a balance between forcing and nudging. If not for a few nudges they’d never get past any difficulties! But then you don’t want to be completely controlling either so it’s a balancing act.

  4. Appreciate for the sharing, where I do have the same thought that JMC had really train up my daughter hearing skill, at certain situation, she had even better hearing than me (where I’m dip. in piano, and 20+yrs ago a JMC student also, i learned at 7yrs old), Now she’s near 6yrs old, at JMC book4, and start to identify those sharp and flat note, not very well, but some how she got 70% correct. I promote the course to some of my friend and they do have positive feedback after seeing the improvement on thier kids. Matter is after JMC, I’m not very confident to continue JXC, as we know skill is very important, but I do not think JXC strengthen this much… Anyone has more input on JXC?

    • Hi Wywy, thanks for sharing your experience on JMC. My gal is into JNC which is the 6th year into JMC course, after JMC and JXC. Throughout these 6 years, I have nothing but praise for the Yamaha course in training up her hearing skills, song composition skills, ensemble coordination. However, YJC is in group learning and hence hard to focus on piano playing techniques. After the 6th yr, she is recommended to do individual piano lessons concurrently with YJC 7th year onwards.

      JXC has more difficult songs after JMC, will be the same as the first 2 years but more majors and minors with more exposure to composition.

      If you are interested in skills and yet want to tap on the Yamaha way of teaching, you may like to engage a Yamaha trained piano teacher. This way, she can do both technique and hearing skills together. Hope this helps 🙂

      • Hi Christy,
        My 8yo boy will be continued with the JNC course in July. He has just taken the yamaha grade 9 exam. I see most of the kids will stop taking the Yamaha JNC course aft JXC coz they would prefer to engage a private teacher aiming for ABRSM grade exam.
        I don’t know if I have made the right choice to put him in yamaha which he will continue to learn music in group. I just hope that he will be given chances to perform in public one day ( maybe mini concert) if with Yamaha. My boy is not talent in piano however he is quite a fast learner. During the entire JXC course, I could see he was really enjoy playing the piano in a very relaxing way.

        I don’t find anyone whose child will be or already taken JNC course so I can’t get further infos or feedback on the course. Maybe you can share more with me.

        Thanks
        Radiant

  5. Hi Radiant,
    Thanks for posing your question here.
    My girl is now in JNC. From our experience, I love the Yamaha way of teaching the kids to appreciate music with lots of exposure in composition and ensemble playing. I have shared earlier in another comment that I like the by ear training to identify notes. The difference between Yamaha and individual ABRSM teaching is that ABRSM does not have much opportunity to perform and compose songs freely. It is more on examination based syllabus and one thing good is that your child gets to learn piano techniques as compared to group learning. I have similar concern about whether to continue my kids to JNC and beyond too. So, I spoke to a few Yamaha teachers who taught my kids before. They recommended that I should get a Yamaha trained teacher to teach individual lessons based on ABRSM syllabus and attend JNC and JAC concurrently. In this case, the child is able to have the best of both worlds.

    However, I know that it will be quite challenging for the child to take on double lessons and deal with the increasing academic workload at the same time. So, it depends very much on how much your child loves music and whether he is able to cope.

    For JNC lessons, the lessons are conducted similar to the previous 4 years in JMC and JXC except that they have more difficult songs and learn higher level theory. From my observation and understanding from the other parents in the same class, the kids tend to slack when they reach JNC due to higher academic workload and non-parental participation. For this, we parents have to do occasional checks on their progress and ensure they practice. And in JNC, my girl’s teacher will try to push for all the students to perform in the Yamaha concert for the public. So, I think that’s a good exposure if it happens. Let me know if you have more doubts which I may be able to help on 

  6. Hi Christy,
    My daughter attended the JMC course at Yamaha too, and like you, I love it that Yamaha teaches them to play by ear. Currently, she is still with Yamaha, but for individual piano course because her JMC class doesn’t have enough students who want to continue with JXC. For individual piano with Yamaha, they are still focussing on hearing and being able to compose (eg. she is currently learning to fill in the accompaniment for a melody). While I really like Yamaha’s musicianship training style, I’m also very worried if they will have problems switching to ABRSM format later? Recently I have heard that the Yamaha teachers would prefer just covering the Yamaha syllabus, as most of the time, they have no time to teach or prepare the students for ABRSM exams, based on just 45 mins alone.

    Just like to hear your thoughts on this? Would you want your kids to take ABRSM ultimately or will Yamaha exams suffice? I know ABRSM exams are more prestigious, and it might be most ideal to do both, but am just worried that the music workload will be too heavy for them? Do you happen to know how “recognised” is the Yamaha certification?

    • Hi Agnes,
      I have same thoughts as you about when to transit my kids to ABRSM. I have spoken to their teachers and what I can conclude is that to have the best of both worlds and not to miss out hearing training ability, a mum can put their kids to Yamaha at age 4 to train up their hearing first. Once you miss this time period of hearing ability at its best, the child may not be able to pick up by notes playing ability later on. If the kid is able to follow through the Yamaha system to at least a Grade 5 which is a teachers grade, it will be very good and jumping to ABRSM I think will not be a problem and in fact should be better than those with no Yamaha training. If the kid is not able or not interested to follow through at least the first 6-8 years in YJC, then ABRSM would be a good option to continue piano. And if the kid is able to handle both, taking Yamaha and ABRSM at the same time after about 4 years of YJC (after JXC), this would be the best of both worlds.

      For me, I am taking a grade at a time or rather 2 years at a time. If my child is able to continue to beyond JNC now, I would let her continue on. But I am still deciding whether to take ABRSM at the same time. This decision will have to be made 1 year later when my girl completes her JNC and Grade 8 exam.

      From what I know about Yamaha graded examination and ABRSM examination, Yamaha is recognized in Japan and a handful of countries while ABRSM is internationally recognized. However, Yamaha has a tougher examination syllabus and standard than ABRSM. So, if you are concerned about paper chase, like getting a certificate on hand, ABRSM would be a better choice. Having said that, Yamaha is getting more and more recognized nowadays, but more in Asian countries rather than Europe or US. In Singapore, for music elective programme in Sec schools, if I am not wrong, they only accept ABRSM Grades. So, it all depends on what do you want for your child. A certificate or skillset with less certification recognition or just pure enjoyment of music.

      • Hi Christy,
        I just want to tell you tht we just received the result recently.My son scored a distinction in the Yamaha grade 9 exam. I am so happy he really did it. And my plan now is just let him to continue JNC. He is not the talent type. And I don’t feel that he is hard working enough. But I want him to be with Yamaha school to continue learning and enjoy music with his peers.
        Thanks for your advice and I am happy and grateful that there are a few parents there who are 支持孩子学音乐though we don’t really know if you can get some 回报..haha

  7. And you may add me in FB.. Sometimes I did post some videos of them playing songs. Good to receive your feedback…

    Radiant Chang

    • Hi Radiant,

      Sorry for the late reply. I just remembered I need to answer you one month later lol! Congrats on your boy’s flying colours! I think it shows that he has some talent in music and the most important thing is to enjoy it. I am glad you decided to let him continue to JNC. The pieces will get more challenging and enjoyable.

      My girl had just performed in the Junior Original Concert with her composition. There were so many good compositions by Yamaha students. Some sounds so professional and touching they put me to tears. This concert encourages the student’s creativity and their stage confidence. I appreciate the way Yamaha school promote that.

      Hope to hear more about your experience. You may always email me at christy.krs@gmail.com to share about it. I will definitely reply you and it will not take a month to do so this time round :p

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