Piano-teaching patent a high note for this CT music teacher


WEST HAVEN — A local man with music schools here and in Wallingford has received a U.S. patent for a method of teaching piano that has students playing full songs within a few lessons, as they continue to learn the traditional way.

“It’s a game-changer,” said John McCarthy, owner of Rock House School of Music in Wallingford and West Haven.

He developed the “KeyTab” piano music reading system 15 years ago, but only recently went for the patent at the suggestion of a student’s mother who is a patent attorney and said she offered her help because McCarthy and his wife do so much in the community.

A patent means McCarthy now owns the “intellectual property” and can license “it out or sell it,” said his patent attorney Kelly Nowak of the New Haven-based firm DeLio Peterson & Curcio.

“It was worthy to give back to someone so deserving,” Nowak said. “They do so much for our community; he and his wife do so much for the children,” including holding open mic nights for children to display their talents, and much more.

The patented number and letter system allows a player to learn songs and progressions quickly, in weeks compared to years using standard music notation. The KeyTab system comes with a “KeyTab Note Strip” where every note is labeled and each octave is color-coded. The note strip fits behind the keys on any piano or electronic keyboard.

McCarthy said he’s in talks with a major keyboard manufacturer who wants to include the system, which includes key tabs, in the box with their product.

He said KeyTab was created to help piano players learn chords, progressions and complete songs quickly while getting the feel for the instrument in a positive manner. It is not intended to replace standard notation, he said.

He said it helps students who these days have that “instant gratification mindset” to play songs quickly after starting lessons, because doing it the old fashioned way can take 11/2 to 2 years.

He said it’s also a good method for adults who have a piano in the house gathering dust, don’t know to play and just want to play 10 or 15 songs when their friends come over.

McCarthy, who has written more than 50 music books over the decades, said he soon will release a keyboard song system book on the method soon. The book will include a color-coded strip and 30 popular songs.

He said the method helps students stay interested in learning.

“When I used this in combination with standard notation it was a game changer,” McCarthy said. “I created KeyTab organically. There was a need and I found a solution.” He said the hope is to have music teachers around the world use KeyTab.

He said the patent was turned down at first as there are similar methods out there. But he appealed the decision, showing ways in which it was much different and was successful.

McCarthy said he’s doubled the number of piano students using the method.

Some of the songs students can learn using the method, include: The Beatles’ “Let it be” and “Hey Jude,” as well as John Lennon’s “Imagine”; Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”; Cold Play’s “Clocks”; The Eagles’ “Hotel California”; Train’s “Drops of Jupiter”; Van Halen’s “Jump”; Eric Clapton’s “Layla”; Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”; Elvis’ “Love Me Tender”; Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”; and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”

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