Category Archives: Music Reviews

Piano Adventures® Player


Piano Adventures® Player is copyrighted by Dovetree Productions, Inc.

Piano Adventures® Player is copyrighted by Dovetree Productions, Inc.

During TMTA Elizabeth Gutierrez announced that the Fabers have a new iPad and iPhone app, Piano Adventures Player, to go along with their piano method, Piano Adventures. This is a free app, with in-app purchases for more music. [Disclosure: I am not associated with Piano Adventures and I was not compensated in any way for this review. The opinions are my own.]

This purpose of Piano Adventures Player is for students to play pieces from the Piano Adventures method books with high quality musical accompaniments. The accompaniments are lots of fun to play along with.

When you open the app, on the top of the left hand side there is a menu where you can select an individual level of Piano Adventures. So far, there are 4 levels in the app. Each level includes 3 free pieces from the book.

Once you are in a level, select the tab “Get More Songs” and you are taken to a page where there is a $4.99 in-app purchase for the accompaniment tracks for the Method, Performance, and Technique books of that level.

Piano Adventures Player is easy to use with your acoustic piano. Select your level, set the tempo, and start playing along with the accompaniments. I like the visual representation of the count-off so you know exactly when to come in. You do not need any other equipment but a good set of speakers is nice.

If you have a MIDI keyboard or piano, there are 2 other ways to play along with the accompaniments:

  • In the Follow Mode, the accompaniment will follow along with the student’s tempo.
  • In the Wait Mode, the accompaniment will wait until the student plays the correct notes.

In order to connect your iPad to a digital piano/keyboard, you will need Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit. I connected mine with my old MIDI In and MIDI Out cable with a USB plug on one end. If you are new to this, I do not advise you to buy these cables without someone to help you.  Also, there are different iPad camera connection kits, and you need to know which one your iPad uses before you buy.

There are more features in this app, such as the ability to set loops, adjust balance, parts, and a keyboard view with light up keys. I’ve probably left something off!

Piano Adventures Player is a wonderful addition to piano pedagogy. I hope that more methods will consider this approach to accompaniments, now that CD’s are becoming obsolete.

For more information about this app, go to

If you’re in San Antonio this weekend, June 27, 2015, come to Elizabeth Gutierrez’ Piano Camp for Piano Teachers. Elizabeth has some great sessions planned, and I am presenting a session that will walk you through how to use this app and a lot of other good ones.








Filed under iPad Ideas, Music Reviews, Teaching Aids

Piano Safari Review


Image Used by Permission

Image Used by Permission

Every now and then I come upon something for piano teachers that is so creative and intriguing that I can’t wait to try it with my students.

Piano Safari by Katherine Fisher and Julie Knerr (with additional music by Wendy Stevens) is this kind of method.

The authors maintain that most piano methods spend a lot of time teaching note reading and not enough time teaching how to make music “musical.” Often the over emphasis on learning notes can lead to mechanical playing and poor technique. On the other hand, learning to play only by rote makes it very difficult to learn how to sight read later on, in my opinion.

Piano Safari bridges the gap between learning by ear and learning to read music and helps reach children with different learning styles. Rote songs are used to help students understand music, develop their ear, and to have good technical skills. However, the book contains many reading pieces that students learn to read with an intervalic method. Beginning note names are learned using guide notes. By combining these ways of teaching, students get the best of both worlds. Students will enjoy learning the rote pieces, which are more challenging than the reading pieces. Rote pieces can put the “fun” into piano, letting students play pieces for family, friends, and personal enjoyment that would be too hard to read at their level.

The method book, Piano Safari Repertoire, contains a variety of music including:

  • Reading pieces
  • Rote pieces
  • Folk songs
  • Technical exercises
  • Improvisation pieces

There are also Sight Reading and Rhythm Cards to go along with the books at three levels. CD recordings for the Repertoire books are available.

For teachers who would like to supplement their current method book with some of the material from Piano Safari, there is the Technical Exercises and Rote Pieces Book which was written as a supplement to any method book. It contains rote pieces and technique exercises found in the method books. This book is a helpful way to dip your feet into rote teaching and try out some different ideas.

The authors have a website that contains a tremendous amount of resources for teachers. You really need to spend some time there because it is a most interesting site. In order to understand the method, teachers need to study the Instructional Videos on the website. In addition to the instructional videos, there are Reminder Videos of the rote pieces so that students can watch them online in case they need a review. This is so helpful for the student at home who forgets how to play the rote piece. To motivate students, there are videos of Performance Videos of children their own age performing the pieces in Piano Safari. Also on their website are printable Teacher’s Guides and piano teaching articles. It is just a treasure-trove of resources!

If you are a teacher who is looking for something really different and you are ready to challenge yourself, I suggest you take a look. This is not a turn the page kind of series, but a method for a teacher who is willing to take the time to learn how to use it.

Disclosure: This review was my idea and not solicited. The authors kindly sent me some material for review and I purchased additional material. Regardless, I only review music, books, and apps I believe will be of interest to my readers. The opinions are my own. 


Filed under Music Reviews

Higgledy Piggledy Jazz and My Piano Trip to London: Reviews

Art Used With Permission of Elena Cobb

Art Used With Permission of Elena Cobb

Sometimes I see music that looks so appealing I just have to review it. This is the case with Higgledy Piggledy Jazz and the beginner book My Piano Trip to London, both by Elena Cobb.

Who is Elena v. Cobb? She is a classically trained and highly experienced pianist, educator, composer and publisher from England.
Elena believes that if a child doesn’t enjoy the music assigned by the teacher, the child is an unhappy student. So she decided to compose jazzy, child-orientated tunes for her piano students to motivate them and inspire them to practice  – and they loved them!
Higgledy Piggledy Jazz for piano is at the late elementary to intermediate level. Besides the adorable title and cover of the book, the pieces have cute names such as Super Duck and I Ate All the Chocolate. If you want background tracks for the music, it’s there on her web store, recorded by a live jazz band. These background tracks make the music come alive for students, and helps them learn to play with a steady beat and not stop and start. The tracks are recorded at different tempos, to assist with learning to play along.  Also on her website you will notice different versions of the book, including versions for alto sax, clarinet ensemble, guitar, and ukulele. 
Art Used by Permission of Elena Cobb

Art Used by Permission of Elena Cobb

 I also want to mention the book My Piano Trip to London. This is a method book for average age beginners that starts with learning the keyboard and progresses to hands together. There are teacher duets for the music and cute illustrations that are not babyish for the older elementary child. As the child progresses through the book, different sites and attractions in London are explored, with music for each one. Is that a cute idea, or what! I especially think this is a good book for teachers in England and the UK. This is an interesting book for teachers in any country who are looking for something different.
Some interesting things about this book is that there are no finger numbers so that the teacher can use whatever works best for the student. Positions vary, so this is not a middle C position book. I’ve noticed in my own compositions that I sometimes have to mark out the fingering that I originally added in the music and change it for a particular student. Maybe I should start leaving off fingering. Teachers are smart enough to add their own!
Two other things I would like to mention about this book is that it uses both UK and North American terms for rhythm, so students will see both quarter note and crochet, for example. For counting, there are both Kodaly syllables and alternate words, and of course, teachers can always use numbers.
The bottom line is that you have probably never seen a book like this! It can be used as a method book as well as a supplemental book to any method. I have a lot of followers in England, and I want to encourage you to check this out for your students!

Elena’s books are available as a traditional music book from Amazon and SheetMusicPlus.  They are also available as digital downloads from her website  If you buy the digital books, there is an unlimited digital download license available, which means you can print out just what you wish to use. 

Every Friday, Elena offers free resources to the members of her Facebook group Publishing Discussion Group. It includes original scores and exercises published by her company.

Disclosure: This review was my idea and not solicited by the author. I received digital copies of the books for review. Regardless, I only review music and books I believe will be of interest to my readers. The opinions are my own. 

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The Berry Basket: The Story of a Rescued Piano Book


One of the perks of having my own blog is that I can sit at my computer and ramble on about anything. Today, I’m going to tell you about a little out-of-print piano book I found on the internet.

I’m not sure what sent me to a site on Etsy that sold vintage ephemera, which is a fancy word for old printed collectables.  Somehow I found myself looking through a selection of used vintage piano books the shop was selling to cut up and use for crafts. How sad, I thought, that these old books, once lovingly handed to young children and toted back and forth to piano lessons with the hope that the children would fall in love with piano, are now reduced to being cut up for who knows what.

As I was looking and reminiscing, I came upon a 1953 piano book that looked so charming I had to take a close up look. It was named The Berry Basket, and it had the cutest vintage art on the cover. The seller had some pictures of the inside art (with no mention of the music), and I knew I had to get it.  The price was only $3.00 so I clicked the buy button. In a few days, there it was in the mail, saved from destruction and in the hands of someone who could appreciate it!

The book is written for beginners, and the first pieces are only 8 measures long, with sweet, vintage drawings on every page. Each little piece has simple, child-like lyrics.

I was happy to discover the music is in different 5-finger positions and keys. There are no C position pieces in the entire book!  The lyrics are very simple and childlike, back when young children were more innocent and didn’t know the questionable lyrics of today’s popular music.

Since this is a previously used book, there are markings from the teacher.

“Work out notes H.S. Don’t Guess.”  



Some things never change in piano!

According to the preface, the music and words were written by the Sisters of the Holy Cross attending a music workshop in Salt Lake City, conducted by Bernice Frost, a well-known composer of piano teaching music last century.

I wonder what Bernice Frost said in her workshop that inspired the Sisters of the Holy Cross to compose this music? The preface says the book offers, “… development in the basic requirements of elementary musical training. Foremost among these are ear-training, singing, keyboard range and feel, essential points of technic, and pianistic style.”  Maybe Bernice Frost gave them ideas of all the many things that can be done at a piano lesson besides just playing the music. I like to think so.

Maybe the child who used this book is now a piano teacher in his or her golden years, with hundreds of former students who love piano music! I like to think that, too!

The Berry Basket Published by J. Fischer Bros

The Berry Basket
Published by J. Fischer Bros



Filed under Music Reviews, Teaching Business