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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. 

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Easter Egg Hunt – a Favorite Game

 

Easter Egg Find The Notes

Easter Egg Find the Notes

I just returned from the MTNA convention in Las Vegas, and I have a lot of ideas I hope that I can share with you! I was so excited to meet many teachers who are using my material and who are looking for alternate ways to learn piano.  Thank you so much for introducing yourself and chatting with me. It is wonderful to see so many musicians who work hard to share our love of music.

I have not been able to blog or post anything for a while, but I can “rerun” this fun Easter season game that I made a few years ago.

There is not much planning, the rules are simple, and all you need is a few minutes to cut out the cards. If you are a parent, this a fun game to play with your children to introduce rhythm names.

Click on the link under the picture above and download the free printable. Print the pages on sturdy card stock and cut them out. Do not laminate the cards. Fold in the middle so the egg is on one side and the notes on the other. (Cardstock is easier to fold if you score it lightly using a ruler and a dull point, such as a dull butter knife. Leave a comment if you need more directions.) After folding, the cards sit up like a tent. Hide them around the room with the egg facing out.

DIRECTIONS

Tell your student that you have hidden eggs cards all over the room. The cards have different rhythm values on the back. The student’s job is to find and collect the ones with half notes (or whatever note you want to work on) as fast as possible.  Depending on how much time you have, you can play again, collecting different rhythms. It is so much fun watching the student run around the room collecting cards!

This is also an excellent activity to introduce a new rhythm note to beginning students.

OBJECTIVE

  • To quickly learn to recognize rhythm note names
  • To learn that stems can go up or down
  • To introduce rhythm names to beginners
  • To play a fast (under 3 minutes) game

AGES

  • Early childhood to grade 2 or 3

This is a variation of a game idea from Cecilly called Quarter Note Hunt, and it has been a long time favorite in my studio.

 

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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 www.elenacobb.com.  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 ElenaCobb.com 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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Six Secrets of Successful Music Teachers

What makes a successful music teacher? I have observed and listened to many very successful teachers over the years. I am so fortunate to personally know many outstanding teachers, and I have learned from them. These are teachers of all ages who have studios full of students, including beginners and long-time advanced high school students. Here is what I discovered:

  • They have goals.
  • They are flexible, but not door-mats.
  • They don’t rigidly follow method books.
  • They don’t complain and they don’t make excuses.
  • They are willing to learn more and keep up to date.
  • They love their work and they do more than just teach.

Teaching music is hard. There are so many factors that we as teachers cannot control. Music is enjoyable,  yet it is hard to learn to read and it is hard to learn the coordination involved in playing an instrument. We teach because we love it and we want to share our love of music. It’s also how we make our living. This is a lot to balance and it is understandable that we get frustrated at times. However, we stay positive and carry on! I hope everyone reading this has a great teaching year!

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