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.