By Dr. Julie Knerr

We had a terrific time in Baltimore! Thank you to all who came to our sessions and visited our booth. It was so much fun to meet new teachers and see familiar faces!

One of the highlights was meeting Sally and Angie from the UK in person (and their red elephant). They are from the Curious Piano Teachers, and if you haven’t gotten to know them, check out their site and join this exciting learning community!

Katherine and I presented a session called “Rote is Not a Four-Letter Word. The Role of Rote Teaching in the Development of Reading, Technique, and Artistry.” Some teachers asked if we could put a brief outline on our blog, so here it is!

We presented our new paradigm for rote teaching, to replace the reputation rote teaching has …

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

Although stuffed animals are not necessary to teach Piano Safari, they do make things more fun, especially for our youngest students. Here are two short videos of a 5-year-old working on two of the Animal Techniques found in Level 1.

Lion Paw Technique

Larry the Lion is asleep, and when she plays a good Lion Paw arm, he wakes up scared! Kids love this!

Tall Giraffe Technique

This is my student’s first attempt at learning the Tall Giraffe Technique. First we play it non legato. Then we use Bumper the Tall Giraffe to add the graceful wrist lift in the Tall Giraffe Neck part.

If you have fun ideas for using stuffed animals, please share!

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Introduction by Dr. Julie Knerr

We are pleased to announce the release of two new books, Diversions Books 1 and 2 by Juan Cabeza! Juan is from Spain, and last year he emailed us to express his delight with Piano Safari, as he had begun using it in his teaching. As a thank you gift, he sent us Piano Train Trips, which had been inspired by his use of Piano Safari. We were pleased to meet such a gifted composer and teacher and have been privileged to make his books available in the U.S. and around the world.

As you will see as you listen to and peruse his new books, Diversions Books 1 and 2 are an ideal supplement to the late elementary and early intermediate student’s study. The student can be a …

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

I have a new batch of little Piano Safarians this year. They are a bunch of wonderful kids! Since my pianos got tuned last week (so excited!), I decided to get some new video clips.

The following is a video of one of my 6-year-olds with his first yellow Level B Sight Reading Card (pre-staff on white keys). A bit about this student. He started piano lessons on January 10, so he is at the beginning stages. His parents both play the piano, and he is very creative, has great ears, and draws great pictures of dinosaurs!! He is currently writing an 8-part-epic book series about dinosaurs. He loves to improvise and create his own music, always wants to learn the Teacher Accompaniments to his pieces, and loves to add …

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

This past week I had two young students play the Improvisation Piece “Thunderstorm Over the Prairie” found in Piano Safari Level 1.

They both came up with great, but extremely different, improvisations.

Thunderstorm Number 1

The student below is 6, almost 7, and she recently started studying with me as a transfer student. She had not done any improvisation before, so was a bit hesitant to create music for the beautiful art she colored at home:

But as you will see from the video, by the end of the piece, she was starting to understand that she can create sounds at the piano to create a great sounding piece.

Thunderstorm Number 2

The second student is 6 years old. She has studied violin for several years and started piano in October. She is extremely …

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

Although it is fun to try different methods with different students, there is something very satisfying about mastering a single method. I find that when I teach the same pieces to dozens and dozens of students, I am better able to hone the art of teaching than if I am constantly teaching different pieces (although I enjoy that too).

Before my 5-year-old student came today, I gave some thought to what I wanted to accomplish. It’s amazing how even three minutes of actual deep thought can make a lesson so much better! I decided that I was going to try a new way of breaking down “Ode to Joy” into manageable chunks, because after teaching a piece to dozens and dozens of students, a teacher can begin to know the pitfalls of …

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

As a follow up to my blog post, Super Awesome Sight Readings Part 7: Ingredient #4 – Note Names, here is a video clip of one of my students who completed Phase 10 of my Note Name sequence yesterday. She was working on playing all 35 cards in 75 seconds or less. After much work, she did it in 59 seconds!!!! She was so proud of herself. From here, she no longer has to practice her note name flashcards. Instead, I will continue to supplement with theory worksheets, sight reading, new pieces, and other activities and games for making sure she does not forget the note names.

Look at her go!!

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

Since we created Piano Safari over ten years ago, we have gradually refined our teaching strategies and added new ideas in our own teaching. One of these “add-on” ideas relates to rhythm.

We have discovered that students read music better when they see the patterns and contours of notes in groups rather than reading one note at a time (See the Super Awesome Sight Reading Series for an in depth look at reading). In a similar way, students gain a better sense of rhythm when they see groups of notes as rhythm patterns as well, rather than counting note by note.

Here are the Animal Rhythm Patterns we use in Piano Safari Level 1:

We begin teaching these Animal Rhythm Patterns from the very first lesson. We have integrated these patterns clearly in the Sight …

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

In the final blog post in this series, we will focus on #4 of the four ingredients that lead to confident and fluent music reading:

Ingredient #1. Patterns and Theory
Ingredient #2. Contours and Intervals
Ingredient #3. Rhythm
Ingredient #4. Note Names

Note Names are important. They are just not the only key to reading music.

We introduce note names by tying the treble and bass clefs together using the Skips Alphabet. This video shows the process.

Once students understand the process shown in the video above, they get to get their name on the Note Name Chart, which they really look forward to!

Students start with Phase 1, saying the Space Note Cards. I give them only the space notes from a stack of Note Name Flashcards (I use the Bastien Note Name Cards). They must …

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

Decorating the Piano is one of my favorite activities for teaching White Key Names. This can be done in Private, Partner, or Group Classes, and at the end of this post, I will tell you about a way to make it a self-directed activity specifically for Partner Lessons or Group Classes.

I usually do this activity at the interview or very first lesson. Through this, I gain information about the child, including:

Whether the student knows the letters of the alphabet
How the student responds to my directions
If the student can distinguish between groups of two and three black keys
If the student has the attention span to decorate the entire piano.

I can use this information as we move forward with piano lessons.

Materials You Will Need for Decorating the Piano

8 bouncy balls
8 plastic …

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