By Dr. Julie Knerr

From experience, I know that Rain Forest Mystery, the Rote Piece corresponding to the legato Tree Frog Technique (from Piano Safari Level 1 and Animal Adventures) can be a challenging piece for both students and teachers. Over the years, I have fine-tuned my presentation of this challenging piece. It now involves teaching portions of the piece over the course of two to three lessons as well as creating a story with the stuffed animals to show the dynamics. In this 7-minute video, you will see this joyful and enthusiastic 7-year-old student learning the second half of the piece (she learned the first half the week before). Enjoy!

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By Dr. Julie Knerr

Recital season is upon us! I generally have the students play each piece 25 times two weeks before the recital, by which they earn chocolate (1 piece if they complete 25 boxes, an extra piece if they complete bonus boxes). Since each student generally plays 2 – 5 pieces for the recital, they can really rake in the chocolate!

For my last round of recitals, I tried something different, as I found that although playing the pieces 25 times was very helpful, sometimes there were still small mistakes in their performances.

So I made cards with 20 Ways to Practice for a Recital, and we chose several in each lesson to try out. I also gave them a list to take home to practice these same ideas. They loved …

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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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