By Dr. Julie Knerr

In this blog post, I will focus on #3 of the four ingredients that lead to confident and fluent music reading, Rhythm:

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

I have long had a hunch that rhythm was an important component for good sight reading. All the good sight readers I have ever known have an excellent sense for rhythm. I am blessed to be included in this camp. I don’t know how it happened, but I have always been able to understand almost any rhythm immediately. In fact, when I was 8, I was in a weekly theory class with three other little girls. We had a book of rhythms to tap, and we were supposed to practice them ahead of time before …


By Dr. Julie Knerr

In this blog post, we will focus on #2 of the four ingredients that lead to confident and fluent music reading, Contours and Intervals:

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

Intervallic Reading Approach

Piano Safari uses an intervallic reading approach. This means that students are trained to read the intervals and see the relationships between the notes, rather than reading by note name one note at a time.

We have found that of all the reading approaches, the Intervallic Approach produces the highest percentage of students who become confident and competent music readers.

In Piano Safari Level 1, students begin with pre-staff reading (the importance of which will be discussed in another blog post), and then move onto the staff.

2nds, Unisons, and Landmarks

After the pre-staff …


By Dr. Julie Knerr

In Part 3, I presented 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

From the beginning of a student’s piano study, we need to establish the idea that music is not a random collection of notes. Instead, music is made up of logical patterns.

In the beginning of study, this is accomplished by teaching students Rote Pieces that are related to patterns on the keyboard. This may seem strange to say that teaching Rote Pieces actually helps students learn to read, but it is true! Students who have been taught patterned Rote Pieces at the beginning of study look for patterns in their Reading Pieces and Sight Reading Cards, because they are trained …


By Dr. Julie Knerr

Part 1 addressed how long it should take for students to become confident readers.

Part 2 addressed false assumptions on the part of the student and teacher.

Part 3 will present the four ingredients that we believe combine to lead down the Long Road to reading mastery.

I say it is a Long Road, because it is true that there is a Short Road.

First, let’s take a look at the Long Road.

Think about how you, as an advanced pianist, read. When you look at a piece of music, do you see the note name of every single note in your mind? Or do you see shapes of chords and contours of melodies? Hopefully, you see the latter. As music becomes more complicated, it is almost impossible to think of every …


By Dr. Julie Knerr

In Part 1 of this blog series, I presented the idea that it takes about three years of persistent work for a student to become a fluent reader. The remainder of this blog series will focus on what we should teach in relation to reading in those important first three years.

I believe that teachers, and method book creators, often do not think enough about this important question: How should students think about reading notation?

In my opinion, many method books do not provide a systematic or thorough enough approach to reading. Too often, a method book will have a page or two of the interval of a 2nd, introduce some letter names on the staff, have a page of 3rds, a few more letter names, and then put …


By Dr. Julie Knerr

When Katherine and I began writing Piano Safari, one of our goals was to provide a successful approach for teaching children to read music notation.

Sight reading has always been one of my strengths, so throughout college and graduate school I was dismayed to be surrounded by truly fantastic pianists who were very poor sight readers. How could this happen? How could I prevent this problem from happening to my students?

Over the years, we have come to see that teaching students to read music notation requires:

Understanding what concepts are necessary to be a good reader
Providing systematic instruction in reading
Believing strongly in our chosen reading approach and teaching it wholeheartedly
Providing large amounts of reinforcement for each reading concept over a period of several years

In this series of blog posts, I would …


by Dr. Julie Knerr

Katherine and I are constantly amazed at how closely the tie is between technical patterns and composition. Children truly use the patterns they have in their hands in their compositions.

In Piano Safari Level 1, the patterns they use are found in their Rote Pieces and Animal Techniques.

In Piano Safari Level 2, the patterns they use are found in their Rote Pieces, pentascales, and triads.

In Piano Safari Level 3, we have seen that learning scales, chord progressions, chord inversions, and accompaniment patterns causes an explosion in composition, as students master these basic musical building blocks.

Last week one of my 9-year-old students came in and told me about the new piece she created, called Tiger Rising. I knew right away to expect the patterns she used to connect somehow with the pieces …


By Christopher Fisher

So you are probably thinking, “What does bubble wrap have to do with piano teaching?” I was recently working with my thirteen-year-old pre-college student Kristina to refine the voicing and tonal control of the chordal passages in the Rachmaninoff Etude-Tableaux in G Minor, Op. 33, No. 8, and happened to glance across my studio to notice a sheet of bubble wrap. It was the proverbial light-bulb moment! I grabbed the sheet and placed it on the closed keyboard cover. I asked Kristina to place her fifth finger on one of the bubbles with the other fingers of the chord gently resting on the surface of the bubbles. Then I asked her to sink the weight of her arm deep into her fifth finger until the bubble popped, followed …