By Dr. Julie Knerr

This week in my studio is the last week of lessons (aside from some snow makeups) and the week before the recital (which is this Saturday). What to do during this last lesson? Have a piano zip line!

It’s easy to do. It took me about 10 minutes to set up. I strung yarn around my dining room and clothes pinned directions to the yarn. The children follow the yarn with their finger and do what each sign says.

Here is what my dining room looks like now. Haha. I don’t think I’ll be eating dinner in here this week. It is adjacent to the living room (to the right), which is adjacent to my piano room.

After the first sign said they had to play their recital pieces … Read More

By Dr. Julie Knerr

We have released new editions of the books in Levels 1 and 2, and we have updated the Piece Cards for Level 1 and Level 2 to match the new artwork in the books.

What are Piece Cards?

They are a motivational supplement for Piano Safari Levels 1 and 2 that have the name for each piece on a card.

Piece Cards are available for purchase, and you may affix them to the free downloadable Unit Maps. The Unit Maps are also available on the Teacher Guide Pages.

The new version of Piece Cards are in black and white to allow students to color the cards as they are assigned and to highlight Elisa Lara Campos’ beautiful artwork.

Because art is important to life (as is music), and children love to … Read More

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 … Read More

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!

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!!

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 … Read More

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 … Read More

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, … Read More