By Dr. Julie Knerr Hague

Hello! I wanted to share an idea for using the Sight Reading Cards that has had great success in my studio this semester. I noticed that many of my students have phones, and they LOVE THEIR PHONES!

So I decided to offer them the option to audio or video record their Sight Reading Cards at home and text them to me throughout the week. I listen to the text and either text back “Pass” (sometimes with confetti or a smiley face) or give them instructions on how to improve and ask them to text me again. I only do this with students who are competent to work on their Sight Reading Cards at home on their own or have a parent to help them, usually when they …


By Dr. Julie Knerr

At the beginning of the new school year, I realized that some of my students who are in Piano Safari Level 3 were a bit rusty after the summer with their technical patterns. Level 3 works through the keys of C, Am, G, Em, F, and Dm. But since students can spend a year or longer in Piano Safari Level 3, it is easy to forget the earlier keys as they progress through Technique Book 3 if they are not reviewed. I devised a beginning of the year technical review that worked really well for my students who are nearing the middle to end of Piano Safari Level 3 that I thought I would share with you.

It is simple, but something about gray blobs you fill with …


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 three …


  
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 …


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 …


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 Julie Knerr

Technique Book 3 delves into the world of scales, chord inversions, and chord progressions. Students learn these common pianistic patterns gradually in the keys of C Major, A Minor, G Major, E Minor, F Major, and D Minor. As they are learning these patterns, they are exploring pieces in their Repertoire Book 3 in the same keys, and practicing using these keys in their Sight Reading Cards as well.

Our motto in Technique Book 3 is “Mastery through repetition.” Students become fluent and increase their tempo in scales by building up gradually through repetition. By the end of the book, they should have mastered these basic building blocks of music, so it is time to celebrate by playing the Technique Extravaganza.

 

The Technique Extravaganza is a student – teacher duet at …


By Katherine Fisher

This past fall when Julie and I were writing Technique Book 3, we decided to include Hanon Exercise No. 1. This was not a decision we made lightly. After all, there have been many impassioned posts on Facebook recently from teachers about either the benefits or drawbacks of students studying Hanon. It seems his exercises have become somewhat controversial in online discussions! With this said, we feel that the benefits far outweigh any negatives, so in this blog post I hope to explain our rationale about how Hanon may be used to enhance the technical development of early intermediate students.

First, we encourage students to play Hanon with multiple rhythmic and articulation variations. This prevents the dry and lifeless repetitions that so many teachers and students object to. We …