I start the series of posts about the piano methods for children with my favorite one, Piano Safari. It´s a three volume method but I only have the first two. They have recently published the third volume but I haven’t bought it for now. I plan to buy it very soon.So in this post I’m going to talk about the first two volumes and I´ll talk about the third one as soon as I manage to get the book. This piano method is created by the American pianists, teachers and composers Julie Knerr and Katherine Fisher.
What is Piano Safari?
Piano Safari is a beginner piano method for young students. I started to work with this method a few months ago and in this short period of time it has become my favorite. The pieces are original, fresh and the students love them. The method is very well sequenced, it combines pieces to be learned by rote with another ones to be learned by reading the notes. The way the different piano techniques are described in the book and the way the method works with an intervallic approach to read music is amazing too. Basically the book contains Rote Pieces, Reading Pieces, Technical exercises and some improvisation exercises. Before I start to explain the method more in detail, I will show you two videos so you can see some sample works of the books.
In this method rote pieces are presented in conjuction with reading pieces. These reading pieces follow a comprehensive intervallic reading approach. The approach is based on establishing landmark notes. This way the students don’t find difficult to know the first note of the piece and then they can read the rest of the piece by interval. This starting note is not played always with the same finger so the students don’t associate a finger number with a note. In the first volume reading pieces are based on intervals of 2nd or 3rd, or both combined. The second volume includes pieces with 4ths and 5ths too. This way the students achieve confident in reading skills very quickly. Many of these reading pieces have teacher accompaniements, which are very interesting also.
A lot of piano methods are based on teaching the students to read and they only can play what they are capable to read. But this combination of reading and rote pieces is the most interesting thing of Piano Safari. With rote pieces, students can devolop their ears, technique, and memory in a more natural way and they can play more musically as if they are simply reading the notes. Rote pieces are written to be played with the entire keyboard and has a great variety of dynamics, articulations, and the usage of the pedal in some of them.
In this method the authors associated the basics motions and articulations that have to master young pianists with animals. This way students assimilate the movements very easily and with great enthusiasm. As an example the arm weight is called the lion paw technique and the non-legato articulation with an arm bounce on each note is the tall giraffe motion. There are seven different animal techniques. Here is a video as an example of the non-legato touch (tall giraffe technique).
What else can you find in Piano Safari?
You can buy the repertoire book but I recommend to buy the complete pack. The pack contains the Repertoire Book (with the pieces and techniques I mentioned before), a CD with the records of all the rote pieces and the Sight Reading Cards that are really useful to improve the reading skills. The Level 2 and Level 3 also contain a Technique book.
The Piano Safari website is also amazing and complements the method with all kind of resources. You can find instructional videos for all the rote pieces, teacher guides where the authors show how to use the method and how to teach the pieces properly. Even you are not interested in the method there are a lot of resources for teachers that are very useful. There are 22 mini essays about a lot of aspects related to teaching piano. You can read the very interesting “Dissertation” by Julie Knerr about teaching piano techniques to beginners. Also she has a really amazing article called the “152 Strategies for Effective and Efficient Teaching”. I have learned a lot with all these resources and with their blog included in their website, with video samples of their work with students and posts about interesting topics.
If you don’t know Piano Safari yet you are missing out on an amazing work.