Review of The Piano Bench Mag

Karen Gibson, publisher of The Piano Bench Mag, has established an “on the go” music magazine for teachers! Whether waiting for an appointment or just sitting at home, you’ll find a plethora of different ideas in her monthly publication.

The magazine has a specific topic for each month. December focused on Practice, January was Games, February takes a look at Students, and the most recent focuses on Technique. I really like how Gibson includes a variety of articles, as well as resources and helpful tidbit pages. I am much more inclined to look through an entire magazine if I can acquire information apart from just reading articles. Each monthly issue seems to be pretty substantial, too, so you’re pretty well guaranteed a good amount of information and ideas!

If you’d like to purchase an issue or subscribe to The Piano Bench Mag – providing resources and inspiration for piano teachers, it’s available for mobile devices through Apple Newsstand and Google Play (for Android). You can also find The Piano Bench Mag on Facebook.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-piano-bench-mag/id712098279?ls=1&mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bdhjefeedd.gfcbdhjefeedd

https://www.facebook.com/PianoBenchMag

To try it out, I downloaded it to my iPhone Newsstand (which I have never used before) and I could navigate it pretty well, but from what I could tell, the formatting for the iPad version looked nicer.

If you want a free 3 month subscription, be one of the first three to comment “subscribe me” and the free subscription will be yours!

Piano Safari: The Journey Begins…

I remember sitting at a restaurant in Austin, TX with a group of fellow MTNA conference attendees in 2006. Julie Knerr and Katie Fisher were among the group, and I sat with rapt attention as they flipped through pages of hand-drawn illustrations and notes while explaining the concept behind the new piano method they were creating. Little did I know that my own journey over the next six years would so perfectly prepare me for the official launch of Piano Safari!

I nearly leaped for joy when I read these two sentences in the Teacher’s Guide for Piano Safari: “In my use of various piano method series, I have come to believe that the main goal of most piano method series is not necessarily to teach children to play the piano. Instead, the goal of many method books is to teach children to read music notation at the piano.”

Ever since my epiphany at the conclusion of the Pattern Play Intensive and my subsequent experience at the Creative Life conference, I’ve been striving to teach in a way that reflects my desire to move away from a strictly literature-based approach to teaching, and adopt more of an experiential playing-based model of learning. In a sense, for the first 15 years of my teaching, I taught as though learning was the path to playing. But after experiencing a paradigm shift, I would now posit that the reverse is true: playing is the path to learning.

Piano Safari is the only method I know of that is based on this experiential and playing-based philosophy. Instead of reading music notation being the core, students are taught to develop beautiful technique, a sense of musicality, freedom to explore, discover, and create, an internal rhythmic pulse, and proficient sight-reading through a rich musical selection of rote pieces, improvisation experiences, guided compositions, and excellently sequenced reading skills.

The books are beautifully designed, with creative piece titles, memorable lyrics, and engaging music that is fun to play. I love that my students are learning eighth note rhythms right off the bat and getting to play music that sounds really cool. Learning by rote gives them freedom to focus on technique and explore lots of creative variations. They also learn to memorize quickly, and by the time they get to the end of the book, they have dozens of songs they can play by memory.

Piano Safari has revolutionized the way I teach and given me a framework to work within to provide a comprehensive and musically rich learning experience for beginning piano students. I am so grateful to Julie and Katie for creating this amazing method and providing myriad articles, videos, and other resources to help teachers successfully guide students onto a lifelong path as musicians. My students and I are loving the journey!

Fun Times in the Studio!

The New Year is off to a great start, and we’re having fun playing a variety of quick 5-minute games in the studio! Here are a couple of recent pictures:

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Ellie has a blast playing this simple note direction game by moving her magnetic “note” up or down depending on what she rolls on the up and down die. As she moves, she says “up a step to D”, “down a step to C”, etc. Once setting a designated “finish line”, she and I take turns rolling and moving our notes to see who can get there first!

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After learning about the difference between Major and minor chords, Kaily draws a scale block to determine the chord root, then rolls the Major-minor die to see what type of chord she is supposed to build and play on the piano keys.

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Shaylah is one of several students who loved playing this musical memory game where each player takes a turn flipping two cards to try to form matches between specified keys in a pictured piano keyboard and notes on a staff. This is a perfect game for siblings or back-to-back students to play together as well!

There are lots more game ideas in our studio favorite 5 For Fun! book! My students love flipping through it and selecting their own game when they’ve earned that privilege in this year’s practice incentive!

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A Piano Teacher’s First Lesson Plan

Even though I’ve switched over to primarily using Piano Safari as my beginning method for new piano students, it’s still really helpful to gather other ideas and perspectives for introducing new students to piano lessons. The Fabers have put together a step-by-step First Lesson Plan for their My First Piano Adventures series. I really appreciate their emphasis on making piano lessons a multi-sensory, interactive, and enriching musical experience. It reminds me of this quote I recently came across from the renowned educator, Zoltan Kodaly:

“Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime.”

What an incredible thought to keep in mind as we introduce young children to the exciting world of music!

Easy Ear Training Music Teachers Program

The creative folks over at EasyEarTraining.com have recently launched a Music Teachers Program to provide “special discounts and exclusive offers” on their ear training apps, albums, and ebooks. I always love seeing what they come up with next, and appreciate their devotion to helping all musicians develop a more musical ear in innovative and practical ways!

How Students Can Get the Most Out of Piano Lessons

The last e-newsletter from The Musician’s Way directing me back to this wonderful post by Gerald Klickstein on “Making the Most of Music Lessons.” Gerald asks, “What’s the central issue in lessons?” He then goes on to state, “Learning. What, then, is the primary role of students? To be adept learners. (Teachers facilitate learning.) So let’s look at what it means to be good at learning.”

Many of you know that I take off the month of August to travel and spend time planning and brainstorming our practice incentive theme for the next year. This article is very helpful as I consider my role as a teacher and how I can effectively equip my students to be good learners. I am starting a lot of new students this year, so I am excited about the prospect of training them to learn well and progress into excellent young pianists!