Why I love Piano Safari for beginners

I've been using the Piano Safari method for beginning students for three years now. I don't have a very busy studio, so that doesn't add up to a lot of students, but I still love it all the same. Here's what I like:

Rote Pieces: 

The Rote pieces worked into the method allow students to play harder music before they can read it. It encourages good listening and observation, good musicianship, and lots of movement. I don't worry about my students thinking they will always play in C positions. These pieces also get both hands involved right away!

No Hand Positions:

All the songs in the first book start on landmark notes. However, that doesn't mean they stay stuck in C position. The students play all around those notes, learning to identify and remember them first, and finding everything else by interval. They also move by octave relatively quickly. I've found that for beginners, all octaves are the same to them, so it is easy to move around the keyboard.

Intervals! 

There is a strong emphasis on learning to read by interval (the distance between two notes), instead of just by note name. This is HUGE because this is how they will continue to need to read for life. I don't name notes in my head as I play, but I automatically connect note names and lines and spaces together, paying more attention to how far away things are than what the actual note name is. 

8th Notes:

Some methods wait to introduce 8th notes for way too long. Piano Safari introduces them right away, allowing students to play more complex rhythms right from the beginning. They count using modified Kolday syllables, which are very similar to what most students are taught in school. This allows students to be able to understand and play rhythms without adding more numbers (numeric counting) into the mix.

Technique Book:

There is a technique book that accompanies the repertoire book. This book teaches how to approach the playing piano, using fun animal movements to help memory. I have my students do these exercises over and over each week so that they become comfortable holding their hands the right way, and learn how to make different kinds of sound with different kinds of motions. This is NOT something that is included in all beginner books!

Sight Reading Cards:

There are also sight reading cards that correlate with each unit in the book. These are a way for students to work on being able to play melodies and rhythms accurately the first time.  Sight reading is a skill  that is difficult to teach, but hugely necessary as a pianist down the road. These sight reading cards will set your student on the right path from the very beginning. 

Playing in Lots of  Keys:

Once you get into the second Piano Safari book, students are introduced to many different keys, both major and minor, and do technique work in all of them. This is an excellent way to teach them 5-finger scales, and to have students become comfortable playing in almost any key.  

I could go on, but those are the highlights for me as a teacher. 

The only cons I have found so far are these:

The Skips Alphabet

The only thing I have found that regularly confuses students is the skips alphabet. In Piano Safari book 2, the note names for the whole staff is introduced as the skips alphabet (GBDFACE...) repeating all the way up the staff. This makes sense to me, as a seasoned musician, but I find my students have a hard time handling that many note names at once.  I teach it using the method that authors outline in their blog, but my students always have a hard time with it. In more than one instance, my students revert to the more common mnemonics (FACE, All Cows, Eat, Grass, etc) without me ever teaching them those mnemonics. I'm not sure who introduces them to alternate methods, but they all seem to prefer them. In the end, it doesn't really matter how they are taught all the names of lines and spaces, as long as they eventually learn them. 

No Ear Training

The amount of ear training in most beginner books is dismal. It is thrown in as part of the theory book, but not really enough to do anyone much good. Piano Safari does not have any included in their method, though a teacher could easily add it on their own. The best book I have found for including ear training (and singing intervals) so  far is Celebrate Piano!, which is my second favorite overall beginner method (but my favorite for Pre K and Kindergarten beginners) .