When piano teachers begin working with students, they usually choose a method series to use to help teach concepts in a certain order. My two favorites are Piano Safari and Celebrate Piano! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the name). Piano Safari has been my first choice for a few years, but I recently started a kindergarten student in Celebrate Piano! instead so that she and her brother could use different methods. I was blown away by how well it works for younger beginners (Pre-K and K).
This review will probably make more sense if you read my Piano Safari post first. This post will compare and contrast with that one a lot.
Here are my favorite parts:
This was a big hole in Piano Safari. Not only does Celebrate Piano! teach by interval first (just like Piano Safari), they also include animal songs for each interval. In each unit, the student sings through the interval songs, like "The Middle C song", "Busy Bee" for seconds, etc. Each song emphasizes very clearly the interval associated with it. This way, the student learns to hear intervals before they even learn to play intervals. This is HUGE! (And I'll get to why later).
I'm not going to go into depth on this, but reading is taught using intervals, not just note names. This is something I always look for in method books, but it isn't always featured.
End of the Unit Ear Training:
Each unit ends with Clap Backs (patterns that the teacher claps, and the student repeats), and Play Backs (similar but with playing), and then Question and Answer. In the Question and Answer section, a short opening melody is written, and the student is instructed to write the "answer", or a conclusion to the melody. The Q&A is unique to this method as far as I know and allows teachers to talk about how to write melodies that sound pleasing and correct (because there is a science to it after all). There is also sometimes a pitch detective part where the student has to notate intervals based solely on hearing. My one student told me this was easy because she just sang her interval songs in her head. <--- And that is why I am so thrilled to have interval singing included!!
Lots of Work Pages:
Throughout the book there are lots of work pages for the students to practice note writing and theory concepts right in their lesson book. No theory book required. For young beginners, the constant repetition is very helpful, and they tend to enjoy the work pages. I'm not sure it would be that same with an older age group.
Playing in Many Keys:
Like Piano Safari, Celebrate Piano! has students all over the keyboard and playing in many 5 finger positions early on. In book 2a, after a little over one year of lessons, my student already plays using all 12 major 5 finger scales. The book also highly emphasizes transposition which is a skill that is best learned early in lessons, but is not always included.
At the beginning of each piece is a "practice plan" which outlines steps to take in order to learn the piece, or highlights stumbling points the student may have. For example, it might say 1. Clap the rhythm
2. Name the Landmarks
3. Find where your hands play together.
This is especially good to teach beginners HOW to practice music.
Things I don't like as much about this method are:
Now let's take a look at some of the things I am finding frustrating. (And note, there aren't very many!)
All the work pages:
I have a love/hate relationship with the work pages and the childish art. They work well for younger students, but not older students. If there was a slightly better balance, I might use this book for all beginners! I think that a mix of Celebrate Piano! and Piano Safari would be perfect for me as a teacher.
Teaching of Note Names:
Celebrate Piano! starts on the staff pretty quickly, but does not introduce clefs for some time. When the student does learn about the grand staff, they learn the usual landmarks (Treble C, Treble G, Middle C, Bass F, Bass C). For a while, that is all. By the time they reach 2a, they have yet to learn the rest of the names of the lines and spaces. To be fair, they encourage using landmarks to find close starting pitches. And my student can decipher them. She has learned the names of the keys on the piano, knows those landmarks, and knows her intervals. Between those three, she can figure out what the names are . But I am uncomfortable depending on just that for so long. I've been following the method to see how it all plays out, but I'm not sure I like this approach any better than Piano Safari's approach.
If you want to look inside Celebrate Piano!, here's their brochure about their method: Exploring Celebrate Piano!
Here's a final comparison note, and quick summary:
Piano Safari lacks in ear training, while Celebrate Piano! is too childish to use with all beginners, and lacks creative technique and rote learning.
I find both methods lacking in their introductions of note names on the staff.
However, they both address rhythm well, teach intervocalic reading, are not stuck in one hand position, emphasis transposition, and move at a slow pace for beginners. That is why I love them for beginners!