1. Why was My First Piano Adventure written?

This adventurous series is a piano course for 5 to 6-year-olds created to mirror the child’s world. Discovery at the piano is filled with songs about friends, animals, and places for an imaginative learning environment. A variety of musical styles awaits.

Importantly, the curriculum is developmentally fitting with both “comfort and challenge” for the young beginner. “My First” explores music through what children do best—playsing, and move!

Enjoy this short, animated video that tours My First Piano Adventure.

2. What is the purpose of the 5 “friends at the piano?”

The 5 “friends at the piano” are multi-ethnic characters who are also learning to play the piano with their teacher, Mrs. Razzle-Dazzle. The “friends” introduce new concepts, songs, and rhythm patterns. They lead with first steps to analyze musical form and compose.

One of the hallmarks of the series is the artwork. Teachers can comment on the art to begin a “musical conversation.” This draws the student into the page for a more personalized experience.

The friends at the piano are curious and invite adventurous learning!

3. Why two books: Lesson Book and Writing Book?

The Lesson Book A presents basic music concepts with fun songs. The notes are big—sized for young eyes to easily track across the page. A child’s eyes are not fully developed until about age 8. Teachers may notice that young students sometimes skip over a note, or play too few or too many repeated notes. This refers to “eye-tracking”—the visual control to move evenly from note to note. Good eye-tracking is a first skill in learning to read music.

The Writing Book A has “pencil activities” that correlate with the Lesson Book. The book connects sight and sound to develop the child’s musical mind. Two little animals help learning:

  • Blinker the owl helps children see rhythm and melody patterns.
  • Tucker the dog helps children hear rhythm and melody patterns.

Two books are offered for well-balanced learning—the Lesson Book and the Writing Book. And on a practical note, each book is not too thick. Children can carry them more easily, and the binding stays intact.

4. What is the pre-reading approach?

The language of music involves a complex system of symbols, physical requirements, and integration of eyes (visual) and ears (aural). This makes learning to play the piano possibly the most difficult activity young students encounter.

It’s best if the process of reading music unfolds in a natural manner. Just as in riding a bike, training wheels provide safety while the child explores balance and pedaling.

Similarly, pre-reading music provides the safety to see the notes moving up and down, unfettered by busy lines and spaces of the grand staff. In pre-reading notation, the letter names are placed inside the notes. These reinforce key names and make learning first songs easy and fun.

From the start, a steady pulse, counting the notes, and fingerwork can be emphasized. In essence, pre-reading matches the learning curve of almost all young beginners.

For more about pre-reading, see the article below.

Primer Teacher Manual

The Pre-Reading Process (pp. 10-11)

5. How important is the CD/Audio that features children singing the songs? How can it be used at the lesson?

The CD/Audio for the “A Books” is essential in 2 ways.

  • The recordings feature children singing the songs. Their voices invite young students to also sing. Singing is a key activity to develop the student’s “ear.”
  • The Book A orchestrations present tempo, character, and colorful harmonies. These also expand the child’s aural world.

Here are a few ways to use the Book A CD/Audio:

  1. Encourage the parents to play the CD/Audio at home or in the car during the week. Students need not be limited to pieces for that lesson but may freely listen to the whole CD. Listening brings these positive musical outcomes:
  • It increases excitement and confidence to learn the songs.
  • It increases the child’s ability to memorize and sing the words.
  • It builds an aural model to decipher the notes on the page. Ear and eye work together!
  1. The teacher plays the orchestration for a song at the lesson.
  • As the student watches the music, the teacher points to the notes in rhythm with a pencil.
  • Repeat letting the student point to the notes with the teacher’s pencil.
  1. Create movement activities to introduce or review a piece. Here are a few ideas:

Teacher’s First Lesson Plan for Book A

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (shaping the melody, pp. 20-21)

Watch a Teaching Video: 

Tiger, Tiger (mighty tiger body motions, p. 15)

Watch a Teaching Video:

6. Since most 5-year-olds are still learning how to write, how is this handled in the Writing Book?

The Writing Book A takes into account that the young beginner is just gaining facility with writing. The activities involve easy-to-do circling of answers, drawing lines to connect, and coloring of keys, etc. Some writing of letters (A B C D E F G) is also included with ample room for writing.

7. Is there technique in the “A Books”?

Yes, technique is embedded in the “A Books.” For the young child, imaginative technique activities guide development of the small hand. It’s been said that a child will never “grow” a pianistic hand. Technique from the start sets the stage for future artistry.

Here are a few sample of technique activities:

Lesson Book A

Mitsy’s Cat Back (p. 25)

With a jazzy song, this activity promotes a forward wrist motion that drives the “bridge” over the fingers. This wrist motion will eventually be used to make graceful “rainbow” lifts across the keys.

Watch a video:

Lesson Book A

If You’re Happy and You Know It (pp. 74-75)

This activity helps students find the keys while keeping the “groove” of a fun song. Students play the keys in octaves using finger 3’s braced with the thumb.

Watch a video:

The overall progression of technique in the book models the alignment of finger, wrist, and arm.

8. Should a parent/caregiver attend the lessons? Should a parent practice with the child?

For the “A Books,” most teachers welcome the parent/caregiver at the lesson. The parent gives a sense of security and fun participation. Some parents choose to video parts of the lesson as a practice aid.

Other parents participate for the first month and taper off when the child understands “how lessons work” and feels comfortable with the teacher.

Still other students focus and listen better without the parent present. The teacher and parent can best determine how to proceed. Overall, having the parent present for first lessons brings:

  • a sense of security and well-being for the child.
  • a closeness between parent and child through the joy of music.
  • a chance for the parent to learn music through the child’s eyes.
  • an understanding of the assignment to help the child practice well.

9. How long should a student in the “A Books” practice?

The old saying, “30 minutes of piano practice a day” may be good for higher levels. But it does not completely apply to the Book A student.

Most Book A students may practice for about 15 minutes a day. Sometimes more. These 15 minutes can even break up into three 5-minute segments. The goal is for practice to be fun— improvement and confidence building each day!

A general rule of thumb is to assign the same number of pieces as the student’s age. If the student is five, assign 5 pieces. One or two pieces may be for review. One may be to play by memory! Introduce the idea of what practice means. Practice is repeating the song several times—maybe 3 to 5 times—with the goal that it sounds better and better and gets easier and easier!

We might tell students to ask themselves after they complete their practice: “Were my pieces easier today?” That’s a confidence booster.

The Little Yellow Practice Book is excellent for assignments. A keyboard allows students to color in each day of practice.

Here is a sample practice page for the first lesson:

MFPA First Lesson Plan for the A Books (p. 18)

10. How many songs should a teacher assign to a Book A student?

In general, as noted above, teachers may consider assigning the same number of pieces as the student’s age. If the student is five, assign 5 pieces. One or two pieces may be for review. One may be to play by memory! If the student can do more, by all means expand the list.

Another really good assignment, instead of assigning more pieces, is to keep listening to the CD/audio. A wealth of musical advantages takes place:

  • hearing actual children’s voices as a model for singing.
  • hearing different instruments in the orchestrations.
  • forming awareness of aural patterns—melodic and rhythmic.
  • reading the notes faster as a result of the aural foundation.

The Little Yellow Practice Book is a helpful “progress tracker.”

The Little Yellow Practice Book (p. 2)

11. Is it possible to teach online lessons with a Book A student?

Yes, it is possible to teach a Book A student in an online lesson, such as Zoom. It can, however, present some challenges due to the young age.

Five things will make online teaching easier:

  1. The teacher should subscribe to the Teacher Atlas so screen sharing is easy and quick.
  2. It may be helpful for the teacher, parent, and student to consider 15-minute lessons twice a week. This can be more successful than a 30-minute lesson where the length of screen focus may be taxing for the child.
  3. Ideally, the parent would participate in the online lessons to help direct the student, find pages quickly, etc. And ideally, the parent will help the child practice, at least for the first several days of the new practice week.
  4. The teacher may use a question-and-answer format of “discover the song together” through screen sharing before playing the piece.

Let’s apply this to a first activity, “Sounds at the Piano.” These are sample ideas. Teachers can create original questions and responses.

Lesson Book A

Sounds at the Piano (pp. 8-9)

  1. (Screen Share On, p. 8)
    This page is called “Sounds at the Piano.”
    Let’s go exploring!
  2. Look at the top keyboard on the page.
    Is the gold star on a white key or a black key?
    “Yes, a white key!”
  3. (Screen Share Off, Piano View)
    Will you play some white keys al-l-l-l over the piano for me?
    “Great job. Let’s go back to the book.”
  4. (Screen Share On, p. 8)
    Now look at the lower keyboard.
    Is the gold star on a white key or a black key?
    “Yes, a black key.”
  5. (Screen Share Off, Piano View)
    Will you play some black keys al-l-l-l over the piano for me?
    “Great job. Back to the book!”
  6. (Screen Share On, p. 8)
    Look at the picture on the right.
    Do you remember the piano teacher’s name?
    “That’s right. Mrs. Razzle-Dazzle.”
  7. There’s someone else in the picture.
    Who’s on top of the piano?
    “Right, little ole’ Tap!”
  8. There’s a word written on the piano in orange.
    Do you see it? The word spells FALLBOARD.
    Will you say that word?
    How about if your Mom says that word?
    “Very good. Back to the piano!”
  9. (Screen Share Off, Piano View)
    Look. I’m knocking the fallboard.
    Will you knock the fallboard with a loose fist?
    How about your Mom?
    I’m going to knock a message to you.
    You can knock anything back!
    Now how about if YOU knock a message to your Mom and your Mom can knock back.
    “Excellent knocking. Let’s go to the next page.”
  10. (Screen Share On, p. 9)
    At the top of the page I see some chicks.
    How many chicks are there?
    “Yes, 3 little chicks.”
    I’m going to make some soft peeping sounds.
    (peep, peep, peep)
    Can you and your Mom make some soft peeps, too?
    “We were like 3 little chicks! Let’s go to the piano.”
  11. (Screen Share Off, Piano View)
    Listen to my soft sounds all over the keyboard.
    Your turn! I’d love to hear your soft sounds!
    Can your Mom play some very soft notes?
    Continue with this question-and-answer format, screen-sharing from the book to the piano.

12. Is there a Teacher Manual for Book A?

At this time there is no Teacher Manual for Book A. However, there is a free, downloadable Book A First Lesson Plan for an in-depth description of how a first lesson might be taught. Videos are also available.

Teacher's Step-by-Step FIRST LESSON PLAN for the A Books

13. How is the “spirit of play” integrated into the “A Books”?

My First Piano Adventure takes the young student into a musical “playground.” We use the acronym “spirit” to convey 6 key concepts for child-centered learning at the piano.

Discover more about the pedagogy of the “spirit of play”.

14. What are support items for My First Piano Adventures?

Teachers can enjoy these support items for lively learning at lessons.

Printable Friends Posters are a free download to decorate your studio. The 10 posters present the five friends: Carlos, Dallas, Katie, Millie, Marta, and their teacher, Mrs. Razzle-Dazzle. The set also includes Tap (the music firefly), Blinker the owl (seeing), and Tucker the dog (listening).

“My First” Flashcard Sheets, for private and group lessons, have the goal to “read with ease.” The 10 laminated sheets cover Books A, B, and C, and correlate by unit to each Lesson Book. Each sheet shows a colorful 16-box grid with notes, symbols, and terms. Answers are printed on the back. Directions for a variety of fun games are included. (See below.)

Celebrate progress with the My First Piano Adventure Sticker Book containing over 400 “stickers that teach.” Each sticker has a question that offers a quick, mini review of rhythm, reading, terms, or technique. Also included are dozens of award stickers specially designed for the final certificate page in Lesson Books A, B, and C. As students complete each piece, they can build their own certificate, sticker by sticker, celebrating each step of their musical journey.

Friends Posters

Flashcard Sheets Cover

Flashcard Sheet 1

My First Piano Adventure Sticker Book

Sample Book A Certificate

15. How long should it take a student to complete the “A Books”?

That is a good and open question. So much depends on the student, the teacher, and the length of the lesson. If a rough estimate were to be given, perhaps anywhere from 20-24 weeks. But this is just an estimate. Some students might finish sooner, some students may need the additional weeks for a more relaxed pace.

What is truly learned and enjoyed is the most important thing. Sometimes a little extra time in teacher-student communication, or the teacher’s own creative activity is just what is needed for a fun piano adventure!

16. Is there a Christmas Book for the A Level?

Yes, My First Christmas Book A is available! There are 8 pre-reading songs featuring colorful illustrations with the “friends.” A Christmas Music Calendar at the end of the book celebrates the season with music terms.

Christmas Book A

O Christmas Tree (p. 7)

Music Calendar (p. 20)

17. Can the “A Books” be taught in a group setting? Is an assistant needed?

Group piano lessons for Book A students is a great option. Four students is rather ideal but a larger class is possible, especially if an assistant is onboard. Some teachers might consider a Level 4 student to be an assistant!

  • The CD/Audio is a valuable resource. Sitting in the Music Circle together, students can listen, tap, and follow the teacher’s motions. Fun, focused, and “community-centered.”
  • A Writing Table is useful for working with pencil activities. (Giving each child the same color of crayon saves time.)
  • At the end of each class, consider “Born to Perform” time. Each child plays a piece while the other students sit cross-legged on the floor being good listeners. At the end, a bow with claps from classmates begins forming stage etiquette and performing ease.

18. Could students in the “A Books” learn on an electric keyboard?

Yes, a student could learn on an electric keyboard. A full digital keyboard (88 keys) is preferable as Book A explores the range of the keys. However, if a student has a shorter keyboard at home, accommodations can be made with good results.

If the teacher has an acoustic piano in addition to a digital piano, this is helpful for lessons. Exploring the range, hearing duets with a rich damper pedal effect, and the “feel” of the acoustic keys are all assets for the young beginner to experience.

19. What is the role of creativity in the “A Books”?

The entire My First Piano Adventures course has a creative flavor to it.  Children travel imaginatively with the five friends who are also learning to play. Keyboard discovery is guided by Tap—the music firefly, Tucker—the dog who loves to listen (ear-training),  and Blinker— the owl who loves to look (sightreading),

The Writing Book contains the improvising and composing activities. They all involve making musical choices, a key ingredient to create. Here are sample activities.

Book A Writing Book:

Students create sounds to tell the musical stories.

A Bike Ride Story (Creating with Lower Sounds, p. 10)

A Jump Rope Story (Creating with Higher Sounds, p. 11)

Students create a melody about a lost kitten.

Rescue the Kitty (Composing Activity, pp. 28-29)

The student and teacher improvise sounds for each illustration: forte and piano, high and low, short and long.

Bass or Treble Sounds (creating sound for pictures, pp. 36-37)

Primer Teacher Manual

Creative Seeds (pp. 54-55)

20. Could a student in the “A Books” play in a recital?

Yes, a student can most certainly play in a recital! Performing a song with the teacher duet can be ideal, offering support through a fun ensemble experience. Playing 2-3 favorite songs is also good so the time of sharing is not too brief. Some students enjoy playing with the orchestration at a recital.

Small recitals are recommended— a total of perhaps 10 students. The young beginner can enjoy other performances without becoming fatigued while waiting.

Consider giving students a “listening assignment.” Students can choose their favorite piece performed that they would like to learn. In this way the recital is not just about the student’s own performance, but also about listening to the music of others. And looking forward to the path ahead!