Guide to My First Piano Adventures, Book A
The Piano Adventures and My First Piano Adventures series are written by Faber and Faber. The opinions in this guide are my own and are not necessarily the opinions of the Fabers. -Katy Allen
Welcome to Early Etudes! I hope you are excited to watch your child begin to love music! What follows is a comprehensive guide to My First Piano Adventures, Book A, by Faber and Faber, as well as insight into the way we teach at Early Etudes. This curriculum and our teaching methods are tailored to young students. Sometimes that makes it a little difficult for adults to follow along. So this “book report” is for just for you!
We hope that this will equip you to be as informed and involved in your child’s learning process as you wish. Each week, your child’s teacher will let you know which pages were covered in class. With this tool to reference, you can always know what concepts, skills, and techniques your child is learning.
Thank you for the opportunity to teach your child!
During the first level of My First Piano Adventures, your child will be introduced to basic piano technique, three note values, the musical alphabet, and a partial C Major Scale. Simultaneously, your child will be developing the problem solving skills to interpret symbols as visual instructions and build the endurance required to play a song from beginning to end.
A few tips:
Page 6: The “I’m Great” Pose
Your child learns how to sit at the piano during “The ‘I’m Great’ Pose.” If she has difficulty sitting on a bench without support, you could find it helpful to have a footstool at the piano. This will help her with balance and prevent leaning on the piano. It will take some practice to learn how to keep her wrists and hands up over the piano, but that is our goal.
Page 8: Sounds on the Piano
In this activity, we explore different sounds at the piano, including white keys and black keys, soft and loud, and long and short. It may be a little noisy, but you can try this with your child at home, too.
Page 10: Will You Play?
During “Will You Play?” she will improvise while following the directions in the lyrics of the song. We want to create the expectation that piano lessons are times for her to explore creativity while following directions and working with the teacher.
Page 12: Stone on the Mountain
“Stone on the Mountain” teaches how to play with a round hand shape. As your child engages in this activity, we look to make sure that she can rotate her wrists and hold the round hand shape while playing the piano.
Page 14: The Name Game
Your child’s first new song is “The Name Game.” Finding two and three black keys, we play the keys going up and then going back down the pentascale, and then we shout our names.
Page 15: Tiger, Tiger
During “Tiger, Tiger,” our student chants while playing on the lowest notes of the piano. During this song, I look to see if she can play with hands alternating and then with hands together.
Page 4: Be the Teacher
We reinforce the lesson on posture at the piano by identifying pictures of correct posture.
Page 6: Secret Message
I tap or sing a rhythm and my student imitates it in “Secret Message.”
Page 7: Soft or Loud? Short or Long?
Each student differentiates between contrasting sounds during “Soft or Loud? Short or Long?” Typically, soft and loud are simple to differentiate, but short and long pose a more significant challenge. I ask the students if my hand “stays” or “pops” to help them see and hear the difference.
Page 16: Left Hand and Right Hand
Your child learns that every finger can play the piano and has a finger number. Watch out for thumb! Many times, children represent the number one with a pointer finger, but in piano, the pointer finger is number two. We reinforce by repeating, “Thumb is always number one!”
Page 17: Cookie Dough
Playing each finger, he practices playing with a firm fingertip pretending to push chocolate chips into cookie dough.
Page 18-19: Dallas Dips L.H. Donuts; Dallas Dips R.H. Donuts
During “Dallas Dips LH and RH Donuts,” your child practices using a round hand shape (donut) while learning about high notes versus low notes. “Up” or “high” is right and “down” or “low” is left. We focus on playing each and every note, without skipping. This really helps develop hand-eye coordination.
Page 20: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
We work on “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to help him learn how to play repeated notes and understand one-to-one correlation. We count the number of stars for each color and play the correct number of each note.
Page 8: Your Left Hand Picture; Your Right Hand Picture
Your child traces each hand to reinforce the concept of finger numbers.
Page 10-11: A Bike Ride Story; A Jump Rope Story
During two stories, he improvises to illustrate characters moving up, down, and staying in one place. Don’t forget that up is right and down is left!
Page 12: What’s in the Honey Pot?
We read the finger number patterns in “What’s in the Honey Pot?” and our student plays the fingers as directed. This is an excellent activity to try at home. If you do not have a piano, you can just play the game at your kitchen table!
Page 22: Black-Key Groups
Your child learns to identify two and three black key groups. We counted how many of each there are on the piano. Playing groups of three is more difficult than groups of two, but a little practice will help.
Page 23: Monster Bus Driver
During “Monster Bus Driver” I play rhythmic patterns and she repeats the “honks” on two and three black key groups.
Page 24: Wrist, Forearm, Fingertips
During “Wrist, Forearm, Fingertips,” we learn the different parts of our arms and hands that may not be familiar, such as fingertips and knuckles.
Page 25: Mitsy’s Cat Back
She learns to play with a flexible wrist, like a Cat Back, and to play on fingertips, like a cat walking on tiptoes in “Mitsy’s Cat Back.”
Page 26-27: L.H. Rainbows; R.H. Rainbows
Next, your child learns to play “LH and RH Rainbows,” during which we practice making a “rainbow” arch as we play each group of two black keys. Preschoolers are not used to reading left to right, so this is an introduction to that concept. Meanwhile, reading left to right can confuse preschoolers about up and down. We break it down slowly by asking, “Which way are the rainbows moving?” and “Which way is up (or down) on the piano?”
Page 28-29: Kangaroo Show; Katie Scores!
She learns “Kangaroo Show” and “Katie Scores,” two songs that begin to add individual notes, which your child plays by reading the finger numbers.
Page 14: Pack Your Suitcase
In order to reinforce the concept of the black key groups, your child colors the keys groups in contrasting colors.
Page 16: Blinker Sees the Cat
During “Blinker Sees the Cat,” she identifies the hands showing a soft wrist, or a “Cat Back.”
Page 17: Kangaroo Boings
I play notes going up, down and staying the same for “Kangaroo Boings” and she differentiates by listening.
Page 30: Tigers at my Door
Your child learns about Forte, which is Italian for loud, and Piano, which means soft. We play a major scale by counting one to eight, starting on C or Do. We play the scale either piano and forte based on the suggested animals in the song. During this song, he pauses on the fifth note and repeats it before continuing up the scale.
Page 32-24: Wendy the Whale Page; Magic Tree House
Our new songs, “Wendy the Whale” and “Magic Tree House,” are based on the three black key groups. Like our previous songs, your child first looks to see which hand is playing and where to start in the colored box. He looks to see which direction, up or down, the song is moving. This song is a little more complex because it uses finger number 4, a finger with low dexterity.
Page 18: Mother, May I?
“Mother, May I?” reinforces the concept of piano and forte while also asking the student to follow directions.
Page 20: L.H. Twin Sounds; R.H. Twin Sounds
“LH and RH Twin Sounds” helps him begin to identify visual patterns and repetitions in music. First, your child finds the matching musical motifs. The motifs can also be played together as songs. This activity is wonderful for reinforcing finger numbers and developing motor skills. If you feel creative, you can make up your own lyrics for each little melody to make this more fun. Just assign one syllable for each note.
Page 36: Quarter Note = 1 beat
Today, your child learns to recognize a quarter note, which gets one beat. We have already played songs that correlate one number with playing one note. Now, we are simply replacing the number with the appropriate symbol. She draws two types of quarter notes, up-stems and down-stems. She practices playing right hand for up-stems and left hand for down-stems.
Page 37: Dancing Feet
We identify the up-stems and down-stems for a group of quarter notes. Then she counts the quarter notes and plays the correct number of notes.
Page 38: Cuckoo Clock
During “Cuckoo Clock,” your student practices reading quarter notes. This is our first song that uses both the right hand and the left hand. While reading our new song, we switch hands back and forth based on the stem direction. We also learn about the repeat sign. Two dots means repeat, but you can consider most repeat signs for now a suggestion.
Page 40: Dinosaur Music Night
“Dinosaur Music Night” continues upon previous concepts that we have been working on. She reads the finger numbers and differentiates between left hand and right hand. We also learn that notes without finger numbers are repeated notes. Feel free to write in the repeated numbers.
Page 42: Paw Prints
Your child learns to play the notes C, D, and E like a “paw print” based on two black keys. Look for the two black keys, then pull back to the white notes that surround them.
Page 43: Where Is the Wabbit?
During “Where Is the Wabbit,” she names the key shown and matches it with a corresponding key on the keyboard.
Page 44: Little Lost Kitty
We learn a new song, “Little Lost Kitty,” during which she plays on keys C, D, and E. This song still shows finger numbers to help the transition to note names.
Page 22: Buckle My Shoe
Your child draws up-stem and down-stem quarter notes to complete “Buckle My Shoe.” We sing the song and she taps the correct hand according to the quarter notes.
Page 24: Blinker at Night
We practice sight-reading by drawing arrows going up, down, and staying the same to represent the movement of the notes. This helps her to learn to read music from left to right, as well as direction.
Page 25: Tucker’s Pals
Your child listens to a melody that I play and chooses between two note patterns shown in the book to find the matching melody.
Page 26: Outer Space Friends
During “Outer Space Friends,” she matches the letters C, D, and E to their correct piano key.
Page 27: Tap Composes
We play a game during which she jumps on octaves of C, D, and E.
Page 28: Rescue the Kitty
“Rescue the Kitty” is the first opportunity for your child to formally compose. She writes in the letters C, D, and E to make a new song. After we choose the notes, she plays the new song.
Page 46: Half Note = 2 beats
Your student learns that half notes, which have empty circles with a stem, get two beats. In order to achieve this, we say “one” as we play the note and hold down the key while we say “two.” This is probably one of the most difficult concepts to tackle, so we spend quite a bit of time making sure that he can differentiate between quarter notes and half notes and play each with the correct timing.
Page 47: Band Practice!
We begin working on this concept during “Band Practice.” First, we differentiate between up-stems and down-stems. Then we differentiate between half notes and quarter notes by writing “1-2” for half notes and “1” for quarter notes. We try to tap the rhythms and then go to the piano to play them as well.
Page 48: Monsieur Mouse
“Monsieur Mouse” is our first song to incorporate half notes. Each time we play a half note, we make sure to say “one and two!” Eventually, your child may want to say “one” for every quarter note as well, but at first it may be hard and you may need to focus on the finger numbers or the note names. Eventually, the goal is to play without counting or just singing the words.
Page 49: Raccoon’s Lullaby
“Raccoon’s Lullaby” is my favorite song in this book because I feel that it is the first lyrical song that the children have an opportunity to play. It uses all of the concepts and techniques we have covered and integrates alternating hands. When your child learns it very well, we will play it as a duet. Many of the songs have duet parts. Playing duets is a great way to work on good rhythm and musicality.
Page 52-53: Bass Clef; Treble Clef
The Bass Clef, also known as the F Clef, symbolizes low notes below Middle C. The Treble Clef, also known as the G clef, symbolizes high notes above Middle C. We sing a song about the two clefs so that he can begin to associate these clefs with their appropriate musical range. We also consider the different people and animals shown and associate the sounds they make with either the Bass or the Treble Clef.
Page 54: Mary’s Rockin’ Pets
“Mary’s Rockin’ Pets” offers him another opportunity to cement a good understanding of the relationship between half notes and quarter notes. This is a familiar melody, “Mary had a Little Lamb.”
Page 30: Turkey Talk
Your child draws both quarter and half notes, then taps the beat to the song “Turkey Talk.” Drawing the notes side by side helps him understand that there are two quarter notes for every half note.
Page 32: Mouse Rhythms
“Mouse Rhythms” is one of my favorite activities and I hope that you will have the opportunity to try this activity along with the CD. Make long eeks for half notes and short eeks for quarter notes. This activity makes it easy to get the feeling of quarter and half notes. Students compose the last rhythm pattern and sing it with the song as well.
Page 34: Animal Riddles
During “Animal Riddles,” we play two simple melodies, trying to count and play slowly so that we would not need to stop.
Page 35: Red Cat, Blue Cat!
During “Red Cat, Blue Cat,” I play a rhythm containing both quarter notes and half notes. Your student chooses from two rhythms shown for the matching rhythmic pattern. When he has difficulty, we tap both patterns separately and then listen again to the example to make a choice.
Page 36: Bass or Treble Sounds
We work on an activity that asks students to imagine some different environmental sounds and assign the appropriate clef. This activity is a little subjective, but it allows children to think of all sounds as having musical principles.
Page 38: Melody for a Dragon Kite
“Melody for a Dragon Kite” is another opportunity for your child to create a unique composition. He chooses from amongst C, D, and E to create this song.
Page 56: Whole Note = 4 beats
Next, we learn about the whole note. We already tackled the most difficult portion of this task when we learned to hold the half note.
Page 57: Train Rhythms
During “Train Rhythms,” your child practices tapping rhythms with quarter, half, and whole notes.
Page 58: Old Pig-Donald
She learns a new song, “Old Pig-Donald,” using both hands and all of the note values we have been working on. This song challenges her endurance. The form of the song is AABA, so we have to play the first page three times. You may want to try working up to the total form slowly.
Page 60: Shepherd, Count Your Sheep
This song is a bit shorter than most of the songs we have been working on and doesn’t have a repeat. For this reason, it is a good opportunity for your student to focus on creating contrasting dynamics, switching between piano (soft) and forte (loud).
Page 40: Old Mac’s Chick
During “Old Mac’s Chicks,” we review and identify some of the symbols we have learned up until this point.
Page 41: A Game of Beats
She correlates pictures of 1, 2, and 4 items with the appropriate note type in “Game of Beats.”
Page 42: I Feel Rhythm
During “I Feel Rhythm,” we sang a song asking us to switch between tapping quarter, half, and whole notes.
Page 44: Shepherds, Count Your Beats
She taps and counts a rhythm while I tap and count a completely different rhythm. This helps her play independently and overcome the distractions of playing with others.
Page 45: Fruity Faces
Your child differentiates between examples I play of quarter, half, and whole notes during “Fruity Faces.”
Page 62: The Music Alphabet
Your student learns about “The Music Alphabet” this week. The music alphabet begins on the lowest key of the piano at “A.” After “G,” we begin back at “A,” and continuing and repeating the pattern.
Page 63: Cookie’s Journey up the Mountain
During “Cookie’s Journey up the Mountain,” he names all of the white notes on the piano.
Page 64: Jungle Wedding
He learns how to identify “F” in “Jungle Wedding.”
Page 66: Riding the Escalator
After your child identifies “F” as a landmark, we find the remaining notes, “G, A, and B” in “Riding the Escalator.”
Page 68: Sneaky Thumb
For the first time, he plays with finger number one, or thumb. In order to play using correct technique, we pretend each thumb is sneaking up to the keyboard and play lightly. Then we begin to learn how to place one finger on each note. I tell him to let the other fingers “follow the leader.”
Page 69: Birthday Train
Our new song, “Birthday Train” uses a new hand position. Your student may need some help finding where fingers should be placed.
Page 70: Wish I Were a Fish
“Wish I Were a Fish” uses the same finger position as “Birthday Train.” For both of these songs, he may need help keeping or returning thumbs to the keys. Eventually, with a little practice, this hand position will feel more comfortable.
Page 72: Oh! I Love Snack Time
“Oh! I Love Snack Time” is a song with yet another new hand position. Although your child may need help finding this new hand position, hopefully you will find that finding starting hand positions is becoming easier and easier. This curriculum purposefully challenges students to begin in different hand positions so that they do not begin to associate certain fingers with certain notes. Rather, any finger can play any note as is appropriate for each individual song. Using so many differing hand positions will teach your student to become more flexible and to learn the notes better.
Page 74: If You’re Happy
Now that we have learned all of the notes on the keyboard, we practice naming and playing them during “If You’re Happy.”
Page 46: Alphabet Castle
We fill in the blanks in the Music Alphabet on the “Alphabet Castle.” Children usually only learn the alphabet in a long, one-direction string of letters. This activity encourages the children to think about the order of the Music Alphabet more critically, especially emphasizing that “A” comes after “G,” beginning the sequence again.
Page 47: Royal Mix-up!
Your child identifies mixed up notes during “Royal Mix-up!”
Page 48: Hangin’ on a Fence Post
Throughout this book, we have been working on an awareness of the wrist and keeping it loose and flexible. We continue this in “Hangin’ on a Fence Post.”
Page 49: Be the Teacher
In “Be the Teacher,” I demonstrate examples of good and bad technique with my wrist. He draws a happy face when I play correctly and a sad face when I play incorrectly.
Page 50: Boa Constrictor
During “Boa Constrictor,” he names all of the notes on the keyboard. We use key notes, such as C, to find other notes when we get stuck.
Page 76-77: My L.H. C Scale; My R.H. C Scale
Today, your child is introduced to the (abbreviated) C scale. A scale is a pattern of notes that is commonly used to build melodies and she will encounter many different scales as we continue to study music. All of the remaining songs in this book will be based on this scale. For the first time, we are using all of our fingers during a song!
The Measure Page: 78
Today, we learn about the Measure. The book describes a Measure as a “musical room,” which is divided by bar lines that act “as the walls of the musical room.” This is an oversimplification of a complex concept for the sake of your child. As we continue, we will learn more about the characteristics of the Measure and the way it helps us measure time and keep good rhythm. Up until this point, we have considered the value of each note individually and counted accordingly (ie. Four Quarter Notes= “One, One, One, One”). As we progress, we will begin counting metrically by always counting the same number of beats for every measure (ie. Four Quarter Notes= “one, two, three, four”). This transition can be a little tricky, but it is very important that every student learn how to count out loud while playing because this is the only way we can accurately measure each note and find the pulse in music.
Page 79: Katie’s Dog Tucker
“Katie’s Dog Tucker” not only uses our new notes, CDEFG, it is also our first opportunity to use metric counting. During every measure, regardless of the note values, we always count, “1 and 2 and 3 and 4.”
Page 80: Bed on a Boat
“Bed on a Boat” is also a fun song that uses the C scale 5-finger position. Your student is becoming more comfortable finding the starting hand position and playing with each finger.
Page 82: Eensie Weensie Spider
We learn “Eensie Weensie Spider,” which, like “Mary had a Little Lamb” and “Old MacDonald,” is very rewarding for students because they already know the melody.
Page 84: Graduation Party
“Graduation Party” is a song that helps us celebrate our completion of this first book! With all that your child has learned, we have a lot to celebrate:
Three Note Values-Whole, Half and Quarter notes.
The Music Alphabet-All of the white notes on the keyboard.
Technique-How to play with a soft wrist and curved, strong fingers.
Counting-Additive and Metric Counting
Page 52: Firemen on the C Scale
We practice listing the notes going up and down the C Scale ladder in “Firemen on the C Scale.”
Page 53: C Scale Mystery
During “C Scale Mystery,” she identifies the correct finger positions for the C Scale for the right and left hand.
Page 54: I Heart Music Buttons
We review music terms during “I Heart Music Buttons.”
Page 55: I Look in the Mirror
We draw bar lines in “I Look in the Mirror” and played through this short song. This is the first song to ask students to depend more on note names and removes several of the finger numbers.
Page 56: I Hear Thunder!
During “I Hear Thunder,” another composition activity, your student chooses which fingers and notes to play within a given rhythmic framework.
Page 58: A Lesson from Eensy Weensy Spider’s Momma
On each leg of “Eensy Weensy Spider’s Momma,” we found a different concept to briefly review. One leg of this activity requires each student to play the same number of songs as their age. Afterwards, she improvises a melody, accompanied by the familiar children’s song.
Page 60: C Scale Animal Parade
We identify the matching measures in “C Scale Animal Parade” and play each of the short melodies.
Page 61: Carlos Says, “Play C-D-E-F-G”
I play a short melody using the CDEFG, and she plays it back to me during “Carlos Says, ‘Play C-D-E-F-G.’”
Page 86: The Grand Staff
Lastly, your child is introduced to the Grand Staff, on which piano music is written. Although the lines and spaces of the Grand Staff are new, he is already familiar with many components, which will help with the transition to this new way of reading music. On the Grand Staff, we identify the Treble and Bass Clefs, high and low notes, and the musical alphabet stepping up the staff. In the next book, we will be learning to identify notes by their unique position on the grand staff and their relation to the treble and bass clef.
Page 87: Grand Staff Games
We play several games to become comfortable with the Grand Staff. During one game, we place pennies on all of the space notes. During another, your student plays the C Scale for both hands while finding the notes on the Grand Staff.
Page 62: Alphabet Steps on the Staff
The activity “Alphabet Steps on the Staff” asks students to critically examine notes on the staff for directionality. We circle the arrow representing which direction on the keyboard the notes should move. After we identified the direction of the notes, we filled in the missing letter name for the empty note