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Begin at the Beginning (Piano - Primary Level 1) Review by Amy Butler

Helena Sandler
Saterna Music Publishing, Co.
(604) 414-6851
6765 Klahanie Dr.
Powell River, BC, V8A 0C2

Learning to play the piano is a great discipline that is more accessible than ever with the increasing affordability of keyboards.  In my years of playing and teaching, I can affirm that piano teaching methods are just as prevalent because of this.  Most of them have a similar style and approach, but Helena Sandler’s Begin at the Beginning piano teaching method is quite different.  In her experience she saw how much children loved to play and designed this book to highlight play in their learning of this new skill.  While some books delay learning actual songs until they have a proper understanding of note reading, Begin at the Beginning intends for children to begin with singing the songs they already know and then “teach the piano to play the songs they sing.”

The book that we received is landscape style with a comb binding that includes twenty-nine black and white pages with a few pictures intended to be colored by the student, if they chose.  The text is easy to read and the style of binding allows it to sit on the music stand flat with no need to prop it open.  This book is text heavy (rather than picture-based like many children’s methods) so this is intended for teacher/parent guidance in the beginning.  The book does a broad overview of basic note reading terms and concepts.  The songs included are mostly classic children’s rhymes, folk songs and a few classical themes.  This is the first book in a series of three Children’s Primary Level Books.  Each book separately is $18.75 (shipping included) or you can purchase all three books for $50 (shipping included) from their website.

For my children’s entire life, I have taught piano lessons parttime so they have been exposed to musical concepts very early on.  My 4-year-old is the current beginner in our house, but we had already begun some instruction before receiving Begin at the Beginning.  Helena Sandler’s method is in a different order than what we were used to so we did experience some confusion at first.  This method would be ideal for a homeschool family that does not have any formal musical training where the parent and child could learn together.  A true beginner who is an experienced reader I believe would also do well working independently.  With my musical background, I found it difficult to not get hung up on introducing concepts in a vastly different order than I had always learned.  For that reason, I would prefer to use this type of method in conjunction with a more traditional method.  The song collection is a pretty complete overview of the songs of my childhood of which I enjoyed filling in the gaps with my own children.  In that way it is a great songbook that I would enjoy pulling songs from for my students to learn.

The main focus of Helen Sandler’s teaching is to encourage experimentation and develop a trust in each student’s musical instincts.  This method demonstrates those values well with the incorporation of singing and familiar songs.  If you are entering the world of piano instruction with no prior expectations, this can be a great starting place for your beginner.

-Product review by Amy Butler, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2018