Pelican Piano is a self-directed teacher guided method of piano instruction for beginners.

Pelican Piano makes learning to play the piano easy and fun. Students are young as three and four as well as those with learning disabilities have learned to play the piano with the aid of brightly colored visual aids and a gradual progression through the major concepts of music notation. Familiar folk and classical music is presented in each book and is geared towards a theme:
Level 1 My Day
Level 2 My Town
Level 3 My World
Level 4 My Favorite Composers

We begin our lessons by engaging the student in a simple story that is set at a beach. The story serves as a memory aid in learning the octave of notes immediately above and below Middle C on the keyboard.

First read the story with your student and review it with the rhyming questions provided. Ask the student to tell the story back to you.

When the student can repeat the story move to the keyboard. Demonstrate the pattern of two black keys then three. Ask the student to put the colored props on the keyboard as illustrated. The Pelican Piano props can be as simple as erasers or pompoms. The colors needed are yellow, orange, blue, red, green, purple and pink. Begin by placing yellow D between the two black keys in the middle of the keyboard and proceed with orange C, blue B, red A, green G, purple E and pink F. Ask the student to retell the story using the props. Explain that the high keys are like the sky in our story. The low keys are like the water and the keys in the middle are the sand.

The student will begin to play music at this point by matching the colored notes to the colored props on the keys. Place the student’s right thumb on D make sure just one finger is on each key. The left thumb is placed on Middle C. Ask the student to play each song. Next help the student say the letter names out loud while playing each song. The student may also sing the words to each song.

Ask the student to remove the props by letter name at the end of every practice session. The student uses as many of the props as needed at each practice sessions. Many students are able to play without erasers in as little as two weeks but it is always the student’s choice when and how many props to remove.

Please note that Pelican Piano is very self-directed. Each student progresses at a pace that feels comfortable not stressful. Patience and encouragement are the key. Correction should be gentle and limited to remarks like “Think again” rather than “No, that’s wrong.” Remind the parent that practice time should be short and pleasant—never a power struggle. As little as five minutes of practice placing and removing the props each day can be beneficial.

Lesson 2 Introduces a change in hand position. Before beginning to play each song the student places both thumbs on the Middle C. Play Middle C with the thumb that is on the side of the stem. Then place one finger on each key. It is important that the student is able to play with either thumb on C. This facilitates note reading rather than playing by finger position.

Note values and measure markings are taught in Lessons 3 & 4. Emphasis is placed on holding some notes longer than others but it is not necessary to teach counting at this level. Students will naturally play with the correct rhythm if familiar with the songs. It may be helpful to sing the song with the student after the notes have been played once.

Lessons 5 & 6 introduce black notes. Students differentiate between black A & E because one is in the water (low) and the other is in the sky (high.) Students should be playing without props before proceeding to learn the black notes.

Some studies suggest that the optimal time for developing neurons having to do with music is between the ages of 2 and 6. Pelican Piano is designed to teach pre-readers how to sight read notes although the method works well with beginners of any age. A student’s rate of progress will depend of course on aptitude and consistent practice. A regular practice session may only last 5-10 minutes. Older students may progress more rapidly. Students with autism have also been successful at learning to sight read notes using the Pelican Piano Program.

Level 2

The students adds four notes to the seven already learned.
As a review ask the student to place the Pelican props on the keys.

“Say the alphabet with me.”
Start with Angelfish A and recite the alphabet together. As you reach Flamingo F continue saying the alphabet pattern and place a green prop on the G above Middle C.
“Look at the pattern of the keys. What comes after Giant Jellyfish? A. Place a red prop on High A.”
“Look at the pattern of the keys. What comes before G? F. Add an F below Giant Jellyfish G.”
“Look at the pattern of the keys. What comes before F? E. Place a purple E prop on low E.”

Level 2 also introduces the concepts of notes on lines or spaces, eighth notes, and the introduces Middle C as a black note. Eighth notes are not counted but they do go faster! Finger numbers are also introduced so that hand position can be determined if there is no Middle C in a song. Care is taken to use finger numbers infrequently so that the student does not become dependent on them. Pelican Piano students generally develop a keen sense of key board geography and are strong sight readers.

Level 3

Introduce the three octaves of the Grand Staff.

Begin the lesson by placing the yellow D props in the proper position on the piano noting that each is between 2 black keys.

“Follow the pattern of the keys.” Assist the student in place 3 props of the same color/ letter name on the keys in the order of the Pelican story that is: (D) C, B A, G, E, F.

Ask the student to play the low, middle and high notes of each letter name.

The music at this level will include high, middle and low C. The student becomes accustomed to leaving the middle hand position and reaching to play high C or low C and returning to the correct keys independently. Sometimes finding the correct hand position is a difficult task for beginning students because the relationship of notes to keyboard geography is not clear. The Pelican Piano Program strengthens this skill.

Level 3 also introduces the concept of rests as well as black high (treble) C and black low (bass) C. Notes are printed smaller in Book 6 so that the student can play more complete songs without having to turn the page. Emphasize that these new skills will make playing music easier and more fun!

Level 4

All notes on the Grand Staff have been introduced in color. Students are now adept at distinguishing between Black A, E and the 3 C’s.

Books 1, 2, 3 & 4 of Level 4 teach D-girl, Beach Boy B, Giant jellyfish G and Flamingo F as black notes respectively. Each song begins with color notes and then transitions to using the newest black note. The teacher says: “If you want to play color notes you may but you may choose to skip over them you if you’d like. You can always go back if you need to review.” Rarely does a student choose to play with the colored notes. If the student does make this choice however, care must be taken that the student is not memorizing the songs in order to “fake” playing the black notes by sight.

Books 5 & 6 introduce the concepts of steps and skips. Review the Pelican Piano story as often as necessary to insure that the student can identify the original Pelican Piano prop keys by the location of the black note.

At the conclusion of the Pelican Piano series some students may benefit from additional reinforcement of sight reading skills by playing a few songs in a primer level book. However, many students transition directly to the Faber Level 1 book. The student will be able to learn the remaining black notes of the Grand Staff by stepping and skipping from the original black anchor notes introduced in the Pelican Piano Program.

ABC 123 Do Re Mi

Sight reading music is a foundational academic skill just like learning to read or to add and subtract. Pelican Piano makes this learning easy and fun. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply