David Hill, Master of Music, Winchester Cathedral 1998
" It has an immediacy about it."
Excerpts from teacher Iris Reeves of Great Missenden, September 1986
It is good that the black keys are introduced straight away and therefore accepted quite naturally by the student. It is also good that in this method the key of A flat major follows on from A major so that the student accepts sharps and flats with equal ease.
Filled-In Notation, Step 2 of Stepping Stone Notation, has worked very well particularly with adults by impressing on the mind the visual picture of a black note for a black key. It seems sensible to me for the student to write out a stave or two of music in Filled-In Notation from the Blank-Keyboard Diagrams book. With this method, the student not only works out for himself where the black keys are but - having become aware of them and learned how to use them - he is then able to play from traditional sheet music more easily.
I have also used this method successfully with an eight year old child who suffers from dyslexia. By writing out the patterns on the keyboards, with my help, he has found it easy to form a mental picture of the chord shapes etc.
I have been amazed at the speed with which students have mastered scales using this method - they have been asking me why I haven't taught them this way before!
Update from Iris Reeves, November 2000
Since meeting you in 1986 I have regularly found your Stepping Stone very helpful for teaching scales / arpeggios etc. Not only is the student able to see which fingers and which notes are required for a particular scale, but at the same time it develops a good visual memory of the scale. I have also found it helpful for a student to see a difficult chord progression illustrated on a blank keyboard diagram.
From teacher Philip Drew, visiting piano teacher Portsmouth Grammar School, December 2000
I have been using Annemarie Scheltema's material for around 15 years. With this method, pupils are encouraged to keep their eyes on the music, as the black keys of "A" major make it much easier to feel the hands' position on the keyboard.
The pieces are satisfying to play, presenting the pupils with using both hands right from the start and developing expression and techniques of articulation from the early stages.
The scale keyboard diagrams (Piano Patterns - Book 2) are also invaluable in teaching scale finger patterns, particulary helpful with both hands playing in unison - similar motion.
These aspects are of use not only to the less able, but to players of all abilities. The visual aids keyboard diagrams can also be of great help in sorting out awkward passages in advanced pieces. e.g. Transports de Joie, by Olivier Messiaen.
The use of Stepping Stone Notation may seem strange at first sight but, with only the briefest of explanations, pupils soon appreciate the point of showing black keys with filled-in note heads and are able to switch to conventional notation without confusion where rhythm is concerned.
From teacher Rosemary Parrott of Southampton, September 1999
As hand / brain co-ordination matures later in boys and this problem is more noticeable in bright children because it produces a huge gulf between intellectual and mechanical attainment, I now understand how to help boys to fasten their brains to their fingers!
Originally I was reluctant to introduce the scheme to these two pupils because I was afraid that the emphasis on fingering and symmetry would exacerbate existing problems rather than solving them but it gives me great pleasure to say that I couldn't have been more wrong.