The Story of the Minibooks

When I began teaching Piano full-time in 1985, I realized that my students were not learning to read music very well, and I set out to discover why.

Children are naturally aural creatures first; so the challenge became how to make the shift from aural to visual in an engaging, compelling way. The children were not focusing on the notes; perhaps because the notes were the least interesting thing on the page. Finger numbers often provided enough information to bypass note reading. Fancy Illustrations were another distraction.

So how could I keep attention on the notes?

I decided that pages should resemble flash cards, and be presented in a very organized way. The first exercises would therefore be patterns, not melodies, so that the children would not be able to anticipate the outcome, yet provide enough clues to ensure success.

Real sight reading means that it is played once and the page is turned. Therefore, there would have to be many pages providing continous challenge. The pages would be small; the very few notes on each page would be large; and there would be absolutely nothing else on the page except music.

I sat on my living room floor surrounded by many pieces of paper. With a black magic marker, I wrote and arranged the papers until the notes flowed from one page to the next. My cat Berta had a terrific time sliding through and scattering all the papers.

At first, the sheets were hand-drawn and punched together in a loose leaf ring-binders. For the next ten years, I continued to develop the books, use them with my students, and revise them as needed. I applied for my first copyright in 1996. The set expanded from 20 to 28, to the present set of 40 books. The books are now spiral bound photocopies with colourful cardstock covers.

In 1998 I was invited to present the Minibooks at the Suzuki Association of Ontario Conference, where they caught the eye of Suzuki Teacher Trainers. Discussion continues on the Internet via Piano Pedagogy forums and email lists.

The books have now spread to several countries simply by word of mouth, and people kept asking me "WHERE is your webpage?"

Well, here it is. Finally.
Kristine Gore