Margaret Brandman's system of teaching music is based on the "Scope and Sequence Method" which can be applied to both young beginners and advanced students.

Music education in Australia for the past 50 years or so has been dominated by an examination system that fosters rote learning of four pieces per year to pass a grade, with little emphasis on the total musical development of the student.

The traditional difficult system of reading by note-names has aggravated the problem by requiring the student to move extremely slowly, through having to virtually memorise pieces bar by bar while looking at the hands on the piano, which both disturbs the reading and negates the use of the ear for correction.

Margare Brandman's music education materials on the other hand, present students with a system of music speed-reading and learning, which can achieve in six months what by other means usually takes two to three years. Adults play hands together in the first week and children as young as five are able to play hands together by the second week of study.

The way Margaret Brandman's Contemporary Piano Method approaches the study of music as a language parallels the manner in which language acquisition and development is currently implemented in the school system. Margaret's method is a working example of a Scope and Sequence method.

By approaching reading from the intervallic point of view, notes are not seen as isolated units but as part of the phrase or sentence. This is one of several areas in the programme of study in which the parts are looked at and then put back into the whole. Approaching music from the internal standpoint enables students to sight read fluently and therefore reduces the learning time for new pieces considerably. Hence many more pieces can be learnt in the wide scope ranging in style from Classical to Pop and Jazz , while the material is sequenced so that knowledge is developed systematically with full understanding.

The theory of learning music as applied in the Brandman materials is treated in a very similar manner to the theory of learning spoken language. A multi-sensory approach is applied; all aspects of music development are treated in a balanced manner; listening is encouraged; tactile skills are developed and written work ensures that the background of the material at each stage of learning is comprehended. The visual pattern on the music is transmitted to the keyboard by first being heard in the inner ear, then by being given concrete form by the feel of the interval size in the hand. At the same time the corresponding sound of the size of the interval or shape of the pattern being played is heard by the ear and assessed for correction.

The study of music in this manner can assist students in their general development in several ways.

Visual memory and visual discrimination are developed by viewing the movement of notes intervalically and therefore being able to see the corresponding patterns that occur.

Maths development and reading readiness are assisted by viewing the scales as interconnected patterns on the keyboard.

Auditory sequencing and memory are stimulated by recognising that the intervals as seen on the music represent sound, in a similar manner to which printed letters represent the spoken word.

Tactile skills are improved through the early co-ordination of mind and fingers in handstogether situations, playing in Similar or Contrary Motion exercises.

The study habits, which involve employing known material to begin with and then building upon it, along with organisation of home practise time into a regular daily routine, are valuable aspects that once learned, can be applied to other areas of study.

The Contemporary Piano Method encourages analysis at each level and ensures success at an early stage through training the student to think critically so as to crack the code of the music. With traditional systems and also some of the new Japanese systems, students often fail to progress because only one aspect is fostered, for instance rote learning or sole reliance upon either tactile, visual or aural memory.

With the Brandman method, a broad range of skills is systematically introduced and then put into an interest level with practical applications in books of well-known tunes. Many of the teaching devices used in the application of this approach to music, are similar to the way in which the Montessori method approaches the study of elements such as size, shape and texture through tactile awareness. Creativity at the keyboard is fostered through structured improvisation based upon a wide knowledge of both traditional and non-traditional scales and of many types of chords.

The Contemporary Piano Method systematically encourages the knowledge of all scales and chords and shows them in their applications in the pieces presented in the books.

  • The Junior Primer introduces basic interval reading in a gradual fashion for the 5 to 11 age group
  • Books 1A and 1B present pieces in all major keys and is suitable for the teenage or adult beginner as well as the junior who has completed the Junior Primer
  • Books 2A and 2B cover all major and minor keys
  • Book 3 moves on to more advanced harmony in the pieces and the introduction of modes
  • Book 4 covers contemporary serious styles of music with their corresponding use of melody, rhythm, notation and so on

    Books Three and Four provide excellent examples of the types of pieces that are set for study in Years 11 and 12. Each aspect is discussed and then pieces of the level that school students can manage have been written to illustrate the feature, for instance the pentatonic scale or quartal harmony.

Several of the other materials are also suitable for use in school situations as well as in private teaching situations. In particular, the two books in the Contemporary Theory Workbook series provide teachers with a straightforward and uncomplicated manner in which to cover the larger picture of music theory in a series of 70 lessons per book, which could feasibly represent a year's study. These books are suitable for both Primary and High School students and would provide background for those students involved in school bands, choirs or recorder groups, or valuable information for those taking music as a subject in High School. The other series of workbooks suitable for High School students are the Contemporary Chord Workbooks - One and Two.
Book One deals with the building blocks of chords, and then all three and four-note chords. Book Two deals with the extended chords: 9th, 11 th and 13th of all types.

In addition, the Contemporary Aural Course, which comprises nine sets of ear training CDs and corresponding answer books, can help teachers gradually develop aural skills in a systematic fashion. The CDs not only present exercises but also demonstrate how to listen and what to listen for.

Demonstrated below are some of the main features of the interval reading system as presented in the Contemporary Piano Method and associated theory workbooks.



This is a recognised way of approaching reading, but has been treated in the past as a system of reading suitable only for more advanced students. The method that Margaret Brandman has developed makes interval reading more accessible to both young and old. The system is suitable for use in any clef, including C Clef and in any key and makes short work of the task of transposition.

Beginning with the concept of a staff as a ladder frame, it therefore follows that the basic movement of notes from line to space is like "stepping" up or down the rungs of a ladder or stairs in a staircase.

Music may move up or down the staircase by stepping (STEP) or skipping over one note (SKIP) or passing one note further than a skip (SKIP-PLUS-ONE), or beginning on a line note and jumping over another line to land on the next line (JUMP) or repeated notes on exactly the same position on the staff can be viewed as SAMES.

This terminology, when used in the early stages of learning, helps to avoid the confusion between interval sizes, finger numbers and counting numbers.

On the piano these intervals relate directly to the hand and the feeling on the keyboard and the sound that the intervals make. In the Level One books, these interval concepts are demonstrated by the Koala character "Dexter" (for dexterity).

Once the larger intervals are approached the traditional interval sizes are introduced, that is 6th, 7th and Octave.



When reading by intervals the player always needs a starting point from which to judge all the other distances. The location points or SIGNPOST notes are -

  • the six Cs as main signpost notes
  • the Fs as secondary signpost notes
  • the F, C and C clefs can also be used as signpost note indicators



    Rather than learning the scales from the notation, they are learned as graphic patterns on the keyboard. This makes each one easily distinguishable from the next. For example: the scale of B Major, which looks very busy on the page, can be simplified by viewing the keyboard pattern, which demonstrates easily that all the black notes need to be played while the only white notes to concern oneself with are B and E. Once the keyboard patterns have been learnt the interval reading system can be superimposed upon the tactile knowledge of the key patterns, so that playing in all keys can be simplified and the same system of reading can be employed in each key. These patterns are demonstrated in the book 'Pictorial Patterns for Keyboard Scales and Chords'.



    An important aspect of music layout is the spacing of the notes so as to facilitate the comprehension of the rhythmic aspect of the music. The Brandman system incorporates a graphic representation of rhythm through colour boxes. Students learn about rhythm in a logical manner by colouring in the boxes to represent the length of time each note receives and then clapping the exercises through. The obvious corollary of this technique is that in her publications the notes are typeset in a proportional manner so the logical connection between the exercises and real music can be made. This ensures that confusions, which used to occur when bar lengths differed widely and notes were not spaced mathematically, are avoided.