Recommendations from teachers and students concerning Margaret Brandman's unique teaching
methods and materials.


A critique of Margaret Brandman's materials by Professor Rick Cohn of Yale University.

June 29, 2018

Margaret -
Thank you for letting me spend some time with these materials. They are extremely impressive in all sorts of ways - the quality of the music, the diversity of repertory, the clarity of explanations, the balance and flow of materials, and the imaginative age-appropriate approach in the beginning materials.

Congratulations, this is a career's work to be proud of (although I know that they are only a fraction of your career activities.)


Rick Cohn

Battel Professor of Music Theory - Yale University USA


Comments on the Professional Development Course held at Margaret's studio in Chippendale October to November 2010.

I would like to thank you for the recent Professional Development Course for Piano Teachers. You make everything seem so uncomplicated and easy to follow. I came away with so many new ideas.

I have been testing the notation on my HSC students with their own compositions. It has helped tremendously. They walk away from a lesson with big smiles on their faces and not feeling frustrated at the major task ahead.

Your book "Pictorial Patterns" for scales and chords has revolutionised the way I teach scales. It has helped with recognising key signatures and also with correct fingering in such an easy-to-follow way of learning.

Your Contemporary Piano Method helps teaching and improving music reading skills.
When tested on myself, I was amazed that I could sight read immediately with the alto clef for the right hand and the bass clef for the left hand instead of the traditional treble clef and bass clef.

Usually by the end of the year I feel ready for a break, but after your course I felt revitalised and eager to pass on my new learnings.

I look forward to a follow up next year.
Kathryn Fallas Miranda NSW


Margaret Brandman holds a unique place in Australian music education and has produced an enormous amount of practical, theoretical and aural materials, in addition to her output as a composer, arranger and professional musician.

Her Contemporary Method books - encompassing Piano , Theory , Aural and Chord Workbooks - represent a unique contribution to the literature. Her experience and insight has resulted in vast amounts of information presented in a condensed, easy-to-understand way which will equip contemporary music students with the broad knowledge necessary in today's music environment.

I happily recommend Margaret's materials in my workshops and they are one of my own first points of reference.

Kerin Bailey., B.Mus(Hons), L.Mus.A, MIMT

Australian composer and Jazz pianist. Composer of the Jazzin' Around series of pieces.


Samuel Cottell - one of the new generation of teachers, offers his comments:
Margaret Brandman’s Contemporary Piano Method is rare gem amongst the plethora of piano methods on the market. The student begins with the Junior Primer and Contemporary Theory Primer together with the Contemporary Aural Course – Preparatory set. From the outset, this kit develops fluent skills in pitch, rhythm, aural awareness and awareness of keyboard geography.

The Junior Primer is one of the best primers on the market and any beginner of piano would be benefit greatly from the content and high level of skills it encourages from the outset. Allowing students to be aware of keyboard geography is a very important step that allows them to have complete freedom over the keyboard from the very start. The coloured rhythmic system allows the student to visually see and ‘feel’ the rhythm giving them a clear and solid rhythmic foundation from day one. The big feature is the interval system, taking away weeks of stress for both student and teacher. Within two weeks students are reading and playing hands together. If you are considering starting piano or even coming back to it as an adult I would heartily recommend a dose of Margaret Brandman’s Contemporary Piano Method, a rare educational feat produced by a fine teacher and composer.

-Samuel J Cottell
Keyboardist/Pianist/Arranger/Music Director


' Since attending your workshop in Canberra I have made the decision to use your Contemporary Theory Book Series as the text for the Musicianship Course I teach at our college - it tracks the 2 year tertiary course we teach very closely (the best I've come across!) and is a great reference for topic explanations as well as revision exercises. I've also purchased one copy of each Aural set for students to use for extra aural revision. Overall, these exercises are really helpful as a supplement to class teaching. .... Once again, thanks for the hard work you've put in to developing these products. It's great to have such a useful and relevant resource for our teaching.

Jillian Pryor Principal - Unity College/School of Creative Arts in Canberra


Thanks for the recommendation of your
Contemporary Theory Workbooks
1 & 2
  for my student for Grade 2 Music Craft. 
He was struggling with the AMEB Music Craft books
but your books opened the way for him.
He achieved 93 for the exam, which I think is OK for doing it all on his own

Christine Collins -Sydney teacher - October 2008


Your lecture and demonstration today,to the students in the General Primary program, stimulated a great deal of interest. The two groups to which you spoke are in the second level of their Creative Arts study, in which they select the Arts strand they wish to develop. The subject includes the opportunity for the students to choose to develop skills on keyboard or recorder. It is an important learning experience for these students to be able to see your publications for these instruments and have you explain your program for reading through the use of intervals, in patterns of steps and skips. Thank you for sharing your expertise with the students.

In particular I congratulate you on the book, PLAYING MADE EASY FOR THE RECORDER, with its interweaving of playing techniques and reading skills. I also believe that the content of the keyboard volume, HOT TRAX, has great appeal for adult learners.

ANNE POWER - Lecturer in Music Education - University of Western Sydney Nepean

I highly recommend Margaret Brandman's Contemporary Piano Method as a very broad foundation for piano and keyboard study. It is devised and written with logic and filled with clear explanations by a composer/performer who well understands the need for strong reading skills, an open ear and enquiring mind for how music works !'

David Grisdale -teacher, Central Coast NSW

'Once you have taught by Margaret Brandman's intervalllic approach along the keyboard pathways it becomes part of you. It is the simplest, quickest, most logical and effective method of teaching reading from there on. It is also very helpful in teaching transposition and improvisation. '

Robyn Watts -teacher, Dural NSW

Comment on Margaret Brandman's teaching skills.

Many teachers are very good performers or improvisers but they may not realize the essence of the teaching task at hand.

Margaret Brandman on the other hand, knows how to get the message across, even if the musical topic is very difficult. She is able to decode the essential element of a passage of music and teach it simply, helping the student to see the solution.

Joanne Lau -piano teacher, Sydney NSW

'The only way to teach and give a total 'sound' knowledge of music' It is the only way I can teach - my body won't let me do it any other way'

Annette Allerding - teacher, Randwick NSW

For several years now I have used, the 'Contemporary Piano Method' by Margaret Brandman in my piano teaching practice to teach both adults and children. ..Both my students and myself have had great success using these books. I highly recommend them.

Ian Boyton - teacher, Willoughby NSW

Comments on past Professional Development courses conducted by Margaret Brandman in Canberra and at the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney....

"Margaret Brandman is a highly skilled musician, teacher and educator.It is an inspiration to attend her workshops, where hands-on experience and practical hints and tips aid the learning experience. The learning environment is relaxed and friendly. Above all her workshops will train you in thorough and efficient teaching methods, introduce you to her teaching materials and repertoire and equip you with extra skills to be a better teacher."


"This year's Professional Development courses with Margaret Brandman, were refreshing courses where information was presented logically with time for hands- on experience in keyboard harmony and improvisation, both classical and modern, an improvement of reading skills using the interval approach and excellent work with rhythm reading and clapping skills. For we teachers and our students alike, delving into the inner world of music, as we discovered this year, reveals the many faceted aspects of music making."


"I appreciate the content of the Margaret Brandman Piano Course, as the books contain all the knowledge needed to learn to play both modern and classical styles of music. Not many courses offer such a comprehensive account of both styles. I therefore consider them as valuable resource material for teachers as well as students. My students have had great success using the interval and keyboard topography approach which Margaret introduced us to in her previous presentations. I particularly like the techniques presented to us during the workshop, which alert the student to the harmonic structure whether it be in a classical or modern piece. These techniques can then be followed up, by the use of Margaret's theory, aural and practical materials. By being aware of all these aspects, we become better teachers."


"Margaret has opened up to us a completely new approach to the musical learning process...... a thoughtfully organised system of learning. Looking at compositions which emphasise the techniques and background information students require to establish a secure foundation on which to build their musical futures.This learning is not presented piece-meal; it is part of an integrated holistic system.Scale pathway and musical thinking is developed consistently through the course and fingers trace connecting notes in the musical web site. This method has opened up new areas of learning and gives valuable insight into 'cracking the code' of music, which underlies musical styles over the centuries."


"I have been working with Margaret Brandman's books over the past twelve months and have been delighted with the results. The student gets speedily through the introductory pages and into interval reading and pattern reading-hands together. Only C's and F's are used for note naming, with interval reading taking care of the other notes. (Note-naming is taught in an accompanying theory book - it is not essential in the early stages. A great deal of time is saved this way).

I also like the way the scales and chord patterns are introduced early and progressively and used. As a student said "I don't know why people complain about learning scales, its easy!" Introductory pieces are also used as transposition exercises. The books are comprehensive, teaching the skills to play both Classical and Modern music.

By the final Book 4, the student is working through various aspects of 20th Century music, as well as the topics of Root Progressions, realisation of figured bases and extended chords in jazz and contemporary pieces.

Margaret has also written complementary books to mesh in with her method, covering chords and harmony, theory and history, finger exercises and supplementary pieces in a variety of styles, as well as an accompanying aural course.

I feel it is worth the trouble for any teacher to obtain a copy of the free Teachers Handbook from Warner/Chappell Music and also to read Margaret's articles in the Australian Music Teacher (magazine). This is a fresh look at teaching piano, it's Australian and it works."


'I am teaching Margaret Brandman's Contemporary Piano Method and find it as spontaneous as the 1990's in which we live. It seems in my case the pupils find little difficulty in maintaining a simple grasp of the overall concept of musical language and the essence of her ideas have brought a breath of fresh air into the art of music teaching'.


I write concerning the method of musical training devised and developed by Margaret Brandman. "Musical training" is an appropriate term to describe this course. Although fundamentally it is a course in piano playing, it is also a comprehensive course in theory, musicianship, keyboard harmony and improvisation, aural training and general musical knowledge.

Although believing that I was a good piano teacher I always had an uneasy feeling that my teaching was incomplete. This implies that I recognised that the available published "methods" were incomplete. Even the topics that were included often left important, sometimes fundamental concepts poorly explained or omitted. It seemed that the minds of the writers of these methods lacked the depth of inquiry and thirst for detail and understanding which I wished to give to my students. Driven by this frustration I paid yet another visit to a large music store and combed through the shelves, ever optimistic of discovering a complete teaching method. There concealed among the glitzy piano courses of the United States, was one volume of a course by an Australian, Margaret Brandman. Probably with similar reservations to the store manager who in those days didn't think it advisable to stock more than one part of the method, I picked it up. How could an Australian possibly write a piano method to compare with the Americans? Having thumbed through it I thought: "HOW COULD THE AMERICANS POSSIBLY WRITE A METHOD TO COMPARE WITH THIS?"

Here at last was a writer with the perspicacity to fill the need. I rebuked the store manager for his lack of discernment and ordered copies of all volumes of the course. That day transformed my career as a piano teacher. I know now that any student continuing with me will receive a complete course in piano playing and general musicianship. I would describe this method as "standard piano teaching, updated, improved, expanded, simplified, focused, clarified and accelerated by the writer's brilliant mind. It avoids delaying or evasive tactics developed by Europe and Japan and presents straight down the line didactic teaching of what the student finally needs to know from the very first lesson, and as the student completes the course it gives them all they need to know in all styles of piano playing, theory, musicianship, improvisation, aural training, musical knowledge etc.

I know of no published method to equal it.

GEOFFREY CUMMING A.T.C.L, A.MusTCL, A.D.C.M. Syd Uni Conservatorium Teacher, Queenscliff NSW

"I have been studying music with Margaret Brandman for two and a half months after having had 10 years of traditional music training as a child. I have been a singer for many years and always found learning to be a laborious note-by-note process. Recently I sang in the Oratorio 'Elijah' as an alto chorister at 4 days notice.

With the benefit of Ms Brandman's accelerated learning techniques and improved sight reading ability, I was able to sing 'Elijah' with relative ease, something I could not have done even a few months ago. I have noticed benefits in many other ways and can thoroughly recommend Ms Brandman's teaching methods to anyone wanting to further their musical education, whether a beginner or more advanced".


"My son Eric has studied piano with Margaret Brandman for two years. His progress, predicted by Margaret from the very first lesson has delighted us. He has played two hands together from the start and understands the structure and theory of music. He particularly loves classical music and the pieces he has mastered are of second to third grade level. His enjoyment and progress in music is in contrast to my neighbour's daughter who has studied piano for four years in the traditional methods. Eric has not only caught up to her but progressed well past her. She finds her lessons and practice boring.

After watching Eric's lessons for two years I put Margaret's ideas into practice myself and found I too can play simple pieces, two hands together. I have recently started lessons with Margaret so that, like my son, I can progress rapidly in my musical education. Eric and I both know that Margaret's system is easy and really works.



"As an adult learner this method has taught me how to sight read quickly. It is one of the only methods which covers the basics of playing the piano through many different aspects". This lady had never had a lesson on the piano before she came to me. She had practised with the John Thomson's method, however told me she could not read the left-hand at all.


"A particularly pleasing feature of the broad scope of this keyboard series is the way in which the necessary theoretical information to aid the student's progress is followed through consistently, so that by the time Books 3 and 4 are reached, the material is increasingly suitable for practical "keyboard harmony/composition" projects in the more advanced music courses.

JOHN PEACE: BA LRAM ARCO BA Hons Music, Durham Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music Associate of the Royal College of Organists Performer, Lecturer and Teacher - Liverpool, England

I am writing to you with regard to your books on the study of music. I have been teaching children and professional musicians for many years, and have always noted a lack of complete music training in the books available for study.

On looking closely at the content of your books I see you have, in a very flowing manner, introduced all the important information a student needs, traditional and contemporary, so much part of being a musician. Your approach of developing the ear to intervalic principals is a marvellous development and I congratulate you on this approach, it is so very solid as a foundation to a students ongoing learning and development of music.

There is so much to speak of and comment on in your books that I cannot do them the injustice of selecting but a few points. I believe it is only a matter of time and the books will be widely accepted by both teachers and students as standard books of learning.

BRUCE W CALE Teacher and Composer - Australia

'I agree with you wholeheartedly about the interval reading system for I have been trying to do it for some years. I think you have thought out a very Good Comprehensive Method and next term I am looking forward to using it'.

ALICIA HEMMING Teacher - West Sussex UK

"Regarding Margaret Brandman's RIGHT BRAIN accelerated learning techniques. Some years ago I was asked to teach a lad who was at the time attending a special school for students with a handicap. To begin with I used my knowledge of the Suzuki method, as Christian could listen and copy without any problem. Then one day I decided to teach him to read using the interval approach. He caught on very quickly and since then there has been no looking back. He reads and plays quite satisfactorily and besides it gives him a lot of pleasure.

Congratulations on all the material you have composed for us to work with and enjoy. I might add, you seem to leave no stone unturned in the process of teaching. No matter what, it can all be found in one of your books"

MONICA HAYES Teacher - Wavell Heights Qld

My daughter Sarah commenced music tuition with Margaret Brandman in 1989 as a new student without any musical background. Sarah has progressed steadily since then, and this year (1994) is sitting for Fifth Grade Musicianship and Fourth Grade Practical examinations.

Observing Sarah's musical skills and knowledge grow during this time, I have been impressed by the emphasis placed on Sarah gaining a comprehensive understanding of music as she progresses, and the range and variation of reference material and learning aids employed to assist this comprehension. As a result, Sarah has a confident and relaxed approach when introduced to new pieces or more complex areas of study, as everything seems to fit together. The variety in instruction has also made it easier to persevere and cut down on the boredom quotient that seems to have affected many of Sarah's friends who have been using more traditional methods of study.

I would commend Margaret Brandman's techniques and approach to musical instruction as a truly interesting and effective way for children (or anyone) to develop intelligent and useful musical skills.