First Steps In Music Reviews

first steps in music reviews

Are you interested in learning more about First Steps In Music?

Do you want to hear what others who use the curriculum say before committing to going to a class or buying the series?

This music curriculum has taken the music education world by storm, and there are many who follow it closely with great success. 

But as a caring teacher, which you are, you likely want to know more about the details of this program before you jump into it. 

This is why I asked around and looked at the curriculum closely to come up with these First Steps in Music reviews. 

First Steps in Music by John Feierabend is a music curriculum formed as a way of developing the tuneful, beatful, and artful skills of the students. According to users, it’s strongest in the younger grades and improves singing and inner hearing for the students’ entire lives. 

Look ahead for a brief description of the program and detailed pros and cons based on what other music teachers stay. 

What Is First Steps?

Dr. John Feierabend is a music education expert who was at the forefront when Zoltan Kodaly came to America with his method. 

Dr. Feierabend saw the method and developed this curriculum as a way to reach the students who didn’t come to music classes with a solid foundation of musical concepts. 

He often talks about the importance of tuneful (pitch awareness), beatful (steady beats in duple and triple), and artful (meaningful expression of music). 

This curriculum focuses entirely on this and avoids music theory. 

Dr. Feierabend believes in teaching music theory or literacy concepts without a foundation of tuneful, beatful, and artful is hurting the child’s musical development. 

In this music program, students will go through an 8-step method of activities intended to develop these three elements through songs and exploration. 

The 8 steps include: 

  • Pitch Exploration – vocal warmups
  • Fragment Singing  – echo songs and call and response songs
  • Simple Songs – Shorter, self-contained tunes and rhymes
  • Arioso – developing improvisatory singing and creation
  • Songtales – High-quality songs for students to listen to, often in the form of a story
  • Movement Exploration – Body awareness in relation to music
  • Movement for Form and Expression – Movement structured to fit the form and emotion of music
  • Movement with Beat – Activities for developing steady beat in duple and triple usually with melodies and rhymes

It’s also important to note how the method picks up the slack from the degrading musical culture. 

Parents don’t sing to their kids like they used to, and students don’t come to school with the experiences they used. 

The method helps with this and may be used to educate parents on how to help their kids. 

What Items you Need For This Music Curriculum

This music program comes in a series of different books and items. 

In this section, I’ll briefly go over what’s available. 

Disclaimer: Links may be affiliate in nature, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win, so thanks in advance!

The core is the main book itself, First Steps In Music

The book covers how to teach with the method and has many examples of activities for each step in the process. 

There’s also great lesson outlines for record-keeping and tracking which ones you’ve done. 

After this, each step also has additional books for more examples of the lessons. 

For example, if you need more ways to develop movement with the beat, you’d get The Book of Songs and Rhymes.

This one will help with the beatful nature of students. 

If you need more simple tunes to perform, you’d get The Book of Simple Songs and Circle Games.

There are many options out there for the extra items. Check out all of them on Amazon at this link

Keep in mind; this music program doesn’t focus on music theory. 

For more music theory ideas, you’ll need to follow Dr. F’s other curriculum, Conversational Solfege

First Steps In Music Reviews

In this section, I’ll go over the main pros and cons of the method. 

These are pulled from my own experiences using the method over the years and based on what other music teachers said about it. 

This isn’t an attack on the method but an honest review to hopefully help you decide if the tuneful, beatful, and artful method is what you want to look into. 

Pros 

Perfect for younger grades. 

The combination of the quick-paced lesson with action songs works well for the younger elementary students. 

Most teachers use this in preschool, Kindergarten, and first grade. 

“FSIM spoke to me because it matches all the training I had in developmentally appropriate practice for early childhood and early elementary students and is equally grounded in evidence-based methods for teaching, singing to that age.”

Increases engagement and well-structured. 

The quick steps and fast nature of the lessons keep the students engaged and decrease misbehavior. 

It also features a way to make complete lesson plans easily. 

“…I do enjoy the routine of it. It’s an excellent framework for your lessons.”

Hits the important musical concepts. 

With the 8 steps, including singing, movement, circle games, action songs, and more, students improve in the most important music areas. 

The childhood music education system is what you need as a class for preschool and beyond. 

The melodic expressiveness, in particular, is one strength of this system. 

It even has a classical music component to use with the expressiveness with its Move It lessons using high-quality recordings. 

“LOVE it. It focuses on singing and a steady beat. And fills in the gap for those kids who have not have musical experiences at home.”

Cons

Misses the instrumental piece. 

The program follows the belief in singing as the most efficient way to develop musical skills. 

This belief is generally accepted as fact by most experts due to research and experience, but the main method doesn’t include instrument lessons. 

Yes, it’s simple to adapt circle games and others to use instruments, but some teachers wish there was more built into the program. 

“There is a lot of good material in First Steps. What I’ve missed is instrument exploration – handing around one instrument for kids to try one at a time doesn’t work in my population.”

May use problematic songs. 

In the original edition of the books, they used some problematic songs. 

Part of the problem is how many traditional songs in the early editions come from racist or inappropriate origins. 

The program got in some hot water over the early editions recently, causing the author and team to rerelease newer editions without the problematic songs. 

The editions aren’t readily available on all shopping platforms, and you may not want to replace all of your books. 

They are working on offering a downloadable packet with the new songs and which ones not to do. 

“I don’t love all the repertoire that is provided…there is enough that I think is good to build a curriculum on, but there (are) just some that (are) really outdated or (have a) problematic history.”

The Verdict

All in all, after reading these reviews and using my own experiences, I believe any music teacher will get a lot out of the First Steps program. 

The benefits far outweigh the negatives, especially as new editions remove the problematic materials. 

Check it out with the links above and enjoy getting more tuneful, beatful, and artful. 

You may consider going to take one of the First Steps levels and getting certified. 

Find First Steps levels at the FAME homepage.

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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