The Rancer Method explains, step by step, how to have a successful piano/guitar experience when learning an instrument.

The method was developed by Susan Rancer, who failed, like so many others, at reading music, yet she was a musical prodigy. She could pick up any tune by ear and play it with 2 hands instantly, yet froze when reading music. By modifying the classical traditional way of learning an instrument, she teaches children and adults how to play using written scores. As explained in her book “Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism,” the key elements of The Rancer Method are:

  • Start children by reading music with alphabetical letter names (rather than the traditional notes universally found in published music scores) so they can learn keyboarding skills.
  • Teaching by hand positions to establish familiarity with the keyboard.
  • Integrate learning skills with music instruction.
  • Use “free time” activities to reinforce the progress of the child and to explore their auditory gifts …LEARN MORE

Why is it important to identify gifts instead of deficits in special needs students

Although all of the clients that Susan sees are special needs students, nearly all of them have perfect pitch and a photographic memory. These skills have rarely been identified before they meet Susan. Once she is able to work with them, gather information and test them, she is able to identify the gifts they possess. This is important because typically the previous teachers have only told the parents about what their child can’t do. They have never heard the word “gifted” in descriptions of their children until Susan talks about their unique skills. This change in focus not only helps the child to learn desired music skills, but it also improves the dynamics in the family.

Recently the parents of a 4 year old with unintelligible language brought him to begin working with Susan. When he started his first lessons, she could tell that he had a photographic memory and perfect pitch. The mother had not realized this until Susan noted how intelligent the child was. As he has continued his music lessons using Susan’s method, his speech has evolved to where all of his language is now clear. Recently the mother proudly told Susan that, even with a diagnosis of autism, he will begin regular kindergarten next year. An intelligence test administered by the school confirmed his high level of intelligence.

With new language and musical skills, he is a happier child and successful student. As his mother has seen his potential, even her own disposition has changed as she has a new-found pride in her son.

Another boy, age 11, autistic and nonverbal, comes from a very musical family. When he started working with Susan, he needed hand over hand assistance in playing piano because of the low muscle tone he had in both hands. The exercises he engaged in as part of Susan’s method have improved his dexterity and he is now able to play unassisted. He can see how well he is doing and as a result his behavior has improved. Watching his development in the two years that he has been playing and reading music, his family now recognizes his intelligence. He loves coming to music therapy and he is able to understand his own potential.

Susan has another student who started when he was young but is now age 16. He is another success at piano. He has perfect pitch and displayed that by singing on pitch as a young child, even before beginning piano lessons, which was later confirmed using Susan’s unique testing method. He also has a photographic memory. He has always loved music and piano has become an important part of his life. He was in the school orchestra in middle school and continues now that he is in high school.

His peers are able to see his musical brilliance once he starts playing. He rarely speaks and is mostly nonverbal. But highlighting his gifts it has changed the dynamics within the family as they can now see all his capabilities. He is now also learning guitar and practices almost every day, sometimes for hours. He also continues to play the piano and is at an advanced level. Music has been both a tool for personal learning, as well as a great leisure time activity for him.

Scroll to Top