The July Forum: Discussing Method Books

This month’s discussion topic is about using method books (i.e., Alfred, Faber, Bastien, etc.) in the piano studio:

What do you look for in a method book?  What features are most important to you?  Do you use the same method series for all your students, or do you use a variety?  If you use a variety of different method books in your studio, how do you decide which one is right for each student?  Do you use a method series all the way through the final level, or do you take them out at some point?

Post away!  =)

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Joy Morin is a piano teacher in northwest Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. ColorInMyPiano.com serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 1129 posts here.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted 16 July 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Choosing a good method book for beginners is SO important. As teachers, we need to be sure to give our beginning students a good foundation to build their skills upon. I have really enjoyed using the Faber Piano Adventures series for my students. I think the Faber’s have a good pedagogical product which enforces READING more than just hand positions or fingering (which I’ve found some other methods rely on way too much). This gives students the ability to recognize patterns and become better sight readers in the future. I think sightreading is such an important skill to have as pianists – how else can you learn a new piece if you can’t sight read it through? Our students won’t always have a teacher there to tell them “what position do I start in??”, so having a good foundation in reading is imperative.

    Of course, I also supplement the method books with repertoire based on each student’s interests. There is always the kid who wants to play “fast songs!” and the kid who likes “moodier” pieces.

    I also try to get the student’s OUT of the method books as soon as possible, and into playing standard piano literature at their level. For a lot of students, it seems like they feel more successful playing “real” piano pieces versus another piece in their lesson book.

  2. rachel
    Posted 19 July 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the pp that choosing the right method is very importaNt in determining the success of students. I also use Piano Adventures and I think what makes this course so unique is the awesome music. Even at the very early levels the students feel so accomplished because they are playing “real” music and not just boring songs using the same keys but in a different order. When I switched from bastien to faber I cannot even tell u how much of a difference it made. I have also acquired transfer students who were using the original alfred series and hated piano with a passion, as soon as I got them started on piano adventures they were totally different students suddenly enthusiastic about playing the piano. I like to take my students to at least level 4 but I start supplementing at abt level 2a. I recently attended a teacher workshop for the alfred premiere series and I was pretty impressed for the same reasons that I love piano adventures. Its nice that the cds come with the books…..I may try this series on a student who need that extra help with rhythm that a cd can provide.

  3. Posted 31 July 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I don’t necessarily use the same method books for all students, because they all come in at different ages and with different learning styles. I do tend to lean toward the various Alfred books, though, because they are so thorough with theory concepts. They are also very user friendly. If a student forgets something I taught them in their lessson, it’s very easy to find the information in their book.

    I use Alfred Prep or Alfred Basic with younger beginners (ages 4-8). I include the theory and notespeller books, because I am a huge advocate of really making sure they are learning and retaining the theory concepts along the way. I also will usually add in one of the supplemental books, such as Recital Book, because the songs are nicer in those.

    I use Alfred Premier with several of my students, but not the real young ones. If they start around ages 8-11, I like those. I love how this series introduces chords, etc. And I do like that they use more of the piano earlier. However, it moves too fast for young beginners. I’ve found that young beginners actually benefit from starting out with the strict hand positions, simply because it 1) allows them to focus on new concepts without also thinking about jumping all over the keyboard; 2) it creates a situation where it is very easy to train them to play without constantly looking at their hands. I do like the CD that comes with Alfred Premier…..for most students. It can become a hindrance to sight-reading for students who have a really strong ear, though.

    My adult beginners really like Alfred’s new series called “Play Piano Now!” It uses a lot of songs they are familiar with. And it gets into chords fairly early. I do add in my own teaching on transposing, etc. once they start learning chords, since this age group tends to want to learn that.

    I have used Music Tree for a handful of students. My experience with that is mixed. Something I love about it is how it teaches things like chords, improvisation, composition, etc. For the creative student, this is a huge plus. However, with exception of the first book, it moves WAY too fast for younger students (from a theory concepts standpoint, that is). But the first book, especially, looks like it was designed for 4-yr-old. Even successive books look like they are for younger students. Visually, they are very babyish. And up through book 2, the songs are really dumb. Book three gets a lot better. Book 4 and beyond includes a lot of standard piano literature, and is MUCH more pleasant. So, if you and your student can endure the first few books, this series is great… especially for instilling a strong foundation in theory concepts.

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