Questions, repertoire / methods

Forum Q&A: What piano book did you first learn from?

Greetings!  I know I’ve been MIA around the blog lately — it’s been a busy couple of weeks.  This time of year always requires lots of planning time, for upcoming festivals and recitals.  I’ve been helping students pick out repertoire and keeping track of forms and registration dates, etc.  🙂

Anyway, I though I would start a new Forum Q&A post today!  Last time, we discussed duet repertoire — I hope you will go check out all of the responses so far by clicking here, and I also hope you’ll continue adding your favorites!

Today, I want to to hear from you:

What piano method books did you learn from as a child?  Did you like the books?  What did you like about them?  What else do you remember about your first piano lessons?

I think it will be fun to hear your stories!  I’ll try to post my own answer sometime this week, too.

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31 thoughts on “Forum Q&A: What piano book did you first learn from?”

  1. In 1990 I was 8 years old and started my piano lessons in the old red Aaron books. I also remember doing a Dozen a Day exercises, Notespeller, and then we played out of the old John Thompson books. I actually still have my very first piano notebook from my first couple of years of piano lessons. I learned that I was doing much more difficult repertoire much sooner than I have my students do now. I was also doing scales from day 1 which I also, do not do with my students right away. It made me feel like I could push the beginners a little harder than I do. 🙂

  2. I took violin lessons first, but I remember playing out of my older brother’s piano books for fun. I took piano lessons later, once I had taught myself for a few years. We lived in Japan at the time, so I learned music in do-re-mi form, instead of A-B-C. It took me a while to get used to the way we do it in the US!

  3. My first lessons were from Leila Fletcher book 1. I used to use it with my beginner students, too. I like that the pieces are very musical, right from the start. However, I did find that it moved a little quickly for some children.

  4. I started piano lessons when I was 14, so that was only 7 years ago. Before that, I taught myself Klavarscribo notation. I used my piano teachers own curriculum for the first few years (Voth Piano Library, Learn to Play the Piano series). Now I teach it to all of my students. A really wonderful program, covers theory, technique, and pieces. I’ve looked around at other programs out there, but have to admit this one is the best I’ve seen yet!

    1. Hi Heidi –

      I have done Google searches and come up with nothing for Both Piano Library, Learn to Play the Piano series. I love to look at methods and would like to know more about this.

      thanks –
      Sarah Arnold
      La Hulpe, Belgium

        1. Hi Sarah,

          That method is not actually published. My piano teacher has made it herself, and prints it at her home for her students and those of us who teach using her books. She also records CDs for with each book. She is continually updating and making everything better. I really like her arrangements and compositions for the levels. All the pieces are so musical and pleasing. Lots of expression is also put in. I’m not sure how you could go about getting your own copies if you are interested, but I could give you her contact information through a private email. 🙂

          Thanks for your comment!

  5. I am a proud MYC graduate, and now MYC teacher. I started piano at age 4 in the Music for Young Children program, which I loved, and which I love teaching. What I remember about doing the piano pieces as a child included the pictures that I could colour on every page, the fact that I could play for others and get stickers, and the words that were with the songs. I also remember LOVING when I was able to put things hands together with bridges (first when I was five years old) and chords when I was six years old. One particular piece called “Dump Truck Waltz” that I played when I was six years old stands out particularly for me. After the Sunbeams Three level that I completed at age 7, we entered into the Royal Conservatory of Music grade one books, and I have been an RCM student ever since….

  6. Another Leila Fletcher product, I am.
    And I used to teach from it – before Piano Adventures. I’ve since hauled them out to use as supplementary material and, like Alice, am struck by how musical a lot of it is.

  7. Like a couple other gals, I started with Leila Fletcher (way back in early ’60’s). I recently found one marked down at the music store, and bought it for nostalgia’s sake. The songs and pictures brought back so many fun memories. I also played in Dozen a Day, and still use those with several of my students. My main focus now is the Faber series for the younger students, and it’s so much fun as students develop their tastes, with classics, or popular, etc. Teaching is so much fun!

  8. I used John Williams for some of my lessons.

    I love the new books now for kids, so much more appealing and colorful, although I believe the older methods had more material and was much more melodic.

    I’m pretty sure we used to progress much faster than most students do in methods today.

  9. I started when I was 5 yrs old on the John Thompson book “Teaching Little Fingers to Play”. I learned to read the musical staff before being able to read words.

  10. I believe it was Bastien. I do have a fun story regarding my first teacher! Currently I am a band director (as well as have a piano studio) and get the pleasure of accompanying my soloists at district solo and ensemble contests. My HS students competed last weekend. After finishing a performance I was considering the poor condition in which the piano was in when I recognized the voice of a woman also commented on its condition. I recognized her voice has my first piano teacher (I haven’t seen her in probably 25 or so years!). It was so good to speak with her! I had to accompany one more student and felt like I was in her studio again! Needless to say I felt a bit self-conscious! As if I hadn’t practiced enough!

  11. What a wonderful Q&A! I’ve really enjoyed reading through other responses. I already knew how to read music when I started piano classes at age 9 (in school we learned notation and how to play the recorder so I knew the basics of rhythm and notation), so I was given the John Thompson books that start you off on the staff, rather than pre-reading. We changed methods a lot, though – I did JT Book 1, then Book 3 of another method (I don’t remember which!) and then we moved on to the ABRSM exam books supplemented with some easy Mozart arrangements.

    I did like the JT books, and used them when I first started teaching… only to discover they were a little bit too difficult because there was no pre-reading section! Having to teach beginner notation as well as all the basics of playing the piano was too much for my little beginners, so I’ve switched to Piano Adventures, which I love.

    I don’t remember much about my first lessons… just that I really loved them 🙂 and I’m still in touch with my teacher!

  12. J.W. Schaum. Loved those books, finished the whole series in a couple of years. I liked that many of the pieces had words, and many were familiar tunes. I’ll never forget “Tuna fish, tuna fish, sing a song of tuna fish; tuna fish tuna fish it’s your favorite dish” to the tune of Lightly Row. I’m not sure how I learned to sightread well with all the finger numbers in the book!

  13. I haven’t seen these mentioned yet: I began taking lessons in the early 80’s and my teacher used Edna Mae Burnham’s Step by Step series along with John Thompson’s Teaching Little Fingers to Play.
    Although I have fond memories of learning from these books, as a teacher now I use Piano Adventures 🙂

  14. I started learning (in the early 90s) in the Bastiens books, and used them with my students as well in the first couple years of teaching, until I started finding more and more aspects that I wanted to do differently. My main complaint was that I found they stayed in the C position way too long – so long that students just played finger 3 if they saw an E and didn’t learn to read the notes. I teach in Germany now, so I’m now using German method books. The most important things I look for when picking method books for beginners are that they use different positions right away, have a pre-reading section at the beginning, and that the songs are musical – teacher duet parts are also always nice to have.

  15. I too have enjoyed reading about all the different books people started with. I was 5 when I started lessons, the third girl in the family to take lessons. I asked for lessons – I really wanted to learn. But the teacher didn’t believe in teaching children that young. My mom had to plead with her to take me on. I was determined to prove her wrong. I think? I started in the Schaum books, but must have moved fairly quickly because I don’t really remember them. And I went on to RCM books early on. Now I use Leila Fletcher for my students – book one to get them started along with the Grace Vandendool Theory books which I love. The kids love the LF songs… because they are so melodic. I use Book 2 and halfway through transition to RCM Intro level and use the rest of Book 2 as supplementary material. It works for me… but I’m enjoying using Piano Adventures as supplementary material too.

  16. I used the Bastian books when I began in the 1980’s. I think that must have been a popular series at that time. I remember liking them, but I do agree with others that they are way harder than the beginner books we use these days. For example, they progress faster than the popular Faber series of today.

  17. I began learning piano from the Robert Pace Piano series, and went through the entire series. It is a multi-key method from the very beginning. I can’t imagine too many of my students these days would do very well with it. At my first lesson, my teacher gave me all 12 of the major 5 finger patterns for me to learn by the next week. She taught them by drawing 5 boxes and coloring in the appropriate one for the black keys. To this day I visualize what they look like in my head.
    I teach using Piano Adventures and love it, but I do have to work at introducing the students to playing in different keys. I wish they were introduced much sooner in the series.

  18. I was taught using the Suzuki Method, which I loved and am grateful for still today. However, the primary down side to this method is the lack of sight reading skill building. My teacher supplemented my Suzuki curriculum with Method Rose, which has got to be the worst book ever written! I hated every second of every song! I do not teach the Suzuki method, and I use the tried and true combination of Thompson, Schaum and Fletcher. However, I have recently experimented with Faber & Faber’s Piano Adventures, and I do quite like it. It is the opposite of Method Rose!

  19. I began lessons at almost 11 yrs with John Thompson level one. I have to brag a little. My piano teacher, Thelma Waggoner, was a student of John Thompson, and when she was 17, she played for Rachmaninoff. She was an amazing teacher and I’ve patterned what I do after her. I have used Thompson, but mostly Robert Pace in my teaching. I am going to begin using Mayron Cole’s work next week with some new students.

  20. I initially learned from the John Thompson “Teaching Little Fingers To Play,” when my mom taught me. My next teacher put me in Bastien, which I remember disliking. I still use the John Thompson book today as a supplemental book with students sometimes, although I have to say that the original illustrations were MUCH better than the colorful, cartoon-y ones today!

  21. I learned with the Michael Aaron method, and use this with my new students today. I like that it starts immediately with reading notes on a staff, and uses some songs familiar to students. They love to play songs they know! As they progress, I move to John Thompson. I like the use of classical music, and photos to illustrate proper hand position and posture. I also use Dozen a Day even with my youngest students. Some are so young they can’t play chords yet, so we skip those exercises. They really like the stick figures! I start 5 note “scales” as soon as the students are playing 5 notes in each hand, and move to a full scale as soon as I feel they are able to cross fingers.

  22. Hi!
    I love your page 🙂
    My first book was from Jela Krši?. It? Croatian book. I remember I loved to play because songs were short and easy 😀
    Also, pictures on every page wich I coloured were very funny and amusing 🙂

  23. I began piano instruction in the early to mid-50s and my teacher used mostly the John Thompson series starting with level 1 along with John Schaum method books.

  24. I grew up in Malaysia and started group music lessons at age 4 via Yamaha’s Junior Music Course (I can’t remember the books used there) I was 6 when my mother decided I was interested enough to start piano lessons. My first piano teacher started me on Lina Ng’s Piano Lessons Made Easy. I don’t believe you can get them here in the USA (with the exception of the theory books which I saw in the Keyboard Pedagogy Conference 2011, pretty nostalgia). I love the Lina Ng’s book as it uses folk songs and children’s song from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and a few western ones, which is appropriate for children growing up in that region as we knew all those songs! I may be purchasing these books next time I’m in Malaysia as supplemental books for my more international students.

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