Professional Development, repertoire / methods, Retreat

Video: Let’s Talk about John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers To Play”

Hi there!

Earlier today, I went live on Facebook to talk about one of my favorite old piano method books: the classic John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano. I have to admit certain bias for the “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” book. It was my first piano book when I was all of age 5. 🙂

Here is the Facebook Live video.

Here is what’s covered in the video:

  • 0:50  Get a peek inside an OLD copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers To Play” book by John Thompson.
  • 2:10  Why I like using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book sometimes today as a supplement.
  • 3:05  Get a peek inside a NEW copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book. The illustrations have been updated, but the version is otherwise pretty true to the original.
  • 3:35  How to address one of the potential pitfalls of using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book: the overabundance of finger numbers.
  • 4:47  How John Thompson was ahead of his time as a pedagogue. Or, perhaps there is really just “nothing new under the sun.” 🙂 Hint: See the note on the cover of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book.
  • 7:04  Learn more about other music and resources John Thompson authored.

Questions for you: Have you ever used the John Thompson series? What do you appreciate about it?

Thanks for watching!

P.S.: Why am I looking through old piano method books? It’s because I’m in the midst of preparations for Retreat at Piano Manor which I will be hosting later this summer, August 17-19, 2017! During the retreat, we will be looking through piano method books from across the decades, uncovering pedagogical wisdom relevant for us today. Registration is now open and a few teachers have already registered. Be sure to watch the facebook page and here on the blog for future videos about piano methods.

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15 thoughts on “Video: Let’s Talk about John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers To Play””

  1. This was my first piano method book too! Although, I was taught by an elementary teacher who also knew how to play piano and I’m not sure why, but I don’t remember being taught about reading and using the finger numbers, so the over abundance was just filtered out for me, I guess! I don’t think I truly used finger numbers as an actual guide until high school.

    1. That’s great that the extra finger numbers didn’t negatively impact you at all! There’s a reason why “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” is still popular including internationally. 🙂

  2. This was my first piano method book as well, way back in 1972. I got as far as the third grade book before my teacher moved me out of the method books altogether and into other repertoire. I credit this method with helping me master key signatures quickly. Interestingly, I never noticed the overabundance of finger numbers until I read about it several years ago. All four of my original John Thompson books still reside in my music library…I’ll have to dust them off and relive some memories.

  3. Interesting that you progressive teachers are praising J Thompson! About 70 years ago when I was a beginner in that series, I totally relied on finger numbers until I “ran out of fingers”. Then I asked my sister to play the pieces which gave me a highly developed ear but no expertise in reading. My parents figured out something was wrong and I wasn’t learning to read! They sent me to a knowledgable teacher who thought I’d NEVER learn to read!! The rest is history!
    You see, my view of JK is not exactly positive!!

    1. Yes, that is definitely a potential pitfall if we aren’t careful! Method books get us a long way, but ultimately “The teacher is the method,” as they say. Every method has it’s pitfalls, but anything can be avoided if the teacher and student are careful and cognizant.

  4. I love the John Thompson method books and use his “Easiest Piano Course” for my young beginners. I usually switch them over to the “Modern Piano Course First Grade” after “Easiest” Book Two. They do very well and like the pieces. I have used “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” for older beginners but prefer a different method for them now.

  5. I am old enough that my first books were John Thompson. I feel like learning the middle c position and adding a note each week gave me a strong foundation in note reading. I have had very good luck with young beginners using Janet Vogt/Leon Bates Piano Discovery series. It seems like the same approach as John Thompson with an updated much cute selection of pieces and pictures.

  6. I grew up on John Thompson, and still have fond memories of the tunes in “Teaching Little Fingers…” I loved playing the pieces as duets with my teacher. When, as an adult, I was teaching, I moved away from it because of criticism about over-reliance on finger numbers instead of note-reading. I actually caught on to note reading quite easily, either in spite of or because of that method, I’ll never know. The melodies in that series were just lovely.

  7. Teaching Little Fingers was my first book also and I went through all his Graded Books after that though they were well supplemented with many other pieces and exams so maybe that is why I never really relied on the marked fingering.
    Just a few weeks ago I started a new adult pupil on his new Adult Course.
    It is well presented and easy to understand. Fingering is marked but not overly so.

    1. I’ve had the overabundance of fingering become an issue for certain students if I’m not diligent to watch out for it, but for most students it hasn’t been a problem!

      What a coincidence: I just started using the Adult Course with a student a few weeks ago also!

  8. I’m just now seeing this post. I started with this book, Teaching Little Fingers to Play. It belonged to my dad, uncle, and aunt when they took lessons. Back then, the books were about $.75!! Mine is (barely) held together with tape that is flaking off. I, too love to look through my grandma’s old music. I have her 1948 Acrosonic piano which has held up well with my piano students. Thanks for sharing the J.T. books/video!

  9. Thanks so much for this video. I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of my original copy of Teaching Little Fingers to Play when I bought our kids the new version. The black and white drawings were so lovely. I’m working on a memoir and it was very helpful to me to come across your video to remind myself of what the original looked like. I loved this book so much as a child, and our children enjoyed working their way through as well.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories of the Teaching Little Fingers to Play book, Bess! I agree, the black and white drawings in the original edition are lovely. I’m so glad you enjoyed the video. Best wishes to you with your memoir project!

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