Friday, August 1, 2014

Curriculum for Beginning Pianists

People often ask what books I use for teaching. And, the answer is slightly complicated.

For children under 5, I will often use the "My First Piano Adventure" series by Faber It is designed for kids not reading fluently and it has more songs to practice on the same concept before moving on. It introduces concepts more slowly too. This is especially good for little ones because their fingers need more time to practice playing the keys to get the hang of it. Some teachers will not start students until they are reading well, or are in 2nd-3rd grade. This is totally a personal preference! There are advantages to both. I like the little ones, so I'm happy to start them as early as 4. (Depending on the child and the family's preference, I sometimes do 15-20 minute lessons with kids this young.) Another series I use for young pianists is Alfred's Basic Prep Course. This one moves a little faster, but not quite as fast as the series for 1st graders.

For most beginning students, ages 5 or 6 - 8, I use Faber's Adventures Series. It's my all time favorite series :) It starts kids off in what I think is the most logically sequential order for new material. Plus, there are a variety of song books for each level that correspond VERY well with the Lesson Book, the main instruction book. I always use a Lesson Book, Technique Book, and Theory Book. The technique and theory books align very well with the Lesson Book, so that students are practicing the same concepts across the 3 books, but in a variety of songs - keeps it interesting! Once a student gets the hang of piano, I usually throw in a book with even more fun songs - t.v. themes, popular books, rock songs, whatever... This series has it all, and all the songs are tailored to match the level of Lesson Book they're in.

For beginning students between 4th grade and middle school, I use Alfred's Later Beginner Books. They're perfectly geared towards students who are older, but not adults. I like them for all the same reason I like the other books - new concepts are introduced logically, the technique, theory, and fun books correspond well with the Lesson Book, and kids seem to respond well.

For adults, I use Alfred's Basic Adult Lesson Book and Dozen-a-Day's Preparatory Exercise Book. I use these with older beginners because I think these exercises help develop the finger skills. Ask any adult who is beginning piano for the first time - it's awkward for the fingers! Once adults feel comfortable with the basic concept of reading music and the technical skill of playing from these 2 books, I add other fun song books based on what each individual wants to play.

Oh, and beginners at EVERY LEVEL get flashcards :) I give out a few new ones each week that match what they learn in their songs. Eventually, there are all sorts of fun flashcard contests around my studio!

Please don't take this as the end-all-be-all for piano curriculum. These are the books I prefer. I find they work with 95% of students. Every so often, I end up using something different to best meet the needs of an individual student. I am flexible in curriculum - I like to use what works :) If you have any further curriculum questions, please don't hesitate to email me.

Happy piano studies,