For many piano teachers across the world, September marks the start of a new academic year. With lots of new beginner piano students starting their first piano lessons, and many different beginner piano methods on the market, how do we choose the right ones for our students?
Inside The Curious Piano Teachers’ Community this month, our September 2021 Curiosity Box features a beautifully designed e-book; A-Z of Teaching Beginner Students, which tells you all you need to know about working with this important stage. Members can also access the May 2019 Curiosity Box: Exploring Tutor Books, the September 2018 Curiosity Box: First Piano Lessons, and May 2015: Beginners.
You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel here for the full library of Sally’s Tuesday Teaching Tips videos, and our past free webinars for more ideas on how to teach beginners.
We asked members of our piano teaching Community to share their favourite beginner piano methods, how they chose them, and what they love about them. Here’s what they said:
“I love Piano Safari. Think it’s fab, particularly the rote learning and technique. I also dip into Piano Adventures too. Am awaiting the arrival of my copy of Piano Safari Friends, too. And of course, Ready To Play features pretty heavily, and I use this with a lot of my students to build foundations in the all-important musicianship!” P.S. Can’t wait to get stuck into this month’s Curiosity Box! Joanna Garcia
“…in India we don’t have access to a variety of method books but I had my eye on Piano Safari. This year I just decided to go for it! Despite it being a little more expensive, I have really liked it! It encourages so much more music-making. The duets are great and like Joanna said – the rote learning is structured well too! Shanelle Rodrigues
“My students love the Hammond & Marshall Get Set Piano Tutor & Pieces books and the larger print My First Piano book for the younger beginners. They work well alongside Sally’s Ready To Play and Vibrant Music Teaching games…[I] like the way both sets of books [are] set out – lots of pictures/diagrams – easy to follow/reminders for practice. Short pieces – so easy to learn in a week (if they practise) and move on. Most of them have words so can sing along too. Pictures of heartbeats used to introduce the beat. Also a variety of pieces – something for everyone. With both sets of both they can leave [their] lesson from Day 1 being able to play. Skills [are] introduced alongside notes – e.g. basic articulation, dynamics, tempo. Also short quizzes and chance to write some music of their own – imagination inspired as well.”
“I like Piano Safari [and] use it for beginners from Yr 2… it has good balance of rote, reading, technique, improvisation and theory.”
“I also use Ready To Play and Piano Safari with ages 5-10 and then Piano Safari Older Beginner for after that. I love Ready To Play because it focuses [on] musicianship skills and listening. Piano Safari then really compliments that as it’s about technique and hearing the sound you are making as opposed to just reading. I sometimes supplement with different bits and bobs from Piano Adventures or repertoire from Wendy Stevens [ComposeCreate] depending on what concept we are trying to consolidate.” Nina Hodgson
“For 6-10 yrs I use Get Set! Piano with Ready to Play leading. This allows me to get the student at least to sing or hum [the] tune and get a good grasp of rhythm and pitch whereas the Get Set! allows me to get them interested in reading the music that they are learning…Sometimes [with students that are exceptional] I allow them to have a look at the Piano Time series.
“It’s not really a case of what books people use…it’s more a case of what is your teaching style. The method books people use suit their style of teaching. Today there are 4 or 5 outstanding method books. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, but these are countered by the teaching style and skills of the teacher. That’s why [some people] love Piano Adventures and I prefer Get Set! Piano.” Simon Burgess
“I like the Accelerated Piano Adventures series for all my beginners above the age of 10, that is most of my students. I have been using this series for a few years now, and I like the use of well-known tunes, the logical progression, the focus around landmark notes, and the steady pace of learning. For younger beginners I use Piano Adventures Primer followed by the levels, which is also an excellent series in my opinion: nicely paced, imaginative, and inspiring material.” Madge Woollard
“I use Faber [Piano Adventures] and Wunderkeys before RCM and supplement with Piano Pronto [and] Piano Safari along the way. [With] Faber the students like the colours and we like most of the pieces in the lesson books, improv, composition in the theory books – and their supplementary books are good too! I like Piano Safari but the books are more expensive – Wunderkeys has games, listening, theory, everything included in their box so they’re very comprehensive, very child-friendly. And RCM for exams.” Fiona Mendes
“I think the Piano Safari Teachers’ Resources (the Principles and the Mini Essays) are essential read[ing] for all teachers, not only those teaching Piano Safari. Those really transformed my thinking and made the switching decision [from Piano Adventures to Piano Safari] for me. I used to teach Piano Adventures and own I think just about every resource they published pre-Covid… but I switched to Piano Safari because it had the most things of what I needed to develop in my pupils.
Plus a lot of freedom – I remembered it was very liberating to teach by rote – and to know why I was doing so in one piece but not another. And the fact that I suddenly had a bunch of pupils rising who seemed to be more agile, play technically better and [were] faster reader[s]…So – Piano Safari was truly easy fit for me – and the more years I use it, the more flexible it has become.” Angie Tse
“My main method book with 6 yr olds and up at the moment is Piano Adventures – I feel it covers everything very comprehensively and is creative and well laid out. However, I do supplement it with the rote pieces and sight-reading cards from Piano Safari plus dipping into lots of other resources e.g. the pieces with backing tracks from Piano Teaching Success, Samantha Coates’s Rote Repertoire, Nicola Cantan’s games, aural activities etc. from Vibrant Music Teaching. As Simon says, it’s finding what suits your style of teaching.” Juliet Robinson
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This blog post was written by Hannah O’Toole, Community & Marketing Manager of The Curious Piano Teachers.