It’s easy to feel rather overwhelmed at times isn’t it? During this week I felt like this when I started to sort out all my music scores and books ready for the term ahead.
It’s great that there is an ever-increasing amount of teaching material and resources available. However, it can make the job of choosing what to use quite hard!
Just take the number of piano method books out there – I can think of 10 without even trying. No wonder it feels a little bewildering. Yet, getting the right book for each pupil is so important.
But never fear because help is at hand from The Curious Piano Teachers! Here are our three favourite piano methods accompanied by some thoughts as to why the books work for us.
Back in 2015 I highlight 5 principles behind choosing a piano method book. I pointed out that teachers should ask:
‘Does the book allow for the fact that the skill of playing often develops faster than the skill of reading the notes? Is expressive playing held back because of a lack of reading fluency?’
At the time no such book existed so I was just delighted when a member of The Community introduced me to Piano Safari. It became available in the UK just a year ago and is one of the favourite piano method books used by the piano teachers in The Community.
Its authors, Dr Julie Knerr and Katherine Fisher, acknowledge that the ability to play the piano should be nurtured separately from the skill of learning to read the music. The key features of playing by rote, a systematic approach to reading and an imaginative technical approach have proved to be highly successful and popular with both teachers and pupils.
Here’s why Piano Safari [PS] is the piano method of choice for some members of The Community:
‘I love the way that the rote pieces sound so accomplished and teach pianistic skill alongside thorough consolidation of reading skills – rather than “this is note c/d/e etc” – using directional and intervallic reading. My young pupils are loving the pieces and making excellent, assured progress!‘ Rachel (UK)
‘The relentless focus on technique from start (beautiful tone and artistic playing) has changed my teaching’ Angie (UK)
‘I love PS! The way it combines rote pieces with their intervallic reading approach it’s perfect for my teaching. I also like the animal techniques in PS’ Juan (Spain)
Although the books are a little more expensive than you might normally expect to pay we need to understand that this is quality teaching material. Furthermore, the method books are supported by an excellent website complete with ‘how to teach’ videos for every piece and a series of mini-essays.
Another very popular piano method book amongst members of The Community is the Piano Adventure series. Whereas Piano Safari is new to the scene in the UK, Piano Adventures has been around for a number of years now.
Like nearly all of the American piano methods it is pedagogically quite sound and its approach has been well thought through. Written by Nancy & Randall Faber it has great ideas for teaching technique. For example Stone on the Mountain from My First Piano Adventure. Artistry is also high on the list of priorities and from the start pupils are encouraged to be aware of the musical sound and shape.
Here’s more thoughts from piano teachers in The Community:
‘It’s carefully sequenced and concepts are reinforced with the theory and technique books.’ Wendy (UK)
‘I find that in PA most students learn 5 finger scales without getting locked in them forever. This allows for a lovely transition into RCM prep level where they need to know pentascales for their exam. I also like PA for its note naming plus intervallic approach’. Jodie (Canada)
‘PA Adult all in one – because it’s a creative approach with recognisable pieces from lesson 1 (and great app !)’ Georgin (UK)
On the downside not everyone was convinced by the progression through some of the later books, in particular Level 2.
GET SET PIANO
Get Set is a piano method from the UK. Although it appeared someway behind the other two books in popularity it certainly deserves an honourable mention. Written by Karen Marshall and Heather Hammond the pieces have all been tried and tested on their own piano pupils. Whilst the focus is on reading from notation, the books have a steady and reliable sense of progression to it.
‘I find that I can relate my style of teaching to Get Set Piano books getting the most out of the Learning, Practicing and Performing repertoire that is provided in each of the books that make up the series’. Simon (UK)
Other teachers find the note-based approach of the book suitable for pupils who are already learning an instrument.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PIANO METHODS FOR YOUR STUDIO
What all these piano method books do is to create a progression of learning. Unless you create your own methods this will invariably involve some compromise because, of course, no one book is perfect! As piano teachers we need to find one that is the closest fit to our own teaching principles and approaches.
Above all we need to ask: is making music and musical communication at the heart of this piano method? If it isn’t then maybe it is time to think again.
Interested in having the support and guidance of like-minded piano teachers? Membership of The Curious Piano Teachers Community is currently free for the first month so that you can find out for yourself just what so many teachers are getting excited about. CLICK HERE TO JOIN.
CLICK HERE to read about the 5 principles behind choosing a tutor book
This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers