Thursday, November 13, 2014

Piano Method Suggestions

Hello Piano People!

It is definitely fall!  Leaves are falling, rain is raining, holidays are approaching, end of term recital is almost here (and we are almost ready, right?!) :)

I am anticipating winter term. There is no recital until the spring, so I like to devote this term to strengthening basic skills:  Note reading, theory and scales. But for some students, this is a painful process.  So I am going to offer some suggestions for piano materials in this post.

I have my favorite piano methods.  I prefer a classical teaching approach, while supplementing with a variety of music that my students enjoy. But over the years, I have discovered that learning styles vary greatly and different method books cater to these different styles.

The classical approach is a good catch-all system. But some students learn more by ear, watching patterns and repetition.  And some students prefer to be more creative, and improvisational.

While I enjoy supplementing with popular music - hip-hop, rock, jazz, you name it - I still feel like in the early years of building a musical foundation, that a student would benefit from a method book as a "base".  That way, we make sure all the language of music is covered.  There is no hurry, racing through the books. I would prefer that we master the skills before moving on. That is the danger in relying solely on method books - charging through levels!

Music should be savored and enjoyed in the present moment. But I know how impatient people can be in these fast moving times!

I love to supplement lessons with the 12-bar blues. This is relatively easy to learn and requires no note reading! It also strengthens creativity - the student will improvise a melody using the blues scale.

For students who lean toward ear learning and want a fun music experience, the Faber Piano Adventures series is a good choice.

For adult students, or older beginners who prefer fun, recognizable tunes and chords, the Alfred Adult course is a nice fit.

For young students who are serious about learning piano, but still want to have fun, I like the Keith Snell Piano Adventures.

As my students advance, and are interested in learning the classics, Keith Snell's repetoire series is wonderful.

There are also many collections of pop hits, holiday favorites etc.   I provide links with levels on separate posts.

To supplement with special music, ask me and I can help you find a special piece.

A good resource for free (public domain) piano music you can print from your computer, go to: Click on "free piano music" and then browse by your approximate level. Levels vary by teacher and method, so ask me if you don't know what level. Or just print and try it out! I love when students try to challenge themselves.

Another site is You do have to pay for your sheet music here, but they have a feature where you can print a sample page for free.  This site is fantastic for popular music, including movie hits!

Note: Levels are: 

  • Primer (Brand New Beginner)
  • Level 1 - Finished primer, and can play at least a c scale and knows the notes in c major 5-finger position and middle c position. Also a basic understanding of time signature and note values.
  • Level 2 - Finished Level 1 and/or knows at least a C major and G major scale. (Note: I am big on scales, so my students usually know most of their major scales by the end of Level 2). Also, they should have good recognition of all of the notes on the Grand Staff and deeper understanding of time signature, note values, and be learning about musical expression.
  • Level 3 - Finished Level 2 and/or know major scales C through B.  Starting to work on larger works (classical or otherwise).  Uses the pedal, plays with expression, can sight read pieces from about Level 1.
  • Note: I don't usually continue with lesson books beyond Level 2.  But some students enjoy seeing their progress.  Usually after finishing Book 2 in a series, I switch to repetoire. Either picking out pieces that challenge and educate and they enjoy or working through a repetoire book.  These levels are not exact and vary from teacher to teacher, and according to student's learning styles.

Please ask me if you have any questions!

Now, go practice! :)  Teacher Zita

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