Monday Mailbag – Method Series

What method books do you use? Why did you decide to use this method? Do you use different methods for different students?

When I first started teaching I didn’t have a clue what method to use with my students. All I knew was that I didn’t want to use the ones I grew up on because I had such distasteful memories of piano lessons. So I became a fixture at our local music store, poring over all the in-stock methods. For the first couple of years, I tried out many of the method books to see which ones seemed to work the best and which ones the students and I liked the most. (I still feel bad for the guinea pigs students I taught those first several years! :-)) Also, as new methods have come out over the years, I’ve often tried them just to see what I think.

My top pick for most students is the Faber Piano Adventures series. I love the landmark approach to note reading, and I really love the engaging music! I’m not much of a strict do-everything-exactly-as-the-book-says teacher, so I try to learn as much as I can about pedagogical approaches and then incorporate it into whatever method I’m using with my students. That’s why the quality of the music is of primary consideration for me. If there are certain techniques or concepts you want your students to learn, you can teach it in a multitude of ways, using all sorts of supplemental books. The Faber’s have done a fabulous job putting together a method series that is both pedagogically sound and fun to play, in my opinion!

Another series that I’ve begun using with some beginning students is the Alfred Premier Piano Course. Again, both the pedagogy and the music are wonderful! This method seems most appropriate for an older beginner, because it does move a bit more quickly than the Faber series. It also makes learning rhythm a primary focus of the method, with short rhythm patterns preceding most of the pieces to help the student practice for rhythmic accuracy in their playing.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I am really excited about Helen Marlais’ brand new Succeeding at the Piano method series. I attended the workshop on it at the MTNA Conference, and I’m eager to give it a try the next time I start a new beginning student! I do think it is helpful to use different methods with different students. Especially in cases where I have a younger sibling who is either progressing more quickly than the older sibling, or if they are a strong aural learner and have already heard most of the pieces played by an older sibling, I will put them in a separate method. I really like the Hal Leonard method series for this purpose, and also really enjoy using the accompaniment tracks that come with their books.

So…those are my favorites! Anyone else want to share their favorite methods and why you like them?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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