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Has anybody ever tried...
#1869422 03/27/12 07:07 PM
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Has anybody ever experimented with skipping Method Books altogether and just jumping right into actual classical repertoire with beginners? Is it possible? How would you do it if you were to go this route?

This is my first year teaching, and I love it a lot. The majority of my students are beginners/very young, and I just continued on with the method books that they were already using before I was teaching them.

Help on this topic greatly appreciated - thanks!

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Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869467 03/27/12 09:04 PM
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Not a teacher, just a beginning student. I've played nothing but classical repertoire with my teacher. BUT (ah, the catch), I could already read music (treble clef) and had years of violin lessons (as a kid) and self-taught classical guitar (as an adult).

So is skipping method books possible? It depends...


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Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869556 03/28/12 12:01 AM
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at the "considering teaching in the future so have thought about it" stage:

Books don't teach. Teachers teach. To me a method book represents an organized way of presenting key concepts and skills to students. It includes repertoire which matches those things. So those concepts and skills can be taught without the books, which simply organize them for you. There are plenty of teachers who have thought out what they want to teach, and do it without method books. They have put their own order to it. If I were a beginning teacher of piano, I might get several method book series in order to see what they taught in which order and how - then either I'd choose one, or borrow ideas from them.

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869567 03/28/12 12:37 AM
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"Books don't teach, teachers teach!"

So well put keystring!

When I was young I was never met with a "method book" (unless Beyer is considered one, but it's certainly is not what we call now 'method book'). I'm not sure I like the idea of a method book. Too confined for my taste...

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869592 03/28/12 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Richter
Has anybody ever experimented with skipping Method Books altogether and just jumping right into actual classical repertoire with beginners? Is it possible? How would you do it if you were to go this route?


Not a good idea.

Method books are developed for a reason. They exist to make sure that all the bases are covered and that students get a complete education of the basics.

I recently accepted a brand new beginner who came to me with an entire set of hand-me-down Bastien books. I have to be very creative with these books, yet I know it's working fine. The kid is learning to read notes and making good progress. Another of my student who came to me two years ago with old Bastien books is already playing Kuhlau sonatinas, and is lightyears ahead of the transfer students who came from Yamaha and Suzuki.

In some parts of the world, John Thompson is still being used. Some use Bartok Mikrokosmos, Czerny, and/or Beyer as "method books." Method books have come a long way since Czerny, et. al. Take a look at Piano Adventures and Alfred Premier. I would have enjoyed piano lessons a lot more if those series were available. I play piano in spite of being taught with John Thompson and Beyer.


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Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869602 03/28/12 02:39 AM
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As a beginner myself, it's hard to imagine starting with classical repertoire from day 1, with no music reading experience. But I very quickly got into classical repertoire (at 4 months) and my teacher uses the pieces to teach the sorts of things that are covered in method books. The method books we used for the first 4 months is a Japanese series for adults. Many (though not all) of the pieces in them are simplified from classical music. We still go back to them every now and again, but mostly for sight reading practice.

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869603 03/28/12 02:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Richter


Help on this topic greatly appreciated - thanks!


I am doing this just now with an adult beginner - I say beginner but he did previously play guitar and flute, and though he claims he can't read music, he picks some things up awful quick. I did start him on Mikrocosmos and also got the Agay Classics to Moderns first volume - he can read parts of this, but not yet hands together. Apart from that he does scales and I find myself writing lots for him.

My brother teacher entirely without method books. Some respected forum members do also. I just think, why re-invent the wheel? There are good methods out there. Kids love them and parents don't mind paying.

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869631 03/28/12 05:01 AM
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I think it depends on the individual pupil, if they are able to concentrate for long enough without getting bored then maybe apply the method books to part of the lesson.

With children especially I have found that it is important to find a style of song they particularly like and then find suitable music for them by getting their opinion on the choice of music.

If you find that they are losing concentration going away and not practicing what you have asked and showed them in the lesson then you may have to change what you are teaching them to something that they prefer.

Enjoy and have fun!

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
AZNpiano #1869784 03/28/12 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano

Not a good idea.

Method books are developed for a reason. They exist to make sure that all the bases are covered and that students get a complete education of the basics.

AZN, I know for a fact that there are teachers who plan their own approach and maybe as thoroughly as any method book, and do not use method books. Several have stated so in this forum. I still maintain that teachers teach, books don't. If a teacher covers the same kind of thing and has his or her things organized, why should this not work? The hundred dollar question ofc is whether the planning and organization is there.

Having said that, I would not want to start on a new instrument simply via repertoire with no thought or planning given to teaching those things that the method books try to teach.

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
keystring #1869791 03/28/12 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
I still maintain that teachers teach, books don't. If a teacher covers the same kind of thing and has his or her things organized, why should this not work?

It could work. I wrote in another thread that, if I were shipwrecked on an island that had nothing but Suzuki books, I could still make it work. But the difficulty of getting ideas through to students will be immense, and the student's challenges in reading will be tremendous. In other words, it's a very bad idea.

A good method book series has fun music, and enough pages to cover a concept. If the student moves along quickly, the teacher can choose to skip pages. If the student crawls at a snail's pace and forgets everything, the teacher can call upon the supplemental books (repertoire, technic, Christmas, pop) to drill and kill the same concepts.

The problem with some of the older method books is that they move so fast, they assume all piano students are brilliant geniuses with both parents being able to play piano and help the student at home.


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Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869825 03/28/12 12:59 PM
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VERY risky... especially in your first year of teaching. You might be able to ditch the method books later on in your teaching career as you will have a good handle on how to introduce the basics, but right now I would not risk it. I find that even WITH the method books the basics can be difficult for some students to understand. You want to make sure you aren't skipping anything in the learning process and in my opinion, until a teacher is familiar enough with several methods he/she shouldn't ditch the books.

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869832 03/28/12 01:12 PM
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Inexperienced teachers, such as the OP, should definitely not try it.


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Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869856 03/28/12 02:35 PM
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I have a lively interest in this for several reasons. I'd be interested in hearing from teacher who did teach without method books from the very beginning, and if so, what they think made it work if it worked. Perhaps there are some hidden prerequisites?

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1869931 03/28/12 05:01 PM
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Thanks for your responses!

It seems that the general consensus is that it could be possible, and maybe only with students who can already read music. I do agree, however, that I'm too inexperienced to actually try it right now.

Let me ask you a few follow-up questions then:
1) Which method books do you prefer to use and why? When I was young, I started off on Alfred's and so it's what I have suggested to some of the parents who have asked. I'm very open/curious about other options, though!
2) At what point do you stop using method books, and give them actual repertoire instead? I understand that it's situational (all students learn at different rates), but I am wondering if there may be a certain level that you try to reach before the method books are no longer needed.

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1870200 03/29/12 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Richter
Thanks for your responses!

It seems that the general consensus is that it could be possible, and maybe only with students who can already read music. I do agree, however, that I'm too inexperienced to actually try it right now.

Let me ask you a few follow-up questions then:
1) Which method books do you prefer to use and why? When I was young, I started off on Alfred's and so it's what I have suggested to some of the parents who have asked. I'm very open/curious about other options, though! [quote]

I'm not sure what you mean by you've "suggested to some of the parents who have asked." Does that mean you don't use one now but you tell the parents to go buy a method book? Sorry if I'm misunderstanding what you've said.

As far as methods I use, I really have started to like Piano Town. I really enjoy the pictures and the story that is consistent throughout the technic, lesson, and performance books. I also appreciate how the theory book has a lot of examples to give the kids a chance to practice a concept. Most theory books in methods are severely lacking in this in favor of more pictures and activities that I'm not sure really help. Repetition is very important in theory.

I also use Piano Adventures, but it's not as pedagogically appealing to me as is PT. PA progresses a lot slower than PT and so may be suitable for a student that needs a slower pace. It's a decent method book, but quickly becoming my 2nd choice.

[quote]2) At what point do you stop using method books, and give them actual repertoire instead? I understand that it's situational (all students learn at different rates), but I am wondering if there may be a certain level that you try to reach before the method books are no longer needed.


It does depend and I will often talk to students about this decision. Some kids really like the method books and want to stay in them longer, whereas others are ready for "grown up" books. I want them to be comfortable and not intimidated. I usually do not go through an entire 5 levels of whatever of a method book. Usually by the end of book 3 or 4 I move them into repertoire books (usually the Celebration Series and other repertoire books). Of course, I also use supplemental music with any method books along the way.


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Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1870244 03/29/12 08:52 AM
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i teach an assortment of variously skilled students..

i have many teaching materials and use an assortment of books to reinforce what i happen to be teaching. i do not care for the 4 part books that have theory, performance, practice etc.. in a set. actually i hate them. I will pick out a particularly cute song in D major maybe.

i like Thompson. the old fashioned Thompson, Schuam because i love Hannah Montana, and Suzuki books. I bought a whole library of method books from a former teacher.. hundreds of books so i have a lot to choose from.. my 62 year old woman is my biggest challenge.. she does things her own way.


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Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1870245 03/29/12 08:53 AM
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Not a teacher, but the parent of two kids who used method books for about a month each before jumping into classical repertoire. The method books are developed for a reason, to ensure that the majority of the teachers can introduce basic knowledge and skills to the majority of the students in a pedagogically sound sequence and manner. Well, the good method books, that is. If a teacher has a lot of experience and is sure that he/she can use any repertoire to cover all the basics and teach with a manner that matches a student's learning style and personality, why not?

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1870304 03/29/12 10:21 AM
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I think that is why we heard the caveat about inexperienced teachers. I don't yet have the technical skills to teach piano, regardless of the other knowledge that I may possess. I think that if I were to start teaching piano next month, I would get a collection of several method book series and study all of them to see how they approach things. I know that different approaches suit different students and different occasions. I'd try to see the reason why and the underlying premises, and maybe what these books have in common. I don't know if I would adopt one single method book or what I would do after that.

The one thing that I did teach was theory rudiments. It was an experiment and I had an excellent student who was starving to learn. I used the theory text book/ workbook that I had studied myself. This was my framework for the concepts it taught, and how it linked things together. I needed that. But I didn't stop there. I considered things that I found important: that when theory talks about intervals we should hear the intervals, see them via piano keys, know that intervals are a distance in sound and also have some weird naming conventions. Also, that anything we learn in theory should also be real in music. So the lessons that I created started off with concrete experiences and exploration, then moved into the chapter and its exercises, and ended with finding these things in real music. The theory book was my base for a framework, but the actual lessons were much richer. This is the kind of thing that I picture for teaching physically playing an instrument as well, especially for someone who has no experience.

Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1870422 03/29/12 01:02 PM
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One of the sessions that was given at MTNA last week was from a teacher who uses FOUR primer method books with her beginners, green and red post-it flags to show how far to work in each. Since different methods resonate with different students, I suppose that the teacher figures out what is going to work with each student. It was very strange yet enlightening. She has all kids out of method books by their first year.



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Re: Has anybody ever tried...
Richter #1870547 03/29/12 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Richter
2) At what point do you stop using method books, and give them actual repertoire instead? I understand that it's situational (all students learn at different rates), but I am wondering if there may be a certain level that you try to reach before the method books are no longer needed.

Usually after Book 2B. The more advanced students can make the transition sooner. The less advanced students will need to stay in method books for as long as possible.

By the time I ween my students off method books, I want them to be able to study piano independently without any parental help. The common problem is to take the kids off method books too soon. I have no problem keeping kids in good method book series until they are ready.


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