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BrianDX Offline OP
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Within a few months I will be finishing Faber Level 4 (second-to-last in the series). For the first 32 months of my music education I have spent almost all of the my time going the through the various "core" books of each level. This is all I know; don't get me wrong, I have have progressed far beyond my initial expectations.

When I brought this up a couple of weeks ago at my lesson, my teacher basically said she did not think Level 5 was completely necessary; in fact she has never had a student use those books up until now. However, I pretty much insisted that Level 5 was going to be studied; there are specific skills to learn that these books will provide.

What made me bring this topic up is that four weeks ago I suspended where I was in my current books, and started to focus entirely on individual pieces in the Faber Developing Artist series. In short, these have been the most satisfying four weeks of my education; not having to jump back and forth between four different core books has been a pleasure, even though the three pieces I'm currently working on have been the hardest I've yet experienced.

So... For you folks who started in lesson books and then finally transitioned away, what was the experience like?

Maybe the answer is simple: Trust my teacher smile


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Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
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You have made excellent progress, Brian, and you said yourself that it's a pleasure not to have to jump back and forth between 4 books - but what if you just used the lesson book for level 5 (and not the whole series), and the Developing Artist series, or whatever else your teacher recommends. That way you won't "miss" any of the skills in the level 5 book, but can concentrate the majority of your lessons on real music. That may give you the best of both worlds. Keep in mind that this is coming from a self teacher that has not managed to get herself out of the level 2 books yet. smile


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I agree with your teacher: Level 5 is pretty unnecessary. I love when a student "graduates" from method books and we move into repertoire books. I still supplement with theory and technical exercises, but we then focus on learning standard repertoire from Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th/21st Century style periods.

The thing is, many students get accustomed to the seemingly structured environment that a method book provides: you have units that you go through, concepts introduced at certain levels with repertoire that illustrates those concepts. Thing is, your teacher will be doing this on her own, just not necessarily laid out there for you to see.

This is really where you can get deeper into pieces and expression, so enjoy the transition. You will only feel a bit of discomfort for a while, but it's kind of like learning to ride a bike. At some point, your parent has to take their hands off the back and let you ride by yourself. But the feeling of accomplishment is much greater than the safety and comfort of having someone hold you up. smile


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Originally Posted by BrianDX

In short, these have been the most satisfying four weeks of my education; not having to jump back and forth between four different core books has been a pleasure, even though the three pieces I'm currently working on have been the hardest I've yet experienced.


That's good news! smile

I look up to you as a very good student, so will get to see how this progresses.

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BrianDX Offline OP
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Originally Posted by mom3gram
You have made excellent progress, Brian, and you said yourself that it's a pleasure not to have to jump back and forth between 4 books - but what if you just used the lesson book for level 5 (and not the whole series), and the Developing Artist series, or whatever else your teacher recommends. That way you won't "miss" any of the skills in the level 5 book, but can concentrate the majority of your lessons on real music. That may give you the best of both worlds. Keep in mind that this is coming from a self teacher that has not managed to get herself out of the level 2 books yet. smile

That is a very good idea. At Level 5 there are only three core books (Lesson, Performance, Theory). The Developing Artist Book 3 has 40 pieces that span from Level 4 through Level 5, plenty of great stuff in there.


Yamaha C2X | Yamaha M500-F
Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
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BrianDX Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
I agree with your teacher: Level 5 is pretty unnecessary. I love when a student "graduates" from method books and we move into repertoire books. I still supplement with theory and technical exercises, but we then focus on learning standard repertoire from Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th/21st Century style periods.

The thing is, many students get accustomed to the seemingly structured environment that a method book provides: you have units that you go through, concepts introduced at certain levels with repertoire that illustrates those concepts. Thing is, your teacher will be doing this on her own, just not necessarily laid out there for you to see.

This is really where you can get deeper into pieces and expression, so enjoy the transition. You will only feel a bit of discomfort for a while, but it's kind of like learning to ride a bike. At some point, your parent has to take their hands off the back and let you ride by yourself. But the feeling of accomplishment is much greater than the safety and comfort of having someone hold you up. smile

Very good thoughts here Morodiene.

I know my teacher has several early to mid-Intermediate level students, and all of them are taught pretty much the exact way that you describe, except me. In fact, it's been years since she had a student even go though Level 4.

I know that there are folks in this forum who have teachers who do not use method books at all. For me, getting through the Elementary level into early Intermediate the Faber books were exactly right for me (I'm a IT professional, very much methodically moving forward with a detailed plan).

I'll take it up tonight at my lesson. I very much thank everyone for their comments. I plan to be at this for another 30 years! smile


Yamaha C2X | Yamaha M500-F
Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
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I am facing your dilemma although I am not as advanced. For over 8 months I have been spending increasingly more time and efforts on Easy Classics to Moderns and enjoy it a lot. I am not ready to abandon the method books yet, but I have been dragging my feet through Alfred's All-In-One Volume II for a while without steady progress. Not even Alfred's thread on this forum inspires me to share or move on faster. And my teacher chooses only steps and sections that are valuable in terms of technique so we skip two out of every three pieces. I also started working on a well-structured (for my level) music theory book with exercises.

You said it: trust your teacher to guide you through seemingly uncharted waters.

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Well, whatever works. If the pieces are enjoyable and provide a good challenge for where you're at go for it. It's pretty irrelevant exactly what the piece is or how it's published if it meets that criteria. Most people at 2.5+ years of study will start working on some songs they really want to learn though, rather than just always going to the next song in the book. I'd imagine you're at grade 5-6 level or so? There'd tons of beautiful original (and freely published) music you could work on.

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BrianDX, congratulations on your achievements! I'm in IT also, and understand the desire for a methodical approach smile . Let us know what you and your teacher decide on.


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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
BrianDX, congratulations on your achievements! I'm in IT also, and understand the desire for a methodical approach smile . Let us know what you and your teacher decide on.

We talked about it tonight. My teacher pretty much echoed exactly what Morodiene stated earlier. After I complete Faber Level 4 later this year that will be all for the method books.

She actually felt pretty strongly about this; in her opinion her 40+ years of teaching experience outweighs the next set of exercises in Faber Level 5. However, she wanted me to decide on this path on my own.


Yamaha C2X | Yamaha M500-F
Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
Curriculum: Faber Developing Artist (Book 3)
Current: German Dance in D Major (Haydn) (OF); Melody (Schumann) (OF)
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Originally Posted by AndrewJCW
Well, whatever works. If the pieces are enjoyable and provide a good challenge for where you're at go for it. It's pretty irrelevant exactly what the piece is or how it's published if it meets that criteria. Most people at 2.5+ years of study will start working on some songs they really want to learn though, rather than just always going to the next song in the book. I'd imagine you're at grade 5-6 level or so? There'd tons of beautiful original (and freely published) music you could work on.

I wish I was at Grade 5 or 6. Probably more like the equivalent of RCM Grade 3, although I recently studied their syllabus and I am currently learning pieces that span levels 2 through 4.

I think the real issue is that there has to be a baseline of skills that must be mastered, in order to build a solid foundation to progress from. For me, by the end of Level 4 Faber has pretty much covered all of them, with the exception of key signatures with 2 or more flats. My teacher assured me that going forward that should not be much of a problem.

One very nice thing I've learned is that even at Elementary levels there are tons of great material to be learned that should pretty much please anyone out there. The advantage of progressing slightly beyond that gives me the ability to play numerous pieces in their original form by time-respected composers like Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven and others. Even easy Chopin is now available to me; a tremendous thrill.


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Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
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Hmmmm....I am in Alfred Premier level 6, which is the final level of that series. I actually really LOVE most of the music in the series, and will miss the books when I graduate! There are coordinating pop, jazz, and classical repertoire books, too, which I also have and like. I have never played Faber's upper levels to compare, so maybe the situation is different for you and the music isn't as inspiring. I still play pieces from outside the method, but I enjoy the organized progression of using method books. I wonder what I could use once I graduate from the Alfred to replace it with. John Thompson maybe? That seems to continue into some pretty advanced territory.


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keysandpaws;

Don't get me wrong; I have really enjoyed playing through the various pieces in the lesson books. Some I really liked, some I was OK with, and about 10% of the pieces were skipped by mutual consent.

I think the main point is that many teachers once their students "graduate" from the Elementary level (some sooner than that), like to take over in terms of:
1) What skills are next to be learned
2) What pieces are to be studied?

I don't know about Alfred, but Faber tops out at Level 5, which roughly translates to mid-Intermediate. I don't think many formal method books go much beyond that level anyway.

I have looked at the pieces in Level 5 and many of them are listed in the RCM syllabus at Grade 4 and 5 as another method of comparison.

So this transition is inevitable (and IMHO unbelievably joyful).


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Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
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To put your mind at ease, once you're out of method books, you can still have a methodology to your practice regimen. It's just something that you and your teacher tailor to suit your needs:

- Instead of a Technique book, you have scales and arpeggios plus possibly some technical exercises that are useful for the repertoire you are learning

- Instead of Theory book, you may be working through a different series of theory books (which is what I have my students do), or given specific theory assignments that tie into the skills you are working on in your repertoire or with scales/arpeggios

- Instead of Lessons book, you have specific skills that your teacher is trying to develop via repertoire. For example, if you need to work on alternating between even 8ths and 8th note triplets you may work on Sonatina by William Duncombe. Or you may need to learn better finger/hand independence and so you may work on Baroque pieces. Ask your teacher to share with you the reason for assigning a piece if she doesn't already. This may help you understand what goals you are trying to achieve.

- Instead of Performance book, your teacher may give you pieces that are good for performing at a recital, or ones for exams or other goals like that - or even just ones that are contrasting to what your doing, not necessarily teaching a new skill, but reinforcing what you already can do.

Organizing your assignments into these categories can actually be helpful for you to make sure each aspect is being addressed. There are other things as well, such as improvising and/or composing, or special interests that you may have (jazz, playing from lead sheet, etc.) that you could add to your list.


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BrianDX Offline OP
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Thank you so much Morodiene! smile


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Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
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Does anyone know what level you would be considered after the end of Alfred Premier? Maybe late intermediate? How about at the end of John Thompson? It looks to me like by the end of that system, you'd be pretty well into the advanced stages. It seems like the older methods went a lot further than today's systems. I wonder why that is.


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I have been out of method books a year now. I left off halfway through Alfred's adult book 3 when I returned to lessons after a 10 year gap. My teacher usually abandons method books after about Faber book 2/3. I am having the time of my life! Don't worry, your teacher will find you new things to learn. More key signatures, complicated rhythms, voicing inner melodies, more elaborate pedaling. The list goes on and on. I pick a lot of my music, but she has many suggestions too. I pick Chopin, Faure, but she also suggests Bach, for the hand independence. I will be playing lots of Bach. I do lots of sight reading and transposing practice.

I am not one who needs structure, but I do think what seems structured about it to me is she has identified many areas to work on, specific skills to develop(pedaling, voicing, sight reading etc), so I am plugging away at all of them. I can tell improvement in each skill as I work on it.

One thing she did that helped *extremely* was to assign a difficult piece which was beyond my ability. It was very hard to learn it, I could only play it slowly, but I stretched so far just with the one piece (3rd movement Beethoven's tempest sonata). And it sounds lovely slow, so that was great! I swear, I jumped a level or two in a couple or three months, by pushing. My playing improved amazingly. So much more musical. I was shocked. Now maybe I just hadn't pushed hard enough before, maybe that's not typical, idk.

So anyway, I am very glad to be out of the method books. I think the biggest thing is a teacher figures out their student over time and customizes the instruction, including what pieces they assign.

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Pianocat3:

I suspended my studies about half way through Level 4 a month ago. For the past four weeks I have been only playing repertoire pieces from the Faber Development Artist Book 2, and it seems to me that my playing abilities have progressed a noticable little bit, having spent numerous hours learning and mastering beginner pieces from Beethoven, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky. So I can definitely understand what you are describing here.

In fact, my current piece is in B Flat major, which is not actually covered until Level 5. I'm spending extra time practicing cadences, scales, even examining the relative minor key.

I do plan to go back and finish Level 4 for a number of reasons, however the decision to finish Faber after Level 4 is looking more solid every day.



Yamaha C2X | Yamaha M500-F
Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
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I wonder why these method books end before even having us playing in ALL key signatures. I realize some are less common but it seems like a brief intro to all of them would be helpful. Are there any non-method books that do that with shorter pieces in all of the less common key signatures?


Working my way through Alfred Premier Level 6 books (Core books plus pop, jazz, and Masterworks)
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