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Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927123 03/23/08 12:58 PM
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Playing piano just over a year now and want to an any teacher out there suggest a really good method book?

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Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927124 03/31/08 09:57 AM
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Thompson is not bad. They're a bit dry but their editions have withstood the test of time.


Daniel E. Friedman, co-owner of www.pianolessons101.com
You CAN learn to play the piano in a fun and positive way.
Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927125 03/31/08 10:35 AM
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When an adult approaches me for piano lessons, the first question to ask is what type of music the person normally listens to, identifies with, is particularly fond of, and wants to play.

Unlike children, who are mostly empty vessels and quite open to new ideas, adults are fairly closed minded when it comes to personal tastes.

Adults want/expect to be able to play at an advanced intermediate level within, say, four weeks, where as, with a weekly lesson and 45 min of constructive playing daily, this is more likely a 4 year goal.

The vast majority of adults find this concept ludicrous, and are unwilling to accept it, being certain that the teacher doesn't have a clue, etc., and thus position themselves for failure and disappointment.

Now consider you are a music publisher, and you are approached about publishing an adult method. What type of music is the focus of the method? Some generic, please nobody type, or is it focused on one of the several dozens of musical styles that now flood the market place?

Do you prepare the method for use with a teacher, who will guide your study, or for self-study? If the latter, do you use FTC guidelines for product honesty, and say up-front that use of this text will not result in the ability to play the piano? Or do you pump it up with unrealistic expectations?

How many self-study programs (Learn to play the piano in 20 easy to follow lessons, in just minutes a day!) have been sold to gullible, now totally deluded budding pianists? Millions?

So let me answer your question both bluntly and honestly. There is no book published which is going to teach you to be an accomplished pianist, regardless of style. Playing any musical instrument also requires learning to listen, and that is a task which is not covered in any of the method books.

When you study with a competent teacher, you will also be trained to listen to what you are playing, and that feedback mechanism is what will turn you into a competent pianist.

By the way, we all hear the same thing, but the musician is trained to filter out the important elements and to adjust his playing accordingly. Ear training is a necessary part of the learning process.

Off my soap box now. Tuner is coming. f


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927126 03/31/08 12:04 PM
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When an adult approaches me for piano lessons, the first question to ask is what type of music the person normally listens to, identifies with, is particularly fond of, and wants to play.

Unlike children, who are mostly empty vessels and quite open to new ideas, adults are fairly closed minded when it comes to personal tastes.

Adults want/expect to be able to play at an advanced intermediate level within, say, four weeks, where as, with a weekly lesson and 45 min of constructive playing daily, this is more likely a 4 year goal.

The vast majority of adults find this concept ludicrous, and are unwilling to accept it, being certain that the teacher doesn't have a clue, etc., and thus position themselves for failure and disappointment.
John, you have just touched upon something which is very important to me, and it has led to quite a journey. Let me try to explain, and in so doing I will only be scratching the surface of my own experience.

If you were to ask me what kind of music I want to play, I might answer you politely that I'm probably geared to the classical. But then I would ask you whether the question could be rephrased, or that I could answer you differently:

I am seeking lessons because I wish to acquire the tools, facility for playing this instrument, so that I will be able to express my music. I am also seeking the knowledge and skills of musicianship, beginning with such mundane things as what a beat in a measure is, and moving on to things like genres, history, what needs to be understood in order to interpret and play my pieces properly. These will probably mesh with the "tools", the "facility", and being able to count and understand rhythms.

In other words, the particular pieces that I am to work on hardly concern me. If you were to ask me how I felt about a piece I might ask "What will it teach me?" but I would hope that this would have been your reason for choosing it in the first place, so I would not ask.

The frustration is that a very large number of adult students have the attitude and expectations that you have enumerated. Teachers, then, expect this of us and those of us who do not fall into that thinking are trapped. We can't get at the serious teachers because they don't want to teach that way, or if we do find our way to one the work may well be altered to suit what is expected of our mindset.

The problem is that those of us who have never had private instruction don't know what to expect, what to ask for, how to define our wishes. We cannot tell anything about what we are given, only that at some point it seems empty, or we hit an impasse, and we can't quite figure out what is going on. Since we don't have the reference or the language, we can't communicate with our teachers.

I began in this alone, and it was not to any extreme in my case, because we still moved along the RCM program, and my teacher has the rare (it seems) expectation that more, not less, should be expected from an adult.

Through various circumstances I ended up in communication with another adult student whose mindset is the same as mine, and followed the story of two others. John, the frustration is not mild. It can come to the point of despair. In fact, at this very moment I am talking such a friend out of a state of despair. We can't get through the door because of this bleepin' stereotype of "who adult students are" and "what adult students want" and "what adult students can't do." The problem being that many do, in fact want just those things.

Teachers try to adapt themselves to what is common. So we get the popular simplified version of classical music without substance. Technique is shortchanged, treated superficially as an act of rote imitation. The sequence of things that a serious student would be asked to do and achieve doesn't appear. We are spared the frustration of working at difficult things because "adults generally quit when it gets hard." Since we don't know any better, we can do no more than feel the emptiness and wonder at it, and then question ourselves. We believe that what we are being taught, and how we are being taught, is how it is. How could we think differently?

I believe that I have touched on this before. Several of us have managed to understand a few things and we have gone back to our teachers. Sometimes the dialogue and adjustment to lessons has happened in several stages as more things come to light.

You have indicated that not all teachers are trained equally and have the same amount to offer. That is certainly part of the equation. It is a larger part if those teachers willing to offer the "have fun and wing it somehow" kind of scenario are not the ones who insist on offering eventual true proficiency which also means demanding hard work and a certain degree of compliance.

But of those teachers who can teach seriously, and who do have the wherewithall, in each case they held back and adjusted to what was perceived to be our aims.

One gentleman, when he knew enough, rebelled at his teacher's assessment that his piece was now "good" and he could move on. He was warned that what he wanted entailed hard work of a kind he could not imagine, which turned out to be true, but the transition was made. Another made headway by seeing a serious teacher who unfortunately only had room for the summer, made enormous progress of a kind that still carries her now. Summer having ended, return to a teacher who offered an assortment of "enjoyable music". That's the person in despair. The other person I became aware of was the son of a pianist who was not permitted to learn because of the parent's jealousy, and decided to study as an adult. Because he had at least that much background he was able to define his priorities roughly as: "I wish to gain proficiency on the instrument. If I encounter difficulties, I want to confront the cause of those difficulties, work with that cause so that I can learn to play well." A good relationship with his teacher, and a solid program that included technique progressively along with pieces.

Going back on the subject, most of us who wanted to pursue music seriously as adults were on the shallower path for a number of years before finding out what was missing, why it was missing, and what we should ask for - how we should define ourselves. It is frustrating to realize you need to backtrack, that what you learned might have been a great deal of froth with little substance, the waste of years. But at least at this point we can move forward.

If possible it would be good to spare others of this confusion. I would advise any adult student to be clear why they are taking up the instrument, and then have a talk that goes suffiently in depth without shyness with a prospective teacher. Be honest and open about the negative experiences that teacher might have had with other adult students. One of the major hurdles is that even though we are serious, we do not expect things to be as they are, so there must be a willingness to trust that there is a sense to things we are asked to do. Unfortunately if the stereotypical expectations are there, the tasks may only consist of pleasing us so that we can "have fun" and only that.

I will repeat everywhere that adult students are a varied bunch with a varied background, varied and differing, sometimes opposing goals and attitudes. We span an age group of 80 years if there are any centenarian students. How can we all be the same with the same mentality? Communication and the willingness to dispell expected assumptions, this also on the part of students, seems key.

I may have stumbled onto an area that is largely unexplored.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927127 03/31/08 12:33 PM
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I'm always amazed that everyone thinks in years of how many years of piano study.

Would it not be more informative to say: "I've had 20 one hour lessons with my teacher, and I practice 5-6 hours per week.

Lesson time 20 hours = 20 weeks = about your 5th month of lessons
Practice time about 100-120 hours during this time. Goal: to increase practice time and practice skills.

Not all methods are created equal - the same could be said about not all teachers are created dqual - not all students are created equal - neither are their musical experiences created equal. You must do the best you can with what you have - each person's journey in music is their very own experience - it will be what you make of it.

I think the student learns as much about himself as he does about music and who is to say which is the more difficult path - your inner world - or your outer world. Applied piano? Or, applied person? Both? Good!

The best method to use is the one that fits the needs of your unique self best. Some teachers are savvy about that knowing that to communicate you must talk in the language that the student understands. Others think methods are pretty much the same so it doesn't matter too much which one you use.

Know your teacher's philosophy and teaching plan if possible. Does it fit your needs, personality and learning style?

Betty Patnude

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927128 03/31/08 01:27 PM
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Know your teacher's philosophy and teaching plan if possible. Does it fit your needs, personality and learning style?
What I have learned is that, especially as far as adult students go, a teacher's teaching plan also gears itself toward what the student's goals and willingness are. The equation is mutable and both teacher and student must communicate for that reason.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927129 03/31/08 02:28 PM
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Keystring, your posts touch on an area which is highly sensitive. Consider this:

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Remember when Betty posted this? Over the years, I've had a number of adult students (children too, but that's another matter) who played the piano like this and were perfectly satisfied, and wanted to go on.

If you were an English teacher, would you find this acceptable? No? Then why should a piano teacher find this acceptable?

If we permit a student to move on, are we guilty of malfeasance? What are our moral and ethical obligations?

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In other words, the particular pieces that I am to work on hardly concern me. If you were to ask me how I felt about a piece I might ask "What will it teach me?" but I would hope that this would have been your reason for choosing it in the first place, so I would not ask.
This makes you a rare student. Most of the adults I've encounter have one specific piece of music they are truly enamored with and this is what they want to be able to play. Anything which deviates from this goal is to be omitted from lessons.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927130 03/31/08 02:48 PM
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This makes you a rare student. Most of the adults I've encounter have one specific piece of music they are truly enamored with and this is what they want to be able to play. Anything which deviates from this goal is to be omitted from lessons.
The difficulty that I and my handful of similar minded peers are facing is precisely that we are rare students. Our mindset seems to run almost contrary to the norm, or maybe it's not almost. I can only touch the surface of it publicly.

We are stuck in this image, and the implications of the goals toward which we are then taught. We are interpreted through the stereotype. The teaching goals go in that direction.

I don't know if even now I have managed to come across or if that image abounds across the Web. You see, you have just made a case for teaching piano properly and your image speaks volumes. But you are making that case to me, a student, after all that I have written. So am I assumed to want to play in that manner, and being satisfied that this is the real thing?

At least in your studio you would not cater to that attitude. But many assume it to exist even when it doesn't, and teach toward it, and the tools are left behind.

Not all adult students have this goal or this attitude. It can be akin to being invisible.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927131 03/31/08 03:04 PM
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If we permit a student to move on, are we guilty of malfeasance? What are our moral and ethical obligations?
John, am I managing to come across at all. Those few of us at the other end are fighting FOR this! We are trapped in "what the adult student wants". Have you managed to catch, for example, the young man who pushed for higher demands and slowed down his teacher's mad rush through the pieces?

It almost seems that in those sitatuations musical talent is a handicap. To get a piece at that common "popular" level can be done by feeling, one learns very little. Can you understand the idea of a student who wants to learn seriously falling into despair upon being given "lovely music" after "lovely music" ... but that this would be exactly the formula to delight others? Am I able to get through what is going on with a few of us?

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927132 03/31/08 03:48 PM
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RagtimeClown asked: Playing piano just over a year now and want to an any teacher out there suggest a really good method book?

My first reaction was, "OMG, he wants to teach himself." But the obstacles in his path are: 1 - No method book exists which can provide the feedback of a teacher; 2 - No method book exists which teaches one specific style (odds are, he falls into this category); 3 - No method book exists which provides the ear training which a student needs. Three really significant deficiencies.

So, I decided to enumerate some of the pitfalls, in hopes of persuading him to at least give some thought to finding a teacher.

I do feel your pain, however. Ten years ago, I approaced a concert artist/university teacher about some polishing lessons, as I had some deficiencies I wanted resolved. I got the typical response: "I don't take adults." Serious adult students, who are willing to put in the time, who have the ability, and the drive, are at a major disadvantage, even here in the USA & Canada, where we're much more open and receptive to adult studies.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927133 03/31/08 04:04 PM
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Ten years ago, I approaced a concert artist/university teacher about some polishing lessons, as I had some deficiencies I wanted resolved. I got the typical response: "I don't take adults."
John, I had to reach to the floor and pick up my jaw. You are a musician, performer, and teacher. And this guy did not take you !!!

Yes, I did consider that I was posting in the adult beginner thread where someone was asking about books for the purpose of self-teaching, so that my post would force you to straddle two sides of the fence simultaneously.

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#927134 03/31/08 04:19 PM
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A very interesting discussion. I can see both sides. As a student, I feel very fortunate for not having these problems with my teacher.

Nevertheless, John, I'm curious what method you would use with an adult student like keystring. Not Piano Town, I assume.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927135 03/31/08 04:50 PM
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Matt, I'm going to take the chicken route, and answer that as Keystring already has a year of lessons under his belt, I would move him directly into a repertoire series couple with etudes and scale studies.

Noona has an accelerated adult series I've used with some success with HS seniors and adults - just to grasp the basics, so we can get into a progressive series of some type.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927136 03/31/08 04:53 PM
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Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
RagtimeClown asked: Playing piano just over a year now and want to hear from any teacher out there who would suggest a really good method book?

My first reaction was, "OMG, he wants to teach himself." But the obstacles in his path are: 1 - No method book exists which can provide the feedback of a teacher; 2 - No method book exists which teaches one specific style (odds are, he falls into this category); 3 - No method book exists which provides the ear training which a student needs. Three really significant deficiencies.
John, didn't get back earlier as I've been practicing a lot this weekend!!

To be honest, it was suggested by another piano teacher that I source a good method book to compliment the piano pieces I am already working on. I should have stated my situation more clearly.

My teacher retired very prematurely in January and I am without one, I have tried all over town and even the examinations board have said I will have to wait until the new term in September. In the meantime, I am educating myself and the method book was another way of reinforcing what I am learning at my piano.

However, everything you say about adult learners is true and I accept that. We all want to play right away, my own teacher told me I was trying to play advanced pieces too early. I am now working on Grade 3 pieces and meet the challange with great enthusiasm and determination.

I am printing this entire thread as I reply and I'll sit down and read it in detail, thanks.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927137 03/31/08 04:58 PM
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RagtimeClown asked: Playing piano just over a year now and want to an any teacher out there suggest a really good method book?

[student perspective]

I honestly don't think it makes a big difference.

I'll bet if you put 100 piano teacher in a room, they would all play with decent proficiency. If you asked them what method book they used when they were a beginner, I'd guess you would receive all kinds of different answers.

The which book is best question is sort of like asking what business should I go into that will make me a lot of money? Sometimes there are many ways to get to the same point, although there will be many commonalities along the way.

I'm looking at my method book (Hal Leonard) and this week, my assignment piece is covering the concept of triplets. Its also reinforcing what I've learned in past pieces, such as timing, note recognition, dynamics, phrasing, stacatto, crescendos, time signature, accents and so forth.

There's probably no method book around that won't cover something as basic as triplets and the examples I mentioned. Its all part of learning the fundamentals. After all, that is the purpose of the method books.

Some people might say they like the songs or arrangements in one book better than another. I take a different perspective. To me, they're all pretty dissatisfying stripped down versions of the 'real' version of the song. Most of the 'satisfying' notes have been removed and interesting rhythms have been simplified. Why is this? Its because it recognizes you at a certain beginning level and it is vitally important you learn ABC's before you start spelling words. I recognize and accept the logic of this thinking, so am not too disappointed if the song is boring or arrangement is pathethic.

What is far more important to me is the acquisition and development of the necessary skills that these books are teaching. Immediate gratification is unimportant. Skills are.

In this regard, I strongly share keystring's belief.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927138 03/31/08 05:14 PM
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Matt, I'm going to take the chicken route, and answer that as Keystring already has a year of lessons under his belt, I would move him directly into a repertoire series couple with etudes and scale studies.
Make that studies on another instrument that are currently in flux, and will resume. A passle of theory at my request, purchase of a piano last year, (self taught 30 years ago, had not played since) 4 - 6 lessons by an instrumental teacher who also teaches piano, followed by invitation to give two piano recitals at the student concerts (mix of two instruments) 3 months after purchase of piano. I performed a series of Gavotte variations for the one, and the other piece I had begun learning 2 weeks earlier and made the mistake of saying "Isn't this beautiful?". That second piece is featured on this site in performances called "Chorale" and I am sure you will hear the lack of control I still had. I collared a pianist/piano teacher friend three days before the concert who worked intensely on basic body use in posture, legato key stroke, and damage-controlled times that my hand was cramping by finding the cause - in one intense hour plus lesson. I held on to this for 2 1/2 days until the double performance. Your head would spin!

Were I to interview for piano lessons, I would look for teacher's method rather than book method. I would ask to be taught how a serious student is taught and would imagine going right into the basics for a proper grounding, and that this would begin with sitting at the piano bench. Apparently I have a fair deal of natural musicality or instinct, and that is my undoing because I end up missing the grounding or foundation which ought to be there, but isn't.

Having written that, the trio of pieces, scales and studies would be much to my liking. Might I also request assigned reading in music history, genres, maybe listening assignments with an occasional pointing out of what to listen for?

In the Choral piece Link ideas are probably there, but control or technique are not. That is why I wrote that having the tools and knowledge are paramount. I've spent a lot of time learning to play scales recently, soeme basic Czerny, and I have not touched any pieces for weeks.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927139 03/31/08 05:34 PM
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Ragtime Clown - if you've managed to wade thru all of the above "musings" with only one direct answer to your question (by Dan101) and if you're still with us here, I would recommend the Alfred Adult All-In-One method (3 Levels) - well organized, gradually progessive, basic theory and pieces from a wide variety of genres.

For a current discussion of the pros & cons of self-teaching (to which I've contributed several encouraging and (I would like to think) enlightening posts go here:

http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/32/6223.html

JF

BTW - not everything that John v.d. Brook says about adult students is true - especially for some of us more independent, mature and thoughtful types.


Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.
Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927140 03/31/08 05:48 PM
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Apologies. I just realized that I'm guilty of hijacking.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927141 03/31/08 06:46 PM
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Ragtime, you asked a question that also interests me. Not being a teacher I am not qualified to answer your question as asked. I see a reference to Alfred, he has his devotees. I tried him. Alternatives appeal and I have tried a few. What interests me most, and is perhaps a more involved question, is how to build a solid self-teaching structure. I was totally naive and ignorant a year ago. I purchased Alfred and set to with gusto. Hopefully I have a developed a little more finesse since then. I was bored with Alfred within 3 months. I recently read a comment about the huge disparity between sales of adult method books 1 and 2, of any method. A method seems to have it's place for starting self-teachers, but there is so much more. Perhaps I am in danger of overwhelming myself with alternatives in trying to build an enjoyable and suitable structure for myself. I would be happy for a teacher to move me forward in a way Mr Brooks suggests might be appropriate for you.

Re: Method Books for Adult Beginners
#927142 03/31/08 06:52 PM
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John Frank - shame on me! I thought I had carefully hedged my characterizations but when I went back and reread my posts, I could see how you could interpret my soap box rant as all inclusive. But of course, it wasn't meant to mean that at all. Unfortunately, over years of teaching, probably 1 out of 20 students fit keystring's type. Most really do fit in the other characterization.

That brings to mind another topic, but I think I'll save it for another day, as I need to get to work now.

Regards!


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
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