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I am very excited to start teaching piano to 2 beginner students after having played the piano for 20 years myself! I was taught using the John Bastien series and feel that it served me very well. However, after researching different methods, I have read reviews that say there are better series out there that better prepare students to sight read, move octaves, etc...
In particular, The Music Tree series has been well reviewed.
What have you used to teach? What is best for beginner students aged 4-7?
Thanks for your input smile

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Congratulations on your decision to teach, Abbey.

(Um, my first impulse was to write "Welcome to the fray, Abbey." That's not as negative as it sounds wink )

My ideal - strictly in my head; as a mixture of the theoretical and utopian - for a piano method is The Music Tree.

But it sorely needs updating. Everytime I feel that I should be able to use it, I'm faced with the realization that kids process things a lot differently than they did even 5 years ago. The last update on it - which I think was a little over 20 years ago - rendered it still a little too quaint for the generation of kids at that time.

After I ascertain the learning style of a student, I most often use Faber's Piano Adventures, with the Bastien method running second (Bastien is in need of an update, too).

Sometimes Faber seems to be made up of little slices of pedagogy gleamed from the best features of other methods. But I really like the layout and the changes in it's 2nd edition.

The Helen Marlais Suceeding..... method books are on my "must check out" list. Maybe this summer.....

Last edited by Gerard12; 03/15/15 01:19 PM. Reason: trying to shake off sleep

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Thank you for your input... it is extremely helpful!

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Hi, Music Tree was kind of the Plymouth Rock of piano pedagogy here in the USA. Many methods are outgrowths and attempted improvements on it. As noted, it is sorely in need of an upgrade, not so much the music as the presentation.

Anyway, I taught Bastien and Noona for years, but a dozen or so years ago, Piano Town came on the market (published by Kjos). It's my preferred method these days, while Helen Marlais' is 2nd. I really don't care for the Faber series at all. I admit that it's just a personal bias, but it is what it is.

Why Piano Town? Mostly I appreciate the freedom it gives teachers, not so much hand-holding as the other methods, but still is rock solid pedagogy. Of course, having used it for a long while now, I have my own bag of tricks that I add on to presentations while the student moves forward.

Every lesson, students get something new from the Lesson book, they always get a dose of Technic and an assignment from the Theory Pages; every other lesson, I try to select a stellar piece from the Performance book as a reward for their progress. And yes, you can do this in a 30 min lesson if you stay really focused.

Good luck.

PS My young students love the constant adventures of the characters in the art work. If this is motivational, great.


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I prefer Alfred Premier. It has some of the best music in method books, and the pedagogy is logical. I don't know why it hasn't taken off like Piano Adventures. Probably some mistake in marketing?

I think the 2nd edition of Piano Adventures didn't make much improvements. Some of my students' favorite pieces got re-written, to a point that they don't like it anymore. And the sight reading books are a joke.


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I've been exposed to three different method books as an adult, and I have experienced the most success by far with the Faber books.

IMHO, it ain't marketing why the series is successful.

Having said that, I don't think you can find a single method series that will be the most effective for every student, both for adults and younger students. We simply learn slightly differently, and where Alfred's was less effective for me, it could be exactly the right thing for the next student.


Last edited by BrianDX; 03/16/15 08:34 PM.

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Originally Posted by BrianDX
IMHO, it ain't marketing why the series is successful.

As a teacher, I receive 8 or more mailings from Faber through the year. It seems like a constant stream. I receive nothing from Kjos on a routine basis. That's marketing; it costs money, and it's got to help them, or they wouldn't be doing it.

There are some other features which AZN's post brought to mind. Piano Town does incorporate many older American folk tunes, many of which are no longer taught in the public schools. For teachers in "fly over" country, you'll probably appreciate having these tunes which students already know. Home schoolers seem to know them as well. The words are different but the tunes are familiar. I believe Marlais' method does so as well.


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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted by BrianDX
IMHO, it ain't marketing why the series is successful.

As a teacher, I receive 8 or more mailings from Faber through the year. It seems like a constant stream. I receive nothing from Kjos on a routine basis. That's marketing; it costs money, and it's got to help them, or they wouldn't be doing it.

My view is, all the marketing dollars in the world won't convince reputable teachers to push a product on their students that they don't believe in. My hunch is, many teachers do believe in their products, that's why it's successful.

That was essentially my point, and I'm sticking with it.

However, as I have made clear in my ABF postings, I'll give my teacher most of the credit for our success in the past 18 months. I think she could teach any method to us and we would be doing well. Besides, within 2 years we will be hopefully out of method books altogether, so in the long run (5 years and out), it will be just us, our teacher, and her teaching materials and skills.



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You greatly overestimate us.


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Let me add that the vast majority of teachers do not sit down with 6 or 8 methods, do a careful study of them, and teach with them for a while. Most do succumb to good advertising. We may be reputable, but we're all too human.


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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
You greatly overestimate us.

I don't think so John;

I think as a whole yours is a wonderful profession. Words cannot describe how wonderful the last 18 months of lessons have been for my wife and I. The music on the page is just a different form of mathematical equations. It's the professional that makes it something way more than that.

My guess is that most of the teachers that post here mean just as much to many of their students. Of course I'm coming off of my best lesson to date earlier this evening, after being sick most of last week, so my judgement may be in question... smirk


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Originally Posted by BrianDX
I've been exposed to three different method books as an adult, and I have experienced the most success by far with the Faber books.

IMHO, it ain't marketing why the series is successful.

Oh, I think marketing is quite important. I've never seen Nancy Faber in person, but I've attended two talks given by Randall Faber. What a charismatic speaker! He is selling his products without overtly selling his products.

Whenever I attended Alfred workshops, they literally beat you over the head with heavy-handed SELL SELL SELL SELL SELL tactics. In fact, I think I get more Alfred catalogs in the mail than Faber. I think the oversell shows desperation.

For the first two books, I like both series almost equally. Alfred Premier is just that much better in terms of the repertoire and the way that theory is presented. Piano Adventures wins in the creativity and fun department with their well-produced Gold Star Adventures books (up to 2B).

But in the later books (Books 4, 5, and 6 in Alfred Premier), Alfred Premier is just amazingly good--like, why would I bother transitioning kids out this series when the music is so awesome! Some kids hate classical music, anyway, so this is the least painful way to get them to play piano for as long as possible.

Pacing is almost exactly the same. I am able to put siblings who start at the same time in two different series, and they almost go at the same pace, moving along and covering the same topics. And parents don't have to hear the same pieces played over and over again.


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My own piano teacher used Faber with me, but she used Alfred with my brother (it just worked better with him) and I use the Alfred Mini-Mozarts when I have really young kids, because its slower paced and better suited to preschoolers than the primer piano adventures. I think its more the teacher than the method book when it comes to how a student progresses and learns. Though I do like the Piano adventures because they seem to engage my kids more than the Alfred books (I "inherited" some kids with Alfred and didn't want to shock their system so I waited to transition till they finished that level.)

I also found Faber helpful when I was first starting out as a teacher because it is easy for the student and parent to follow, which makes my job easier because they have a 3rd way to remember what to do when practicing at home.


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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Let me add that the vast majority of teachers do not sit down with 6 or 8 methods, do a careful study of them, and teach with them for a while. Most do succumb to good advertising. We may be reputable, but we're all too human.


John, this is such an accurate observation. We each end up with a bias, or a preference. Or inertia sets in.

But perhaps Abbey will do something stimulating and unusual: she might select two different methods, one for each of her two newfound beginning piano students, and try the methods out and compare them over a year of teaching. She will learn a great deal, more than a piano pedagogy course might teach her.

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Thanks, Peter.

I'm remembering that a few years back, we developed an ad hoc listing of methods. I think I resourced those available here in the USA and counted up some unbelievable number like 19. Maybe more. For example, I keep N. Jane Tan's really superb method in reserve for very special students. Most kids cannot handle the pace and mental stretching the early parts require. My better and top students I transition to the series after they've mastered reading concepts from Piano Town. Probably 20% - 30% can cope with the Preparatory Level. And I most certainly wouldn't recommend a teacher use the method without form of preparatory workshops with a competent WPPI teacher. I certainly would not recommend it to a teacher who didn't have at least 5 years of experience under their belt.


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Originally Posted by BrianDX


However, as I have made clear in my ABF postings, I'll give my teacher most of the credit for our success in the past 18 months. I think she could teach any method to us and we would be doing well. Besides, within 2 years we will be hopefully out of method books altogether, so in the long run (5 years and out), it will be just us, our teacher, and her teaching materials and skills.



Right ON! There is absolutely NO reason to continue with any "series" past those first two years or so. No matter what the age of the student. By two years, those method books should be supplanted by the easy classics and a carefully chosen menu of selected technical work. A teacher who clings to any method series for longer than that is plain lazy. Certainly it's easier to just follow a beaten path, but that ignores the needs and capabilities of the individual student. Using the series as a "guideline" is fine ... but that's about it.

My primary goal has always been to nurture a love of music in each student. I don't give a fig for exams or recitals .... I want them to learn their notes and to experience making beautiful music. I interview the parents and I reject the "pushy" ones right off the bat.

Another suggestion since the OP is a beginning teacher. I personally would not take a student younger than 7. Why? Very simple. Because without the ability to have already mastered the first "code" in learning, which is the ordinary A B C's and reading ... the much more complex code of reading music will be way beyond them.

Hence you will have to "modify" and "simplify" ... and the learning process will inevitably be slower and the student much more liable to lose interest. Remember that in most cases if you start one child at 6 ... and then when he's 9, his friend who is also 9 begins classes .... by 10 and a half, they will essnetially be playing at the same level. Why? Because a nine year old learns so much faster than the 6 year old. And will be more likely to enjoy lessons which are learned much more quickly.

Give the students a break and let them grapple with the other learning basics before starting piano. Meanwhile, dancing classes and even group singing is great. Play some live or recorded Mozart and Beethoven when they're toddlers and watch the natural responses to that wonderful music. And you'll be preparing the way for those later lessons. laugh

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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
Right ON! There is absolutely NO reason to continue with any "series" past those first two years or so. No matter what the age of the student. By two years, those method books should be supplanted by the easy classics and a carefully chosen menu of selected technical work. A teacher who clings to any method series for longer than that is plain lazy.
I disagree, and your comment could be insulting. I'll assume you didn't mean it that way.

A teacher needs to plan a student's curriculum based on a student's progress, not on the years of study. Some students might be finished with a method series in two years, but most will not.

When I get transfer students who were pulled out of the method series early they always have problems that need to be fixed. Almost always reading is one of them, as they have been working on pieces that are too difficult for them.


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musicpassion, I'm in total agreement. I have students who I skip over method books with, because they practice regularly, are quick to grasp concepts, love to play piano, and follow assignments. Then there are those who spend 1 or 2 days doing a quick practice of pieces they only want to play, are not as focused, may be taking lessons because parents want them to, etc. Those students could be in method books for years. Even so, within the first month of lessons, I am supplanting method books with other music and technical exercises.


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Do you really think it is necessary to teach with some methods for a while in order to decide whether or not it is worth teaching? I have experimented teaching from several method books, but I have walked into the music store and looked at several other methods, and thought to myself "No way. This is worse than what I am currently doing." I think it is enough to scan the book sometimes to see if it is good.

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Originally Posted by Pianoslav
Do you really think it is necessary to teach with some methods for a while in order to decide whether or not it is worth teaching? I have experimented teaching from several method books, but I have walked into the music store and looked at several other methods, and thought to myself "No way. This is worse than what I am currently doing." I think it is enough to scan the book sometimes to see if it is good.

I agree that there are some which you can pretty well write off just by looking at them; others, however, need a bit of time to discover their pluses and minuses. As you can see by the responses here, there are a couple of favorites, but none of them might suit your teaching style. You might look through back issues of Clavier and other teaching magazines for reviews on some of the more popular methods. They all have strong points, so the real question is which help you most as a teacher.


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