With so many different piano methods out there, which one do you choose for your child? Here are a few piano methods that I like to use in my piano teaching.
1) For the very very young child who is just starting out ( 3 to 4 years of age ) I recommend “My First Piano: Adventure for the young beginner” by Nancy and Randall Faber, Pre-reading series, lesson book A and writing book A. These books have well planned and structured lessons, with color coding for songs, and very very simple ear training. Easy for any child who is just starting to learn which hand is their left and which one is their right!
The reason I like Hal Leonard Piano method books is because the theory books match up with the piano songs. There is a teacher’s manual that outlines weekly lesson plans, telling the teacher what to focus on with the student during the lesson, which songs the student should study, and what theory goes with the song. This makes it easier for the teacher to gradually improve his/her student with ease.
For example, when Hal Leonard teaches the line notes F, G, and A on the staff, their Notespeller book gets the children to practice writing these notes in the bass clef, over and over again. This not only makes the children familiar with the location of these 3 notes, but to be able to read the music and to play that note correctly on the piano. After about 15 minutes of notespelling, the child then gets to learn a song in their piano book, which focuses on the keys F, G, and A, the three keys that they had just practiced writing. This is good, because they then get to apply the theory that they just learned.
The songs also often “player 2” musical parts written for the teacher, so that the child has a chance to be accompanied in his/her song. This does two things: 1) it forces the child to “keep up” – music doesn’t wait and so they had better count! 2) It acts as a reward system for practicing a song so much. Suddenly, the song that sounded really good when they played by themselves, now sounds awesome and completely different!
Of all the beginner piano methods I have experimented with, Hal Leonard has been by far the most effective method I have used in teaching my little ones.
3) For the student who has had about 2 years of experience and wants to learn something fun, I recommend the Christopher Norton Connection books. You can preview songs and listen to audio samples here.
This guy realized that piano songs should sound, well, cool! They shouldn’t sound like exercises. These books have 8 levels, and all the songs are something that you could play for your friend’s enjoyment. The styles range from boogie-woogie, rock and roll, latin, old jazz. This give the student a wide variety of genres to choose from, and this is great, because s/he is still trying to discover what kind of music s/he would love to focus more on and perhaps specialize in.
4) For basic to intermediate theory, I recommend two books: “Music Theory for Dummies. Anything that has “for Dummies” or “for Idiots” is written in clear English. One of my friends even used this book to help him study for his entrance exam into music college! And yes, he got in.
5) The other one is “The Complete Elementary Music Rudiments” by Mark Sarnecki.
This no nonsense book has pages and pages of exercises that drills the student over and over again to make darn sure s/he understands the concepts taught in each lesson. Good for a mature student ( late teens to adults ) who already has a basic understanding of theory. Don’t get it for children: they won’t understand it. They’re not ready for it.
Hopefully this can act as a good guide towards finding the right method for your child. Good luck and happy practicing.