Piano Method Books By Age, When And Why To Use Them
This is for the parent of a beginning student who’s just starting piano. Many students have no idea where to start when it comes to finding a book to help them learn how to play piano. Fortunately, there are many books written on the best way to learn piano and unfortunately, there are many books on the best way to learn piano. There are usually Lesson books, Theory books, Performance books, Note-writing books, Activity or Game books, etc. So, let’s talk about what to look for when picking up a book for a child depending on age and features of the book.
Preschoolers, 3 – 5 Years Old
This age is very exploratory and the books need to embody this. There are quite a few series for this age, Music Tree, Little Mozart, both by Alfred, and also “Primer for the Young beginner” books by Bastien.
Activities are #1 – What should be in your books for the young students is activities! Lesson books with activities are probably the number one thing that should be included for this age. If you open the book and can’t see lots of things to color or lots of spaces to draw and things of this nature, then it’s not the right book for the age.
Pace of Topics – Most preschoolers will want to jump from one thing to another in the lesson, but still learn topics at a slower pace than elementary age children and the method book needs to present ideas in small chunks. This can be seen by a new topic being introduced and having at least 2 or 3 songs until a new idea is introduced.
Grade School, 6 – 12 Years Old
At this age we’re starting to get some great progress with piano and the speed will increase. There needs to be a notebook in the home to track our progress on piano and we’ll start learning more complex topics and really take off in reading music.
Topic Reviews with Theory books – Since the pace of the learning is different and increased, that means more is going to be coming at our little musician. So, instead of having lots of activities in the book, this age of students need “Theory books”, which regularly reviews old topics and keeps them fresh in the student’s mind. This means that there will at least need to be two books for every level, a “Lesson book” and “Theory book”. This should be mandatory in order to show the relation between topics and present them in a way that makes sense.
Grade or Difficulty Levels by Publisher – I’m sure that you see level numbers on each of the books at this time. You should know that there really is no nationally agreed level in the United States. So, a level 2 in one book won’t necessarily be the same in another level 2 book and the paces will be a little different.
Alfred Prep Course Series – Slow pace for 6 – 7 year olds
Alfred Basic Series – Slow pace for 7+ year olds
Faber series – Medium pace
Bastien series – Fast pace
Michael Aaron series – Very fast pace
Teenagers, 13 – 17 Years Old
At this age, we’re really starting to play with emotion and learning how to really play music. Depending on what level the student is playing on, we can do “older student” series books if they’re just starting. If they’ve played up to at least a Level 3 or 4, we can start looking at style focused books to learn:
CDs included – There are a lot of books that come with CDs when learning a specific style. Choosing good Jazz method books, an example of a style book, is pretty difficult. The must have for these books (Jazz, Latin, Blues, Gospel, etc) are CDs. Essential to learning jazz and other rhythmic styles is to know what it sounds like because the rhythms are difficult to read with no audio reference.
Performance Expression Explained – Classical books are a lot more interesting when the student has heard of the music before. Since there are diminishing outlets that expose teenagers to classical music, it’s best if these have CDs as well. But in addition to that, an explanation of what should be expressed in the music, for example Music by the Masters series, gives you both a CD and an explanation of what is trying to be expressed in the music helps translate what the composers intended to the younger generation.
These are a few things that could help when looking through method books at a music store that help choosing a little easier.