So you think you have chosen the best group or private lesson piano teacher. But what method book do they teach from? Does it matter? Should choice of method book factor into your decision when choosing piano instructors?
DIFFERENT METHOD BOOK–DIFFERENT APPROACH?
Go to any music store and you will see many different piano method books. Many purport to offer different approaches to learning beginners, intermediate, or advanced piano lessons, but almost all have one thing in common: they actually make it harder for children and adults to truly learn staff note reading. This may seem to be a rather bold statement, but let me explain. The goal of most students (especially beginners) is to learn songs as quickly as possible–the quicker they learn the song, the more enjoyable it is. Most method books realize this and are supportive of this goal because the quicker students get through their book, the sooner they will need a new one. In order to facilitate this common goal, they put extra things such as excessive finger numbers or rote hand positions which allow students to cheat when learning songs by not truly reading the notes. Students don’t have to learn the actual names of the notes because they are told what position their hands should be in and what finger should be used. But if you ask the student to look at a song outside their method book that is not in the usual hand position and doesn’t have lots of finger numbers, they struggle because they never truly learned how to read in the first place.
TEACHING STUDENTS TO READ PROPERLY FROM THE BEGINNING
Whenever I get transfer students, I always have to spend quite a bit of time reviewing remedial note reading. Most teachers do not take the time early on to emphasis true note reading, and their students pay the price down the line. But if you start a student out from the very beginning memorizing the notes of the staff properly, it will pay dividends for them down the road as they truly master the language of music. They will learn songs quicker, and practice sessions become more like “play” than “work”. It may take a little extra time in the beginning, but students will more than make up for it later when they soar ahead in leaps and bounds. Piano becomes exponentially more fun when a student can just walk into a music store and sit down and play a piece of music with little effort, and a new world of enjoyment opens up to them.
THE BEST METHOD BOOK IS YOUR OWN METHOD BOOK
In an early attempt to make sure that my students were not cheating or cutting corners when learning their pieces, I used to take a black sharpie and cross out all the finger numbers and hand positions on each page in their book before giving it to them. After tiring of this tedious and time-intensive task, I resolved to write my own method book and have never looked back. I take comfort in knowing that my students don’t just learn to speak the language of music, but can truly read and write and understand it. They are not just learning a few songs to impress their friends, but rather a skill that they will be able to enjoy the rest of their lives.