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#1275795 - 09/26/09 08:10 PM Differences in series?
Ellechim Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/25/09
Posts: 5
I am a new piano teacher, and trying to decide which series to teach with. Upon the advice of my old piano teacher, I started teaching my son with the Faber series. However, all of my friends that teach piano use the Alfred series.

I took some time at a music store yesterday to look through them. It seems that Alfred offers a lot more variety in books. Is there somewhere on the internet where I can see the pros and cons of each series? Or specifically, HOW they teach?

The three I am wondering about are the Faber, Alfred and Music Tree.

Thanks for any help or input!

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#1275805 - 09/26/09 08:25 PM Re: Differences in series? [Re: Ellechim]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
Here is one comparison site; there are surely others:

http://www.you-can-play-piano.com/piano-methods.html

FWIW - I didn't like Alfred much at all. My students didn't seem thrilled, either. I preferred Bastien to Alfred. I haven't used Music Tree, so can't comment on that. I like Piano Adventures a lot, and use it for most of my students. (However, I prefer Alfred for adult students.)
_________________________
piano teacher

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#1275836 - 09/26/09 09:32 PM Re: Differences in series? [Re: Lollipop]
Ellechim Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/25/09
Posts: 5
That is good to know! I took out my son's Piano Adventures books (My First Piano Adventure) and was pouring over that and rereading everything. I really do like that series, and that is exactly what my old teacher said to do. Maybe it's good to listen to the wise, experienced ones!!

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#1275865 - 09/26/09 10:11 PM Re: Differences in series? [Re: Ellechim]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: Ellechim
Or specifically, HOW they teach?


Books don't teach, teachers teach. The question is which book fits your own personal style and pedagogy best? What sequence are you most comfortable with? What books present new information in a way compatible with how you present it? What can you do with the pieces in the books? What are your personal views on how to develop technique, and which book gives you repertoire that would help you accomplish that?

An example:

Music Tree spends a fair amount of time on off-staff reading. Piano Adventures does not.

I personally like to get students on the staff as soon as possible and prefer starting students around age 8. I don't like 98% of the off-staff repertoire and do a horrible job making it interesting. (It's hard to convince students that something is exciting if you don't believe it yourself.) I also have a problem with the technical issues involved - a lot of off-staff reading uses black key pieces which develop the hand from the outside-in. I like to develop the thumbs and 5th fingers earlier.

However, some teachers do a lot of great work with off-staff reading. They are comfortable working with younger students and are able to make the off-staff repertoire come alive. They also know how to develop technique from the inside-out.

Obviously, I choose Piano Adventures, but I know teachers (including some I worked with in my teacher-training days) who used Music Tree extensively with excellent results.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1275878 - 09/26/09 10:34 PM Re: Differences in series? [Re: Kreisler]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
There is great freedom in designing a packet of piano lessons that gets you through the basic skills and basic notation parts of early piano lessons.

Each of us has our own preferences of what comes first and how to teach it. It may take time to develope our preferances, but I think they are there in our minds after finding the things that don't work so well, and also finding the things that work incredibly well for our students.

Most of us apply a sequence that fits the student's learning style which takes a few weeks to figure out - actually he may have a composite of several ways he approaches music - and it's up to us to notice which is the most effective or efficient learning style based on what he is showing us with his approach.

I use the 23 and 234 fingerings on black notes at the same time we are doing Middle C music in precharts. Then as soon as possible (good hand shape required) I add 5 Finger Positions - only as needed with the music we are using. Sometime in the first year I will also bring out the D mirrored chromatic scale in contrary motion as I want them to experience half steps. Then it's on to a one octave C Major Scale which we already prepared for in the first lesson when we found the 2 black notes and their white keys surrounding CDE and the 3 black notes and their white keys surrounding FGAB. With these several things done well, plus the addition of thinking in tetrachord fingering, we have the "magic" needed for all 12 5 Finger Positions and 1 and 2 octave Major Scales. The student can be well versed in these things by the time they have completed their elementary level.

I do these things without a music publisher method because at one time the desire to teach to my satisfaction with each student (being different, each and every)and being able to move to the next priority I would see for them when working with them at the keyboard. We go where we need to go in the moment depending on what is a weakness today and what is a strength. Lessons should include some of each dimension, I think.

I think Kreisler posted some great comments and questions which act as encouragement to teachers to follow our own pedagogy and over time, eventually creating own own, distinct method based on our teaching philosophies and experiences and what we hold valid.

Kreisler said: "Books don't teach, teachers teach. The question is which book fits your own personal style and pedagogy best? What sequence are you most comfortable with? What books present new information in a way compatible with how you present it? What can you do with the pieces in the books? What are your personal views on how to develop technique, and which book gives you repertoire that would help you accomplish that?"

There are so many wonderful pedagogues out there on websites where they share what they know with us and we can learn by visiting them whenever we have the inclination and the time to read and think with them.

Betty

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#1275924 - 09/27/09 12:17 AM Re: Differences in series? [Re: Betty Patnude]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1267
Loc: California
You should check out the Faber website piano teachers forum at www.pianoteaching.com
Not all teachers there use Piano Adventures, but many do and they can explain the differences with other methods, why they prefer PA, etc...

In the two music stores in my town, most teachers use Alfred. I think, however, that it's because they're just not familiar with PA and they've been using the same method for 100 years. Another thing I've noticed is that teachers who are in MTNA seem to use PA more than teachers who are not. I'm not saying it's 100% fact, just something I've noticed. I'm thinking it's because they attend their state Conventions, where they are introduced to newer methods and music, and they can attend classes given by the authors of various methods, etc...

In my opinion, the quality of the pieces in PA is far superior to what's in Alfred. Alfred tends to be more 'positional' than PA (although some will argue that PA is positional too). The music in PA is wonderful, the teacher duet parts fun, and kids get REALLY excited about the pieces they're learning. Plus, besides the core method books, PA has a nice variety of supplemental books. Around level 2B or so I supplement with OTHER non-PA books, simple classical, etc... from FJH publishing.
_________________________
Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild

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#1275932 - 09/27/09 12:47 AM Re: Differences in series? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I think it's important to note that there's more than one Alfred piano method.

Alfred publishes two traditional methods. One is "Alfred's Basic Piano Course," which is the one most people mean when they talk about the old Alfred method people have used for years. It was written by Willard Palmer, Morton Manus, and Amanda Vick Lethco. Alfred has also recently published "Alfred's Premier Piano Course," by Dennis Alexander, Gayle Kowalchyk, Martha Mier and E. L. Lancaster.

There are significant differences in style, pedagogy, content, and repertoire.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1276082 - 09/27/09 12:03 PM Re: Differences in series? [Re: Kreisler]
PianoKitty Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 133
Loc: US
Personally, I teach both methods. Each method has its pros and cons. I find a lot of transfer students come in under the PA method, so I made it my point to get to know it really well. Some students started with me under the Alfred Basic method before I discovered Piano Adventures, so they are continuing with that now.

What I have noticed as far as differences is that the PA books are much more creative and imaginative. My beginner students love the PA series; it is my preferred method for beginners now (except adults). Also, the musical selections in PA are better IMO. Alfred's music could use some major improving; it is often boring and more like technic pieces than actual pleasing musical pieces. Even my students comment on how boring the Alfred music is. Also, Alfred's Basic series is very "positional," and has way too many finger numbers for my taste. My Alfred students tend to get bogged down in finger numbers instead of note reading, so I have to black out the finger numbers on each piece. Now, PA does this somewhat too, but I think to a lesser extent.

All of my 4-year-old students start with the Alfred Little Mozarts series, which is wonderful for that age. I wish PA had a 4-year-old program... I've heard they are developing one but it is taking FOREVER to come out. Some of my 5-year-old students have started with the Alfred Prep Course, and others have started with the My First Piano Adventures series. Personally, as a teacher, I enjoy teaching the My 1st PA much more than the Prep Course. It's more fun for students and for me! Also, My 1st PA goes a little slower than the Prep Course, and my students tend to like the slower pace, so they can focus on learning something really well before moving on to the next thing.

For the later levels, both series present the same things, just in different order and different ways (with much better musical selections in the PA series!). I would suggest buying one of each level and really looking over the order and way things are presented, and how that corresponds to your teaching method.

For adults, I prefer the Alfred All-in-One series. I have also used the Adult PA series but they had some copyright issues so it's been hard to find lately. In fact, a LOT of the PA books have been hard to find lately; my music store said that the Fabers had been sued for copyright infringement or something like that, so they had to halt production on a lot of their books. Whether this is true or not, I don't know. But I've had quite the time finding some of the supplementary books in the past few months. Just something to be aware of.
_________________________
Private Piano Instructor
Member, Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)

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#1276408 - 09/28/09 01:57 AM Re: Differences in series? [Re: PianoKitty]
Ellechim Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/25/09
Posts: 5
Thank you all very much!!

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#1276560 - 09/28/09 11:33 AM Re: Differences in series? [Re: Ellechim]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7418
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Ellechim, just to add a postscript here:

There are many methods published, 40 or 50 at last count. There is surely one which will fit you like a glove.

Some methods handhold the teacher through the basics, and others assume the teacher has a strong grounding, and just presents the students the necessary material.

I used Noona's materials for at least 20 years, as it introduced students to all major keys by the end of the 2nd level. It presented note reading as a combination of note recognition, guideposts recognition, and intervallic reading. It was an excellent expansion on what Francis Clark and others were espousing in their pedagogy. By the turn of the century, the method had been out a good 35 years or more and was becoming dated.

When Piano Town method came along in the early part of this century, I decided to switch. I really didn't need any teacher crutches, the presentation of material to the student was straight forward, orderly, and assumed that the teacher was knowledgeable. The artwork and story line follows a lot of what students are learning in elementary schools, so their imaginations are really captivated. The activities of the kids in the story line parallel their own, and it's not in any way condescending.

What I am saying here is - don't be in a hurry to settle on one method or another. Get to either state or national conferences where you have the opportunity to research many methods that your local music store may not carry.
_________________________
"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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#1276576 - 09/28/09 12:39 PM Re: Differences in series? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7418
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
PPS - Clavier Companion is just starting a new series which will review various current methods. It will be interesting to see what their evaluations reveal.
_________________________
"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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#1276683 - 09/28/09 03:58 PM Re: Differences in series? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
abcdefg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 67
Loc: midwest
I have used Bastien, Alfred, Piano Adventures and Music Tree. I now use Celebrate Piano. It is by far my favorite. The lesson book includes ear training, exercises, work pages and rhythm. The solo books last for two lesson books. I can easily supplement with other music at Halloween, Christmas and recital. The one thing I would not do without no matter what method I use is the accompaniment CDs. To me they are one of the best resources available. It helps the student at home to hear the melody and rhythm. I have had several transfer students come in with rhythm problems. I send home a CD for them to practice with and in almost every case the rhythm problems go away.

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#1276741 - 09/28/09 05:34 PM Re: Differences in series? [Re: abcdefg]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York City
Has anyone heard of Bernice Frost series? I think I was taught with this for a year or two many moons ago. If I remember correctly, there were no arrangments, just pieces(or parts of pieces) written by the great composers.

Just curious about what piano teachers think about this series.

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#1277078 - 09/29/09 04:54 AM Re: Differences in series? [Re: pianoloverus]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Frost = hopelessly outdated!

I personally use Music Tree, some Piano Adventures. I have a transfer student using Alfred Premier and I'm not sure what I think about it yet. We're in level 1B because she needed some review, so I'll a better informed position on it when we actually get to where the bulk of the material is new to her.

I also have a new student working in Hal Leonard. We're just starting Unit 2. She struggled a bit with the up and down; I don't think the noteheads were as exaggerated as they could have been. The music is good, though.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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