How many books does a piano student really need?
And why should students need more than one book? Student families often hesitate to invest in piano books. Some question the need to purchase anything other than the lesson book or the examination book. And some even think that the examination book is the lesson book!
This post answers common questions new piano students have about the need for many books when learning the language of music.
The books I teach from with beginners : I generally start my beginner students with a combination of rote learning, aural work and a beginner method book. Gradually adding more repertoire as my students get comfortable and can learn the pieces in their method book on their own, at a pace that’s very comfortable and with good quality learning.
When can beginner piano students learn on their own? Each student is different. I’ve had some young students go really fast and need new material within 3 months of learning, while others learned better with a slower pace and took about a year.
Quality learning means setting a different pace for each student. Like with quality kindergarten learning, one size and one pace doesn’t fit all. In that first year of piano lessons, it’s about learning with understanding. About making connections between concepts, good aural work. And about developing good practise routines and habits.
Another reason for using many books simultaneously
Many young beginners today who learn with only one single approach or method seem unable to find the same notes when they seem them in books with a different approach. By approach I meant learning notes from Middle C, going up and down. Or the Landmark Note approach to music reading.
Experimenting with different ways of teaching has taught me that that using a method book, supplemented by lot of easy repertoire (or another method book with a different approach) helps beginner piano students learn better.
What kind of books do piano students need?
- Method books that go step-by-step
- Repertoire books.
- Theory books.
- Sight-reading method books. These books go step-by-step and teach piano students how to look at a piece of music and play it after a brief overview. As against studying and practising a piece and then, playing it.
- Examination books – the practical exam book, scales and arpeggios, aural exercises and any other specific test that is a part of the examination.
- A music manuscript and an exercise book for notes and homework.
- Reference books. Piano teachers usually keep a library of books on music history, piano playing technique, practise and a host of other topics that students need to read on. Students who move to advanced levels and want to learn further will gradually need to invest in a library of their own.
Why my piano lesson fees include the cost of books : It’s a lot of books for students to purchase and can be an issue when families forget to budget for books. A fee including the cost of books with my piano students from beginner level to grade 4 level saves me a lot of time as I purchase books for my students once or twice a year all at once.
Learning the language of music
Students who enrol in piano lessons want to learn to play the piano, as well as to be able to read written piano music.
Learning to read written music is like learning to read in school. The students who have access to a lot of reading material read more and become better readers. Piano students need repertoire books and need to play a lot of different kinds of music.
- Books of different levels of difficulty. Easy music helps students explore written music on their own and develop confidence in their ability to teach themselves. And challenging music that’s exciting often makes students work harder, and rise beyond their current level of playing,
- Books of different genres and styles. We want piano students playing classical, modern, jazz, pop and any other category of music. We want our students learning music from different cultures and from different centuries, in order that they master different styles as well as playing technique. Piano students need a variety of books in order to do this.
It would be really wonderful if students could visit the book store on their own. Browse and look at different kinds of books on their own. Get excited about all the different kinds of music available and choose their own (level appropriate) music like we did. They don’t because it’s just too far. And browsing at an online book store just isn’t the same.
The piano examination is not a lesson book
This is an important point for examination oriented families to understand. The examination is what students take on, after they’ve learned upto that level. To give them a qualification and to help assess the quality of their learning.
Independence in learning for all ages
Piano teachers teach all students to teach themselves, from a very young age, and from the very first lesson. We teach our students how to practise, using small steps to understanding that make them extremely independent learners.
Young students need parents support at home for this, so I use the last 15 minutes of the lesson to teach piano parents who are interested, how to provide support. Supporting the practise process while helping their child do his/her thinking independently. Children who learn like this, even children as young as 4, develop a confidence and ability to explore new (age and level appropriate) work on their own.
Learning a lot of music helps piano students get more practise in learning independently. Later on, this translates into independent thinking and that’s why long-term piano students often do well at school and excel at other activities, while learning the piano simultaneously.
Playing the piano is a long-term hobby. A hobby, that many will want to go back to years after they’ve stopped piano lessons. Someday maybe, they’ll pull out their old books and run through them at the piano.
And remember the joy they felt while playing the piano, and experience it once again.