First steps are so important. The first piano lesson that a child has will have a huge influence on how he or she progresses and feels about playing the piano over the next few months and years. If they are to do well they need to leave the lesson feeling happy and confident that they will succeed.
Obviously, the way the teacher handles the lesson is a big part. Many teachers use a tutor book and the quality of this book will determine how easily the child learns and whether they find lessons fun and interesting or difficult and (dare I say it) boring.
So, here are my thoughts on some of the most popular tutor books out there today:
John Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course (Parts 1 to 4)
These are the books that I have used most frequently for children under the age of about 10. Each book features a series of strange looking, colourful monsters which children are fascinated by. The tunes are very carefully graded and there is just the right amount of repetition of each new topic for most children. By the end of book 2 children can play some quite nice tunes with hands together. Many of the tunes have accompaniments, which can be played by the teacher in lessons and which have very interesting harmonies. The only negatives, I think, are that, for very young children there is not quite enough variety in the activities, and that most know hardly any of the tunes in the book.
Me and My Piano (Parts 1 and 2)
These books, by well know pianist and teacher Fanny Waterman, are beautifully interested and do feature a few more well-known tunes. Children love these books. They are easy to follow and almost every note has a finger number indicated. However, after finishing these books I have often found that children don’t really know which note is which, as they have been learning by the finger numbers. For this reason, I no longer use these books in my lessons.
Piano Time (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
These books, by Pauline Hall, are part of a huge series which also include titles such as Piano Time Jazz, Piano Time Classics and many, many more. Piano Time 1 is a great starter book for children aged about 10 to 12. It is very thorough with lots of right and left hand only tunes at the start. I have used this series with dozens of students, many of whom have gone on to become excellent pianists. My only comment would be that they don’t suit absolutely all students and I think that this is, once again, because they spend a lot of time playing tunes that they have never heard of. A few more well know tunes, in easy arrangements, would be really welcome.
Plus there are my two brand new tutor books:
Let’s Play Piano – which is aimed at very young children who are complete beginners
Learn to Play Piano – which is aimed at slightly older beginners. I find that this book works well with students aged from about 10 to 12.