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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 10:11 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Over the years, we have reviewed many different piano teaching "method" materials on The Piano Education Page. All such methods have attributes that we think are strengths, as well as others that we think are weaknesses. We've tried to point out both of those aspects in all our "methods" reviews. For anybody who hasn't yet read enough of the site to know our position, we have consistently advocated that teaching be tailored to the student, using the best parts of various "methods" to fit each student's particular needs and way of learning.

Teachers occasionally write us and "rail" that our review of the method they use is "wrong" and "nonsense" or similar wording, simply because we have pointed out what we (and in a couple notable cases, the authors of the method) see as the weaknesses of the method. In running PEP for the last 9 years, I've learned that many teachers have an almost "religious" attachment to a particular "method" that they use. I use the term "religious" to convey the idea that they are unwilling and unable, for the most part, to cite any factual basis for their view, aside from the fact that it "works for them" (wording I find somewhat telling). Sometimes, these same teachers openly admit that they use a "modified" version of the method they advocate so strongly, raising the issue of why they felt the need to modify the method.

I have a friend, a longtime award-winning piano educator and performer, who describes his feelings about piano methods as follows: "it's been my experience ... that most methods aim at teachers who can't teach and need to be coached and channeled every step of the way. Many of them are an insult to the student as well..." (No flames, please!)

While I'm certain that many teachers would disagree with that analysis strongly, it raises several questions: Are we kidding ourselves and our students about the value of various methods? Is a "method" primarily a marketing tool of publishers to sell books? Should methods be "standardized" to some degree (perhaps by MTNA or some similar organization) or should a standardized method be produced, which teachers can use as base material for their teaching?

This last idea may sound repugnant, but it has been used very successfully in the sciences. For example, the old BSCS series of books for the teaching of biology revolutionized instruction in that field, by providing the teacher with books and materials that has been written by a large committee of active workers, who kept the books up to date with the latest discoveries and teaching technology. The American Chemical Society publishes a highly-regarded series of chemistry texts which are similarly authored and edited.

So, is it the method that counts or is it the knowledge and skills of teacher combined with desire and hard work on the part of the student?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 10:04 pm
by Mins Music
It's the latter! :p

PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2004 12:44 am
by 81-1074658942
I would definitely say the latter also. Some methods make learning easier than others, but the method won't determine the student in the end. I used the Alfred's preparatory method when I started studying. One of the main problems that some teachers seem to have with it is its use of position playing. They say that it results in lower than average note reading skills. I wouldn't really know about that. But I do know that sight-reading is one of my strongest skills :)

Given the enormous amounts of piano literature, having a method can be really helpful because it groups pieces into workable levels.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2004 9:10 pm
by 73-1078374881
Well, I'd say it's a combination of both, but the latter is definitely more important. Some methods work better for different kids, but the one that I've found works the best is the Schaum method. I don't know how what its particular strengths and weaknesses are, but what I do know is that the students of mine who use that method remember their notes better and faster and progress faster than the students who don't. Okay, that's my two cent's worth. I'm afraid I may be semi-fanatic :D about the Schaum method... Can anyone tell me about this method's weaknesses so I can help fill in the blanks when teaching that method?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:30 am
by 87-1089120367
I think that when you come right down to it Music is about Passion. The relationship between the teacher and the student is THE most important factor involved. The Method is simply one of the many tools that will used to enable the Student's passion as they develope their command of their medium. I wonder if a "method by group think" would work, simply because each teacher is fired by different elements of music - theory, technique, history. Also we all seem to do so many adjustments to suit the student, jazz, pop songs, Bach. For me the method is just the starting point. ???

PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2004 10:10 pm
by Mins Music
Welcome to the message board Wild Rose. :) Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself? What part of the world you're from, how long you've been teaching etc. Please feel free to introduce yourself. :)

PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:55 am
by Tranquillo
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:All such methods have attributes that we think are strengths, as well as others that we think are weaknesses.

we have consistently advocated that teaching be tailored to the student, using the best parts of various "methods" to fit each student's particular needs and way of learning.

In running PEP for the last 9 years, I've learned that many teachers have an almost "religious" attachment to a particular "method" that they use.

I use the term "religious" to convey the idea that they are unwilling and unable, for the most part, to cite any factual basis for their view, aside from the fact that it "works for them" (wording I find somewhat telling). Sometimes, these same teachers openly admit that they use a "modified" version of the method they advocate so strongly, raising the issue of why they felt the need to modify the method.

I have a friend, a longtime award-winning piano educator and performer, who describes his feelings about piano methods as follows: "it's been my experience ... that most methods aim at teachers who can't teach and need to be coached and channeled every step of the way. Many of them are an insult to the student as well..." (No flames, please!)

While I'm certain that many teachers would disagree with that analysis strongly, it raises several questions: Are we kidding ourselves and our students about the value of various methods? Is a "method" primarily a marketing tool of publishers to sell books? Should methods be "standardized" to some degree (perhaps by MTNA or some similar organization) or should a standardized method be produced, which teachers can use as base material for their teaching?

This last idea may sound repugnant, but it has been used very successfully in the sciences. For example, the old BSCS series of books for the teaching of biology revolutionized instruction in that field, by providing the teacher with books and materials that has been written by a large committee of active workers, who kept the books up to date with the latest discoveries and teaching technology. The American Chemical Society publishes a highly-regarded series of chemistry texts which are similarly authored and edited.

So, is it the method that counts or is it the knowledge and skills of teacher combined with desire and hard work on the part of the student?

This is an interesting topic. I am not a teacher ... however with these interesting and thought provoking topics and discussions I am considering it ...

I am a young piano student. As well as piano I go to school as well (duh) ... so I'm just going to speak from my experience as a student (10 yrs) and opinoun and ideas.

All such methods have attributes that we think are strengths, as well as others that we think are weaknesses


I cant agree with this more. With most teacher (however there are those exceptional ones) that is the same ... there are those teachers that can get a child to settle down ... but cant teach effectively... there are those teachers that can teach well but cant keep firm to troubled children ...

When I read through the review I found the language not to be deragatory or in anyway abusive to the method. Instead, they werent bias but neutral only siting insight and truth.

we have consistently advocated that teaching be tailored to the student, using the best parts of various "methods" to fit each student's particular needs and way of learning.


That is really commendable. It is like learning in history not to form a one side opinoun or just to look at one source but really look at it from all different angles and really evaluate what are the pros and cons (which PEP has done). In my experience the teachers that use textbooks and copy out of them and get students just to do the questions and activities are really not teaching at all really they are just saying what the books say.

I have a friend, a longtime award-winning piano educator and performer, who describes his feelings about piano methods as follows: "it's been my experience ... that most methods aim at teachers who can't teach and need to be coached and channeled every step of the way. Many of them are an insult to the student as well..." (No flames, please!)


I suppose your frined has said it straight out but in a sense is true. Their are teachers that teach according to the method would seem easy for the teacher to know what 'order' to teach. However the effective teacher would get a understanding of all different angles and perspectives and look at the students understanding thus with this knowledge forming a personal method that suits the student. The fact is that this is provate piano learning ... one on one ... this is supposed to be personal.

Are we kidding ourselves and our students about the value of various methods?


The fact is all methods really have their goods and bads and there is an abundance out there. Some methods may suit a certain particular student than others. I have a friend that teaches and her main outlook is to have this variety because everyone is an individual and variety is very important. Varity not only for the student but for the teacher (so she doesnt get bored of teaching the same thing hehehe)


Is a "method" primarily a marketing tool of publishers to sell books?


I think not. Some teachers or perfomers or philosophers probably have percieved certain areas of their teaching to assist their students and want to publish what they do think is effective and benefical. However because money is what makes the world go round it could be a marketing tool for publishers.


Should methods be "standardized" to some degree (perhaps by MTNA or some similar organization) or should a standardized method be produced, which teachers can use as base material for their teaching?


This is interesting ... here in australia we dont have standalizations either ... I think if there were to be a standardlization of a organization then there would be the need to have a cheaklist and reviewer ... the thing is because methods are very different some worknig on certain areas more than others what would be the standard?

So, is it the method that counts or is it the knowledge and skills of teacher combined with desire and hard work on the part of the student?


I think it has got to be both really. The nice teacher with the ineffective or inappropriate method with the student doesnt work out.
I have always (in my experience) noticed that teachers with the outstanding knowledge to differnt approaches, understanding of different learners, true passion and look at things from different perspective and angles as well as the passion for sharing this fine skill of music and piano are therefore the most effective teachers.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 2:00 pm
by Stretto
Becibu,
Just curious what methods or systems of learning have you had and your thoughts on how you've been taught - good or bad along the way?

I'm asking because as a teacher I like to hear what other's perspectives are on the various methods and modes of teaching/learning piano. If you read any of my past posts on threads in this forum, you'd find I have a lot to say about the ups and downs of methods. For now, I'm giving students a choice of a method series or going through a classical piano lit. series as a base requirement after learning the basics plus any additional music I or student wants to supplement with.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 5:10 pm
by Tranquillo
Stretto wrote:Becibu,
Just curious what methods or systems of learning have you had and your thoughts on how you've been taught - good or bad along the way?

I'm asking because as a teacher I like to hear what other's perspectives are on the various methods and modes of teaching/learning piano. If you read any of my past posts on threads in this forum, you'd find I have a lot to say about the ups and downs of methods. For now, I'm giving students a choice of a method series or going through a classical piano lit. series as a base requirement after learning the basics plus any additional music I or student wants to supplement with.

As a student I have used the Thompson method at my very begginings. Actually ... the very first teacher I had when I was 8 put me onto John Thompson. The second teacher I had even though I had taken lessons two years before ... relised that my counting and reading could be better so she put me on the Thompson book again. The third teacher saw that my technique was stuffed up so he put me on the Thompson book for a thrid time!
Hows that?
Well the thing is with all those three teachers even though they used method books they did not 'follow the method'. Really they use method books just for the pieces. They dont do a once in a week thing new song but my teacher(s) prescibed me to work on something in particular.
With the second teacher since she relised that I could play other harder pieces she assigned me something out of the Thompson book so I could read better as well as a piece of my own choice.
The third teacher wanted to work on my hands and technique so he assigned about 15 pieces from the Thompson book and got me to work on them.

Now I dont use method books. I use repetoire books and they ascend in levels. They are really exam books ... with grades. I work on 3 pieces and technical work (diatonic/chromatic scales, contrary motions, appregios, etc).

As far as anything bad ... In between taking lessons when I stopped for a little while. I was lent a book full of pieces that had gradually got harder. They songs/pieces were decent but they had the note letter underneath each note as well as the fingering under each note. Because of this I heavily relied on reading the note underneath.
When something different was stuck infront of me I would struggle to read it. Because I couldnt read it...

I know this is a facet of the Alfred series with the note letters evidently seen. Also with the Bastein method having the finger numbers.

I personailly think that methods have their good and bad points. Students are all different people they are individuals so a teacher would mould the method or take parts of what they think works in other methods to suit the student.