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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 4:02 pm
by Stretto
I've had my past complaints about methods that start out teaching based on hand positions, for example, C position, G position, both thumbs on C position. I've read a few posts on the forums in which others have implied they try to avoid teaching beginners based on hand positions. I've also read reviews of various methods on PEP that would suggest avoiding methods that teach based on hand positions.

However, I've gone to the music stores and looked through many various method books. It seems that the large majority of methods teach based on C and G positions in the beginning or teach starting with both thumbs on C or a combination of both. So if teaching positions to start beginners is something to be avoided, why are there so many publishers putting out methods that do? If most methods are written this way, why is it so bad? There must be something to starting out learning based on positions if most methods are written this way, is there not?


Are methods that teach hand positions in the beginning really that bad?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 12:08 pm
by 88keys
Even though they may not be "ideal" (a concept which can be debatable... lol), many people learned piano with those methods and are good pianists today. I think a lot of what the student learns depends on the teacher more than on the curriculum. I myself learned Middle C method and I consider myself to be fairly adequate on the piano today and I know people who are in the same boat I am. [B]

PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 8:48 am
by Stretto
88keys wrote: I think a lot of what the student learns depends on the teacher more than on the curriculum.

That's a great point! - A method is only as good as its teacher!

I think a more significant difference in the methods over what approach they use is the choice of repertoire. So in the last year, I've tried to base my decision for what books to use on repertoire over method, and just try my best to make sure the basis are all covered as far as concepts even if not layed out for me in order of books and try to compensate for the pitfall of certain approaches. As so many traditional methods seem to be written starting out with some sort of hand positions, I'm not sure it necessarily means the method should be thrown out the window on that factor alone.

I'm also wondering if you don't start a student out using positions for "landmarks", then what other ways could one approach teaching beginners other than positions?




Edited By Stretto on 1151439908

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 8:04 pm
by Mins Music
I think maybe a criticism about position playing and method books that rely COMPLETELY on them (and the teacher doesn't supplement with anything else) is that students struggle to play anything that is not within a five finger position. eg, if they are in G position, the melody usually starts on G and only has the compass of GABCD - if there is a high E involved kids don't know how to play that, and end up trying to cross their 4th finger over their fifth etc. And, they're used to seeing specific patterns only - such as the triad as an 'accompaniment', steps (2nd) and skips(3rds) being the predominant intervals they encounter.

It seems that the large majority of methods teach based on C and G positions in the beginning or teach starting with both thumbs on C or a combination of both.


Anywhere you place your entire hand is going to be a 'position' and to get the fingers to work individually, the easiest way is to get them to move how they are as they sit naturally on the keyboard (without having to move anything under or over) is one at a time - which of course becomes a five fingered position.

Perhaps one of the dangers of some method books is that students can associate a particular finger with a particular key on the piano. Some even learn to read music by focusing on the finger number instead of the note (and this can go unnoticed by a teacher for some time - and the habit has already developed)

why are there so many publishers putting out methods that do?


Here's my thoughts (and they may be entirely inaccurate as I've never been involved with publishing, so don't know their criteria)
Method books are a godsend to new teachers who may not be experienced, or have a wide range of other music to draw on.
It's easier for parents to buy just the one book, and easier for the kids to remember to bring and work out of just one book.
For their purpose - to get kids to play 'something' new every week - they work! Kids (and adults) can get through quite a number of 'level's in a shortish amount of time, which gives them a feeling of achievement, which keeps the company's who make these methods in business!

I've had transfer kids who have gone through four or five of these books and CAN play the pieces in them REALLY well ... give them a Baroque/classical piece (or in my case, any piece prescribed by the Australian Music Examinations Board) and kids who think they're at a 'grade 4' level, suddenly find themselves battling with a Preliminary or Grade 1 piece :(

try my best to make sure the basis are all covered as far as concepts even if not layed out for me in order of books and try to compensate for the pitfall of certain approaches.


... If ALL teachers did this then method books certainly don't have to be 'thrown out the window', but become what they should be - a teaching AID.

PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 7:30 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Stretto wrote:So if teaching positions to start beginners is something to be avoided, why are there so many publishers putting out methods that do? If most methods are written this way, why is it so bad? There must be something to starting out learning based on positions if most methods are written this way, is there not?

A few years ago, I had a long, gentlemanly and thoughtful e-mail conversation with Randall Faber (of Faber and Faber) in connection with reviews of Faber and Faber method materials on PEP. Although the reviews were generally positive, they did point out the introduction (and swift elimination) of position-playing approaches in the Faber and Faber method. Without wishing to put words in Randy's mouth (as I respect him considerably), it's fair to say that he well recognized the less-than-desirable nature of position-playing approaches, but felt they were a faster way to more immediate progress for the beginning student than a method rigorously free of position-playing. He made a point that position-playing was used as a tool, not a crutch, in his materials and removed as quickly as possible from them so that the student didn't develop a dependence on it.

Again, these are not quotations, but a summary of a long set of correspondence. Indeed, it's fair to say that the Faber and Faber materials work pretty hard at removing any nascent dependence on position playing after introducing it early on. Anyway, I thought it might be useful to summarize the answer given to Stretto's question by a person most would recognize as an expert in piano pedagogy. :)




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1156771866