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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 8:31 am
by jenscott90
I said in an earlier post that I am a "young" teacher, by experience's standards. I've been teaching for about 5 years, total, with a 2 year hiatus in the middle of those. Not having a music degree and never "vetting" methods books beyond my own experience (I grew up on Bastien). I have asked for other teachers' opinions on their own methods books and heard good things about Faber and Faber and one likes Bastien. Neither of them care for Alfred (which I use), either. I understood the position playing was a big deal and did find my students had trouble, UNLESS I could let them know right up front that this was a transition into "real" playing and that we had to know the notes on the staff and on the keys. I have found the same problem going from using finger numbers to note names, from no staff to using the staff, etc. To me it is all the same problem...how to make it easier in the beginning to get some experience under their belts and then transition sooner rather than later into normal playing.

I have started using the new Alfred course (which depends on using landmark notes on the keyboard rather than positions) and like it better. I like the opportunity to have them do ear training exercises with the CDs, as well as to have a reminder of "if that sounds right" by playing the CD from time to time during the week. Right now it is just getting me to learn the series and how it is set up, as I was very comfortable and familiar with the old Alfred Piano Library.

Anyone taken a good look at this new series? What do you think?

Thanks
Jen

PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 8:33 am
by jenscott90
Here's the link to their course description:

http://www.premierpianocourse.com/course.html



Jen

PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 11:52 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
jenscott90 wrote:I have started using the new Alfred course (which depends on using landmark notes on the keyboard rather than positions) and like it better. I like the opportunity to have them do ear training exercises with the CDs, as well as to have a reminder of "if that sounds right" by playing the CD from time to time during the week. Right now it is just getting me to learn the series and how it is set up, as I was very comfortable and familiar with the old Alfred Piano Library.

Anyone taken a good look at this new series? What do you think?

Thanks
Jen

You may have already seen our Piano Methods page, which has reviews of various methods on it. Alfred was one of the few that we couldn't get a review copy of, since they simply ignored our multiple e-mails altogether. I took a look at the page you cited. It impresses me as mostly sales information, but that can sometimes be useful, too. Note at the bottom of that page that the site is owned by Alfred.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 7:29 am
by jenscott90
Right....I knew it would be biased, but still there was some info on their thought process and what they wanted to achieve, so I was hoping that might be useful.

Not a big deal at all. Thanks for looking!

Jen

PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 3:46 pm
by Stretto
I used to teach from the Alfred's beginner series although not the premier series. I was excited when I first saw the new premier series when it was coming out thinking they had changed a lot about the series. Granted I'm making a judgement from only looking through the primer and book 1 of the premier series a handful of times at the music store and haven't played through it or taught from it, but in looking it over, I was dissappointed that it appeared not a whole lot had changed in it from the basic Alfred beginner series. A cd, of course, would prove it more useful in comparison, however.

In the Alfred's beginner series, I feel it is good from primer to level 2 as far as sound of arrangements and nice pieces that appealed to students. My students all enjoyed the pieces and learned well from it. Level 3 my students really enjoyed about half of the pieces, the other half students didn't care for. Level 4, students really halted here just from the arrangement of the pieces as far as sound and the style the pieces were (I feel there were too many that were heavily "chordal" in nature with not enough variety from this). With every student, we ended up scratching the series at level 3 or 4 and moving into regular early intermediate repertoire without methods but progress stagnated this way as well as the "level" system seems to be a big motivator. I noticed book 5 goes to classical piano lit. and looks like it does a really nice job explaining different ornaments in playing. Now after about level 2 in a method, I'm moving students to a level 2 or 3 book of all classical piano lit. where the classical piano lit. series are by levels and use this as the required book. If someone were really against classical, I would keep them in a method if possible or at least supplemental material by level and try to sneak the classical in here and there, hee! hee!.

As the saying goes, "a method is only as good as it's teacher". If you really like the premier Alfred's series well, then use it. When I used the standard Alfred's series, I just compensated for the weaknesses by emphasizing learning letter names of notes on the staff and where they are on the keys in addition to the book and also downplaying the "hand position" terminology and trying to get students playing outside of hand positions and little earlier on with supplemental music.


Just about every method has it's weakness as I'm sure you are well aware. Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I feel in looking over many mainstream methods, they basically all start out teaching in positions like C, G, etc. or they teach based on "both thumbs on C". I don't really find much deviation between these two approaches among most if not all mainstream methods. So what I finally decided to do is just pick the one I like teaching from the best or what I might find best for a student as far as type and style of music and compensate additionally for what I feel is lacking. I've steared away from worrying so much about the approach of a method, and basing my choice on: 1. choice of repertoire 2. decent sounding arrangements. 3. caters to teaching technique (all 3 of these to me go hand in hand). If I got into a series where I liked books primer to level 2, then didn't like books 3 and 4, I would just switch a student at that time to level 3 and 4 of another series that had better music. I've looked through lots of mainstream methods and all of the level books from primer on through and haven't run across any series where I could say I liked almost all of the choice of pieces in the entire series all the way from primer to the "top out" level so I think it doesn't hurt to switch books to other series along the way if interest drops off either teacher's or student's.

On Alfred's I also got to where I didn't care for the arrangements of most of their supplemental material, for example, the pop supplemental music. The arrangements seem harder than the same level of other books, don't sound that great, and although perhaps a lot can be learned about intervals and chords, I find it doesn't cater well to classical technique but more rather pop/rock (which is fine if that is a student's preference). It is soooo much easier with methods that cater to classical technique for me (they sound better to me too!) and teach about intervals, chords, supplement with pop/rock with additional music rather than through the method. Now that I'm using classical piano lit. series and/or methods that cater more to classical style, I really feel in my element and there is so much more I can say within one piece than I can with a piece that is more of a pop-style arrangement. I'm not diehard classical and like a huge variety of music including pop but I just find it more difficult to teach from especially in the way of technique, although I think it's good for learning about chords and rhythm, for "fun" music and variety. When I started as freshman in college, I neively asked my instructor for private piano, "when are we going to do some arrangements of pop music, etc.?" He explained that they didn't do arrangements, but his main response was, "learn classical first, then you'll be able to play all the pop music you want much easier". All this is to say, some methods seem to cater more to pop/rock style in the way the music is arranged.

I used the "both thumbs on C" approach with my most recent student paying careful attention the student learned the letter names of notes on the staff and where they are on the keys and also teaching about intervals and chords alongside even if not emphasized in the book and it seemed to be more effective for me, the repertoire seemed more pleasant, and it seemed easier to teach technique as far as good movement. But I've heard teachers who don't like the "both thumbs on C" approach either.

I've gotten to where I don't think it matters so much what the method used so long as it's one the teacher really likes and works for them. Again with any method there is always "blanks to fill in". :D




Edited By Stretto on 1180745139

PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 1:48 pm
by jenscott90
You are so generous with your time to explain so well, Stretto, and thank you!

I started using this new series (the premier) after using the basic for many years. I did the same thing you did; emphasizing note names over positions, etc. The songs seemed ok.

This premier course is driving me up a wall with it's boring music for the primer level. I don't expect that those songs can be a very complex, but oh my goodness. It's not any different than the finger exercises I give them to do and they just keep going on and on, page after page of it. I have decided to take my kids through a little faster and supplement until we can finish the book they are in and then switch! I haven't had to supplement at this stage before, so finding what I want is interesting. Anyway, the changes they made as far as using landmark notes and the CDs are nice. I thought it was going to be a very nice new course, but I'm feeling now like it is just too slow. I just hate to assign 4 or 5 pages in the lesson book alone every week for these little kids who are so busy, anyway, as we have discussed elsewhere.

I went to the music store and had a nice, long conversation with a lady there who has just finished her masters' in performance, I think. She teaches and likes Hal Leonard, but thought Faber&Faber was all right, too. I decided on Piano Adventures, as I like the arrangements better in the books(teaching style is essentially the same, as you said) and especially the supplemental books.

Anyway, I wondered if everyone was really impressed with this new series or unimpressed or what. Too bad they didn't send Dr. Zeigler a copy to review! That is really not very smart, unless they don't feel happy with the series, I guess! :)

Thanks again, everyone.
Jen

PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 1:53 pm
by jenscott90
You may be wondering why I all of a sudden made this switch from "liking it better" to not liking it much. I had a lesson in between time and just found that I was feeling like there was this heavy chain on us and discovered what I think it was.

I still do think the couple of things I mentioned are an improvement on the original series, though.

Sorry to be a "flip-flopper"! :laugh: (uh oh...any John Kerry fans out there! sorry!!!!)

Hugs,
Jen

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 7:15 pm
by 108-1121887355
I finally had a chance to look over the Premier books - I agree with you - I haven't tried them with students but have reviewed level 2B. The pieces are okay, but nothing exciting or much different than other books.
There were some duets, and some pieces were fun and some were pretty. I think the 'old' Alfred is less expensive and offers more. The CD is a good idea.
I think a student might go through the book rather quickly and the expense might not be worth it. I loan a lot of music, so I would probably do that.