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Review of Pace Method Books, Levels 1 and 2 and Music for the Piano for the Older Beginner, Book One




he many books which make up the "Pace Method" provide solid, pedagogically sound piano training for the youngest to the oldest beginners, as well as somewhat more advanced students. More concise and challenging than many other method book series, the Pace books prepare the student for the classical repertoire at an earlier stage of training than many methods. They build strong intervalic and note-reading skills, while encouraging creativity and complete musical development of students. The Pace books avoid the position-playing approaches which afflict so many other methods currently in vogue. They are best used with a knowledgeable and attuned teacher to help guide the student.

For this review, we purchased, examined and used with students Music for the Piano for the Older Beginner Book One, Theory Papers Book I, Music for Piano Book I, Finger Builders Book I, Creative Music Book I, Theory Papers Book 2, Music For Piano Book 2, Finger Builders Book 2, and Creative Music Book 2, all by Robert Pace. Reviews of Kinder-Keyboard by Robert Pace, Moppets' Rhythms and Rhymes by Helen Pace, and Music For Moppets by Helen and Robert Pace can be found elsewhere on the site.


paceoldr.jpg (21795 bytes)Music for the Piano for the Older Beginner, Book One

by Robert Pace

The Pace Music for the Piano for the Older Beginner Book One is a pedagogically sound aid for teaching the older beginner. It eschews the cute graphics that intrigue children, but put off older beginners. Instead, the material is presented in a concise and to-the-point manner. Thankfully, there is neither reference to nor dependence upon position playing in this book. The repertoire found in this book consists of American folk tunes, children's songs, and arrangements of classical repertoire such as the New World Symphony by Antonin Dvorak.

Chords are discussed and shown using the figured bass patterns incorporating Roman numerals, rather than employing the more contemporary chord notation of lower or upper case letters. Students learn the root and inversions of chords and are taught to read and understand tonic, subdominant, dominant, dominant 7th chords and secondary dominants. Scales are written going up and down an entire octave. Students are also shown the differences between parallel major and minor, relative major and minor, and corresponding chordal progressions.   Compositional terminology such as question and answer, passing tones, and Alberti bass, as well as a brief glossary of additional musical terms, are included in this volume.

This book does not "baby" the older beginner. The students who did a test drive soon realized that they really had to think and apply themselves well to be able to understand and successfully use it. Although the book is challenging, the only two complaints that I received from students were that the music was a bit "old fashioned" and they would like to have had more sight reading exercises and material. No one could dispute the fact that students did learn, although Music for the Piano for the Older Beginner Book One requires a lot of effort on the part of the student and teacher. Considering its reasonable price, $4.95, this book does work.

pacemus1.jpg (38275 bytes)Theory Papers Book I
Music for Piano Book I
Finger Builders Book I
Creative Music Book I

These "Pace method" books offer a no nonsense, concise and to the point approach to learning piano and basics of music. Students who used these books appreciated the fact that these books just got down to the point and spent little time "messing around with baby stuff." The Forewords to each book explain very concisely the author's approach to teaching musical notation - being able to decode the symbols on the page to create certain sounds. The author's views are encapsulated nicely in a couple of quotations: "This cognitive learning helps one transform symbols into sound through certain split-second physical actions. Therefore one's reading skills will also be dependent on effective physical coordination and aural discriminations..."; "here the emphasis is on the most effective and appropriate processes and the highest quality experiences rather than the rote memorization of a few recital pieces to be presented as the "product" at the spring recital. Students would perfect and perform far more pieces if they in fact had better learning processes. Music as a genuine aesthetic or "peak" experience is more than an exhibition of dexterity. It affords opportunities for individuals to become the centers of their own creative experience both in music and in the process of daily living." Teachers using these books should NOT depend on them to spell out each and every detail of how to teach the material. The Pace books count on the teacher being knowledgeable enough of the facts and the learning processes of students to be able to work with their students in a cooperative and supportive fashion to help students grow musically.

Theory Papers Book I begins with note name identification (on the piano keyboard), then gets right into treble and bass clef reading, time and key signatures. I liked the fact that theme and variations, sequence, question and answer, transposition, identification of major and minor key signatures and triads, and discussion of the "Alberti Bass" were included in this first book. The book gives students the necessary information and then provides a lot of space on each individual page to do the specific exercises and drills that help reinforce the concepts.

Music For Piano Book I covers such concepts as up and down, steps and skips, recognizing the shape or "swing" of the melody, time signatures, flats and sharps, and dynamics like forte, mezzo forte, staccato, and legato touches. The pieces which reinforce these skills were not trivial. Students who used this book enjoyed the music and, more to the point, enjoyed the fact that the music was directly related to the ideas covered.

Like the other books in the Pace series, Finger Builders Book I teaches strong technique in a down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach. Students are taught not to daydream or approach the exercises mechanically, but, rather, to train themselves thoughtfully. The beginning student does not have to read music initially to do these exercises, as the notes to be used for the exercises are shown on the page along with the different finger combinations. Students learn to be equally fluent in playing all natural, sharp/flat note combinations and combinations of sharps, flats and naturals. Also covered in Finger Builders Book I  is contrary motion, producing forte and piano while keeping  technique under control, legato and staccato studies which also incorporated crescendos and diminuendos, major and minor broken arpeggios (broken between two hands), and a down/up study - designed to make the first note of each group a little louder and the second note slightly softer and slightly staccato.

Creative Music Book I has materials for sight reading, transposition, and improvisation. The materials covered in this book are closely allied to those found in Music For Piano. The student is urged to use those principles as a springboard for further learning and discovery. The goal of Creative Music Book I is for students to read and understand music at the level of their own unique experience and to be able to create some of their own music. Students are encouraged to transpose as much as they wish and to create musical examples of their own.

pacemus2.jpg (32358 bytes)Theory Papers Book 2
Music For Piano Book 2
Finger Builders Book 2
Creative Music Book 2

Theory Papers Book 2 begins with a short review of topics covered in Book I, then proceeds with a discussion of major, minor, perfect and diminished intervals and triads, and chord progressions using the tonic (major and minor), subdominant, and V7 chords. The information is very well organized and planned and the student is given ample opportunity to do many exercises and drills to reinforce these new concepts.

Music for the Piano Book 2 incorporates many 20th century composition forms such as twelve-tone or serial writing. Also discussed are pedal markings, chord colors, bi-chordal pieces of music, the Dorian mode, less common time signatures such as 5/4, the pentatonic scale, the Phrygian mode, more examples of staccato and legato playing, counting and dotted rhythmic patterns. The pieces in the book included a number of enjoyable duets and ended with "Soldier's March" by Robert Schumann.

Finger Builders Book 2 stresses using different dynamic changes while doing the exercises, for example, playing the exercises forte, then piano, making a crescendo followed by a diminuendo and playing one hand forte while the other hand plays piano. The exercises are also done with different rhythms, different touches (legato to staccato and vice versa). Keeping the elbow relaxed and quiet while working on wrist rotation AND passing the thumb under the hand quickly and immediately when doing scales to avoid a bump or break in the scale are important areas of technique which are emphasized. All major and minor scales are covered along with very interesting and pedagogically/technically correct variants on these scales

Finger Builders Book 2 includes fantastic practice ideas and topics which many students are not exposed to until college, but should be incorporated into their technique from the earliest stages. It is a wonderful resource for good practice ideas and variants on scales and "Hanon-like" exercises. I deeply appreciated a statement in the foreword of the book: "the conscientious teacher will help those students form a practice program which will develop ever-increasing finger control."  Mr. Pace leaves it to the teacher to know their craft and the learning patterns of each and every individual student so that the teacher can help the individual to develop their technique and musical knowledge.

Creative Music Book 2 provides the necessary materials for the continued development of good music reading and creative skills. The principles covered in this book are the same as in Music for Piano and the Theory Papers Books 2, but the student again uses these as a spring board for expanding and creating as many variants as possible from the original concepts.

Each pair of facing pages contain examples which are conceptually the same, yet slightly altered from those in Music for Piano Book 2, so that the students continually bolster the previously learned material. The even numbered pages provide related reading examples arranged in a cumulative order to help the student deal effectively with progressively more complex music. The sight-reading material embodies different key signatures, meters, and composition styles. The student is actively encouraged to avoid looking at the keyboard when using notation, by looking at the music and feeling where the hands should be placed. Material for the improvisational and creative activities appears on the odd numbered pages. This uses a "Question and Answer" format in which the student is given questions which provide the basic musical ideas while the answers will be different with each individual student. This way, all students can get a basic common musical knowledge and skill, yet are allowed to develop their own individual creative styles.

The skills, principles, and theories presented in all of these books are musically and pedagogically sound. I especially appreciated that these books assume (and require) the knowledge and skill of a qualified teacher to work with each student as a unique individual. My students surprised themselves not only in that they were able to learn so much wonderful material in these books, but that they were able to begin to understand the thought processes behind music by Bach, Schumann, Mozart and others.

Nancy Ostromencki

Music for the Piano for the Older Beginner Book One by Robert Pace, list price $4.95. Published by the Lee Roberts Music Publications, Inc. Katonah, New York. Theory Papers Book I by Robert Pace, list price $5.95. Music for Piano Book I by Robert Pace, list price $5.95. Finger Builders Book I by Robert Pace, list price $5.95. Creative Music Book I by Robert Pace, list price $5.95. Theory Papers Book 2 by Robert Pace, list price $5.95. Music For Piano Book 2 by Robert Pace, list price $5.95. Finger Builders Book 2 by Robert Pace, list price $5.95. Creative Music Book 2 by Robert Pace, list price $5.95. All available from Hal Leonard Corporation, 7777 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, WI 53213. Phone: 414-774-3630 Fax: 414-774-3259. E-mail: WWW:

Page created: 10/04/99
Last updated: 01/30/15
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Reprinting from the Piano Education Page The Piano Education Page, Op. 10, No. 1,
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