Children's Piano Lesson Books Compared
When children's piano lesson books are compared the result is mostly similarities. They all do the same thing in a slightly different way. But the only measurement that matters is if the child likes the book.
If you are considering purchasing one of the standard, conventional piano methods and want a basis for comparison, here are some facts that may help you. As background, you must realize that all conventional piano methods (Faber, Thompson, Bastien, etc.) are essentially the same.
They teach the first five white notes C D E F G ( 1 2 3 4 5 in Piano By Number.) This is accomplished with the right hand in a dazzling array of permutations. All these variations are guaranteed to bore your child, if this is all they are given to play.
Play The White Keys
1 2 3 4 5
The Bastien Method
Of the conventional piano methods, this is my favorite. Published by kjos.com, they are the standard these days that most teachers use. The virtue of the Bastien Series books are several. The type is large, like a BIG NOTE book, so kids aren't squinting, looking for tiny little musical symbols to decipher. The pictures are colorful, which offsets the boring content for younger kids. The sequence of exercises is in precisely correct order in terms of piano pedagogy.
Each concept builds easily on the last, from piece to piece. That is why piano teachers love these books. The teacher can go from page to page without much effort. But that rote approach is bad for children. These books are useful for much more if you use them creatively.
The John Thompson Method
This is an older piano method that perhaps your parents or grandparents used, but it is still popular today, exactly for that reason. Kids think the notes are too small, but they like the old drawings. Similarly, methods such as Schaum and Alfred use much the same old-fashioned approach. I'll bet you have a copy of one of these piano methods in your piano bench!
Thompson is a little boring in the early books in the series, with frankly uninteresting pieces illustrating the basics of piano. These pieces can be useful for older children who are refining the basics but are not yet playing easier masterpieces. I find all these old methods useful for sight-reading.
There were dozens of older methods from the heyday of the piano, ending around the 1960's. Alfred, Schaum, Mel Bay, Faber.
The main factor to remember is this: all these conventional methods follow the same curriculum with minor variations. All conventional piano methods start out the same. You learn the first five white keys in the middle of the piano.
It's like teaching the alphabet to your child. You start with A and proceed upward. It's the same with piano, and in all conventional piano methods the methodology is the same. Learn the first five white keys with your right hand, then build upon that. For example, Jingle Bells, or Mary Had A Little Lamb, Alouette and a thousand other familiar songs.
One exception to all these methods is the Suzuki method. which is very similar to Piano By Number in that the approach to the child at the very beginning of lessons is very child-friendly.
In Suzuki, reading music is never taught at the beginning, as Suzuki wisely surmised that reading music was too difficult for younger, beginning students. He allowed a period where the children played visually and physically.
Our suggestion is to examine the Bastien piano method. I use them myself in my piano lessons.
But first I have prepared students to enjoy the piano by using Piano By Number.