Piano Books For Young Children
Piano books for young children these days are commonly thought of as "the big four." Faber, Alfred, Bastien and Suzuki.
They all do the same thing in a slightly different way. Essentially, the piano curriculum for children has not changed since Carl Czerny began composing piano exercises in 1840.
Of course you must learn the basics. The only question is, will you survive the effort? Most kids taught with one of the "big four" books quit within a year. This is due to a boring and pedantic approach. These misadventures have an average yearly cost of $1500 to $5000 depending on the cost of lessons.
The standard books are derived from the year 1840 when the piano was a white-hot interest to the public. There were no cars, no electricity, no movies, no internet, no nothing except your brain.
Thus the basic goal of these systems was to train young candidates for professional careers. Piano was not really thought of as a hobby yet.
Piano Is Easy
Dumbed-Down Methods Appear
After about 1890, the curriculum developed by Czerny was simplified to appeal to a wider audience. Examples of this are John Thompson, John Schaum and Leila Fletcher, plus many, many more.
By 1900 there were hundreds of easy methods offering to bypass the tedium of the standard conservatory method (Czerny.)
The piano hobbyist was born.
1926 Brings Us the Radio
The evolution of the piano was inextricably linked to the rise of technology, which soon overtook the piano and then replaced it.
In 1850 there were no automobiles, radios, movies, or any other items now commonplace. By 1925 everyone had one. The interest in piano began to wane from too many competing interests.
In 1926 the radio began to be mass produced at a much lower price. Soon everyone was glued to the radio. The piano was too hard.
Why learn to play the piano or go to a concert when Liberace would play for you free on the radio?
1950 Brings us Soft Piano
By 1950 the music and piano companies knew they were finished, and decided to dumb piano down another level or two.
This is where the current methods, the big four, come in. They are clearly an admission that kids were being pulled in a thousand directions and piano was now one activity among many. Publishers had no choice but to put out books with color pictures, and big type.
This is where the "big four" were invented, to stave off the rejection of the piano by the public as being "too hard."
Below is a "piece" from one of these methods.
There's nothing familiar or exciting about it. It's like eating wax fruit. Most kids reject it utterly as soon as they see it, yet conventional lessons serve them a diet of ONLY this stuff for years.
And you wonder why they quit.
A Different Approach
To combat this rejection, I use the standard texts, as in the above example, but only as a small part of a more balanced "musical diet." Kids don't mind playing this exercise music if it is limited to a short portion, say five minutes, out of a thirty minute lesson.
What else do I do? Games, familiar songs, chords, ear training, by ear, by eye, by any means that seems to interest the child.
A happy child is far easier to teach.
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