Do You Have Any Suggestions for a Non-Traditional Method/Course?

by Pamela

Loved your site, especially the tips for teaching improv.

I am looking for a beginner's piano method to teach my children. Do you have any suggestions for a non-traditional method/course?

I am looking for something that is thorough that eventually teaches note reading, but would prefer a course that starts off with chords so that kids can immediately start playing songs and have a sense of accomplishment and doesn't bog them down with too many note reading details at first.

I also want something that incorporates technique and theory for playing by ear and off lead sheets. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!



Hi, Pamela,

I don't know if you will like my answer... The fact is that I used to get very excited when new books would come out that promised to teach these very things with songs that kids really loved. I would buy the book, usually sight unseen, as I am far from a music store, or even after extensive reading of Customer reviews on Amazon... and would perhaps even be initially excited to thrust it upon my students.

But eventually I would abandon the book in favor of doing it "my own way", or, having picked up a couple of good ideas from the book, adapt the ideas to my own style of teaching. I think that creative people (musicians such as yourself, probably!) always feel a bit restricted by anyone else's approach after awhile and desire to strike out on their own. And if my students' interest flags, it has got to be a real priority for me to set my teeth and say, "I know you don't like this, but we're doing it anyway!" (And I do have a few non-negotiables like that.)

You see, my own girls were interested in playing music from the MOVIES that they loved -- and they didn't want to wait around for the sheetmusic to come out (and it usually failed to capture the magic of the music for them, anyway). Their playing skills were always way ahead of their notereading abilities. I had a very hard time getting those girls to go through method books!

Additionally, my own piano teacher used to write out lead sheets for me by hand (back in the Stone Age) and it made perfect sense to me to keep doing it for my students.

Of course, here on my website, I cannot offer newer music, because it is copyrighted. But there are plenty of fun or beautiful older public domain pieces that people never tire of.

So, my suggestion to you is to teach them these things yourself, along with whatever method book you settle on. With my students, the Lesson Book is non-negotiable, but the lead sheets, 12-bar-blues, beautiful movie or gospel or Christmas music is very much an individual choice. Help your children write out their own lead sheets to the songs they already love.

To do well at lead sheets & playing by ear, kids need to understand chord structure, chord theory, and also how to figure out what key they are playing in and what chords belong there -- music theory, as you said. Then they need to be able to play them well -- the musical technique side of things. Check out the different free scales & chords & exercise sheets on my page Music Education Tools.

The way that you want to teach your own children is very much the way I start my students. Check out another reader's comment and the description I have of my mini-book, The First Lesson, to see if this might be something that would help you (I think it would):
First Time Teaching -- Need Help!

Thanks for writing.


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