Sunday, July 06, 2008

The other piano girl

Sophie has been messing around on the piano a bit lately. She's been adamant that even if she might possibly happen to want to learn to play the piano, she'd like to learn without a teacher, thank you very much. So when we were in Calgary last month I picked up a couple of primer books that looked simple enough for some self-teaching (a 1B and 2A level book). Sophie reads well on violin, but has never met the bass clef, nor has she had any orientation to the piano keyboard. But yesterday she pulled out the 2A primer and set to work figuring out how the notes on the page connected with the 88 keys in front of her. Before I really noticed what was happening she was playing with both hands together ... and sight-reading her way through the book.

She spent a lot of time at it yesterday -- maybe almost three hours. And she was back at it this morning. She's almost mastered the entire 2A book. I'm amazed that she can read "hands together," even if only at this basic level. As a violinist she's only ever had to play one set of notes at a time. I guess I'll look for a 2B book next week when we go to Calgary again.

We're using the Alfred books for now. If any of you lurking piano teachers have suggestions for alternatives, I'd be happy to hear from you. She already reads well with a strongly intervalaic approach. She doesn't need any help with rhythm or ear training. I looked at a couple of "Older Beginner" series, but they seemed to focus on a lot of teaching of basic music theory and musicianship -- stuff Sophie already has in hand. She just needs unintimidating incremental practice at reading on the piano. I wish the Alfred books weren't stuck in five-finger position on the white notes so much of the time, but perhaps she'll consent to me teaching her a few "all across the keyboard, with black notes too" pieces partly by ear.


  1. One of the best things that happened for William this year is that we tossed in some RCM pieces, and they break free from the single position playing so typical in the early Alfreds books. Since Sophie can already read, she might enjoy working through pieces at the RCM Introductory Level, or even Grade 1 once she gets rolling. The RCM books are just music though, no instructional type of stuff. But that sounds like it might be right up her alley for now! If she's really keen on them, you can also buy accompanying CDs to go with the RCM series.

  2. Hi Karen, thanks. Yeah, we have all the RCM books from Grade 1+ and that's what I was assuming I'd use as fodder for by-ear pieces. We're only 24 hours into it, of course, but at this point although she knows "how to read music" that's very different from knowing how to find what's printed (especially in the bass clef) on an instrument she's not studied. So my perception is that the reading demands of the RCM books are mostly beyond her right now. But in another few days that might no longer be true.

  3. I love the Alfred's Books. I have taught students from these for over 10 years. And I love their Solo Books because the kids enjoy playing songs they know. There's also lots of free songs you can get on the internet. Best wishes to you and Sophie! ~LadyD

  4. Miranda,
    I highly recommend Jon Schmidt. He bases reading on interval relationships not hand positions and Sophie will love the music. You can find his lessons here and print them out for free-additional music is affordable and downloadable at $.99/lesson

    You don't even have to wait for shipping! A huge plus.


  5. Amanda2:32 am

    Why not use the Suzuki piano books 1 and 2?

    Our piano teacher uses the Music Road books for sight reading, very strong focus on interval reading, Books 1 and 2 would be too easy for Sophie, book 3 might be a good place to start - that is where they start squeezing/stretching/ moving hands



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