November 10, 2012
I highly recommend John Thompson as a method. There are a lot of piano teachers that ultimately recommend the piano series they were taught with as a child, and, well, I guess I’m no exception. However, when I first started teaching piano lessons, I told the parents that I would use whichever method they wanted to use, it didn’t matter to me. I knew that a lot of parents already had piano books, and I wanted to help them save money. I figured that I was the same teacher, and it wouldn’t really matter which method I used. Well, that was a good learning experience for me. Because of that approach, I got to see and use a variety of different methods, from Bastian, Alfred, Thompson, and Schuam. For some reason I never did use the Faber piano method, which I have heard great things about. After a few years of teaching like this, I realized that method books really do matter. (surprise!) I also realized that if a parent is willing to pay a teacher to teach their student, an extra $7-10 for the right piano book is just pennies in the bucket. Ultimately, most parents will need to buy more piano books anyway, as their students progress.So with that introduction, here are a few reasons I love John Thompson:
- He doesn’t shy away from key signatures besides C, F, and G major.
- He doesn’t shy away from requiring the hands to move out of “home base” position.
- He uses primary sources early on in the series. Soon, if it doesn’t specify “Arranged by J.T.”, you know it’s the original music by the composer listed.
- There really is something new every lesson. For students who actually practice (we all know there are plenty who don’t!), the John Thompson method will be an accelerated course. “Grade 5” for John Thompson is much harder than “Level 6” in Alfred (the last book in each series) There is less busy work.
- I like the history blurbs that many of the pieces have. (I admit other methodologies have this perk too)
- J.T. has endured the test of time. I’m old fashioned like that.
- I really like the duet book for the primer, “Teaching Fingers to Play Ensemble”. The local stores didn’t carry this, so I ordered it online. This is a fantastic resource if you play!
- (Most importantly) I really like the songs in his books. They are cute and often clever. They are real music. I loved them as a child, and as an adult who taught for a few years from several other methodologies, I found that charm lacking.
I also want to address some of the criticisms I have heard of the John Thompson method. Some say his books are too hard. Boo hoo.
Some are rightly concerned of the excessive fingering in his books, stating that the student will develop a dependency on finger numbers. Well, that really is the case sometimes. Some students get very comfortable with the finger numbers in the Grade One book, and have a rude awakening when they get to Grade Two and they can’t rely on the finger numbers anymore, since there is a lot of thumb-crossing under, etc. Even so, the First Grade book does introduce a lot of different key signatures, and it helps the student play proficiently sooner. I’m using a color-coded method for my 3-year-old to help her play proficiently sooner, so obviously finger numbers isn’t a big issue for me. I think this concern can be avoided by starting flash cards when they start the “First Grade” book. I didn’t just require my students to say “A”, they had to say the name, and play the correct “A” on the piano, whatever the octave. I personally never developed a dependency on finger numbers as a child, and I credit my teacher for her consistent use of flash cards at every lesson, as well as sight-reading exercises out of other books. Besides, being able to follow fingering is important.
The other concern some have with J.T. is that the theory lessons incorporated in the book are sparse. This is true. I think Music Theory is very, very important. I don’t think I had a lot of theory in the beginning grades, but when I was older, my 3rd piano teacher had me go through a course and it was extremely helpful to me. I will probably find a separate theory book for my children when they finish the primer. I highly DON’T recommend Alfred. Unless you know music theory well yourself and can correct the errors to your students, stay away. I had some very interesting discussions with my students when, again and again, I had to tell them why the book was wrong, and why the authors might have tried to explain things the way they did. Thankfully, I am confident that my students weren’t scarred by Alfred. I’m not ready to offer a better solution yet because I haven’t done my shopping, but I assure you, Alfred isn’t it. I was sorely disappointed that such a popular series could get away with having so little scholarship. 95% of what Alfred teaches is correct, but if you don’t know better, that 5% that is wrong can come back to haunt you later. I’m pretty sure the Bastian books are good, but I haven’t taught with them past the 1st grade level.
Currently, I am simply requiring my children to practice every day, but I am not requiring them to sequentially work through the book. Yet. They have skipped around a lot, playing the songs that tickles their fancy. They can choose to practice from the primer book, or the nursery rhymes from The Solfege Train. I am starting to require that they play songs with both hands. The songs in this primer book are already familiar to my children because I have been playing them for them for years, and we have a separate piano book upstairs with our story books. It’s one of their favorite bedtime story books because they know I’ll sing to them. Because of this early exposure, they are playing the rhythms correctly on their own, so I haven’t addressed rhythm as much while we are at the piano. We have separate rhythm exercises that we do away from the piano, independent of piano practice, so I am letting them focus their piano practice on the mechanics of playing the piano. I require them to practice with the fingering in the book, and in the key the music is written. (that’s a side effect of having the “movable do insert” and the color-coded notes. My son wants to transpose everything back to “C”. Too bad! Oddly enough, my daughter will play the songs in keys like F# major if the insert has been left there, without batting an eye.) Separate of the “Do, Re, Mi”, my children are learning to identify and play “C, D, E” for me. I always preface a new song by pointing out, “This song is in F major, so we need to move the “Do” behind the “F”.
Anyway, this is our piano program. I am planning on getting them finished with the J.T. primer by the end of the school year, and then mastering one of John Thompson’s grade books every year after that. If they move faster than that, great, but I’m not going to require more than that. I’ve decided that the Grade 4 book is what I am going to require of each of my children, as if they finish that book, they will have the basic piano literacy I want them to have. I will supplement John Thompson’s books with my church’s published music, such as the Primary book and the hymnal, as well as popular music my children may be interested in. I bet if I bought “Tangled” music, my daughter would eat it up! Note to self.
Overall, the John Thompson series is a great course. Alexander Schreiner, world class organist (and my great-great-uncle) recommended this series, and his advice gives me more confidence in recommending this series to you.
About the author
My name is Tamsyn and I love music. I got my bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from USU. I spent many years teaching private piano lessons until I had children of my own. I have attended several children workshops on how to teach children music. I really like the Kodaly method, but have adapted a lot of different techniques for my own children.
Leave a Reply
I've always liked Thompson, too. But I also like Leila Fletcher and Michael Aaron. These 3 were the books I learned with and the ones I prefer to use with my students. I to heavy on Fletcher in the bginning. HATE Alfred!<br><br>You might check out Fletcher Theory papers. They're my favorite. http://www.amazon.com/Music-Sales-America-Fletcher-Theory/dp/B003AFTIZA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&
Thanks for adding your two cents, Sasha! I'll definitely check Fletcher out when I get the chance. :)<br><br>When I mentioned this post on facebook, there was also some positive mention of "Simply Music", which is a different approach altogether, based on ear training first.
Reply(Video) John Thompson easiest piano part 1
Thank you for this excellent review. I have two grandchildren and a daughter who are interested in learning to play, and am giving them one of my pianos. Yes I have two pianos, and I don’t play well at all. I’m basically self taught with a few years of lessons under my belt that did not stick.
They come on Sundays and those kids play LOUD “concerts” for us that is basically piano pounding. I’m thinking of signing up for one of those piano apps that allows three people sign ins. Mainly because I can’t afford a teacher. I wish I could. But I think I’ll get some JT books and start there.
An easy way to teach this idea is to start a child on the left side of the keyboard and play one key at a time while counting from one to five. You can restrict them to playing only white keys or only black keys for more structure. Then, have the child reverse what they played while counting backward.What instrument can a 3 year old learn? ›
1. Drums (1-3 years old)What musical instrument can a 3 year old learn? ›
Ukulele. Many children gravitate toward guitar and there are many child-guitar products out there. The ukulele is a great way to start because it's one of the easiest stringed instruments to play. Ukulele's have four string instead of six and many of the chords only require one or two fingers to play.Is 4 years old too early to learn piano? ›
Depending on the student, even very young children under the age of five can begin to explore the piano. After all, Mozart famously started to play piano at 3-years-old! The best age to learn piano is between the ages of 6 and 9-years-old, but some students can learn earlier.What is the best age for a child to learn piano? ›
Most children will be ready to begin lessons between the ages of 5 and 9. Use the following guide to make sure your child is ready for their lessons: Hand Size: A piano player needs to be able to place their five fingers on five white keys right next to each other.What is the best age to start teaching piano? ›
For some children, starting after age eight will actually be better, depending on their interest and their maturity level. An older child who really wants to learn piano and puts in the time to practice can learn as quickly or even quicker than a younger child, especially a younger child who isn't as dedicated.What is the best learning for 3 year old? ›
Three-year-olds learn best through exploring, using all of their senses to understand their world. They are endlessly curious, and you may start to hear that classic question, “Why?” Their vocabulary is rapidly expanding, and they love to hear stories and use their imagination.What is the best first instrument for a toddler? ›
Generally speaking, the piano and drums are the best instruments for younger kids to start learning first. These instruments don't have to be held and can teach young musicians basic skills like chords, musicality, and rhythm.How do I teach my 3 year old music? ›
- Sing Songs Together. ...
- Playing an Instrument Yourself Around Your Toddler. ...
- Buy Your Child a (Toy) Instrument. ...
- Form a Family Band. ...
- Create a Music Playlist for Your Toddler. ...
- Making Music Through Musical Apps. ...
- Give Your Toddler a Singing Voice Using Solfège. ...
- Turn Daily Activities Into Musical Ones.
If you're looking for an instrument to bring people together, then the guitar could be the one for you. In addition, the guitar will boost your attention span and sharpen your memory. You'll also become a great multitasker.
The guitar is by far the easiest and coolest musical instrument for kids. In addition to being fun to play, it is also an ideal musical instrument for learning the basics of music. Likewise, it also helps in boosting manual ability that can come in handy in other aspects of like.What is the easiest instrument to play? ›
- HARMONICA. One of the easiest instruments you can take up, which is also very popular in a variety of styles, is the harmonica. ...
- GUITAR. ...
- UKULELE. ...
- KEYBOARD. ...
Anything longer than 25 minutes will cause most children to become tired and not be able to focus. If you are serious about piano lessons for your child, the key is to have daily practice of at least 10-25 minutes.At what age can a child learn to play violin? ›
The Verdict: The Right Age for Violin Lessons
If your child is motivated and able to focus, between the ages of 5-7 is the ideal time to start violin lessons. But don't be put off if your child is a little younger or older. Talk to the music center or teacher and get their recommendation.
Style – Keyboard vs Piano
If a more traditional sound is what interests your child, then piano lessons might be the better choice. Classical, jazz and blues usually sound best when played on an acoustic piano (some digital pianos also do a good job of replicating a classic piano sound).
One lesson per week is the most common option for most students nowadays, be it children or adults. Alternatively, two lessons per week are mostly for the more serious and dedicated who need more guidance and instruction to reach the level they want.What age should a child start guitar lessons? ›
For most students, the best age to learn guitar is around age 7. But it's important to note that all students are different, so there really isn't a best age to start guitar lessons. Realistically, students can start guitar lessons as soon as they can comfortably hold a small-scale guitar and press down the strings.Is 3 months enough to learn piano? ›
It takes about one month to reach the beginner level, to learn piano basics and get accustomed to it, multitasking, and learn basic music theory, like the values of notes. It can also take you up to six months if you don't practice that often and if you don't have rhythm and good motor coordination.How long does it take to master a piano? ›
If you want to be a professional classical performer, you're looking at a minimum of 10 to 15 years of concentrated study with a master teacher, and hours of practice every day. Most people who want to learn piano to play for their own enjoyment can get great results within three to five years of study and practice.Do you need a teacher to learn piano? ›
Without a music teacher, playing the piano or any other instrument will remain awkward, strenuous, and might even injure your hands over time. You need a teacher to correct your hand and body position to make it feel comfortable. Knowing how to efficiently produce a good sound.
Depending on the student, even very young children under the age of five can begin to explore the piano. After all, Mozart famously started to play piano at 3-years-old! The best age to learn piano is between the ages of 6 and 9-years-old, but some students can learn earlier.Can a 3 year old play the piano? ›
The first thing to know about piano lesson age is that every child is different. Some children are able to start at age four or younger, while others need to wait until age seven or eight. Some have started as late as their teen years and found great success in piano.When should I start piano lessons for my toddler? ›
Learn about teaching a toddler piano. Music teachers often recommend ages 6-8 as the perfect time to start instrumental lessons. At this age, children have the development to handle structured, formal educational settings. They've also acquired more fine motor skills, such as the ability to move fingers independently.Can a 3 year old learn music? ›
Enjoying Music and Movement With Your Three-Year-Old
Three-year-olds love to sing, and they can memorize and repeat favorite songs and fingerplays of increasing complexity.
Suzuki method concentrates on development of the ears. Children learn by first listening, then repetitive copying, and only then learning to read and write the notation. There are six volumes of the Suzuki Piano School, but only volume 1 is considered here as for preschool. The entire volume one is taught by rote.What grade is piano time 3? ›
Piano Time 3 - Pauline Hall
This book introduces new keys, semiquavers in various rhythmic patterns, triplets, plus bass scales with hands together and melodic minor scales. The Piano Time series can take a young leaner from the start right through to Grade 3 standard.
Improved Brain Development – Science Agrees
Numerous studies by neuroscientists have determined that playing the piano has a positive effect on brain development, especially in young children.
While there's no evidence that classical music makes babies smarter, listening to and playing music has several proven benefits for children's mental development, including: Stimulating the brain and forming new connections between neurons. Supporting speech and language development. Promoting math and reading skills.Is 40 too old to learn piano? ›
“Learning piano has no age limit. In fact, activities like learning piano can stimulate the brain, increasing the ability to recall information. There are physical benefits to learning piano as well.Can a 70 year old learn to play the piano? ›
No matter when you begin piano, you can have the enjoyment of playing an instrument, plus all the great mental, physical, and emotional benefits. People can start piano at 60, at 70, at 80, even later. Your brain can still form new connections at any age. You can always learn new skills.
The "right" age to begin piano lessons varies from child to child. A good first test is the age when your child can tie their shoes. Many four year olds can achieve great success with piano lessons. It's important for these early lessons to be based around fun, and plenty of off the piano activities and games.How many days a week should a child practice piano? ›
We recommend setting up a regular practice schedule and trying to get between 75 and 100 minutes of practice each week. We have found that students who consistently practice about 100 minutes a week do very well. It is often best to do four 25 minute sessions or five 20 minute sessions if your schedule permits it.