No single piano tutor book covers everything you may want to teach to your students. In order to produce a well-rounded confident and competent musician you will invariably have to supplement your favourite scheme with other activities.
How do you decide which areas to include and how do you track progress? Here’s my way.
When a student starts with me, I assess them and choose a tutor book to suit their age, learning style and prior experience. Many of my young starters, age 5 and 6, will start with My First Piano Adventures Book A. Children aged 7 and over will usually use Piano Adventures Primer. Both of these schemes start “off stave” and teach by intervals rather than with thumbs fixed to middle C.
Once my students have settled into lessons I introduce them to the Express Yourself Piano Star Scheme.
These stars are colour coded and go up by level, eventually tracking the skills that are examined by all of the major UK examination boards. Many students decide not to do exams but those who do will find that the supplementary tests are very familiar, whichever board they take.
So we start with First Steps which is white. This is for students who are just starting piano and I would expect them to be working through a Primer level tutor book. This level should take them up to the point where they have been introduced to the stave.
The next level is the red Key Skills. These students will be learning their first 5 notes on the treble and bass clefs.
The next level is the orange Initial star. By this point, unbeknownst to the student, we will be looking at the level of aural, sight reading and improvisation that would be found in an Initial level exam such as Trinity Initial, Trinity Rock and Pop Initial or Rockschool Debut.
The subsequent levels track the grade system, so yellow is “Level One”, green is “Level Two” and so on.
More often than not my students progress through these activities faster than their playing skills progress through their repertoire and tutor books. It is great that their aural and theory skills are ahead of their playing skills because it results in a more mature approach to their pieces. Of course if they do decide to do an exam, they will find the supplementary tests incredibly easy.
Working through each star is so much fun. Each child has two posters of their star. One on the wall in my music room and one in their book bag. Each of the points of the star represents a different area and when they prove their competence in each area they get a special sticker on the point. Once their star is completed they get a certificate along with a written summary of what they have achieved and they move onto the next level.
The points on the stars
- Pulse and rhythm
- Dynamics and articulation
- Scales and chords
- Sight reading
- Improvisation and composition
If you are interested, why not check out my description of the First Steps level. Or why don’t you comment on this post with your own ideas?