Karen Marshall must be one of the few people who has inspired as many teachers as she has students. It is always a pleasure to review her publications because they have clearly been tried and tested in practice. My First Piano Book is no exception.
From Collins Music come a set of books in the popular Get Set! Piano series: My First Piano Book and My First Piano Pieces, Puzzles and Activities.
The books are designed to introduce young children (from the age of around five) to the piano and music-making through ‘fun activities, rhymes, songs and pieces.’ The author writes:
‘This book is an introduction to the piano and early musicianship. The focus is not on the artistry of piano-playing. The aim of the book is to simply provide a gateway to music through the piano.’
My First Piano Book
The first book, a sizeable volume at 64 pages, is an introduction to the world of music through the medium of learning the piano. By the end of the book, students are playing hands separately, alternately in the treble and bass clef, reading notes from both staves. A few points to note about the approach as a whole:
- Although music is written on the stave and is divided by barlines, no time signatures are included;
- Dynamics are limited to piano and forte;
- Three tempo markings are used: lento, moderato and presto;
- Rhythmic values include crotchets, minims and semibreves, with quavers introduced later in the book;
- Legato and staccato are not included, but there is always the option for individual students to add these where they are capable;
- Finger numbers are given for the black keys, but for the white keys, students and teachers are encouraged to develop their own fingering.
Drawing on the Kodály approach, there is a strong emphasis on singing. Students are initially encouraged to sing short melodies before going on to play them. Divided roughly into four sections, the book covers:
- Exploring the piano;
- Exploring the black keys;
- Exploring the white keys;
- Learning to play from stave notation.
There are plenty of opportunities for improvisation and teacher accompaniments are provided for most of the songs and pieces.
My First Piano Pieces, Puzzles & Activities
To accompany the first book, My First Piano Pieces, Puzzles & Activities both follows and supplements this. It provides a range of additional pieces, puzzles and activities for students from around the age of five. Overall, it is designed to reinforce the material in My First Piano Book.
This book offers students the opportunity to make it their own. It is printed in grayscale so students can colour the pages as they go.
Whilst there are many such early-stage piano tutor books on the market, there are few which place as such a strong emphasis on the development of musicianship as these do. While there will be some who lament the lack of piano-specific technique, a strong grounding in musicianship is something to be welcomed. I’m sure that I would have thoroughly enjoyed these books when I started learning the piano as a six-year-old, many moons ago.
I was sent a review copy of these books free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.
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