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luving abroad. help with ordering sone good resources for beginner piano and advice please

(44 Posts)
somuchtosortout Fri 19-Sep-14 09:11:29

Hello. DD is 7 and picking up piano quite well. We have a basic beginner keyboard and a local teacher. But only have an old John Thompson book (beginner) that she has worked through.
can you advise on best resources to order? Teacher is using own book but doesn't look like the right level

surely if she has started learning to read music she doesn't need to work on the pages that show notes with note names and finger numbers underneath? The notes are kut on a blank background, not on the lines?

Also is she too young to prepare for grade 1?

thanks !

somuchtosortout Fri 19-Sep-14 09:14:16

Aaargh! Should have checked auto correct! Luving is not even a word!
I have a malfunctioning phone, hope you get the gist of my post!

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 19-Sep-14 11:43:36

If she's only just started learning, she shouldn't be working for grade 1 yet. I also don't like entering very young children, but it depends on personalities - some 7yos are ready for the pressure, others aren't.

I usually go through John Thompson 2 with those who started on book 1, but I don't do it in order - we jump around. It introduces them to not using C-position. I've been moving over to Alfred's Premier (not the main Alfred series) with supplementary pieces. The children who've done Prep Test (approx. end of JT2) are working on Alfred's Premier 2B, which has some nice tunes but is still quite 'young'.

Teacher is probably assuming your DD is a complete beginner and doesn't read music, FWIW. However, I find that with 6 and 7yo, it is useful for them to learn the notes on the piano before we link that with note-reading. I also have decided that I don't like the Thompson series particularly so am experimenting at the moment.

You could have a look at Microjazz complete beginners, or some of the Upgrades books at 0-1 level for something a bit different, or try the Thompson supplementary books e.g. the jazz one, which I tend to use after book 1.

somuchtosortout Fri 19-Sep-14 12:44:21

Thanks! She has been learning for a year and can sight read c to g both base and treble clef (spelling??)
is middle c position bad or good? Is that where you put both thumbs on middle c so learn b, a, g,f on left hand?

she started that in UK but now has learnt using the octave lower with her left hand.

unfortunately we are in Africa and teacher is not like a UK music teacher.

but I think if we had a really good book to work from with stimulating material it would be fine.
thanks, I'll look up your suggestions!

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 19-Sep-14 20:55:53


If you're keen to do certificates but aren't sure if DD is emotionally ready because of her age (not assuming, but it's possible), then LCM offer assessments by DVD submission. When she's ready for grade 1 level (which is a while away if you know the standard), you can video her and send off the video. She'll earn a "level 1" certificate without having to do an exam. When she's a bit older, she could do her first formal exam at grade 3, or grade 5, or grade 8 (you don't have to do them all).

Just a thought, because the Thompson Jazz book has material from LCM grade 1 jazz piano, going up to grade 3 level. The LCM board produces a handbook for grades 1-5 which has a couple of pieces for each grade.

They do the video/DVD thing for classical, too.

somuchtosortout Sat 20-Sep-14 05:01:07

Thanks so much. Don't have any idea of what grade 1 is as my piano playing is pretty basic, but nice to hear of the video option!
she just seems to have picked up sight reading well but I wasn't seeing any progress after that, and I think it is because of the books we are using.
so will start bt just getting some books from UK. ( no music shops here!)

so usually what age are they for grade 1?

Worriedandlost Sat 20-Sep-14 12:45:18

Agree about Alfred books-really nice series, my dd started piano with these books. Do not agree about grade 1 though, all depends on a child and a teacher, and cannot see the reason to postpone it for too long assuming your dd has all the right skills at place and teacher who knows what he/she is doing. I do not think it is correct to say that there is "usual age" for grade 1 as quite a lot of children start piano quite late, however I know 3 children who had piano grade 1 at 6yo or earlier, all of very different abilities, certainly not geniuses, so 7-8 yo sounds about right to me smile

1805 Sat 20-Sep-14 12:57:24

I reckon on between 1 to 2 years to reach grade 1 standard.
I use Piano Time Books, and Pam Wedgwood stuff too.
Using different hand positions is a good thing in my book! I try to introduce this idea early on.
Good luck and I hope she enjoys it.

JulieMichelleRobinson Sat 20-Sep-14 15:42:44

There isn't a "usual age" (after all, my beginners range in age from 3 to adults) but grade 1 seems to take between 2 terms and 2 years, excluding my very tinies or folks who already play other instruments. OTOH, I find that some of my young students cope better with the exam situation than others. Your DD may be ready to enter an exam room, or she may not, depending on her personality, regardless of her technical level, so it's worth knowing that there are other options and that you don't have to do grades in sequence. However, if she's just finished JT1 she still isn't playing hands together - some find that step easy, some find it really difficult.

Here are the new ABRSM grade 1 pieces being played by some random person on the internet:
The grade also requires sightreading a piece never seen before in front of the examiner, scales, broken chords and aural tests.

JulieMichelleRobinson Sat 20-Sep-14 15:44:17

(It's also worth me saying that I'm the sort of teacher who would wait until the child found the exam pieces easy and could learn them in a couple of weeks before starting to "work towards the exam" - other teachers might spend a year on three pieces.................).

Worriedandlost Sat 20-Sep-14 20:35:15

JulieMichelleRobinson, do such teachers really exist??? Those who spend a year on three pieces? Who wants such a teacher I wonder.....

JulieMichelleRobinson Sat 20-Sep-14 21:17:50

Oh, they exist. And "people obsessed with exams". There are cultures and sub cultures where people will do the same exam over and over and over, too. Waste. Of. Time. Music is supposed to be fun!

Worriedandlost Sat 20-Sep-14 22:03:48

I do not quite get this - "people obsessed with exams"... I thought it is up to teacher to decide about exam? In fact, when dd had her grade 1 violin exam I would prefer her to skip it and wait till grade 2, but her teacher decided to do both....
But perhaps you are right...whilst searching for the right teachers I came across to some funny characters....

mom17 Sun 21-Sep-14 04:43:48

JulieMichelleRobinson, Can you please compare JTEP-3 with Alfred Premier-2B ? Would one you prefer and why ? + drawbacks of JTEP-3 as My son has just started that and I would like to know if there is any better option( learning wise) that this ?

JulieMichelleRobinson Sun 21-Sep-14 09:31:15

JTEP3 is fine - most of the teachers round here seem to use the whole series anyway. It concentrates on things like phrasing, staccato vs. legato, dynamics etc. which are omitted entirely in JTEP1-2 (which focus on the notes). I cover those sorts of concepts anyway as we go along, so instead I prefer to use the supplementary books (e.g. the Christmas carol one or the jazz book).

Honestly, though, I think that after 2 books of the same series the children are just ready for a change, even though I supplement with carols, jazzy tunes and duets. Premier 2B seems to have some nice music in it that doesn't seem like music from a tutor book and the children respond quite well to the slightly more grown-up layout. It seems to be a slight step up, too, with the first piece having parallel sixths in the right hand (already learnt as prep test exercise, for those who did it).

FWIW, I don't like the main Alfred series, which is entirely different.

mom17 Sun 21-Sep-14 18:19:13

Thanks Julie.

JulieMichelleRobinson Sun 21-Sep-14 22:13:52

It's just personal opinion. smile

mom17 Wed 24-Sep-14 18:51:35

Julie, Tried Alfred Premier Boom 2B and DS tried playing eerie canals and loved it. Seems to me the tunes/pieces are very lively/energetic in this book. What do you follow after this book ? 3A of same series ?

JulieMichelleRobinson Wed 24-Sep-14 22:21:14

After 2 there's no a and b. Have a few kids using book 3 and older children on the series 'for busy teens' but none have been learning for more than 2 years. I also use classics to moderns a lot.

somuchtosortout Thu 25-Sep-14 18:04:50

Thank you for all your advice! Sounds like we are a ling way from grade 1. Well we're a long way from everywhere here!
piano teacher is using bastien piano basics. I think it is American. Some ancient copy some expat must have left behind.
anyway, will order some of your suggestions, thanks again

JulieMichelleRobinson Thu 25-Sep-14 23:27:30

I think people underestimate grade one ;-)

mom17 Fri 26-Sep-14 06:38:21

Thanks Julie, so you mean to say after Book 2B, they can prepare pieces from Grade-1 ABRSM exam book and move to grade -2 ? So, Can you please suggest what all books you finish before moving to exam pieces given for ABSRM Grade-2 ?

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 26-Sep-14 11:53:16


Before grade 2... the particular children I'm thinking of (skipping grade 1) were both transfer students. They both have gaps in knowledge that I'm trying to plug. They have done, respectively:

Student A: John Thompson's Easiest up to halfway through book 3... previous teacher used something similar in approach but wrote finger numbers on everything.

Student B: Alfred's Basic (which is different) 1A, 1B (I think) and part of book 2 - very stuck in thinking of hand positions so can't cope with changes of position or stretching out hands to a sixth etc. well.

Both have also done pieces from LCM jazz syllabus at grade 1 level, including some in the supplementary John Thompson book, plus various scales and random exercises, Christmas carols etc. They have sound technique... now... but still find it hard to read the dots.

They will be doing Alfred's Premier book 3, which is within their comfort level of playing (hence considering them post-grade-1) but not within their comfort level of theory/note-reading at the moment. E.g. one student looked at the music and said 'It looks easy' but isn't finding it easy to learn without help. I'm allowing a couple of weeks per tune before moving on to the next, with some overlapping and only some of the tunes being required to a high standard of performance.

We've started Premier 3 this term and we'll likely start working towards grade 2 next term with a view to doing it in the summer (they'd have done grade 1 this term). They should find the pieces are about the same level as the ones they've been playing.

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 26-Sep-14 11:59:10

Oh, more directly...

After book 2B, the children who are on it will begin preparing grade 1 - if they want to do exams. By which I mean, partway through book 2B, because we'll start by practising the scales/aural/sightreading as we go along. They took Prep Test last term, so we have at least a term off to learn some non-exam pieces including duets etc. simply on principal. As a tutor book goes, it's quite varied in style, thankfully.

So we'll probably start learning grade 1 material next term and take it in summer, for most of them.

mom17 Fri 26-Sep-14 16:58:11

Thanks Julie. That really helped me a lot in understanding what to expect from my DS. How long are term there ? I am assuming 3-4 terms a year ?

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