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Alfred Prep method (piano)


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#1 semplice

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 12:51

What do you think of the Alfred Prep piano course?  Have you noticed it is unpopular these days? Do you think its unpopularity is justified? 

 

I have a complete beginning starting soon and I found myself looking through the Alfred prep books (especially the teacher guides) and asking myself, "were they really that bad?"


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#2 mel2

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 13:31

Where have you got the impression that they have fallen out of favour?
I've heard nothing against the method.
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#3 Dorcas

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 13:48

I have used Alfred method books for adults and children.  They are excellent, albeit favouring a chordal approach, which not everyone enjoys.  One of my best students has followed the child series, books one and two.


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#4 semplice

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 13:54

Where have you got the impression that they have fallen out of favour?
I've heard nothing against the method.

 

I am on a few piano teaching facebook groups and have recently done some searches for posts about Alfred. There were quite a few negative comments. Of course it could be just the teachers from those groups.  


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#5 semplice

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 13:55

I have used Alfred method books for adults and children.  They are excellent, albeit favouring a chordal approach, which not everyone enjoys.  One of my best students has followed the child series, books one and two.

 

Thanks Dorcas.


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#6 Dorcas

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 14:04

My pleasure.  Let's face it,  all the piano method books have their drawbacks.  Piano is such a massive subject to learn, indeed, any instrument for that matter.  There is no one book which is going to meet all the needs of every single student.  Even my favourtie, Piano Adventures, does not suit everyone.  I have thought about writing my own, but not sure I would not fall down exactly the same rabbit holes as everyone else!


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#7 Latin pianist

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 15:26

I use a mixture of books and have copies of Alfred All in one Books 2 and 4 which I use a lot but only selected pieces so I lend the copies out. I prefer Alfred to Bastien which was around too when I first taught.
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#8 semplice

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 21:56

I use a mixture of books and have copies of Alfred All in one Books 2 and 4 which I use a lot but only selected pieces so I lend the copies out. I prefer Alfred to Bastien which was around too when I first taught.

 

Why do you prefer Alfred over Bastien? 

 

I taught from both in my early days of teaching. I tended towards Bastien but I can't remember why. It may have even been because I liked the glossy covers (I was young!) Now that I look back over my collection of books I realise I didn't use Alfred's teaching guides or supplementary books so I suspect I didn't use it to its full potential. 


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#9 Latin pianist

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Posted 11 July 2018 - 05:44

I've just dug out my Level 1 and 2 Bastien books and they do have some useful teaching pieces.I just found pupils seemed to prefer the Alfred pieces.I use the Bastien Primer book but only a selection of pieces.Maybe I should give the other books another try.I think Level 2 progressed too quickly and had complicated pieces by the end of the book. As I said, I use a mixture anyway, Pauline Hall, Alfred, Piano Adventures and Bastien Primer.
I do use some Alfred duet books which are good because unlike many beginner duet books they're not in octaves.
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#10 HelenVJ

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Posted 11 July 2018 - 09:08

What age is your beginner, semplice? For age 7 and under, my 'method' of choice is My First Piano Adventure. With the older end of the age group, I combine Lesson Books A and B, so once they've learnt the 'off-stave' pieces, we look at the staff notated ones in Book B. I supplement with Hal Leonard Lesson Book, and Jane Sebba Piano Magic, among others. Everyone also does the exercises and songs from Irina Mints' Hello, Piano'. This book is unique in the way it focuses on arm weight from the start, with use of black keys, as well as the avoidance of 5-firnger positions. It's quite expensive ( although for me it's been excellent value) and I don't expect the kids to buy their own copy, especially as they will get through it in about a term . Most of the exercises and pieces are learnt by rote.

One of the reasons I abandoned Alfred and Bastien ( many moons ago) was that they were too position-based, and the kids weren't really learning to read properly. I now prefer materials that move around the keyboard a lot. from the start, and focus on developing healthy technique, rather the plonking the thumbs on middle C and staying there for some considerable time  - months, even.


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#11 semplice

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Posted 11 July 2018 - 09:45

Latin pianist .... yes, I often found students had trouble with the Bastien level two book. I remember one bright student who managed it ok but she was the exception. 

 

Helen, my new student is 6. I do own MFPA (plus some other PA books) and I'll have a relook. Hal Leonard is my usual "go to" book; I find it moves quite slowly and can suit most students. For some reason though I am just not that excited about going through it again although it has been a while since I last used it. 

 

I have heard other teachers point out that Alfred and Bastien stay in fixed hand positions for too long and I can see the truth of that.  However when I think back on the batch of students who used those books they were actually better readers than my more recent students. Of course it could be due to other things - children having more time to practise twenty years ago etc. Perhaps they succeeded despite using Alfred/Bastien. 

 

I recently watched a sheet music video on youtube with a Alfred composer, Tom Gerou, and he said that while the lesson and recital books stay in the five finger position the supplementary books move around more.


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#12 HelenVJ

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Posted 11 July 2018 - 11:33

Yes, I agree HL isn't very exciting, but pedagogically it's rather better than most of the alternatives. I just lend my (by now rather battered) copies out, at the appropraite stage in MFPA ( not the Primer, which for some reason I've never got on with). I find the material in MFPA  very attractive, and appealing to most of the age group, with the duets, and the CDs, whereas Alfred I remember thinking to be quite banal. I like the way MFPA uses fingers 2,3 and 4 for some time, before introducing the thumb. A typical 6-7-year-old's natural hand span is usually smaller than a 5th, and it will lead to tension if they are stuck in this postion too much, too soon. Imagine what is your own widest stretch - maybe a 9th or 10th - and then imagine playing all your repertoire stuck in this position, especially if you are new to the piano. Irina Gorin is especially passionate on this subject, and her books, Tales of a Musical Journey, completely avoid 5-finger positions, and also start with using fingers 2,3,4 on CDE as a default, rather than the traditional ( in this country) 1,2,3.

If you are on Facebook, do check out irina Mints's Hello, Piano page, and see how she works with her youngest students. Irina Gorin ( working in the US) also has a Pedagogy Facebook group.
Hope that helps. I now teach beginners in a completely different way than when I started. I wish all this wonderful material had been available then!


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#13 semplice

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Posted 11 July 2018 - 13:06

 I like the way MFPA uses fingers 2,3 and 4 for some time, before introducing the thumb. A typical 6-7-year-old's natural hand span is usually smaller than a 5th, and it will lead to tension if they are stuck in this postion too much, too soon. Imagine what is your own widest stretch - maybe a 9th or 10th - and then imagine playing all your repertoire stuck in this position, especially if you are new to the piano. Irina Gorin is especially passionate on this subject, and her books, Tales of a Musical Journey, completely avoid 5-finger positions, and also start with using fingers 2,3,4 on CDE as a default, rather than the traditional ( in this country) 1,2,3.

 

 

Excellent point ... thanks Helen! 


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#14 Latin pianist

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 06:57

So am I doing it all wrong? I use Tunes for Ten fingers, unashamedly in Middle C position until in book 2 when the C below middle C is introduced. Then we do pieces in that position from various books, then extending the hand position, then changing fingers on notes. It all seems a logical way of teaching children to read music. I find a lot of children get confused by all the different hand positions in PA book 1. And I haven't noticed hand tension in my pupils, in fact they're really relaxed because they love what they're playing.I grew up on Schaum which I imagine was considered a new, innovative method then. And I remember my mum realizing I was playing from finger numbers! But I was enjoying playing and soon realised that any note could be played by any finger.Maybe some of my pupils at first associate notes with certain fingers . But they move on from that, and at least they do read the fingering which is my bugbear with inherited students.
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#15 semplice

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 22:49

So am I doing it all wrong? I use Tunes for Ten fingers, unashamedly in Middle C position until in book 2 when the C below middle C is introduced. Then we do pieces in that position from various books, then extending the hand position, then changing fingers on notes. It all seems a logical way of teaching children to read music. I find a lot of children get confused by all the different hand positions in PA book 1. And I haven't noticed hand tension in my pupils, in fact they're really relaxed because they love what they're playing.I grew up on Schaum which I imagine was considered a new, innovative method then. And I remember my mum realizing I was playing from finger numbers! But I was enjoying playing and soon realised that any note could be played by any finger.Maybe some of my pupils at first associate notes with certain fingers . But they move on from that, and at least they do read the fingering which is my bugbear with inherited students.

 

I personally haven't had any seen any problems with starting young children with middle C position but I am interested in learning more about the merits of different approaches - eg.  Irina Gorin's avoidance of the short fingers that Helen mentioned above. 

 

I have the same experience as you, Latin Pianist, that even if children do associate certain fingers with certain notes at the start it doesn't mean that they will in the long term. 


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