I recently read a piano teacher’s blog that stated the intermediate student no longer needed a method book. His point was there was nothing “new” after level 3 in the method books. He continued, saying the intermediate student only required repertoire to play and practice. But are piano method books needed for the intermediate student? Before six months ago, I would have totally agreed! Most piano method books offer nothing new after level 3 except songs to play. However, after writing Drill & Excel On the Piano book 3 and Drill & Excel On the Piano Book 4, I now realize there’s actually MORE skills and concepts for the intermediate student to learn than the beginning student. Here are some of the things I’ve included in books 3 and 4 for the intermediate student.
While intervals are mentioned in most of the early level piano method books, they don’t explain the KINDS of intervals. In Drill & Excel book 3, there are interval worksheets for the student to identify the intervals in various key signatures. Then in book 4, ALTERED intervals are introduced, with worksheets for the student to identify the kind of interval (major, minor, diminished, or augmented). Giving the student writing assignments helps the student to learn in a deeper way, rather than simply reading the information.
In teaching rhythm, most method books only show how many counts a note is held. However, in Drill & Excel On the Piano series, there are multiple rhythm drill pages for the student to play on one note and count out loud. This gives the student a lot of repetition in reading the rhythm to create fluency. And in books 3 and 4, the rhythm goes beyond most method books, including sixteenth notes, triplets, and triplets against other notes (even or other triplets). Learning to read rhythm is much like driving a car. It can’t be taught be explanation, but in DOING.
Exercises are not included in most method books, even in levels 1 and 2. Piano instructors that want their students to play exercises use a separate book for that. However, the Drill & Excel On the Piano series includes exercises in all 4 books. Books 3 and 4 are especially important, because they offer specific exercises for the skills introduced. For example, book 3 has a chromatic scale exercise, finger pedaling exercises, and repeated notes using different fingers. Not only are these skills added in the chapter’s songs, but is common among other pieces. Another exercise in book 3 is changing fingers on a held note. Book 4 has ascending and descending 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6th, and 7ths. It also includes the “independence of fingers”, playing a triad and emphasizing each note of the triad. These are important skills for the intermediate student to acquire when playing difficult pieces.
For the intermediate student, theory is especially important. A beginning student has difficulty in just playing and reading to even think about theory, while the intermediate student can understand concepts. And knowing theory helps in the student’s reading skill. It can also help in songwriting and improvisation. The Drill & Excel On the Piano books 3 & 4 include a lot of theory beyond the altered intervals mentioned earlier. It includes triads, triad numbers, and transposing songs to other keys by using the triad numbers. These are important skills and knowledge for the intermediate student to acquire, which may not be understood by simply playing various pieces.
Since the songs in the Drill & Excel On the Piano series are written specifically with the information and skills taught in each chapter, they’re especially valuable in the learning progress for the intermediate student. Instead of playing random pieces, the songs are strategically planned to teach what is taught. Each song increases slowly in difficulty , giving the student a challenge incrementally as he or she plays them.
So are piano method books needed for the intermediate student? In short, yes, because the intermediate student needs to learn certain skills that may not be taught by simply playing various repertoire. The Drill & Excel On the Piano books 3 and 4 are the perfect books for their continued learning to bring the student to the next level. Check out our books at MelodyMusicPublishers.com. Teachers receive free shipping and 20% off all orders. Click here to register.
Kathi Kerr is author and founder of Melody Music Publishers. She writes her book based on over 30 years’ teaching experience the way students think and learn.