[Menvi-discuss] best piano tutorial

Stephanie Pieck themusicsuite at verizon.net
Sun Dec 18 13:04:05 EST 2016



If you are looking for books that tackle both the piano teaching side and
the Braille music-reading side of this issue, then Melissa's suggestion
about Richard Taesch's books is excellent. One reason is because, when he
wrote them, he didn't use lots of other signs along with the musical
notes-slurs, phrase markings, articulation, etc. In my experience using,
evaluating, and teaching from Braille piano books, this "clutter", while
common in print piano tutorials, is difficult for a beginning Braille music
reader to focus on learning the notes.


There are a few books out there, Braille transcriptions of print piano
books, that do a pretty good job of avoiding musical clutter that are not
specifically written for blind people learning Braille music/piano. These


Pauline Hall's "Piano Time" series: RNIB has Books 1 through 3 of the lesson
books, Books 1-2 of "Piano Time Pieces" (strictly repertoire). The lessons
books have more explanatory text while the repertoire books are strictly
musical pieces. If your tutor plans to do most of the explaining of concepts
and demonstration of proper technique without a book, then choose the
repertoire-only books. These would also be better suited to anyone new to
Braille in general since finding things on the page without all the added
text explanations is easier. Another plus to all the books from RNIB is that
the transcriptions include indications in the Braille of where each new
print stave begins. There is a number, with no number sign, immediately
before the left-hand sign in the parallel where the new stave begins. This
is terrific if you are working with a teacher unfamiliar with Braille music
because, if they say to you, "Go to the third stave on page 14," you can
find this exact spot.


Christopher Norton's "American Popular Piano Repertoire" series: Prima Vista
Music has these available for download, or you can purchase them in
hard-copy for a bit more. The series runs from Preparatory Level to Level
10. While I have the prep level, I never use it with students learning
Braille because the left-hand and right-hand parts don't fill in each
measure with rests-they just move from one line to the other, so in essence,
a reader must read two lines simultaneously. The idea behind this
arrangement makes sense on one level since it means there aren't a lot of
extra signs in the Braille. But it can be challenging for someone trying to
learn Braille music as a new system of writing to have to deal with this
quirk of page layout, too. From Level 1 onward, the books are transcribed in
the usual way with full measures for left and right hand. The Braille
versions include glossaries of Braille music signs at the back of each
volume, at least for the earlier levels. The print books come with CD's
containing backing tracks for the pieces, and there are several duets that
students and teachers can play together. The rhythms can get pretty complex
since the author designed these as a way to introduce students to more
modern styles of piano playing, including jazz, Latin, rock, etc.


As far as general-audience books, here are my personal experiences with a
few very popular print methods that are available in Braille:


"Piano Adventures": NLS is finally adding these very popular books to its
collection. The series begins at Primer Level and progresses through Levels
1, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4, and 5. At each level there are four "core" books:
Lessons; Technique and Artistry: Theory: and Performance. There are
additional volumes for popular, Christmas, and sight-reading music. So far,
NLS has the Lessons book in Primer; the four "core" books of Level 1;
Lessons and Theory in Level 2A; all 7 titles from Level 2B: and some titles
from 3A. I wouldn't recommend using the Primer as it is extremely visual in
nature and the transcription makes every effort to provide exact
duplications of the visual nature of the page. So, for example, if notes go
up the page on a diagonal to show rising pitch, the Braille letters for the
pitches or the musical notes do this, too. I've also found, working with
sighted students, that the "Second Edition" that is being transcribed
doesn't match the "Second Edition" students might buy at their local music
store or online. So before choosing this book as your primary method, be
sure that you can get the print version with the same ISBN number as the
Braille. Many of the titles that NLS has in their collection were produced
by Prima Vista, so check their site to see what they have available. One
aspect of the series that recommends it highly is its approach to teaching
proper piano technique using natural and intuitive methods. For instance: To
teach proper hand shape, there is an exercise in which the student, while
seated on the piano bench, puts their hands, palms down, on their knees.
Keeping the hands very relaxed, the student then lifts the hands and places
them on the closed piano lid, maintaining the slightly cupped shape in the
palms that came from having the hands over the knees.


Alfred's Basic Piano Method: The series includes Levels 1A and 1B, then
Levels 2 through 6. This is available from American Printing House for the
Blind. It is organized well, moves steadily through concepts, and after the
first 27 pages of Level 1A, is pretty easy for a blind student and a sighted
teacher to navigate together. There are quite a few transcriber's
descriptions of graphic aspects of the print book, but these are easily
skipped by Braille readers who don't need that information. One advantage of
this series for a Braille user is that, while chords and intervals are
introduced, they are not done so right away. This means that the student can
become comfortable reading actual pitches before they have lots of interval
signs to manage. As the volumes progress, there are examples of standard
repertoire included (Beethoven's "Fur Elise" is in Level 6). Overall, a
solid generalist offering which can be supplemented with anything.


Bastien series: Piano Lessons by James Bastien. These are available from the
Library of Congress, some for download. If you're working with these, be
sure to purchase the "old" edition of the print so that Braille and print
books match. These books introduce chords right away, and while the music in
the lessons books consists of many familiar folk tunes, teachers and
students may have some difficulty with all the intervals. This would be an
ideal method for someone wanting to learn how to harmonize melodies with
basic chords. The Bastiens also have a "Piano Literature" series,
encompassing Volumes One through Five, which contains the main pieces of the
"standard" classical piano repertoire (Level One includes the well-known
"Minuet In G" by Bach: Level Two contains a Clementi sonatina; Level Three
offers Beethoven's "Fur Elise"; Level Four contains Mozart's Sonata in C, K.
545; and alas, I haven't looked at Level 5 lately so can't say what's in


Hal Leonard Piano Lessons: This series progresses fairly slowly, from Book 1
through Book 5. Many of the titles can be borrowed from the Library of
Congress. The presentation is very clean and straightforward, with very few
intervals until later books. I tend to use the Piano Solos books rather than
the Lessons volumes. The variety in styles appeals to students, and again,
the repertoire books have less explanation and allow the student to focus
primarily on the music. My only quibble with this series is that they seem
to wait a VERY long time to introduce key signatures, even though there are
pieces in the keys of G Major, F Major, D Minor and E Minor as early as Book
2 and 3.


Lastly, I would recommend you ask your tutor what methods or books they feel
comfortable teaching from. You can then find out if any of the titles are
available in Braille.


Best of luck in your new endeavor.


Stephanie Pieck

The Music Suite





From: Menvi-discuss [mailto:menvi-discuss-bounces at menvi.org] On Behalf Of
Hemachandran Karah
Sent: Friday, December 16, 2016 10:01 PM
To: 'This is for discussing music and braille literacy'
Subject: [Menvi-discuss] best piano tutorial


Dear all,


I have just begun taking tuition in piano. I request you to kindly point me
to an instructional material that will enable me and my tutor to gain a
jumpstart. It will be ideal to get a learning material both in print and in




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