[Menvi-discuss] Piano methods

Stephanie Pieck themusicsuite at verizon.net
Mon Dec 19 19:31:25 EST 2016


Hi,

I think the Waterman books are all right for very young beginners (ages 6 and under, 7 tops). I know RNIB has "Me and My Piano". As for the Music Tree series, that was a classic when I was a kid! Unfortunately, while the Frances Clarke books were outstanding at teaching musical concepts and how to practice and take a piece apart analytically, they aren't around in Braille anymore--I used to teach with the "Look and Listen" series, but that's hard to find in print nowadays.

The "First Impressions" series by M'Lou Dietzer (a student of Clarke) incorporates many of the strengths of Clarke's approach into late elementary/early intermediate pieces. I think NLS is gradually adding these to BARD. I am fortunate to have the entire set since I was the one who asked Associated Services for the Blind in Philadelphia to make the first transcription. These come with CD's too, very well-played by the author. I participated in a workshop she presented that illustrated how the books could be used; that's where I got inspired to have them transcribed.

For explaining print notation, it might surprise people to know that the "AB Guide to Music Theory" from rnib is one of the best places to find clear, accurate descriptions of how print notation looks. The books are good, but they're even better if you can get your hands on the raised-line supplements that RNIB produced to go with them. These contain every example you'd ever want to see of common things like notes, rests, clefs, bar lines, accidentals (including a few illustrations showing how the sharps/flats are sprinkled over the various lines and spaces of the stave in key signatures so they don't turn into disturbing ink blots), and then they also include all those pesky ornaments, articulation signs, notes that share stems, etc. I've reached for this book many times when an intermediate to advanced student asks what some sign is, gives a rather vague description, and wants to know if I see it in my music?

Hope these further ideas help.

Stephanie

-----Original Message-----
From: Menvi-discuss [mailto:menvi-discuss-bounces at menvi.org] On Behalf Of Stephanie Mitchell
Sent: Sunday, December 18, 2016 6:43 PM
Cc: 'This is for discussing music and braille literacy'
Subject: [Menvi-discuss] Piano methods

Hi Stephanie,

Thank you so much for your most informative post on piano methods. As a piano teacher, I ed∇ this extremely helpful. I'm wondering if you have heard of the "progressive piano method for young beginners" series and the waterman books. What do you think of these? Do you know is method like music tree, piano safari and piano adventures are in braille? One of the challenges I find is teaching beginners (not blind) is trying to convey where they need to be in their book and trying to explain print music concepts. I know about how print music works but it's no where near as automatic as braille music and trying to explain it is hard. Thanks, Steph 

Licensed Simply music piano teacher
A world where every one plays
www.mitchellpianostudio.com
phone: +61450354342

On 19/12/2016 5:04 am, Stephanie Pieck <themusicsuite at verizon.net> wrote:
>
> Hello,
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> 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.
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> 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 include:
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> 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.
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> 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.
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> As far as general-audience books, here are my personal experiences with a few very popular print methods that are available in Braille:
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> “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.
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> 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.
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> 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 it!).
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> 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.
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> 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.
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> Best of luck in your new endeavor.
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> Stephanie Pieck
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> The Music Suite
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> 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,
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> 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 braille!
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> Warmly,
>
> Hema.
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