Subtitled: Is Grade 1 harder than it used to be? Part 2 . See Part 1 here.
I find the transition from the method books to grade 1 to be somewhat challenging with some students. If only they were all at least 7 years old before starting, and actually practiced 7 days a week, this would probably not be an issue. As it is…
Over the years I have used a lot of supplementary materials to get over the hump. The introductory books to the Grade books (both RCM and CC) are not adequate, containing as they do too many pieces that are technically manageable but notationally a challenge. Add to this the issues of more scheduled students as well as younger students – age 5 and 6 for beginners is much more common these days than back when the average beginner was 7 or 8 (see Elissa Milne’s Younger Beginners post) – who need more time to grasp the concepts. It’s interesting that Bartok wrote his Mikrokosmos as a “method” book for his son who was beginning at age 9.
I will have quite a few students at this stage for the next couple of years. I put together a list of the resources that I will use for next year, always subject to change, to remind myself of what I have in all those folders on my music shelf. Each child is different, and I’m always exploring different methods and supplementary music, so I never expect to have a definitive solution. I enjoy trying out new music that will pique the interest of the students and be a delightful change of pace for my ears, as we take time to solidify the reading and other skills.
One thing that is likely to be permanent in my arsenal is pretty much anything by (the late) Jon George and Mary Gae George, including the Artistry at the Piano Musicianship books and Patterns for Piano. These 2 things cover such a myriad of skills with excellent music. I’m also looking forward to (finally) getting all my volumes of Mikrokosmos to try out, primarily, I think, as sight reading material, as well as a number of other tried and true books, such as those by Joan Last, that I’ve never seen. Of course, the graded Repertoire and Etude books will continue to be a staple as the students move from beginners to advanced pianists. They provide a good balance of pieces from all the different eras, including the most contemporary. Add to this some of the good Canadian music that keeps surfacing, and I should be set.
For my list of resources for this level, see Resources for 3rd and 4th years. This is also available in Printables.