I grew up seeing these Dozen a Day exercise books (by Edna-Mae Burnam) everywhere. My mom was a piano teacher; I probably used them myself; all my siblings also took lessons so they probably had them as well. I’ve used them on and off over the years – one always likes to try new things – and I keep coming back to them.
This series starts out in simple 4-bar 5-finger patterns – mostly in C Major. The beauty is in the simplicity of the notes – easy to ready for most 2nd year students, but jam-packed with technical details that need to be taught. As I was teaching yesterday, I noticed the following concepts from the first dozen exercises in the Preparatory Book:
5-Finger patterns that strengthen the fingers: I added to this, telling my student (age 11, 2nd year piano) to keep repeating the pattern starting up a step each time. I then used this to teach the Tone-Semitone pattern of the major pentascale – and pointed out how starting on some keys it is the same and how on most it is not.
Articulation: quite a few exercises are marked staccato on the repeat, good for teaching a finger staccato. Other exercises are good for teaching a bouncy-wrist staccato on triads. Slurs are introduced in the 2nd group of exercises.
Thumbs-under: simple preparation for the technique needed for scales.
Triads – a simple broken, then solid triad. Use it to teach a proper chord technique.
Hand-over-hand arpeggio: I extended it from the 2 octave version in the book to a 4-octave version.
The second dozen exercises includes hand contractions, grace notes, and other delights. Further in the book, a 5-finger pattern is repeated in C minor, then later it is transposed (written out with accidentals) in D, E, F and G Majors.
These are fabulous books for technical as well as theoretical development. The pages are clean. There are no explanations on how to play; that must come from the teacher. The illustrations are all stick figures in various exercise pose, and the titles are suggest physical activities with words like walking, running, stretching, wiggling toes, jumping rope, deep breathing, etc. I have found that students still think these are delightful. The simplicity of design and title means that these don’t age, even after being in print for over 50 years. These go a very long way, for extra articulation, dynamics or transposition can be added. The Preparatory Book contains 5 Groups of a dozen exercises each. I paid less than $5.00 for it in the last year.