Adult Piano Adventures

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There’s no shortage of reasons why Nancy and Randall Faber’s Piano Adventures series has emerged in recent years as the world’s market-leading piano method.

My First Piano Adventures (aimed at ages 5-6), Basic Piano Adventures (7-11) and Accelerated Piano Adventures (11+) offer a connected approach which is age-appropriate, musically and educationally enriching, with well-balanced pedagogy supported by an array of repertoire books, online content and digital apps.

Adult Piano Adventures belongs to this rather extraordinary self-contained universe, but appropriately exists as its own, unique constellation, fully adapted and separated from the levels and resources aimed at youngsters.

Teachers using the main method will inevitably be drawn to Adult Piano Adventures, but here is a standalone piano course that all teachers working with adults should investigate.

A quick overview…

With literally hundreds of publications in the Piano Adventures range, many appearing in multiple configurations and permutations, it’s no wonder some get daunted by the array of books available.

But with the Adult Piano Adventures range, things are pretty simple; there are two levels, served by the following publications:

  • All-in-one Piano Course, with CD and DVD (stiff binding, 184 pages)
  • All-in-one Piano Course, without CD / DVD, but with online access to stream/download the audio/video content (high-quality spiral binding, 184 pages) also available in Spanish
  • CD / DVD on their own (why?)
  • Repertoire: Classics (80 pages, staple bound)
  • Repertoire: Popular (80 pages, staple bound)
  • Repertoire: Christmas (not available for this review)

“All-in-one” in this context distinguishes this from the children’s method, in which separate books exist for Lessons, Theory, Technique & Artistry, and Performance. With Adult Piano Adventures the whole lot is integrated, making for two very substantial books.

The obvious choice here is the spiral bound version (which costs significantly less but includes online access to all the audio and video anyway), and to supplement this as desired with the additional repertoire book(s) of the player’s choice.

I should mention that while some books in the Piano Adventures range have anglicised editions, these don’t. All terminology follows US rather than UK/international conventions, although the presentation is sufficiently spacious to add preferred vocabulary in pencil.

A thorough approach…

Adult Piano Adventures is as methodically thorough as the presentation is welcoming. This is a mature method which ticks all the boxes for a modern approach, avoiding locking the player into an overlapping Middle C five-note range while steadily, methodically introducing notation.

Though largely structured around the development of a reading-based approach, there is a well-considered theory emphasis which reinforces creative application and understanding. This is especially evident in the systematic introduction of chord notation (which, interestingly begins with triads and sus4 chords). Suggestions for improvisation are also included.

By the end of the first bumper book, the player will have learnt to read and play music in both clefs hands together, understood sharps, flats and pentascales (prominent here) and primary chords in C and G major.

Each of the 16 Units includes a music theory section and a “3-Minute Technique” set of exercises, which are hugely useful. Black-and-white photographs underline important technical imperatives, and the presentation of the whole book is easy on the eye, using spot colour and icons to highlight important elements.

The second volume builds on this foundation, introducing the scales, keys and chords of F and D majors and A, D and E minors. Ledger lines, dotted rhythms, arpeggios and sixteenth notes all appear and, having introduced intervals up to a sixth in the first book, the seventh now appears, as do seventh chords.

You can investigate the full contents and development of the material by taking a “look inside” Book 1 here and Book 2 here, where the full contents pages are reproduced along with a few sample pages. For teachers new to using Piano Adventures, the authors have provided a raft of advice and support material here, also worth exploring.

The sound of music…

One of the strengths of Adult Piano Adventures is that the authors have generally selected adult-appropriate music throughout, serving up a mix of their own method pieces and simple arrangements of folk melodies and classical tunes.

The digital content includes backing tracks for these pieces, and in some cases these seem to me rather twee and notably less adult-appropriate. On a positive note the videos are helpful, offering additional explanation and demonstrations of the learning content, presented by Randall Faber.

Appealing though the main course books generally are, the music tends to serve the method rather than the other way around. This is where the additional repertoire books come to the rescue, particularly the Adult Piano Adventures Popular books for each of the two levels, which benefit immensely from their access to the Hal Leonard catalogue.

At Level 1, both the Classical and Popular books offer pieces in three sections, “beginning solos”, pieces in C major, and pieces in G. The pieces are simple but effective arrangements, the latter book including an enticing mix taking in songs by the Beatles, Adele, Elton John, beloved melodies from TV and film, and much more besides. How inspiring!

The structure of the Level 2 repertoire books is looser. In the Popular book, the pieces are arranged roughly in order of difficulty, and include a similarly impressive variety. The second Classical book divides the music into two sections: Baroque & Classical first, then Romantic & Impressionistic, which is a useful conceit.

Summary

+  Offers a thorough introduction to piano playing
+  The course is superbly presented, and immersive
+  The Popular repertoire books have outstanding appeal

–  The prescriptive approach won’t appeal to some adults
–  The digital content is less inspiring

Adult Piano Adventures delivers a superb and well-thought out method that will have huge appeal to adults looking for a steady and musically inclusive approach.


Also available • Andrew’s essential handbook:
How to Practise Music

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