Hal Leonard Adult Piano Method

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Appearing in the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library, the Adult Piano Method offers an integrated approach which includes “Lessons, Solos, Technique & Theory” all in the same  core books, with two levels.

The books have a modern presentation, with stunning design throughout. New concepts and notation are introduced with well-devised explanations, and again the use of spot colour considerably adds to visual appeal and clarity.

The books are written by a team comprising Fred Kern, Phillip Beveren, Barbara Kreader and Mona Rejino, and Hal Leonard publishers explain why adults will particularly love their approach with the following points:

  • it’s well-paced, moving comfortably through new concepts and material;
  • it’s a hands-on approach, encouraging the beginner to become immediately engaged in playing the instrument;
  • it’s easy-to-grasp, with well-planned material free of technical jargon;
  • it encourages creativity, with opportunities for improvisation;
  • it creates a sense of accomplishment, with teacher duets and richly orchestrated audio and MIDI files all providing a rewarding musical experience.

Exploring the first book, the material is split into five Units, each including considerable material.

In the first Unit, reading is introduced without the use of staff notation, but using a mixture of floating note shapes, finger numbers and note names. Improvisation on the black keys is also featured.

The presentation is in fairly large print, and I must admit I think this Unit more resembles a child-oriented method than an adult one. On the plus side, articulations of staccato and legato are nicely introduced, along with note and rest values. With adult students I would anticipate largely skipping over this Unit, or quickly covering it in the first lesson.

In the second Unit, staff notation makes a full appearance. Here the Bass “F” Clef appears first, using F as a landmark note, and then the Treble “G” Clef follows suit. Tunes here are all centred around Middle C, but with the LH thumb on B rather than sharing Middle C itself. This means that the LH little finger doesn’t play until later in the book than expected.

In the third Unit, sharps, flats and naturals are introduced, and the LH increases its range down to C. The RH remains in the Middle C five note position until Unit 4 however, at which point the G position (and new treble clef notes) appears. Finally in Unit 5, the hands start to gradually break away from five note positions.

Overall this is a gentle, well-structured and consolidated approach, and the music used throughout is adult-appropriate and very attractive. From a pedagogic perspective, all bases are covered well, and the well-established approach has much to commend it.

The second book logically follows as one would expect, by the end of which the student will be approaching Grade 1 level and ready to ditch method books.

Best of all, Hal Leonard have produced matching supplementary repertoire books – Popular Hits and Popular Favourites (books 1 and 2 or each). There’s a Christmas book too. These include simplified arrangements of popular songs that adult learners will be familiar with and in many cases enthusiastic to play.

Rather than optional extras, I would say that the supplementary books here (as with Pianoworks)  considerably add to the overall enjoyment and appeal offered by the Hal Leonard Adult Piano Method and are a key selling-point of the resource.

The Online Content 

Instead of CD, Hal Leonard now include online Audio/MIDI content.

This is accessed via a special feature of the Hal Leonard site, “my library”. Registering on the site is not compulsory, but took me less than a minute. Once done, included audio/video for all the Hal Leonard purchases you own can be instantly accessed. In the age of streaming this approach seems to me preferable, as well as allowing for more flexible content and use.

A brilliant touch is that when playing back the audio onsite, Hal Leonard have integrated an on-screen playback device which allows for the tempo to be adjusted slower or faster to taste and to help practice. Also it’s possible to change the pitch/key, balance, and loop tracks.

None of this requires downloading or installing software – it all takes place right within your web browser. And the quality in all cases can only fairly be described as stunning.

Summary

+  A logical, thorough method, with a gentle pace.
+  The music and supplementary song books are great.
+  The online material is a truly brilliant addition, sealing the deal!

–  The early section of Book 1 won’t appeal to all.
–  Some adults will prefer a faster-paced alternative.

The Hal Leonard Adult Piano Method is a very strong contender; those with a penchant for more popular songs, and who will enjoy the online content, are likely to find this an irresistible choice!

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