With its memorable and inviting title, attractive layout, and down-to-earth approach, it is no wonder that It’s Never Too Late to Play the Piano by Pam Wedgwood, published by Faber Music, has been a best-seller and remains a firm favourite.
The method was revised in 2006 and now appears as a single 80-page book, with a CD included in a wallet attached to the inside cover.
In her introduction, Pam explains that the method,
“… is carefully progressive, breaks the learning process into bite-size, manageable chunks, gives plenty of chances for review, develops general musical skills (such as aural work and improvisation), puts your learning into context with information on the great pianists and composers, and provides recommended listening. And, although I would always recommend that you find a good piano teacher, this tutor has been carefully written so that you can work through it alone, helped by the interactive CD.”
The method is broken down into 15 Units, covering the following topics:
- Treble clef, RH five finger, Middle C position;
- Bass Clef, LH position from F to Middle C;
- Hands together in the same positions; Dynamics; Staccato, 3/4 time;
- Rests; Legato and slurs; Ties;
- Extending beyond five notes to an octave in each hand; Quavers;
- Further extended and changing hand positions; Sight-reading;
- Further new notes; Dotted rhythms;
- Flats; Naturals; key signatures; Da capo;
- Sharps; Notes up to two octaves above and below Middle C;
- Scales and arpeggios; Pieces in different keys;
- Minor scales, keys and pieces;
- Syncopation; Jazz and blues scales; Swing rhythms;
- Semiquavers; Dotted quavers;
- 6/8 – Compound time;
- Triplets; Sustain pedal.
The pace of this method is fast indeed. Some teachers won’t like the early stages: either their separate introduction of one hand at a time, or the use of the C position. However, provided the adult is a fast learner and can cover a Unit a week initially, this shouldn’t cause serious problems.
Text is clearly written, and though concise there is an accessible, chatty style that conveys Wedgwood’s usual warmth. Terminology is in English, followed by US equivalents. In addition to simple explanations of notation and technique, there are plenty of “fact files”, composer biographies and more, which add to the musical engagement of the content as a whole.
Music notation is rather on the small side; this means however that there are a huge number of pieces packed into the single volume. These include a mixture of original pedagogic pieces, arrangements of popular classical tunes, and a few standard popular songs (including Memory from Cats, Plaisir d’amour, The Music of the Night, and The Greatest Love of All).
The music by the end of the book is at least Grade 2 level, underlining the rapid progress expected.
The interactive CD includes electronic keyboard backing tracks for many of the pieces in the earlier stages; this is excellent for consolidating a sense of pulse and timing. There are also a number of aural exercises included, which certainly adds value to both the pedagogy and the resource itself.
Faber Music have published several supplementary repertoire books, themed around musical styles including Classics, Jazz, Showtunes, and Rock ’n’ Roll. There’s also a Christmas collection, although there is already an abundance of Christmas music sprinkled throughout the method book itself.
+ the needs of adult learners have been carefully addressed
+ the music is appropriate, varied and excellent throughout
+ the interactive CD is genuinely useful and well produced
– the pace will be too fast and potentially off-putting for some
– the notation is rather small on the page
For those looking for a fast-paced and musically engaging adult beginner method, It’s Never Too Late to Play Piano is a solid choice, and likely to remain popular!