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Review: It's never too late... to play piano, by Pam Wedgwood

It's never too late... to play piano

Overall assessment

This piano tutor book, it's never too late... to learn piano, by Pam Wedgwood, is an interesting and well-developed entry into the corpus of books aimed at adult piano tuition. It avoids the often absurd oversimplification and perfunctory, repetitive exercises of series such as that of Faber's Piano Adventures. There is in this work of piano didacticism only the minimum necessary delay in the teaching of actual music notation; a feature less and less common in books of this kind. We move swiftly from the introduction to note time values and their rest equivalents to reading and playing musical notation. On only page six, the first notes are introduced, but only gradually so that the beginner pianist is not overwhelmed initially with superfluous information.

Structure of the piano tutor

This piano method is divided into fifteen units. The book's introductory section teaches the time-values of musical notes and the layout of the piano.

In unit 1, the first five notes in the right-hand are taught, beginning with middle-C and ending with G. Alongside the teaching of notes and accompanying simple pieces with which to practise these, there are also finger-exercises to help develop the dexterity of the fingers at the piano, which is the case in all of this method's units.

Unit 2 achieves the same as unit 1, but for the left-hand. In unit 3, the student learns to play two-handed. Each unit after this introduces new notes, time signatures, and more complicated music bringing the student up to a standard only just below that of ABRSM grade one piano.

The piano tutor's pros and cons



Fast paced. It does not delay advancement for no particular reason.

May not be the best book for a student to use independently of a piano teacher as it might be too fast for some.

There are finger exercises in every unit, which help the adult learner to expedite the development of skill at the piano.

Clear style of instruction.

Offers download audio accompaniment for the set piano pieces.

Comparison with other piano methods for adults

There are many piano methods on the market targeted for adults. I can only speak for myself when I say that too many of these methods are plodding. But I will say it, because I have seen many many times, methods such as it's never too late... to play piano vilified for being too fast or too difficult and others, such as the Piano Adventures series, praised.

Why do I dislike Piano Adventures and others of its mode so much? Firstly, it delays the introduction of proper notation. As pianists, almost all music we encounter will use standard notation and the sooner any beginner becomes acquainted with it the better. Omission of staves and their replacement by letters to represent notes on the piano simply puts of an inevitable learning curve for no advantage whatsoever. Secondly, the pedal is introduced too early; the pedal on a piano or keyboard is intended to add to the music that is performed and not too replace good technique. The tendency, if pedal is introduced at an early stage is for students to rely on this for legato playing. And, finally, there are too many meaningless exercises that seem to be there simply to fill up space.

It's never too late... to play piano avoids these errors, and with the aid of a teacher, who ought to be the one teaching and demonstrating good technique anyway, and not a book, any difficulties can be overcome through practice. And beside this, many of the difficulties in learning piano lie in the mind of the pupil and not in reality; the basics are, in fact, much easier than they at first appear.

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