Method Book History : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Hi I am trying to research the history of the piano method book. Who wrote the first method books, how did the method book gain its popularity, a time line of method books, ect. I am having very little success. If someone can give me book suggestions or web sites I would appreciate it.

-- Ruth Melton (, August 02, 2003


What an interesting question! I want to know what you find out and read your paper when you're done! I suppose you'll need to check copyright dates of current methods and ask people over 40-50-60-70 what books they learned from. Personally I played out of "Technic Tales," which I've heard Dennis Alexander mention as a book he likes, but I don't think it's in print any more. I suspect the method book covering beginning-intermediate levels (i.e. Thompson, Bastien, Faber in the U.S., Brandman in Australia etc. etc.) is a 20th C phenomenon, but I don't know that for sure. I do remember hearing that in Bach's day they had kids start keyboard around age 11, after they had become proficient at the violin. They would play nothing but scales and finger exercises for a year or two until they were ready (if ever) to begin real music, probably the difficulty of the short preludes or 2- part inventions, or the easier dances for fun. I wish I could remember where I heard that so I would know how reliable the story is :) The book "The Great Pianists" by Harold Schonberg is a fascinating report of Mozart, Clementi, Czerny, Chopin, Liszt, Leschetizky and a bunch of other great pianists and piano teachers, not only of their great performing abilities, but about how they taught their students. Some of them were said to have a "method", in fact Chopin kept notes so he could write one someday but never got around to it. Czerny made a fortune as a teacher--his method is in his 1000+ books. The few easy pieces he included are quite simple-- maybe his is the first method for kids??? CPE Bach may have started the whole thing with his "Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments." Well, good luck, it sounds like an interesting project!

-- anon (, August 03, 2003.

I may be wrong, but I believe Ferdinand Beyer wrote what would be considered the first real method book. In fact, it is still used today in foriegn countries such as Japan.

-- Carol Thompson (, August 06, 2003.

In the old Piano Quarterly, and in the newer Piano and Keyboard magazines, Marianne Uszler traced the history of the American piano method (in either two or three large essays). I don't know the exact year, but you would find these exactly what you need for your project. You should also look at the method developed by Muzio Clementi--it was extremely popular (11 editions) and was used in several countries worldwide. You would also find a wealth of information in the standard pedagogy texts as they review modern methods and trace their development. I have seen several of the earliest methods (Turk, CPE Bach, Clementi, Hook, Moscheles and Fetis, etc.) and for the most part, they do not resemble the modern method much, being primarily exercises and scales until either the student gave up or mastered the entire piano technique before playing a piece. Enjoy your project--it is a very interesting subject! Suzanne

-- Suzanne (, August 18, 2003.

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