- Reviewed on Wednesday, April 23, 2003
- Grades Used: All
- Dates used: 1977 - 2003
With the plethora of piano methods available today, one would think that we would have developed the perfect course of piano instruction. The closest I have found towards this end has been the Noona Comprehensive Piano Library. I judge piano courses by very specific criteria, all of which are met in this delightful course. In my 34 years of teaching piano, I have found the Noona methods to be the most complete.
The first element I judge a course by is the quality of the music. There are a lot of courses out there that are educationally fine, but the music has no value apart from the pedagogy. You cannot develop musical style and artistry unless the music rewards the effort. The pieces in NCPL fit the bill perfectly. Some of the pieces in the course are for pure technical drill, but overall the repertoire is fun and interesting to play, even for recitals.
The second element for me is that the course must be truly multi-key. A lot of methods today use that term, but they do not develop scales, chords, and arpeggios in all major and minor keys. Many of them delay key signatures altogether until as late as the fourth book. The NCPL introduces key signatures in level one, progresses to key signatures of up to four sharps or flats in the course itself, and completes the cycle of fifths in the Skills books. Transposition is integrated into the method, and the harmonic development includes seventh chords. Ear training is incorporated into the basic books, so you don't have to buy an additional book just for that element.
A third element for me is that the course must have a comprehensive, guidepost and interval approach to reading music. While it is valuable for a beginner to play in fixed hand positions, the student needs a method for finding any note on the staff and translating it onto the keyboard. The NCPL uses a system of seven guideposts which the student must memorize (complete by level 2). All other notes on the staff are a second or third away from the guidepost notes. All intervals are developed in the course. Intervals are emphasized as the primary way of reading music.
A fourth element is that the course must develop piano technique. The NCPL does not isolate technic into a separate book. Rather, it is incorporated into the Performance books in a practical way. The new elements are presented first in exercises or etudes, then incorporated into a short solo, and then realized in a full-length recital number. The pupil doesn't get the idea that technic is an end in itself when they see the relationship of the skills they are learning to the pieces they enjoy playing.
A fifth element is that the course must teach original classical masterworks and the proper manner of performing the various styles. Many courses attempt to apply only the romantic style to all of the pieces in that they over pedal and teach ornamentation incorrectly. The NCPL teaches the various performance techniques of each of the historical periods. It then applies the principles to original masterworks, which have limited editing in accordance with correct stylistic form. There is a mixture of other styles as well for proper musical balance.
In a home schooling world, the materials must be economical. NCPL is complete in three basic books at each level, plus a separate set of short keyboard skills books that contain scales, chord, and arpeggios appropriate to the level of advancement. Because the number of books is limited, a teacher can include repertoire from other series without either overloading the pupil with too many book or sacrificing the integrity of the basic course.
For good music, complete musicianship, and just plain fun, the Noona Comprehensive Piano Library is one of the best.