Interested in the Bastien piano method?
The Bastien books are among the most popular beginning piano books on the market. You can find them at your local music store.
Before I started teaching Simply Music, the Bastien piano method was one of the methods I taught with. I know there's a lot of piano books out there to choose from, and you'll read and hear lots of opinions.
I hope this review will help you make a confident decision as you or your child embark on your piano adventures!
I mentioned back on the piano methods page that the Bastien books aren't my favorite traditional curriculum. My students and I found the music a little less than inspiring, which is something I find important (especially with younger kids).
I also found that new musical concepts were introduced a bit too quickly for good retention by my students.
I would supplement the lessons with additional music and exercises before moving on in the lesson book. I found that one or two songs was typically not enough to solidify a concept -- say, a musical interval -- before moving on.
One other concern I have with this method is the fact that in the early levels, most everything is taught with just a few hand positions. Students then develop associations with fingers and specific notes.
In C position for example, the thumb (finger number 1) plays the note C and the pinky (finger number 5) plays the note G. When you stay in the C hand position over quite a few lessons, you'll identify finger 5 with G. Then, what happens when your hand is in a different position on the piano, and you see a G? Automatically, you'll play with your pinky -- only to realize you've played a wrong note.
Many traditional methods seem to assume that staying in one place on the keyboard is an easier way to learn, or that moving around would be too complicated for young students or beginners.
I don't believe that's the case, and have found in teaching alternative methods that students of all ages can learn by playing all over the keyboard!
All that said, the Bastien piano method is still a solid choice. The musical concepts are laid out logically, and the method is easy to follow and pedagogically sound. If you have a creative teacher who supplements the lesson books with extra songs, games, and other fun music learning, even better!
Here is an overview of the Bastien series:
The Very Young Pianist
(Ages 4-7) This set of 3 books moves from finger numbers (1-5) and the musical alphabet (A-G) through to reading different key signatures on the grand staff. At the end of the three books, the student would move to the regular Basics curriculum.
In my opinion, if you're going to use the Bastien series, these are the starter books to use. Kids need more time to process information than they get in the standard Primer, and even in the Young Beginner books.
Music reading is a new language. For me, only a page or two per concept isn't enough. These books give more practice time for each bit of new learning.
Bastien Piano for the Young Beginner
(Ages 5-7) This little course consists of two books: Primer A and Primer B. The goal is to present pre-music reading learning, as well as learning to read on the grand staff, with a bit more time and practice than the regular Primer book in the Basics series.
Students who finish the two Young Beginner books would move on to Level 1 of the Basics.
Bastien Piano Basics
The Bastien Piano Basics method is made up of five levels: Primer and 1 through 4. Each level has a set of five available books:
There are accompaniment CDs available for all levels.
Bastien Older Beginner Piano Course
This course consists of two levels, each with three books: the lesson book, Favorite Melodies the World Over, and Musicianship for the Older Beginner (keyboard technique and theory). Also available are supplemental books: Classic Themes by the Masters, Easy Piano Classics, Religious Favorites, and Solo Repertoire.
You know by now that the Bastien courses aren't my favorites. This one is my least favorite out of all of them. Older kids just find the music old-fashioned (it is).
Bastien Intermediate Piano Course
The Bastien piano method intermediate course was designed to "bridge the gap" between the Basics course and advanced classical literature. This is, in fact, a gap that exists in many methods and indeed in piano eduction, in my opinion.
One of the reasons could be that there are so many beginners and so few who progress to advanced levels. Not a good thing -- but there's obviously much more demand for beginning method books.
Of all the Bastien courses, I like this one the best.
The Bastien intermediate course consists of 3 levels. In each level there are four books: Repertoire (Lessons), Technique, Theory, and Multi-key solos. (Multi-key solos are those that change key signatures - i.e. sharps and flats - within the song.)
I like the repertoire and the depth of the theory work, as well as the multi-key solos.
Bastien Piano for Adults
The Bastien adult books are combination books: lessons, music theory, technique exercises, and even some sight reading exercises are included.
The music learned covers a variety of styles, including classical, jazz, folk songs, and original compositions.
Variety is good, but like other books in the Bastien series, I'm just not all that thrilled with the music and arrangements. Not exciting!
There are two books in this series, and they're available alone or with accompaniment CDs. There are also two Christmas books, and accompaniment CDs are available for those as well.
If traditional piano lessons are the path you've chosen, the Bastien books wouldn't be my first choice for you. The music in all of the Bastien piano method books, until you're into reading full-on classical pieces, tends to be dry and not very motivating for students.
I find that that the Basics method introduces new learning too quickly, without adequate time for concepts to really sink in and become second nature.
Check out my piano methods overview page for my thoughts on learning piano in general, and why I don't even teach traditional methods like Bastien any more.
Also visit the Piano Adventures page to read about the traditional curriculum that I like the best. :-)
In the end, the choice of a piano method is up to you. Many teachers you speak with will have preferences and favorites (just like I do) - and many teachers use a combination of methods! Just be sure you're comfortable with both your teacher and the method as you start piano lessons.
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