Learning Music: Using Method Books in Music Lessons

Article Written by Guest Author – Crystal Casey

Music method books are sets of learning books that are designed for learning specific instruments. These books often come in sets of two to four and are arranged by level. For example, each set may have a book for lessons, music theory, performance, and technique. These books are designed to be used together as a comprehensive tool to aid music and instrument instruction. Each set gradually increases in difficulty as it progresses, and each level is gradually more advanced than the last.  

From method books about piano to guitar to didgeridoo, there is a guide for virtually every instrument. There are also method books intended to be used for school marching and concert bands. These books come in larger sets written for each specific instrument in the band. The set will include material for clarinet, flute, trumpet, trombone, french horn, bass drum, bells, and so forth. Each instrument has its own separate instructions and staves, but all the books fit together in that they will have the same exercises and songs, so that the band can learn and play together.  

The content of the books varies by instrument, but in general, will include how to read music on the staff for the given instrument, general music theory concepts as well as theory specific to the instrument, instrument care, proper technique and posture for playing the instrument, technical exercises and warm-ups, plenty of songs that are designed to utilize new concepts as they’re introduced, and songs at the appropriate level that are ideal for student performances such as recitals and talent shows.

How Are Music Method Books Used?

Much like textbooks in school, method books for music lessons are used by the student learning on a daily basis at home and in music instruction with an instructor. The student purchases their own set of books and brings them to their lessons each week. The instructor then decides on the pacing of instruction with the material based on the student’s progress, and will assign each week’s homework from them. Homework usually consists of some technical studies to practice, a few songs to work on, and some music theory written work to complete. The instructor will guide the student in their progress, provide explanations and examples, let them know what they’re doing well and what they can improve, and answer any questions the student may have about the work. 

What Are the Benefits of Method Books?

Young boy taking guitar lessonsMethod books are beneficial in that they organize music instruction in a clear and logical order for both the student and the instructor with a format that feels familiar to anyone who’s attended school. They are tried-and-true tools used by the music teacher to aid in providing music education specialized by instrument. However, they do have their limitations, and using method books in music lessons is not mandatory. There is no perfect method that works for the variety of learning styles, and there are certain aspects of music education that simply cannot be learned from books. A good music teacher will understand the benefits and limitations of method books and incorporate them to the extent which they’re needed for each individual student. Instructors use them to varying degrees depending on many factors such as their own personal teaching style, the instrument to be learned, and their students’ level, age, learning needs, and musical goals. 

How to Decide The Best Method Books To Use? 

There are many method book brands out there, and most music teachers have a good idea of at least a small handful of publisher’s strengths and weaknesses. Teachers typically have their own personal preferences as well. There are old school books such as Czerny and Flesch. There are those that have become their own philosophical schools of thought such as the Suzuki, Orff, and Kodaly methods. And there are the basic go-to’s of the current generation, such as the Alfred Libraries and Faber Piano Adventures for piano, Essential Elements and Accent on Achievement for bands, or Hal Leonard for Guitar. 

Fortunately, parents and students need not make a decision alone. It’s usually best left to the instructor to consult on which are best. Forbes Music works with talented teachers well versed in music methodology, who can help assist in choosing the right music method books for you or your child. Since we all learn differently, there may be advantages in one style versus another. As with all the various resources available, the best books to use will be the ones that leverage your learning style, paced to your aptitude and aligned with your stylistic interests. A great music teacher, like those working with Forbes, will assess the individual student before making recommendations and can typically explain the reasoning behind their recommendations. Once the student has their books and a plan, it’s off to the races!


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