Monday, August 10, 2009

Review: Noona Comprehensive Piano Library

If you're looking for a new method this fall, I'd like to suggest one that I consider one of the better ones even though it is less well known: The Noona Comprehensive Piano Library. I use a variety of methods in my studio, the Faber Piano Adventures, Alfred Premiere, and Piano Town, but this one is my go-to method for a particular kind of student. This method has not been on the shelves of any of the music stores in the many towns I've lived in. I learned about it as the result of another online review and subsequently gave it a try. So, if you've had experience with it, I hope you'll post your thoughts in the comments. It's really helpful for other teachers!

Walter and Carol Noona are the authors of this series which is published by Heritage Music Press. The Noonas have published several piano methods, so it can be a bit confusing to sort through all of the Noona options. In addition to the Noona Comprehensive, there's the Noona Basic, the Noona Clavier Method, the Noona Digital Method, and the Noona Music Magic for early beginners. The teacher's dilemma at deciding which to use is worsened by the fact that the publisher has not made page shots available for viewing online, and even the online descriptions at the publisher's site are minimal. I believe that it's worth ordering at least a level's worth of these books to have them in your library and get to know them as another option for your students. I've used and liked the Clavier method and the Music Magic, but for brevity's sake, I'll limit this review to the Comprehensive method. (Incidentally, I'm not getting any affiliate kick-backs here - I just really like this method.)

The Noona Comprehensive Piano Library includes six-levels, beginning with a "Starter" book and continuing with Level 1, 1+, 2, 3, and 4. However, the Starter book can be replaced by either or both the Noona Music Magic Pre-Primer and Primer. The Pre-Primer is a pre-reading book which can be skipped, and the Primer is geared for younger beginners (age 4-7). So, you have three points of entry to choose from before you move into Level 1. Each level includes a "Lesson" book, "Playing With Sound" book, "Complete Performer" book, and beyond the Starter level, each level includes a duet book for two equal parts. "Playing With Sound" is more than a theory book; it also includes sight-reading and ear-training and suggests creative ideas for, well, playing with sound! "The Complete Performer" is also more than just a solo book. I love the way it addresses technique with short exercises followed by a solo which utilizes that particular skill. The pieces are recital-worthy. At Levels 1+, 3, and 4, there is a supplement called "Keyboard Skills" which includes scales, pentascales, etc. There are also MIDI disc accompaniments for the various levels.

Reading is taught with a combination of Guideposts, intervals, and middle C approaches, and I have found it to be highly effective without creating "position problems*." The pieces are highly musical, fun to listen to and fun to play. Beyond the mere mechanics of playing, the Noonas weave in good thoughts about how to play musically. Consider these "thoughts about melody" from Level 2:
A melody is created from a chain of intervals. This "golden chain or thread" should be followed and projected throughout the piece of music. Connect each deep legato melody tone to the next as you shape the dynamics of the melody. The softer accompaniment serves as a background for the melody.

Nice, huh?

I've included a photo of a portion of a page here (Level 1, pg. 30-31) because I know that it's very important to me that the illustrations support the music, not overwhelm it, and at the same time, look appealing and colorful. Noona does all of that with illustrations that do not look dated.

So, who do I choose the Noona Comprehensive series for? It's a favorite of mine for the student who is a quick study. I often transfer a student into it when I see that he may soon grow bored with a slower-paced method. These books are shorter than average, but content-dense. It's one of the few methods where I actually use of all of the pieces without skipping any. There's no unnecessary repetition. By the end of Level 1, the student is playing eighth notes, dotted quarters, accidentals, and in the keys of F and G Major. This is a great method for that student who is a beginner at age 7-9 or who is particularly bright.

To sum up, this is indeed a "comprehensive" method. I love the musicality of the pieces, the musical insights, the structure of the books, the quicker pacing, and the fact that it gets students into other key areas early. I think you'll find it an excellent choice for bright students.

*"Position Problems" is my name for a syndrome that is widespread these days. The student has learned to read mostly with finger numbers, does not know the names of lines and spaces, and the first thing he says when he looks at a new piece is "What position am I supposed to be in?"


Cathrine said...

Thanks for your good blog, and this post. Now I'm more interested in teaching Noona Comprehensive. Do you think it is a relatively straightforward course, relatively easy to teach from? Thanks, again.

Laura said...

Thanks for your comments, Cathrine. I do find this method to be very straightforward and easy to teach from.

LETULM.B,CK.;,;''KKLO said...

I just started using Noona Comprehensive this winter with a 2nd grader, and I'm with you: I love it. I keep asking the little girl what she thinks of the music, and she says she likes it. I like the fact that it doesn't dumb-down technique and theory for the kids.

Most Happy Girl said...

I have been using the Noona Comprehensive Piano Library for over 15 years. My students love the variety of the pieces. I love how the concepts are presented. And I especially love how real pieces by major composers start showing up by Level 2. Kabalevsky has some wonderful pieces for children that the Noona's include, and by Level 3, they are playing early Beethoven, Bach, and Haydn, just to name afew.

Anonymous said...

My soon-to-be 6 year old wants to learn and the Music Magic books seem just about right, but I can't figure out what to order. The review says I can skip the pre-primer and just get the primer before moving on to level 1. I'm seeing "Music Magic Primer Workbook", "MM for the Young Performer Primer", "MM Playing With Sound Primer", and most confusing, "MM Piano Lessons Primer LeverI" (yes, I spelled that the way it is in Amazon"). HELP!

Laura Lowe said...

Hi, Anonymous,

Each level of Music Magic contains three books: a lesson book, a performance book, and a workbook. Playing with Sound is the workbook, "for the young performer" is the performance book, and "piano lessons" is the lesson book.

Laura Lowe said...

P.S. to Anonymous,
I'd use all three for well-balanced lessons.

Dorothy said...

I have The Adult Pianist 2. Would like to find 1 & 3. A 12yo boy enjoyed much of this Noona.

Laura Lowe said...

Dorothy, they are available on Amazon. Search in books for Noona Adult Piano.