Lately my favorite go-to book for teaching technique has been the Dozen a Day series. My teachers did not use the series when I was learning to play, so I had been unfamiliar with this staple literature until I was introduced to it in graduate school (way back in the early 2000’s). I still didn’t start using the series until just a few years ago after going through old piano books and re-discovering what I had in my collection.
I started out slowly, only trying the books out on a few students at first until I figured out if I really wanted to incorporate the books in a comprehensive way and until I figured out how to teach these little exercises well.
But once I started in, there was no turning back. I can see clearly why these books have stood the test of time and why teachers continue to use them. These little exercises are gems. These are some of the reasons I love them:
- They are repetitive. I assign 1-3 new exercises a week, depending on the difficulty of the exercises. Since it takes an average student about 4-5 weeks to complete one group, the beginning exercises of each group are played over and over again for 4-5 weeks. The exercises are also repetitive in the fact that you see the same exercise repeated in another group but at a slightly higher difficulty.
- The Mini Book does a great job preparing students to play steps and skips, introducing legato/staccato and two-note slurs, changing fingers on a single note, and beginning the practice of turning the thumb under scale-style.
- The Preparatory Book builds on the Mini Book by extending the teaching of the scale, introducing major and minor sounds, beginning chromatic scale studies and expanding the teaching of broken chords into arpeggios.
- Book One begins to teach spatial awareness at the piano by extending the range of registers in which the student plays. The book also builds upon the concepts taught in earlier books.
- The books comprehensively cover so many technical aspects, including: intervals, various rhythmic units, legato/staccato, two note slurs, chords and inversions, chromatic scales, C scale in parallel and contrary motion, arpeggios, pedaling
- The books are excellent for transfer students who may not be up to speed on reading or technique. They provide a terrific way to reinforce reading skills and/or technique without having a student perceive they are “going backwards” by taking out easier material.
- You can easily teach relational rhythmic values in the exercises containing quarter notes followed by eighth notes followed by sixteenth notes.
While I haven’t used Books 2-4 extensively in lessons, I look forward to introducing them to my advanced students and also using them with my younger students as they grow into them.
Do you use the Dozen a Day series? Feel free to share your comments and ideas!