Jazz Piano for the Young Beginner
2005 / Mel Bay
Review by Kathy Parsons
In the course of his teaching, Misha Stefanuk has found, as I have, that most piano students respond much better to contemporary music than a steady diet of the classics. He has also found that jazz is embraced universally. In his search for suitable teaching materials, Stefanuk found that most of the beginning jazz instruction books were either too difficult or sounded too simple, so he started composing easy instructional pieces for his own students to learn. He put thirty of those pieces together in the order of difficulty and recorded them onto a CD that is also included with the book. Intended to be a supplemental book for first or second year students or adults wanting to start playing jazz, the layout is excellent, and the pieces are varied and fun to play.
The book begins with several pages of valuable information about how to select a piano, the correct posture for playing, identifying the notes on the keyboard, hand position and finger numbers, basic rhythms and time signatures, and a glossary. The first nine pieces are written in the C major position, allowing the student to play by number and focus on the rhythms, which are very basic and straightforward, but sound good. The next nine pieces are based in that hand position, but there is a little bit of movement outside the position, so students should be capable of reading those notes to recognize the changes. The next twelve pieces are at a more intermediate level. If a student is interested in learning jazz from the beginning of lessons, I would suggest, perhaps, one piece per week from this book so that the student can grow into the more difficult pieces. One of the things I especially like about the book is the emphasis on rhythm and the importance of counting and sensing the pulse. Syncopation is introduced, and styles such as ragtime, blues, swing, and boogie woogie are all represented. The CD is excellent for ear training, and would make it possible for a teenager or an adult to do a self-guided “tour” through the book without the help of a teacher. Mr. Stefanuk has done piano teachers and students a real favor by putting this book together, and I plan to use it with my students. Very highly recommended!
April 2, 2005