Volume 1 of the First Piano Book introduces the different note values from whole notes (or semibreves) in Part I to eighth notes (or quavers) in Part IV. By introducing the note values one at a time in this way, I hope to help the student gain a direct understanding of the relationship between the different note values through the experience of playing real music, rather than through theoretical concepts. The 64 pieces in this volume allow the student to gradually acquaint themselves with the different note values and gain confidence in reading the rhythms those note values can create. They are also playable using just two fingers (one in each hand) eliminating the need to remember complex fingerings (something many beginners struggle with) without needing to limit the music to just a few notes in close position, which is the traditional approach to writting beginner piano music.
Part I: Whole Notes
The sixteen pieces in Part I have been composed using whole notes (semibreves) only. Learning these pieces will allow the student to practice their pitch reading without the extra burden learning to read rhythm at the same time - since all notes are the same length. These pieces are deliberately slow in tempo to allow students time to find each note on the keyboard as they play, thus enabling them to reach full tempo quickly and easily. Learning these pieces will also help the student to get comfortable using the sustain pedal.
Part II: Half Notes
In Part II, half notes (or minims) are introduced. Here the student plays a melody made up of half notes and whole notes in one hand while the other hand plays whole notes and tied whole notes only. The hand playing half notes alternates between the left and right hands from one piece to the next so the student is able to gain equal experience playing half notes against whole notes with each hand.
Once again, the pieces in this set are deliberately slow in tempo to allow the student time to find each note on the keyboard. However, with shorter note values than those in Part I, the student will begin to gain a little speed in moving around the keyboard. There also are further opportunities for the student to practise using the sustain pedal in this set.
Part III: Quarter Notes
Part III introduces quarter notes (or crotchets). In these pieces the student plays in one hand a melody using any of the note values learnt up till now (whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes) while the other hand plays a single repeated note, consisting mostly of whole notes and tied whole notes. Now that the note values are becoming shorter, the tempo of these pieces will feel much quicker than the pieces in Parts I & II. Having one hand play the melody while the other hand plays a single repeated note means the student can keep their eyes on just one hand (the hand playing the melody) allowing them to adjust more naturally to playing in quicker tempos. Just like in Part II, the role of each hand alternates from one piece to the next, givng the student the opportunity to develope each hand equally.
While the pieces in Parts I & II where played legato (using the sustain pedal), the pieces in this set typically have a staccato character and are play mostly without the pedal.
Part IV: Eighth Notes
The final part of Volume 1 introduces eighth notes (or quavers). The pieces in this set follow the same format as those in Part III with one hand playing a melody and the other playing a single repeated note. The addition of eighth notes in these pieces allows for some more complex and interesting rhythms and provides the student with an opportunity to develop a little more agility moving around the keyboard.