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I have been playing piano for a few years now, and am what you would probably call an 'advanced player'. I can play some pretty big pieces, but even so, I STILL come back to this book once in a while an play a tune or two from it! I have tried several other piano books, but this is the best beginner book I have ever found, and the one that taught me how to play. Take note: I had NO prior experience playing piano before I tried this book, unless you want to count tinkering around once in a while on a tiny, 20 key keyboard.
It all started when my brother began taking piano lessons in primary school. He had a fantastic teacher and she assigned this book to him for starters, because she had faith that he could learn fast, and because it's something she's been using for years (that teacher later left and the new teacher also used the Alfred books). I wanted to learn piano too but didn't really want to take lessons, so I listened to what my brother learned from the tutor, but mostly, I looked through the book, practised, and learned to play better than I ever had just by reading through the book and taking my time mastering each song (a little friendly competition between me and my brother didn't hurt either ;) ). Before I knew it, we were through the book, could play every single song perfectly, and could even read notes. We eagerly pushed on to Alfred's Basic Complete Level 2/3 (also highly recommended), which is more challenging, has even more fun songs, and is overall an even better book that we both learned an enormous amount from. I still have never had a single formal piano lesson, but have progressed to level 5, and am planning on getting level 6 (the final book) as soon as possible. The wonderful piano teachers who used this have also had great success with their students.
The book itself is lively, easy to read and to follow. It has a bunch of colourful pictures that don't interfere but add to the book, making the songs even more fun to play. It isn't filled with boring diagrams or note charts, but instead has quick, easy to understand, and very useful notes about, well, notes, as well as hand positions, musical terms, etc. As one reviewer said, it DOES start you off playing with each hand separately so you can get the feel for it, but rapidly progresses to using two hands.
Overall, it starts you off slow and easy, but progresses you fast after you've gotten the grasp of it. At the same time, you learn many of the essential principals you'll need to play even more advanced music. If you are a very beginning beginner, I would still highly recommend this book, even though it says "For the later beginner". As I said, it teaches you fast, but if you have absolutely NO experience with musical instruments or are a slow learner, I would recommend getting another one of Alfred's beginning courses.
This book is for ALL ages, whether you're 1 or 100. If you're an adult just starting piano, don't hesitate to use it! If you have a 3-year-old who likes music (ALL toddlers seem to like music), get them a small keyboard and let them tinker around with it. If nothing else, they'll at least like the colorful, fun pictures in the book. If you think you can handle learning at a faster pace, get this book. If not, get it anyways, and get one of the earlier beginner books - you can STILL learn from it! The fun doesn't stop there: once you have a basic grasp on how to play, there's no limit to the music you can find - the internet is chalk full of beginner to advanced songs for free! Try 8notes for free beginner music. We found some really fun free music at Gilbert DeBenedetti's site.
Even if you're not the music book type, print out a few songs and try to play them: you'll be very pleased with the result!
You can follow my lead and self-teach yourself, or find a good tutor. It just depends on what you're like and how fast you want to learn. You can still learn fast on your own if you have the determination!
Whatever book you use, if any, piano is a GREAT starter instrument, and I can't recommend it enough. If you're stressed, angry, or sad, play an instrument. Even if it's a garbage can drum, making your own music, no matter how "bad" you think it is, is about the best good-for-the-soul stuff you can ever ask for.
Happy playing! :D
*Please check out my customer image for a guide to all the Alfred books and in which order to use them - I helps a LOT! :)