I have attended many presentations by Mona Rejino over the years. Mona is a piano teacher as well as a composer with the music publisher Hal Leonard. Recently at the MTNA conference Mona gave me a tour of her new theory course, Essential Elements Piano Theory, and discussed her motivation in writing this series.
Mona said that when she was a student she did not understand how completing theory pages would make her a better musician. With that in mind, she set about writing a theory course with a bridge between theoretical and practical.
Each paperback book in this course is the size of a method book with about 40 pages. Level One starts at the very beginning, learning the alphabet letters on the keyboard.
My first impression is that this series is written by a piano teacher who understands what students need in beginning theory. Concepts are presented sequentially, moving right along with no busy work. The layout is clean and uncluttered. Since there are no age specific graphics on the page, it can be used with older beginners who often need to learn a lot of theory quickly. While the series is not directed at the preschool age group, music students vary widely in their abilities and the font in level one is large enough for first graders. There is even an online Teacher’s Answer Key on the Hal Leonard website.
There are 8 units in each book. Each level contains three Musical Mastery sections where students work on ear training, answer questions, as well as analyze a short piano piece that they can also play. For example, after unit eight, students study Yankee Doodle and analyze theory concepts they have learned. As a bonus, they can play Yankee Doodle. In this way, theory becomes more meaningful.
As the series progresses, the analysis in the Musical Mastery section is more detailed. In addition, students learn, in a gradual way, improvisation, transposition, chord progressions, and reading lead lines.
Here are some ideas on ways to use this course:
- In theory classes
- Summer music camps
- Preparation for the Texas State Theory Test
- Other theory examination programs
- Teaching improvisation and reading lead lines
- A supplement to any method book
- Home school music classes
Essential Elements Piano Theory is published by Hal Leonard. At the present time there are 4 levels and I hope there are more to come!
Disclosure: I received a teacher reference copy at the MTNA convention. The opinions are completely my own.