Level 0 is better known to music teachers as “melody only”. This means that only the melody (what a person would sing/hum if they were to sing the song) is played. Both hands are being used and a student is expected to start getting used to all the notation such as quick notes, holds, louds and softs, rits, repeats, etc. Given that the melody is being played, Level 0 allows students the chance to play their favorite songs immediately!
The Pre-Harmonies Level consists of 14 songs designed to transition young beginners (7 years and under) from Level 0 to Level 1. At this age, children can struggle to develop bimanual co-ordination and read more traditional treble-and-bass music notation. The Pre-Harmonies level is designed precisely to address these hurdles: songs are organized by level of difficulty in order to slowly build coordination and phase-in new music notation. For young students, working through this book can save the student, teacher, and/or parent a lot of headaches and frustration.
Level 1 is titled “beginner harmonies”. A harmony is a supporting set of notes that complements a melody creating a more full-sounding song. In this level students are introduced to ideas like playing notes with both hands simultaneously and chords (playing two notes with the same hand). This level is designed to be accessible to early learners, while teaching them to play more complete versions of popular songs.
Level 2 is known as “intermediate harmonies” because it is an extension of the ideas that Level 1 introduced. The chords that both hands are expected to play go from two notes at a time in Level 1 to three, four or even five at a time. Students also learn musical techniques like patterns and fills (notes that are played to fill space while the melody is holding a note or not playing at all). In this level the rate at which students progress accelerates so that in a matter of months they are playing intricate and complex songs.
Level 3, “advanced harmonies and rhythms” requires all hands on deck! The songs in this level incorporate very complicated techniques and are designed to require two to three weeks of consistent practice to master. The concepts introduced in this level include:
1) Playing distinct three-, four- or five-note chords in quick succession
2) Keeping a steady rhythm on the left hand while the right hand plays most of the melody
3) Changing hand positions quickly and fluently
4) Irregular timing (the technical term is syncopation) in which the left-hand notes play in between right-hand notes and vice versa
Though challenging, Level 3 builds on concepts learned in Level 2, such that within a year students can play piano at a level that can take two or three years to achieve in more traditional learning methods. Since music theory is embedded within the Opian curriculum, by the end of Level 3 the student is much farther along than they realize!