Weekend Competition: Piano by Ear


Piano by Ear is written by Lucinda Mackworth-Young, and published by Faber Music. It’s released for sale TODAY! So one lucky competition winner will have a hot-off-the-press copy.

Lucinda has written a very detailed and practical book designed to help pianists of all ages and all standards (although probably for those of Grade 3/4 or early Intermediate level and above) become confident playing by ear. The book is in a workbook style format (see photo below), taking pianists through suggested improvisations, accompaniment for songs,  and ultimately playing by ear. It’s perfect for those preparing for the ABRSM Practical Musicianship exams. There are over 125 useful pages full of suggestions, ideas and logical, practical help. Certainly a beneficial volume for teachers and students everywhere.


I have one copy to give away, so as usual, please leave a suitable comment in the comment box at the end of this blog post, and I will select a winner on Sunday evening (British time). Good luck!

Alternatively, you can purchase a copy here.


9 Top Recommended Piano Resources for July 2015

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This month’s recommended resources include a mixture of piano music, text books and courses. Hopefully I’ve featured something of interest for all levels and abilities. Enjoy!

Beginners and Elementary

Floating Snowflakes, I Like Bananas, & Martians Come to Town


Three new pieces written by American composer and teacher Dr. Julie Knerr are published by Piano Safari. Piano Safari is an increasingly popular method for beginners and these little pieces reinforce the method book teaching. They are essentially duets for pupil and teacher, providing excellent practice for students as well as the much-needed confidence playing with a teacher bestows. The primo parts are written on one stave, and they are all jolly, tuneful, upbeat pieces that pupils will enjoy. You can hear and purchase them as either a print or digital copy here.

Famous & Fun Deluxe Collections

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Piano teachers are always searching for ways to keep students engaged and interested. The Famous & Fun Deluxe Collections arranged by American composer and teacher Carol Matz and published by Alfred Music Publishing, helps teachers do just that, by providing arrangements of pieces which students love and are motivated to practice! Each book contains a mixture of well-loved selections drawn from the entire series. In the “Deluxe Collections,” you’ll find pieces from “Famous & Fun”: Pop, Classics, Favorites, Rock, Duets, and Pop Duets. The series ranges from Early Elementary to Intermediate. Learn more and purchase here (Amazon UK here).



A shameless little plug for my new duet for those of around Grades 2/3 level. It’s a prelude to a collection of 10 duets I’ve written intended for those of Grades 2-4 level (late elementary), to be published in September. The challenge was to write a set of duets with each one lasting no longer than eight or ten bars (measures)! Not an easy task. They have a Minimalist flavour and are, I hope, enjoyable and fun to play. You can hear Andante and purchase the piece here.


Ballads Without Words


Last month’s recommendations included British composer Heather Hammond’s new piece, The Wheels of Time.  Heather has now completed her collection of eight pieces for piano (published by EVC Publications). As the title suggest, these works are all lyrical, with attractive tunes and poignant melodies. They are ideal for pupils who want to play something different between exams and for those who like to explore essentially jazzy harmonies and syncopated rhythms. Around Grades 5-7 standard (Intermediate/late Intermediate), Listen and purchase Ballads Without Words here.

Babylon & Lavender Mist

Babylon and Lavender Haze

These very effective pieces, written by British composer and publisher Elena Cobb, are designed for those of around Grades 5/6 standard (intermediate level). Babylon is a dark, dramatic work with an arresting theme, coloured by chromatic harmonies, using plenty of bass notes which ring out right from the outset. Listen to Babylon and get your copy here. Lavender Mist has an essentially jazzy, bluesy feel, with copious colourful chordal progressions moving up and down the keyboard, and a laid back pulse. Listen to Lavender Mist and purchase here.

Arietta and Nuit d’etoiles


American composer and teacher Rick Robertson, has written a whole library of works for the piano. Arietta and Nuit d’etoiles are late intermediate level pieces (for Grades 5-7), and are both melodically interesting and eminently playable. Nuit d’etoiles (Starry Night) reflects impressionistic colours with ‘Ravelian’ sweeps and a dreamily expressive melody. Listen here and get your copy here. Arietta consists of bold thematic material, which is split between the hands, and accompanied by chords, building to a resounding climax; this is a passionate, beautiful piece. Listen here and get your copy here.


Lotus Preludes


The Lotus Preludes, which are a set of 24 short pieces, were composed by Ecuadorian-American composer Alexander J Leon. The works are short, effective and will certainly be of interest to pianists and teachers. Exploring a wide variety of emotions, they range from fairly straightforward to complex pieces. The composer says; ‘Each work in the set is a character piece, exploring a variety of feelings, moods, and motivic material. Each piece is short, trying to play with the sensation that the piece ends before the listener’s attention span is depleted. As a result, the listener is sort of “shocked” that the piece has ended, and consequentially desires to hear more. The work as a whole is hence like a sort of musical popcorn, in which the listener takes small bites and doesn’t want to stop eating.’ Listen to the pieces here, and download your copy for FREE here.


Piano by Ear


A very useful new volume, Piano By Ear is written by British teacher Lucinda Mackworth-Young and published by Faber Music. Learning to play by ear and improvise is often a colossal task for Classical pianists (particularly for students), and it still often remains a largely ignored topic in piano lessons. This may be partly due to lesson time constraints, but it’s also up to teachers to inspire and ignite interest. Lucinda carefully paves the way for success; starting with playing by ear, through to suggesting appropriate tunes, possible chords, chord structures, cadences, accompaniments, practice ideas, and various scale patterns and harmonic progressions. It’s the perfect book for those preparing for ABRSM Practical Musicianship exams (I wish I’d had this book when doing my Grade 8 Musicianship exam!). Going beyond exams, it could really help teachers wanting to diversify and those wishing to feel confident playing without the score, extemporising or even composing. Piano by Ear is available to pre-order now and to buy from 30th July.

Piano Courses

Jackdaws Courses 2015/6


I’ve written about Jackdaws Music Education Trust’s renowned courses before here on my monthly recommendations. This coming year (2015/6) features many piano expert teachers, each offering a weekend piano course with a plethora of workshop sessions. Set in Somerset (UK) in beautiful surroundings, you can study, meet liked-minded people and enjoy excellent home cooked food. I’m honoured to be amongst this year’s tutors and my  course takes place from 23rd – 25th October 2015. It includes eight workshop sessions and all meals. However, you can also choose to study  with a whole array of fabulous teachers including Graham Fitch, Philip Fowke, Margaret Fingerhut, Julian Jacobson, Timothy Barratt, Mark Tanner, and Elena Riu.

Friday Freebie: Andante for Piano Duet


As a prelude to my forthcoming set of piano duets for late elementary/early intermediate players, today’s Friday competition is actually a freebie. I’m hoping the new duets will be published in September and my challenge has been to write very short pieces (8-10 bars) for those of Grades 2-4 standard. It’s amazing just how tricky it is to say something musically interesting (hopefully) in just 8 bars!

Andante is a tuneful duet for students (or anyone) of around Grade 3 level. Built on the Minimalist idea, I hope it’s fun and convenient to play. It could also be useful sight-reading material for those of a slightly higher level too. To collect your free download and to listen to the piece (which I will be recording soon), please go to Elena Cobb’s Facebook Forum Discussion Page and join (click here). Elena runs a perpetually expanding forum for piano teachers, students and all those interested in learning to play, and to benefit from many discounts, competitions and free downloads, you need to be a member!

Andante is now available to purchase for £2.60 from EVC Music Publications. Check it out here.


Piano Course at Jackdaws Music Education Trust

Jackdaws Music Education Trust

I’m delighted to be invited to hold a piano course at Jackdaws Music Education Trust later this year. Jackdaws has a wonderful history and tradition, and is renowned for its instrumental and vocal courses, education projects, young artists programme, and performances by world-class musicians. Situated near Frome in Somerset, Jackdaws is set in exquisite countryside. There are a whole range of courses on offer and many are residential. You can find out all about the Education Trust here.

My piano course will begin on Friday 23rd of October at 6.30pm and finish on Sunday afternoon on the 25th October at 4pm. It consists of eight concentrated sessions throughout the weekend, providing ample opportunity to work on many aspects of pianism.

I will be focusing on piano technique, memorisation and sight-reading. These are topics I often offer for courses, as I believe they are frequently neglected. However, there will also be plenty of time for more traditional workshop fayre; where each pianist plays a prepared piece and we work on it in a master class format. Therefore we ask each participant to bring two short  pieces of their choice (however, your pieces do not need to be polished or performance ready).

The weekend will commence with sessions on evaluating and honing technical freedom at the piano, with full class participation. This will be followed by plenty of tips and practical guidance on memorisation, again with class participation, and the course will finish with sessions on sight-reading, and a final opportunity to work on chosen pieces.

This piano course is open to any standard or level of playing, and there are a maximum of ten places (several have already been reserved). The fee for the  course is £200 for the entire weekend, to include all meals except breakfast (there is a selection of B&Bs to choose from if you would like to stay nearby). To find out more about the course, and for booking and registration (which is now open) click here – I’m really looking forward to meeting you.


The Winners: Improve Your Theory! Grades 3, 4 & 5


A big thank you to all who took part in this weekend’s competition. With over 50 comments, I think it’s fair to say there are many Improve Your Theory! fans out there!

The winners are: Vera, who wins Improve Your Theory! Grade 3, mfrgolfgti wins Grade 4, and Vicki Spooner wins Grade 5. Many congratulations! Please send me your addresses via my contact page here on the blog, and I will pop the books in the post tomorrow.

For those who haven’t won, there will be  many more competitions here on my blog over the coming weeks, so stay tuned….


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Friday Competition: Improve Your Theory! Grades 3, 4, & 5

20150705_083625This is the second competition featuring Faber Music’s Improve Your Theory! books, written by expert educator Paul Harris. I know many of you enjoy these competitions, and If you recently entered for the Grades 1 & 2 competition, you’ll be pleased to hear this weekend you have a chance to win Grades 3, 4 & 5; three books for three lucky winners!

These volumes are designed to prepare students for theory exams (such as those by the ABRSM) and provide a wealth of information on all aspects of theory. They are useful additions to any music library.

To take part, just leave a suitable comment in the comment box at the end of this post and I will select the winners on Sunday evening (British time). Good luck!

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The Piano at the BBC Proms 2015

The BBC Promenade concerts are upon us once more. This Spectacular Summer festival is celebrating its 120th anniversary, and it’s enjoyed by music lovers around the world. I’ve written about this inspiring concert series here on my blog for the past few years, and each year the variety, diversity and selection of music, concerts and artists expands significantly. Many question the idea of presenting anything other than Classical music, but by developing, changing and introducing many different genres, the BBC has simply made this impressive festival a much more attractive proposition for those who would probably not attend this type of event.

The Proms commence on Friday 17th July 2015 and showcase eight weeks of concerts, talks, workshops, family events and more, ending with the famous Last Night of the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The majority of the events are held at the Royal Albert Hall, but Cadogan Hall and the Royal College of Music also play host too, as well as The Proms in the Park performances which are held around the country. With over 75 concerts, plus many lectures and other events, the selection on offer is amazing; jazz, pop, rock, rap, swing, musical theatre, cabaret, words and music, film music, educational music, family concerts, and of course, classical (and a few I’ve probably missed!) features this year, and all are broadcast on BBC Radio 3. The list of artists is, as one would expect, world-class, but young performers have also been given an opportunity to shine as well.

With so many appealing programmes to choose from, selecting can be tricky! So here is my brief survey of concerts featuring the piano as soloist.

The Proms kicks off with a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K.466 played by German pianist Lars Vogt (Prom 1). Mozart’s late concertos are a feature this year, and this piece is sandwiched between works by Nielsen and Sibelius (both celebrating their 150th birthday years), and Walton and Carpenter.

Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes will enjoy a three concert residency (Prom 9, 10 and 12), playing all five Beethoven Piano Concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, with whom he has worked with over the past four years. The performance of all five Prokofiev Piano Concertos (Prom 14) in one night has to be a highlight. Played by three towering pianists, Daniil Trifonov, Sergei Babayan, and Alexei Volodin, who will appear with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev.

French sisters, Katia and Marielle Labèque, return to the Proms for a performance of Mozart’s dramatic Concerto in E flat major for Two Pianos K 365 (Prom 18), continuing the Mozart theme. Prom 22 features another late Mozart concerto, No. 26 in D major K 537 ‘Coronation’ played by Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi and the Aurora Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Collon. Prom 29 is a Ravel dominated programme including the composer’s beautiful Piano Concerto in G major, played by French Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, conducted by Nicholas Collon and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

BBC Young Musician 2914, Martin James Bartlett, returns to the Proms performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Eric Whitacre (Prom 32), and Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by François-Xavier Roth, for a performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. (Prom 36). Scottish pianist, Steven Osborne is soloist at Prom 38, in Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony which will no doubt be captivating.

Argentinian pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim joins Guy Braunstein (violin), and Kian Soltani (cello), for an account of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C major accompanied by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (Prom 44). More Mozart in Prom 45; Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major K. 482, played by celebrated Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit.

The late concerts (which start at 10.15pm) look interesting and are the perfect way to extend your evening; Hungarian pianist András Schiff’s account of J S Bach’s towering Goldberg Variations is not one to miss (Prom 50).

American pianist Jeremy Denk will play a recital at Cadogan Hall as part of the Chamber Music Series, and he will also play Henry Cowell’s Piano Concerto in Prom 60 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Denk’s solo programme includes Sonatas by Bartók, Scriabin and Beethoven (Proms Chamber Music 6). Pianist David Fray (Prom 53) continues Mozart’s late piano concertos with a performance of Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor K 491 (conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen with the Philharmonia Orchestra).

Prom 61 showcases Chinese virtuoso Yuja Wang, who plays  Bartok’s formidable Second Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Russian pianist Igor Levit will play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major K. 595 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian (Prom 63), and Prom 66 sees the return of Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida who will play Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.

Prom 76 (the last night), features British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor who will play Shostakovich’s sparkling Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop.

The performances I’m looking forward to are Prom 57; Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires is soloist in Mozart’s exquisite Piano Concerto in A major K. 488, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bernard Haitink. And Prom 70, which is a Russian feast; Rachmaninov’s ever popular Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op.18 will be played by Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted Yuri Temirkanov.

Quite a selection, as I’m sure you’ll agree, and I’ve not really mentioned the many chamber music concerts.  If some events are already sold out (and many are), you can listen on Radio 3, or become a ‘Prommer’ and queue for promenade tickets (a bargain at £5!). See you there!

Find out more here: www.bbc.co.uk/proms

Watch the official Proms launch film here.

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Video Performance Competition featuring Karma

Poster Karma compAs many of you will know, my five piano pieces, Digressions, were published recently by EVC Music Publications, and publisher/composer Elena Cobb is very kindly running a fun competition this weekend on her own Facebook forum, focusing on one of the pieces. To take part, simply join Elena’s publishing discussion forum (click here) and download my piece, Karma (the third of the set), then video either yourself or a pupil playing the piece (which can easily be done using your phone etc.) and upload the performance to the forum.

The prize is £25, and of course the opportunity to appear as part of Elena’s increasingly popular forum. It has been wonderful watching and listening to the entries so far – they are all excellent, beautifully played and so different too, as I’m sure you will agree – you can hear them by clicking on the five links below. I’m delighted my pieces are being performed and enjoyed; Digressions have received some great reviews on Amazon, and many lovely comments from teachers and students.

Fortunately, neither myself or Elena are judging this competition! The winner will be decided by you; the video with the most ‘likes’ (on the Facebook forum as opposed to the YouTube videos) will win. The closing date is Monday 13th July. So please get ‘liking’!

By joining Elena’s publishing discussion forum, you’ll be able to keep up to date with our events, new piano compositions and composers, plus many free offers too. Meanwhile, over to Ksenija, Jana, Lorraine, Janelle and Pierre-Emmanuel – thank you all for playing my piece.

Please note; performers appear here in the order their videos were originally posted on the forum.

Ksenija Vojisavljevic plays Karma

Jana Poljanovskaja plays Karma

Lorraine Liyanage plays Karma on the harpsichord

Janelle Lutz plays Karma

Pierre-Emmanuel Poublanc plays Karma

Improve Your Theory! Grades 1 & 2: The Winners…

And the winners are...

Many thanks to all who took part in my competition this weekend, and for the many lovely comments about my blog too – they are much appreciated. With well over forty comments, Improve Your Theory! is clearly destined to be a popular series of theory books. Unfortunately, there could only be two winners today.

Many congratulations to Ann Pepper who wins Improve Your Theory! Grade 1, and to Lynn Dinkle who wins the Grade 2 volume. Please send your addresses via the contact page here on my blog, and I will pop the books in the post tomorrow.

If you didn’t win, don’t despair! Next week I have Improve Your Theory! Grades 3, 4 and 5 to give away! Therefore, there will be three winners in the next competition; watch our for my Friday competitions which are now a regular feature here on my blog.

For more piano information and updates, please ‘like’ my blog’s Facebook page.

See you all next week!

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Friday Competition: Improve Your Theory!


A Friday often denotes a competition here on my blog, and today is no exception! There are two prizes, and therefore two lucky winners. You will probably be aware of Paul Harris’ very popular series, Improve Your Theory! At present, there are five books in this series (Grades 1 – 5), and they have all appeared in my monthly recommendations.

I have a copy of Grades 1 and 2 to give away. Published by Faber Music, Improve Your Theory! is designed to provide practical help and assistance to all those who desire a straightforward method to study the theory of music. The books are beautifully laid out and are based on Paul’s Simultaneous Learning ideology. You can  purchase them here. If you’re not familiar with these books, this is the perfect opportunity to explore what they have to offer.

As always, leave a comment in the comment box at the end of this post to be in with a chance of winning, and I will announce the winners on Sunday evening (British time).

PS. I hope you like my new look blog?