My recommended resources have finally appeared on the last day of this month (my Birthday!), and I hope there are some useful and interesting selections of piano music, books, online resources, and piano courses.
British composer Ben Crosland has written many piano pieces for young players, and his compositions have been included in the Trinity College of Music Examination syllabus (including the current 2015/7 syllabus). His latest offering, Easy Beans! contains 32 Progressive Studies in Popular Styles. Published by Editions Musica Ferrum, the pieces are around Grades 2-5 standard (ABRSM and TCL level), consisting of completely contrasting styles. This will be helpful and interesting to both students and teachers, who not only like variety but will also appreciate the progressive nature, encouraging pupils to tackle increasingly complicated repertoire. You can listen to a selection of works here and purchase the score here.
Digressions: 5 Piano Pieces
My own piano pieces were published earlier this month, and it has been an exciting project. Entitled Digressions – 5 Pieces for Piano, and published by EVC Publications, the pieces are approximately Grades 4 – 6/7 standard. My aim is to provide an alternative to the ‘jazzy’, pop, easy listening or musical theatre genres which regularly appear for less experienced players. Mature amateur pianists sometimes feel less comfortable playing these styles, so my pieces are intentionally Minimalist, tuneful and meditative. They fall easily under the hands and can be played individually or as a set. You can listen to each piece here and purchase them here.
Rock & Soul Styles
A great collection for those wanting to explore lighter repertoire. Written by John Kember and published by Schott Music, the volume includes 18 pieces of around Grades 5/6 standard. Nine pieces are in a ‘rock’ style , whilst a further nine, in a ‘rock ballad and soul’ style. Bright, lively tunes, many with a strong rhythmic pulse plus copious syncopation, provide lots of opportunity to relish piano sonority. Chord symbols are also written in the score. Purchase here.
Rains for Solo Piano
Written by British composer Jenni Pinnock, whose works are heavily influenced by nature and the natural world, Rains is a beautiful contemplative piece for those of approximately Grade 6 standard. Composed in August last year, and lasting around three minutes, it was inspired by summer rain falls. A gentle, meditative flow forms the anchor of the piece, over which a singing melody floats. As torrential rain ensues, the music increases in volume, texture, power and difficulty before the gentle flow of rain returns, slows and finally stops. You can hear and purchase this piece here.
This online resource was devised by Australian teacher Tim Topham, who runs a popular blog and who specialises in teaching pop music, particularly for piano teachers. PianoFlix is a series of eight videos; Tim takes prospective pop players and teachers through various methods, via different tools. The first two videos are free and full of helpful advice. Many find teaching pop styles challenging, and this resource provides masses of information, practice techniques and ideas, and repertoire suggestions. For much more information click here.
Technique Trainer 1: Purrfect Practice
Australian piano teacher Jackie Sharp has written this extremely beneficial and detailed guide enabling piano students to develop a perfect technique. Technique Trainer 1 is the first in a three-part series of technical and musical exercises, presented systematically in order to hone ‘the foundations of a competent technique’. This book contains copious drawings relating to hand positions and posture (which are effective and easy to comprehend). Piano playing ‘Dos and Don’ts’, wrist movement, and forearm rotation are carefully explained with many musical exercises and bonus learning activities for the student to assimilate. There are also links to video presentations. You can purchase the e-book here.
A Piano Teacher’s Guide to Creative Composition
Written by Carol Klose, this guide cleverly breaks down compositional techniques, allowing teachers to deliver them in bite size chunks in lessons, devoting just a few minutes of lesson time to composition. The book is essentially structured in five sections; preparing the foundations, exploring compositional components, outlining a composition, how to plan a lesson, and putting finishing touches to a work. With a book such as this, teaching composition to piano students won’t seem so daunting. Purchase the book here.
Joy of Piano at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire
The Joy of Piano conference is ideal for pianists and piano teachers who would like to enhance their teaching skills and discover new and exciting ways to inspire and motivate their students. An excellent opportunity to meet fellow piano teachers as well as observe presentations and master-classes. Guests include Joanna MacGregor OBE, Paul Harris and Christopher Norton.
There will also be presentations given by Ben Andrew, Head of Keyboard at Stowe and Simon Dearsley, Director of Music. The conference will take place in the Chung Music School at Stowe School, Buckingham on June 13th, and you can find out lots more here.
Julian Jacobson and Mariko Brown at Jackdaws
Jackdaws is a music education trust providing short residential courses in the tranquillity of the English Somerset Countryside. Expert instrumental and vocal teachers offer their advice and tips to small groups over the period of a couple of days. This course, featuring pianists Julian Jacobson and Mariko Brown, focusses on playing duets, and will be held from 3rd – 5th July 2015. Players are invited to attend as a pre-formed duo or solo (where they will be teamed with another like-minded soul!). This will no doubt be a fun and inspiring event and you can book here.
For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.
You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.