My recommended resources this month feature a mixture of both new and old. As always, they are aimed at a variety of levels and I do hope they will be of interest.
Beginners and elementary:
Traditional Hebrew Songs
Pianist, teacher and composer Rami Bar-Niv, has written eleven interesting and attractive arrangements of traditional Hebrew songs; great for those of late elementary or early intermediate level (around Grades 2 – 4 ABRSM level). Those wanting to explore different repertoire will enjoy this set, which includes Israel’s national anthem. The pieces have a distinctly folk music flavour as one might expect, contrasting lively articulated pieces with slower cantabile songs, which are fairly straightforward both harmonically and rhythmically. You can purchase them here.
Encore: Your Favourite ABRSM Piano Exam Pieces
I’m enjoying these new anthologies entitled Encore; Book 1 (pictured above) contains 21 pieces of Grades 1 & 2 standard, whereas Book 2 has 20 pieces of Grades 3 & 4 level. They are published by the ABRSM exam board, compiled by Karen Marshall, and highlight the most popular exam pieces over the past few decades. What’s not to like? Teachers are constantly looking for pieces to excite pupils (thus ensuring practice?) and works such as Strange Things Happen, Chattanooga Choo Choo (Book 1), Top Cat and Clowning Around (Book 2) generally do just that. They are perfect alternative pieces for those who don’t fancy taking an exam, or are just working at improving their playing. Purchase your copies here and here.
The Wheels of Time
Hot off the press, this new piece by well-known British composer Heather Hammond, is intended for intermediate level players of around Grades 4-6 standard. It’s the first piece of a set entitled Ballads without Words, to be published by EVC Music Publications. The relentless moderato tempo marking is indicative of the driving, energetic character. An attractive, dynamic melody is combined with effective meter changes, which provides continuous momentum and a syncopated feel. Great fun to play! Listen and buy the digital version here.
Mrs Van Der Blond
Many will be well acquainted with Elena Cobb’s compositions and her publishing company, EVC Music Publications. This piece, written by Elena, is for piano duet (four hands at one keyboard). It’s tuneful with lots of tonal variation and interesting harmonies, especially in the slow introduction. The upbeat second section is full of syncopated jazzy material, with more than a passing resemblance to the great George Gershwin! You can listen to this piece and purchase it here. Elena’s piano method, My Piano Trip To London is also now back in stock, and can be purchased here.
Improve Your Theory! Grades 4 & 5
Following on from Grades 1, 2 & 3, a new Faber Music publication this month is Improve Your Theory! Grade 5. Improve Your Theory! Grade 4 (pictured above) was published last month too. Paul Harris’ ‘Improve Your’ books are hugely popular and it’s not difficult to see why. They are superbly set out, and easy to understand. Each book takes students comfortably through all the usual elements required for each grade, and they are constructed around Paul’s Simultaneous Learning ideology which has proved extremely successful. There are ‘facts’ boxes, workspaces, the opportunity to make connections between theory and piano pieces being studied, and copious explanations and practice examples. Get your copies here and here.
Game of Thrones
I’ve already highlighted Jarrod Radnich’s impressive, virtuoso arrangements and medleys which many advanced students enjoy playing. This one has been written to coincide with the popular Game of Thrones. Always demanding technically (Radnich does provide easier versions of his transcriptions), and full of powerful chords, rapid passage work and octave figurations, students (and professionals) love the keyboard run-around these pieces provide. Liberace eat your heart out! Listen here and purchase the score here.
How To Teach Piano Successfully
This isn’t a new book, in fact it’s many years old, written by James W. Bastien, and is published by Neil. A. Kjos. Some might say it is ‘out of date’, but, I’ve been researching for a project over the past couple of months and have really enjoyed dipping into this volume. It’s a very useful manual for prospective teachers, although students, and all those interested in piano playing, might find it beneficial. From repertoire suggestions (for every level), to interviews with esteemed pedagogues, there is lots to enjoy here. You can buy your copy by clicking on this link.
101 Piano Practice Tips
This e-book is designed for parents and all those involved in a child’s piano practice, however the advice can apply to anyone learning (or interested in learning) to play, whether that be students, teachers, or parents and grandparents. Written by Tracy Capps Selle, the tips are brief and succinct, and can be implemented immediately. They are organized in sections with various headings, and provide a myriad of practice possibilities. Highly recommended. It’s on special offer all weekend too, and you can get your copy here.
Piano courses come into their own at this time of year, and there’s still time to book a place.
33rd BKA International Summer School
This Summer School is run by the highly regarded British Kodály Academy from August 9th – 15th 2015, and there are still a few spaces left. Tutors are from both the UK and Hungary (where the famed Kodály method originated), and provide classes for instrumental and classroom methodology, choir and musicianship training, as well as conducting and chamber music. Many teachers love this method which focuses on introducing listening, singing and movement to young children. To find out more, click here.
Piano Festival and Master Classes in Ponte Del Lima
EPTA Portugal is holding a piano course from July 18th – 25th 2015. The classes are given by pianists Paulo Oliveira and Luís Pipa, in a beautiful house in the oldest village in Portugal, Ponte de Lima, with swimming pool and tennis court, including meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The piano classes are for those between the ages of 16 and 35, but there are spaces for those who would prefer to listen too. A piano festival is also taking place at the same time, so there will be plenty of things to do. Find out much more here.
For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of 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.