This month’s selection of piano resources falls at a time when teachers and students are all preparing for the new academic year. There’s a definite air of excitement, expectancy, and purpose as the Autumn nights draw in. I hope you find this list of music, books, courses and online resources, both helpful and interesting.
Beginners and elementary:
OK, so this is really just for fun, but was brought to my attention on one of the Piano Teacher forums on Facebook (if you are a Facebook user and teach the piano, perhaps consider joining one of the many groups. There’s always plenty of banter as well as exchange of ideas). This bookmark is manufactured by Macdonald Publishing, and is ideal for youngsters who need regular musical prompting! It’s a fun and eye-catching reminder of notes, musical terms, dynamics etc.
Playing with Colour
This piano method (which has been introduced over the last few years), as suggested by the title, employs the use of colour. I’m not a big advocate of playing by colour, but it can be useful for small children and this method looks like lots of fun. Written by British teacher Sharon Goodey and published by Alfred Music Publishing, there are three volumes in the series and the student will experience coloured notation from page one, using numbered staves as well as clear graphic illustrations for the right and left hands, so making music starts immediately. There are also many recognisable little tunes, and all fundamentals (rhythm, ear training and improvisation etc.) are built-in gradually. Find out about Playing with Colour here.
Grand Duets for Piano
American composer and teacher, Melody Bober has written this very effective series of piano duets which are aimed ‘with the beginner student in mind’, or those of elementary level (around Grade 1). They are published by Alfred Music Publishing, and are colourful, tuneful and comfortable to play. Whilst straight forward, the duets are detailed in terms of articulation, dynamic, and musical markings, enabling students to learn these important elements. There are eight pieces in this book and many books (of varying levels) in the series. Buy your copy here.
Three Highland Sketches
British teacher and composer David Barton has written these attractive pieces. They could be great alternative pieces for those ‘between grades’, preparing for festivals or a school concert. They are around Grades 5/6 standard, and they aim to capture something of the Scottish people, their history and the country’s landscape. Each paints a different picture from a lilting lullaby to a heartfelt lament. The sketches consist of the following pieces. Scots’ Lullaby, Scottish Folksong, and Highland Lament. You can listen to the pieces and purchase a score here.
Chopin – Liszt – Hiller; Easy Piano Pieces with Practice Tips
This new collection is published by Schott/Universal Edition. It’s part of the Urtext Primo Series, which is selected and annotated by German pianist and teacher Nils Franke. The volume consists of thirty-five little pieces for the intermediate player (Grades 4-6), by Chopin, Liszt and Hiller. The Chopin group contains all the perennial favourites, but the Liszt and Hiller works are real treasures, proving that Liszt did write simpler, but equally beautiful pieces. Ferdinand Hiller (born in Frankfurt, in the same year as Liszt; 1811), was a pianist, composer and teacher, and his works are tuneful, and full of Romantic inflection and nuance. This selection would be a great addition to any pianist or piano teacher’s library. I particularly like the useful practice notes which appear in German and English. Highly Recommended.
Piano Technique in Practice
A new publication written by British pianist and professor Murray McLachlan, published by Faber Music for EPTA UK (European Piano Teachers’ Association). This is the second, more detailed book in the series, dealing with the most effective ways to practice the piano. Having read the first book (The Foundations of Piano Technique), I was eagerly awaiting this volume. And it does not disappoint. Murray deals with literally every aspect of technique and performance practice. In four parts; Listening and Rhythm, Sound, ‘S’ x 4 (Speed, Strength, Stamina and Security), and Assimilation Techniques, there are copious helpful tips, musical examples and lots of very useful exercises too. Practice details are explained in a clear to understand, yet careful and concise manner (which is crucial for a book such as this). I particularly resonate with the constant adherence to listening to ourselves as we play, and very helpful advice about piano tone and sonority, and how to produce it effectively. Highly recommended. Get your copy here.
A new update of the app InTune has just been released. It is apparently the only app available for testing and honing pitch discernment. InTune is the product of 25 years of research by Daniel Kazez, an American cellist and professor of music at Wittenberg University. The app promises to test your ability to hear very close pitches, ultimately improving your singing and capacity to hear pitches correctly. It also encourages competition with friends via a Game Centre, all promoting improvement and excellence by means of enjoyment. Find out more and download here.
Tido is a new concept in online learning, and is a platform designed to immerse students in a world of classical music study. Interactive scores of the great masterworks sit alongside guidance, support and content from the world’s leading music publishers. Tido helps you find the next level in the music you love – all on your tablet. The full interactive experience includes sheet music, practice tools, exclusive content, musical context, video tutorials and recordings. You can find out much more about the new service here.
Russian pianist, teacher and composer GéNIA is launching a new Piano-Yoga® Club in London. The Club will provide an opportunity to learn in-depth about the Piano-Yoga® method (devised by GéNIA). Taking place in the heart of London at Schott Music, it will run every first Wednesday of the month starting September 2015 at 7pm – 8:15pm using the beautiful Steinway B provided by Steinway & Sons. Practical exercises for pianists and a short presentation from GéNIA followed by a Q&A session, will be a regular feature. Participants will be able to discover specific details about piano technique, learn strategies for efficient practice, get tips on dealing with stage fright and how to keep relaxed during their practice amongst other aspects. To book and find out much more click here.
Piano retreat with Rami Bar-Niv
American Israeli pianist, teacher and composer, Rami Bar-Niv, runs a piano retreat in beautiful upstate New Year, from Oct 11-17 2015. Entitled Rami’s Rhapsody Piano Camp for Adults, all levels are welcome, from beginner students to professional piano teachers. You receive daily private lessons with Rami, daily master classes, practice time, recital participation, group stretches/exercises, great company, and fun. Subjects addressed at camp include: injury-free techniques, efficient fingering, interpretation, anxiety-free performance, sight reading, ensemble playing, memorization, and more. Find out much more 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.