My book So You Want To Play The Piano? has been completely revised, hugely expanded and republished by Alfred Music UK.
You can purchase a copy from Amazon.
When I first wrote this book (back in the Summer of 2011), I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted to achieve; which was to help those who had never played the piano before to make important decisions about various crucial aspects at the start of their musical journey.
My original book was well received, but perhaps rather limited in terms of technical help regarding actual piano playing, practising and repertoire. The new version (or second edition) is very different! It is significantly larger, both physically (A4 size), and in terms of content. I have added several chapters transforming the book into a comprehensive volume, proffering tips and ideas for those of up to around Grade 5 or 6 level (or beyond).
The book consists of twelve chapters:
Chapter 1 – Why the piano?
Chapter 2 – Will I need a piano?
Chapter 3 – Finding a piano teacher
Chapter 4 – What qualities should I look for in a piano teacher?
Chapter 5 – Other considerations
Chapter 6 – Which piano method?
Chapter 7 – The first lesson, progress and words of encouragement
Chapter 8 – Piano basics
Chapter 9 – Piano technique
Chapter 10 – Piano exams
Chapter 11 – Piano music
Chapter 12 – Music festivals, competitions and public performance
Prospective students are taken on a journey from the very beginning, examining the reasons for playing, how to ascertain the best instruments for beginners (or those who may be looking to upgrade), and most importantly, to help locate and decipher the best or most suitable piano teachers (with copious tips for finding a good teacher, thus avoiding the bad habits accrued when piano study has been less than ideal), as well as discussing many other considerations which often crop up at the start.
There is a chapter on piano methods (or piano books for beginners), examining twenty-two piano tutor books in some detail (both familiar and new books) as well as a list of many further publications, with a section dedicated to supplementary educational methods (such as the Suzuki methods). Another chapter indicates what might be expected from the first few lessons, plus a chapter on piano basics, offering suggestions regarding posture, hand positions and how to avoid common errors surrounding rhythm and note learning.
Chapter nine deals with piano technique, which may be beneficial for pianists of all levels; topics include the importance of wrist movement, flexibility, finger independence (and how to achieve these), fingering, producing a good sound, phrasing, articulation, dynamics and pedalling.
Chapter ten addresses the whole subject of exams. This is a vastly expanded chapter, which begins by surveying all the British exam boards, as well as highlighting many of those in other parts of the world, evaluating the various levels (or grades) and syllabus components. I’ve written quite extensively on each component and how to prepare for piano exams (which could be as relevant to Grade one as to Grade eight). There are proposed practice ideas and tips for improving and working at scales, sight-reading and aural tests (as well as suggested practice material), and a (hopefully) helpful section which focuses on how to prepare an exam piece too.
Chapter eleven surveys piano music throughout the ages. Each historical period is discussed in relation to stylistic development; citing vital pianistic evolution and change (from approximately the 1500s) right up to music of the present day. There are lists of the most popular composers of the period, and recommended piano music suitable for beginners up to and including intermediate level.
The book finishes with a chapter on the role of music festivals, competitions and how to deal with public performance. There is also an appendix and suggested further reading. The book is littered with musical examples and photographs, as well as lists of recommended practice materials and a ‘5 points to remember’ box at the end of every chapter, summating the most essential and relevant chapter points.
I hope So You Want To Play The Piano? is a thorough guide for students and possibly also for teachers who are looking for extra resources or practice ideas for their pupils. Surprisingly, there a very few books on the market dealing with the topic of how to begin playing the piano – so it is my wish to help those interested to start in the best way possible.
You can order your copy here
‘What Spanswick has managed to produce is a concentrated tour-de-force that teachers can distribute to all their new piano students and supporting family members. Beginning with a succinct explanation of why the piano is worth learning to play, it continues with a whistle-stop survey and explanation of virtually everything that teachers need to clarify with their students and supporters! Thus there are chapters on the importance of owning a piano, types of teacherpiano methods. Progress ,basic principles of technique, exams, festivals and repertoire. I would suggest too that Spanswick’s book is excellent.
As a concentrated basic text-book for new and inexperienced teachers. It provides the first steps for further research and study, opening out pathways for future travel not only in the elegantly written text, but also in the concluding lists of recommended publications and websites.
A great reference book – and one that should always be placed at the ready for use in conversations with students and their parents!
Piano Professional EPTA; European Piano Teachers Association (Spring 2018).
‘This is an excellent book, a first-class introduction and guide to those wishing to learn the piano, full of sensible and practical advice and very well written by an experienced pianist and teacher.’
Musical Opinion (2014)
‘This is an excellent book for anyone who is interested in piano lessons for themselves or a family member. It is extremely comprehensive and includes everything you could possibly want to know about piano lessons. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book quite like this, and anyone considering piano lessons should use this book as a resource.’
Susan Paradis, Leading US Music Educational Writer and Teacher (2015)
‘This book is un-putdownable because Melanie says everything I have been wanting to say for a long time. I have come across lots of talented young pianists, and I often say to myself ‘if he/she had been taught properly at the beginning, he/she would be a much higher level by now.’ Melanie’s friendly and approachable but ‘no messing about’ direct mannerism is perfect for all piano enthusiasts. This is the kind of book we all need by the side of the piano! It has all kinds of information we need.’
Noriko Ogawa: Japanese International Concert Pianist (2015)
‘My first thought as I read this was ‘why hasn’t anyone written this before?’ It’s full of great advice for anyone wanting to take up the piano, anyone with children about to start to play, or even piano teachers at the start of their career. How on earth did the aspiring pianist manage without a clear volume on how to find the perfect instrument, what to look for in a teacher, things to bear in mind beyond playing the right notes, and how to support a child who is learning? Melanie Spanswick’s book delivers all this and more.’
Fiona Lau: Music Teacher Magazine (2015)
‘This book is good news for all involved in playing the piano.’
Dr. Sally Cathcart: The Curious Piano Teachers (2015)
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.