The piano is an intoxicating instrument. Those who have played in their youth often harbour a desire to return to it later in life. Piano ‘returners’ make up an increasingly large cohort of amateur pianists. Whether younger or older, it’s usually fairly easy to pick up again and progress can be swift, proffering the opportunity to fall in love with this majestic instrument (and its colossal repertoire) all over again.
My three-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO has been written with the ‘returner’ in mind. Book 1 takes pianists almost back to the beginning (but not quite; this isn’t a piano tutor or method book).
The entire course consists of 60 piano pieces, the majority of which are drawn from standard repertoire (with emphasis on pedagogical works), starting at elementary level (Grade 1) through to advanced (Associate Diploma). Each book has an extensive ‘technique’ section at the beginning, with plenty of technical reminders and practice recommendations, and a ‘theory’ section at the end (Book 3 contains warm-up excercises at the end). Every piece contains at least two or three pages of practice ideas and tips (running into five or six pages in Book 3), as well as many musical examples, diagrams and photographs. As this is a progressive course, it’s possible to ‘return’ to a level to suit your current standard; some may want to start at the beginning, which is what I suggest, as this can be beneficial, even your playing is at a much higher level, whilst others may prefer to ‘drop in’ at Book 2 or a later stage.
In Book 1, the technique section focuses on flexibility, posture, and keeping relaxed during practice sessions, with a few warm-up exercises, posture suggestions, and scales, arpeggios, and sight-reading practice tips. The theory section offers note reading reminders and exercises, how to keep time, time signatures, and all the information needed to understand the music within the book.
Book 1 and 2 is divided into four parts, and Book 1 looks like this: Elementary, Late Elementary, Early Intermediate and Intermediate. Although this course is not necessarily exam based, it’s helpful to know the approximate grades for each level; Elementary is roughly Grades 1 – 2 level (ABRSM exam standard), Late Elementary, Grades 2 – 3, Early Intermediate, Grade 3 – 4, and Intermediate, Grades 4 – 5.
Each level contains seven pieces (therefore 28 in Book 1); a technical study, an arrangement and a selection of standard repertoire. My brief was to include a wide variety of styles and genres, so there’s plenty for those who enjoy rock, latin, jazz, blues and even a piece for those who want to try their hand at improvisation. I’ve endeavoured to add a number of favourite original works throughout both volumes, and have balanced these with some terrific lesser-known gems.
The Elementary section includes works by Purcell, Petzold, Bertini, Tchaikovsky, Elgar (an arrangement of Salut d’Amour), a latin number by John Kember and Elena Cobb’s improvisation piece, Super Duck. Whilst the Late Elementary portion features Clarke, W.A. Mozart, Schumann, Gurlitt, a study by Schytte, a Scott Jopin arrangement and a rock piece by Tim Richards. In the Early Intermediate section you can expect to find works by J.S. Bach, Gounod, Chopin, a study by Lemoine, The Sailor’s Hornpipe (an arrangement), a ragtime piece by John Kember, and a blues number by Mike Readdy. And the final collection, Intermediate, offers Clementi, Burgmuller, Satie, a study by Czerny, an arrangement of Mozart’s A Little Night Music, a rock piece by Jurgen Moser and a minimalist inspired Contemporary piece (Karma from Digressions) by myself.
I’ve included the scale and arpeggio of each key (where appropriate), and warm-up exercises, tailored to certain pieces. There are a myriad of practice ideas, and different methods of breaking pieces down, re-assembling them with ease and with greater understanding. Each piece contains fingering, dynamic suggestions and (where necessary) some pedalling. Although you may choose to ignore this and add your own.
All the information provided for every piece is transferable to an infinite number of piano works, therefore building solid practical methods for tackling different styles and genres.
This book could be used by a plethora of students; adults returning to this pursuit (it could be useful for study on your own or whilst learning with a teacher), teenagers, or anyone of any age, who fancies a progressive course with a variety of music, and it could be used alongside piano exam preparation too. Piano teachers may find it a beneficial selection of repertoire to use with adult students in particular.
The pages are well laid out (see above) and are designed with ‘tips’ and ‘technique’ box-outs; the books are published by one of the world’s leading music publishing houses, Schott. I hope it’s an easy to use course, inspiring pianists to rekindle their love for the piano.
You can find out more here, watch my taster videos by clicking on the links below, and order your copy from many outlets worldwide, including:
For those in Europe: Schott Music
For those in the US: Amazon
For those in Canada: Amazon
For those in Japan: Amazon
‘These books are well-presented and contain plenty of sound and helpful advice for restarters.’
Pianist Magazine (November 2017)
‘What I really like, and as a teacher am grateful for, are the practical and straightforward tips at the start of the books and then preceding each piece. This enables the pianist to be independent and steers the teacher in the right direction. Highly Recommended!‘
Music Teacher Magazine (November 2017)
‘The content is insightful and engaging for adults who are independent learners. Teachers could use this collection as a model for how to systematically guide learners to independently apply appropriate practice techniques. Spanswick’s approachable and methodical tone is appealing and emphasizes musicianship.’
The American Music Teacher Journal (April/May 2018)
‘I’m a massive fan of these books and use them with students. BRAVO Melanie Spanswick! The new one (Book 3) too is fantastic!’
Karen Marshall, leading UK music educationalist (June 2019)
‘These new method books will be particularly useful for some of my adult students.‘
The Collaborative Piano Blog (October 2019)
‘Taken as a whole, one might regard Spanswick trilogy as as a ‘fast track’ progressive course for those who have had past experiences of the piano but want to get back to it, but for whom time might be an issue. I can immediately think of dozens of adult amateurs who will welcome Book 3 – players who have reached a certain stage in their lives and want to return to the piano without pedantically segmenting their practice into separate areas of study for scales, exercises, repertoire and so on.
The strength of Spanswick’s approach is her ability to unify many of the different elements that must be mastered to play with authority. Book 3 begins with excellent concentrated tips on posture, flexibility and alignment. There are reassuringly specific photographs and non-intimidating exercises. Repertoire is diversely contrasted, but always attractive, and is presented with excellent historical background notes, helpful technical tips, and other useful practice suggestions. A superb resource: strongly recommended.’
International Piano Magazine (July 2019)
‘From retracing the earliest steps in learning, right through to preparation for a professional diploma, Play it Again: Piano furnishes the adult pianist with a wealth of insight, information and inspiration. It is a genuinely useful, groundbreaking and to the best of my knowledge unique course, certainly deserving of a place in every pianist and teacher’s library.
It is abundantly clear that a huge amount of thought, work and expertise has gone into each and every element of these superb books, and it’s all paid off handsomely: Play it Again: Piano is simply one of the most brilliantly conceived and stunningly produced sheet music publications of recent years.
Writing reviews can at times necessitate an element of speculation, but this inspiring series has already passed the ultimate test: my own adult students love and are truly inspired by the first two books; the arrival of the third is welcome news indeed! Outstanding.’
Pianodao.com blog (May 2019)
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.