Piano Books and Anthologies
Play it again: PIANO Book 1, 2 & 3
Play it again: PIANO is a three-book piano course published by Schott Music. Intended for those returning to piano playing after a break, the course would also be useful for any teenage or adult piano student requiring a selection of progressive piano pieces to either study alone or whilst working with a teacher (piano teachers have found these volumes useful, too).
Book 1 features twenty-eight selected pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 4/5 standard. Each section contains seven piano pieces, and they are categorised as Elementary (Grade 1 – 2 level), Late Elementary (Grade 2 – 3), Early Intermediate (Grade 3 – 4), and Intermediate (Grade 4 – 5). Book 2 features twenty-one pieces from Grade 5 – 8 +). In Book 2 the first two sections, Late Intermediate (Grade 5 – 6) and Early Advanced (Grade 6 – 7), contain six pieces, and the final sections, Advanced (Grade 7 – 8) and Late Advanced (Grade 8 and above), contain five and four pieces respectively. Book 3 consists of eleven pieces with just two sections; Grade 8 – Post Grade 8 Diploma which has six works, and Post Grade 8 Diploma – Associate Diploma level, which focuses on five pieces.
Included in this series is a huge array of genres from Baroque music through to rock, jazz and improvisation, mostly selected from standard repertoire; each level includes an arrangement and a technical study. Every piece has copious practice tips and suggestions, with photos, diagrams and musical examples (from two up to ten pages, depending on the complexity of the piece). You can find out more, purchase copies and watch taster videos here. The books can also be purchased on Amazon and throughout many online outlets, as well as in shops around the world.
‘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!
Pianodao.com blog (May 2019)
The Faber Music Piano Anthology
This anthology, published by Faber (October 2016) consists of 78 pieces taking pianists from approximately Grade 2 ABRSM (elementary level) to Grade 8 (advanced). These pieces have been selected from Faber’s extensive catalogue.
A collection of core repertoire from many great composers, is presented in progressive order and contains famous works by well-known composers, as well as plenty lesser known gems. Presented in a luxury hardback edition featuring high-quality premium paper, page finder ribbon and ‘The Concerto’ linocut cover image by Cyril Edward Power, this volume would be the ideal gift for the keen pianist. Find out more and purchase here.
‘Melanie Spanswick brings together a delicious collection of short pieces carefully chosen according to progressive level, variety and concision, but happily non-dependent on exam syllabuses. For those who need new choices for practising and sometimes feel a bit daunted by the quantity of options, and unsure of their difficulty, it helps to solve the problem in one easy package.’
Jessica Duchen’s Classical Music Blog (recommended as one of the Top 12 Books for Music Lovers 2016)
‘Melanie Spanswick is a pianist, teacher and composer well qualified to make this selection. Teachers will love having all these pieces in one book, young pianists will be inspired by it, and it could give returning adult players a renewed love for the instrument. ‘
Music Teacher Magazine (January 2017)
‘Overall, this is definitely a collection to cherish! The Faber Music Piano Anthology contains a fabulous variety of great music, beautifully presented. It not only represents a rather wonderful Christmas gift, but will surely stand the test of time to become a treasured source of pleasure and piano-playing enrichment. A truly outstanding publication!’
Pianodao blog (November 2016)
So You Want To Play The Piano?
This book is intended for prospective piano students everywhere (as well as those who already play). It contains plenty of information about how to start playing; what instrument to acquire, how to select a teacher, piano books or methods, tips about posture, basic piano technique and how to practice and prepare for piano exams. There is also a chapter surveying music throughout the ages, with lists of composers and suitable piano music for beginners up to intermediate level.
‘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)
Simply Driven published by Schott Music, feaures in the Edition Schott Series. It contains a collection of 5 virtuoso piano pieces composed between 2018 and 2019, and they are intended for advanced pianists. Two of the pieces, Frenzy (already featured in Play it again: PIANO, Book 3), and Chasm are concert studies, focusing on a particular technical element. A further two works, Aisa: Silk, Sand and Love, and Enigma, are both power ballads, with a slightly sentimental feel, demanding a rich cantabile touch and plenty of pathos. The last work, Time, a larger piece, is a theme and set of variations.
The pieces were written for four wonderful female pianists who are all friends and colleagues; Aisa Ijiri, Yuki Negishi, Maiko Mori and Madalina Rusu, and each pianist has recorded their respective piece. You can hear them by clicking, here. You can purchase the score worldwide on various Amazon sites, including Amazon UK, and on Schott’s website, here (digital download or hard copy).
‘It has been a wonderful journey working with Melanie right from the beginning when we first met back in the summer of 2018. This piece draws inspiration from a true love story behind my name – Aisa, which means Love (Ai) and Sand & Silk (Sa). Melanie has captured my inner character so perfectly well, and I felt as if I was writing my own diary with my own words when I first played it. It’s a very beautiful, meditative, and also deeply romantic, piece.’
Aisa Ijiri – concert pianist, artistic director, and dedicatee of ‘Aisa: Sand, Silk and Love’ (March 2020)
‘For me, “Enigma” exemplifies the mysteries and magic of our world and lives – I was drawn to the atmospheric and dramatic sound world from the first time I played the piece, and I have been searching for the right sound balance, timing and tone throughout the process of making the piece my own.’
Yuki Negishi – concert pianist, artistic director, and dedicatee of ‘Enigma’ (March 2020)
‘I find “Chasm” very rewarding to perform. By achieving to play the notes scattered across the keyboard lightly and keeping articulation crisp, you will find a spectrum of dazzling colours flashing on the keyboard, and the constant change of meters enhances the excitement. It almost makes me feel like I am painting a picture with vivid colour pallete, which is utterly enjoyable.’
Maiko Mori, Concert pianist and dedicatee of ‘Chasm’ (March 2020)
‘I felt so incredibly honoured and beyond excited when I received the sheet music of “Time” from Melanie and I immediately had to read it through. I was fascinated by Melanie’s wonderfully pianistic writing, and found that it was a perfect fit for my fingers, but more importantly, I felt I could really identify with it musically and artistically, every note has so much meaning and darkness that I loved.’
Madalina Rusu – concert pianist and dedicatee of ‘Time’ (March 2020)
A String of Pearls
A String of Pearls was published by Schott in July 2019, and is a work for piano duet. Containing 5 movements, it was composed in 2017 for the Darina Piano Duo, who first performed it at a concert in Carlisle in 2018. Each movement depicts a different pearl, capturing its essence and characteristics. Intended for advanced players, Black Pearls and Pearl of Lao Tzu (movements 2 and 4) could easily be played by intermediate students. These short movements work equally well played separately or altogether, and they are perfect for recitals or festivals. You can find out more and purchase the volume, here and here.
‘I asked Melanie to write some music for me and my Piano partner Alla Levit (Darina Piano Duo), as we are currently collecting 4-hand piano pieces by modern composers. Melanie was extremely generous and wrote not just one but five pieces which she joined in a wonderful suite called ”A String of Pearls”. Melanie’s pieces are story-driven, picturesque musical descriptions of pearls that are also full of character. Darina Piano Duo has now performed the “String of Pearls” suite many times and in different venues across the UK and this music has always been very well received. It has been a stroke of luck to meet Melanie and we hope to continue our creative collaboration with her so we can perform many more of her beautiful pieces.’
Antonina Lax, Darina Piano Duo (September 2019)
‘Having performed ‘A String of Pearls’ by Melanie Spanswick four times over the summer at our festival PIANO WEEK, Maciej and I found these pieces energetic, contrasting and very rewarding to perform. Each movement evokes a different mood and as a result, they were interesting to learn, proving very popular with audiences both in the UK and Italy.’
Samantha Ward, Concert pianist and Artistic Director of PIANO WEEK (September 2019)
No Words Necessary
No Words Necessary (published in October 2018 by Schott Music) is a collection of 12 original piano pieces of intermediate difficulty that are easy to learn and great fun to play. Around Grade 3 – 6 level (of ABRSM or Trinity College London exam board standard), this selection includes beautiful melodies and inspiring harmonies which will paint vivid pictures in the player’s mind. Suitable for both young and adult pianists and perfect for lessons and concerts!
‘Where words leave off, music speaks’
German poet and writer Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856):
‘These are pieces which I believe could easily find their place in the intermediate player’s heart, combining easy-to-master patterns, melodic charm, and simple structural cohesion. They give players a vehicle through which to develop expressive, engaged playing. And with plenty of variety on offer, too, the collection offers good value. If you’re looking for a fresh collection of accessible contemporary pieces, do give this a try! Warmly Recommended.’
Pianodao Blog (December 2018)
‘Imaginative and appealing music. Each piece has a title which will provoke discussion, enable interpretation and stimulate the imagination. There is much to delight the teenage minimalism-loving intermediate pianist (and their teachers) here.’
Music Teacher Magazine (January 2019)
Snapchats duets and trios
Snapchats (published by 80 days publishing in May 2019) is a collection of original duets and trios intended for students from late beginner standard to approximately Grade 4 (ABRSM level). There are 19 duets (four hands at one keyboard) and 4 trios (6 hands at one keyboard) in this volume, and they are short, succinct pieces for those who want to explore the art of ensemble or simply improve sight-reading skills.
Broadly minimalist in style, these pieces are between 8 and 16 bars in length and they offer a wide selection of moods from expressive atmospheric works such as Sutra, Andante, Shanti Shanti and Joyful, to up-beat numbers like Quick Chat, Hopscotch, Samsara and Take Three. Whether you choose to play Snapchats for fun with friends or perform them in a more formal setting at a music festival or recital, they will no doubt offer a special and enjoyable experience.
‘Our students loved performing ‘Snapchats’ duets and trios. We scheduled a concert using these pieces. They’re quite simple and fun to play, and the chance to work in an ensemble improved each student’s listening skills significantly’.
Febe Warman: Director of the I-MEC and Cantata Music School, Jakarta, Indonesia (October 2019)
You can find out more and purchase the book, here.
Piano Waves (published in February 2016 by EVC Music) consists of 5 piano pieces intended for the intermediate student (Grades 4-6 level ABRSM). They were inspired by the sea, and contain a hint of minimalism. Find out more and listen to the pieces here.
‘This collection presents an inspirational, minimalist pianistic array of a mysterious & atmospheric underwater world. All would make lovely concert and festival pieces, providing pianists with a wonderful opportunity for expression, beautiful tone and colour. My favourite is ‘Waltz On A Sunken Ship’.’
British composer and educator, Heather Hammond (2016)
Digressions consists of 5 piano pieces intended for those of intermediate level (Grades 4-6 ABRSM standard). They are Minimalist and cinematic in style, are tuneful and comfortable to play and are published by EVC Music Publications (May 2015). You can listen to each piece and purchase them here.
‘The lyricism of Karma and dramatic nature of Digression, in particular, should appeal; the pianistic writing also promotes technical development’.
Pianist Magazine (2015)
Guest Articles, Compositions & Writing
Relax with Meditative Piano
Published by Schott Music in April 2020, this book, compiled by pianist and artistic director of PIANO WEEK Samantha Ward, is one of a series of anthologies focusing on various styles and genres of music. Relax with Meditative Piano contains 40 pieces written by a variety of composers, including many Contemporary composers, and each piece has been selected for its calming, tranquil character.
The volume features three of Melanie Spanswick’s piano pieces: Lost in Thought, Inflections and Walking in the Woods, which were originally published in the volume No Words Necessary.
Find out more and purchase, here.
The Ultimate Guide to Composing Your Own Piano Piece
It guides composers through a whole selection of suggestions and ideas offered by various contributors, with a section dedicated to composing a piano piece using an eight bar phrase, written by Melanie Spanswick.
You can obtain a copy by signing up to Pianist Magazine’s newsletter, here.
The London College of Music Examination Syllabus 2018 – 2020
Melanie co-wrote the performance notes for the new piano examinations syllabus for 2018 – 2020. My contribution includes writing practice notes for many of the pieces from Grades 1 – 6 level.
These afford a few helpful musical and technical practice ideas (all of which are printed alongside the musical score) for studying the pieces.
The notes have been written by four different piano specialists, and you can find out more here.
The Mindful Pianist
Written by British pianist, teacher, composer and adjudicator Mark Tanner, and published by Faber (September 2016), and one of several books in EPTA’S Piano Professional Series, this helpful volume quotes 25 respected pianists and pedagogues regarding different aspects of mindful piano playing, to which Melanie Spanswick contributed a paragraph.
You can find out much more about this excellent publication and purchase it here.
Rhinegold Piano Notes Series
Piano Notes Series 2015/6 (published by Rhinegold in January 2015) and Piano Notes 2017/18 (published in January 2017), are designed to assist teachers preparing students for ABRSM piano exams. They are comprehensive notes providing information about how to practice and prepare, and what to look for in each exam piece (as well as all the alternative pieces too). They have been written by five piano teaching experts: Murray McLachlan, Melanie Spanswick, Fiona Lau, Katharine May and Michael Round. Find out more here.