Recommended Piano Resources for March 2016

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As March draws to a close, here’s a round-up of useful piano resources. Hopefully there’s something for everyone including a new piano method, a sight-reading collection, piano pieces, as well as a tempting piano course and an inaugural piano festival. Enjoy!


Beginner/Elementary

Lang Lang Piano Method

Lang LangNew to the market this month, the Lang Lang Piano Method (published by Faber Music), consists of five volumes and is designed to take youngsters from the very beginning to around Grade 1 level (ABRSM exams). The brightly coloured publications feature a cartoon character of the Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang, and take beginners (the method is aimed at those between the ages of 5 – 10 years) on a journey of piano discovery.  Musicianship is developed through theory quizzes and games, as well as the chance to hear Lang Lang playing a range of piano repertoire. The books are accompanied by online audio tracks, including performances of the concert pieces by the popular piano star himself. Find out more here and purchase copies here.

Funkey!

Funkey

Banishing onerous sight-reading tests will be simple courtesy of this series! Written by British teacher Lindsey Berwin and published by Kevin Mayhew, the set consists of five books, and level 1 begins at approximately Grade 1 ABRSM standard. Each short piece is designed to develop a students awareness of key. A variety of styles have been implemented including rock, swing and latin, and the books have a useful accompanying CD. These publications will ideally help pupils to incorporate regular practice in this area, improving rhythmic awareness and crucially, the ability to play fluently. I encourage my students to obtain many different sight-reading books within each exam grade (irrespective of which they plan to prepare for), therefore a series such as this will be most beneficial. Get your copies here.

Intermediate

8 Children’s Pieces for Piano

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Celebrated British composer Malcolm Arnold’s highly evocative and colourful 8 Children’s Pieces for Piano have been republished in a new edition by Queen’s Temple Publications. They range in difficulty from about Grades 2 – 6, and represent a wonderful set of imaginative and fun pieces to learn, play and perform. Melodious, often dramatic, and with interesting and occasionally unexpected harmonies, they are audience and young pianist friendly. Titles include Dancing Tune, Two Sad Hands, Across the Plains and The Buccaneer. You can find out more and purchase your copy here.

Intermediate/Advanced

Piano Kaleidoscope

Baerenreiter Kaleidoscope V11 Front

This new volume, published by German publisher, Barenreiter, is a special edition; a mix of classics at an affordable price, featuring a cross-section of Bärenreiter’s extensive piano catalogue. The pieces and movements range from the 18th century through to the first decades of the 20th century.  Fifteen composers are represented in this edition, from J S Bach and Schubert through to Debussy, Satie and Smetana. The pieces also vary in national style and are fairly wide-ranging in terms of technical difficulty, although many are intermediate (grades 5 – 6) level. You can find out more and order your copy here.

Online

TomBooks

newsletter-enTomBooks is a new type of e-book combining text, images and audio content in an innovative manner. The goal of these books is to ‘immerse the reader in a world of culture, music and art through an interactive, multi-sensory approach’. TomBooks’ first editions are dedicated to music and painting: biographies of composers, interactive music scores, galleries and games linked to painting, and books dedicated to works of art.  The majority of the books involve a dedicated network allowing readers to communicate with each other by means of a platform created for each book. The piano music ranges from pop and musical theatre, to classical and film music, and various accompaniments are also available. You can explore the piano music here.

Courses

The Miami International Piano Festival Academy

Miami

This course offers an intensive summer programme designed to explore the Art of Piano Playing. Distinguished teacher Giselle Brodsky is artistic director of this three week session, which takes place from July 3rd – 24th 2016 in Miami. The Academy provides pianists with the opportunity to take part in intensive private and open lessons with international master artists and teachers. There will be opportunities to participate in technique clinics, enjoy discussions with the faculty, and explore the world of different composers and specific repertoire, as well as learn  to improvise, strengthening skills as performers. You can find out much more here.

Festivals

London Piano Festival

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I enjoy spotlighting new piano festivals and this one looks most innovative. The London Piano Festival takes place at King’s Place in London in October 2016, and has been created by pianists Katya Apekisheva and Charles Owen. Their shared love of the instrument has initiated this weekend especially for the city’s many piano lovers. The music will range from Bach, Busoni and Rachmaninoff through to Messiaen and Piazzolla. A particular highlight will be the world premiere of a new two-piano work by the American composer Nico Muhly. performers include Alfred Brendel, Kathryn Stott, Noriko Ogawa, Julian Joseph, Stephen Kovacevich as well as Katya and Charles. You can find out much more here.


My publications:

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.


Recommended Piano Resources for February 2016

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This month I’ve discovered a whole raft of new piano resources and materials, and met various composers, music educators and publishers. I will endeavour to include as many discoveries as possible in my monthly list over the coming months! Here is my round-up of practice ideas, sheet music, online resources and piano courses. I hope you enjoy reading.


Beginner/Elementary

Practice Starter Cards

CardsPaul Harris’ Simultaneous Learning concept has proved highly successful, and the Practice Starter Cards, published by Faber Music, provide a fun and imaginative extension to this approach. Launched at the Music Education Expo event in London last week, they are great way to begin piano lessons (or any instrumental or vocal lesson). Simply select a card, and follow the instructions on the back, to create a variety of lesson activities. The cards focus on different elements, such as scales, aural, improvisation, rhythm and sight-reading, and each suggestion encourages students to think for themselves, making connections between all aspects of musical learning, as well as proffering an entertaining and creative addition to lessons. All levels could benefit, but especially elementary and intermediate. Find out more and purchase here.

A Pirate’s Escape

Piano Safari offer a very popular piano method and a variety of materials to supplement this, with many useful primary pieces which are excellent for beginners and elementary players. A Pirates Escape, written by Christopher and Katherine Fisher, is essentially a duet for teacher and pupil, and will appeal to young students. Considered a late elementary piece in the key of D minor, it features a hand over hand arpeggio, and a rather dramatic coda with harmonic fifths.

The Graded Piano Player

Graded playerThis new series seeks to offer pianists a wide range of popular tunes, written as effective arrangements within a graded framework, which is similar to that of the major exam boards. Published by Faber Music, this series extends to three progressive volumes, from approximately Grades 1 – 5. A collection of well-known tunes and songs arranged by Alan Bullard, Ned Bennett and others, the selection includes favourites by Disney, as well as TV, film, pop, folk, jazz and musical theatre numbers. Great for use between exams, or independent learning, as well as sight-reading for more advanced players. Children, teenagers, and adults will all find something to enjoy here, and these books will give teachers the opportunity to offer their pupils an alternative to classical pieces.

Intermediate

Frost

frostThis piece, written by Jenni Pinnock and published in January 2016, effectively depicts the cold, biting sentiment. Serene and striking, Frost was inspired by the beautiful carpet of ice crystals left across the landscape. The composer writes, ‘although it may be a danger, it makes the world sparkle in a magical way, leaving glinting frosty spiders webs and icy plants for us to admire’. I enjoyed playing this piece through; it calls for atmospheric, evocative colours and would be perfect for those wishing to develop a larger tonal palette. You can listen to the piece and purchase a copy here.

Advanced

London-Paris

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Russian pianist, teacher and composer, GéNIA, has written a collection of compositions which are a fusion of Classical crossover and Minimalism. The pieces have recently  been published as sheet music, and she performs them frequently around the country; they are also played regularly on Classic FM and in Cafe Nero. London-Paris is my favourite, and it was inspired by frequent trips taken on the Euro-Star to Paris, where the composer often works. You can listen to this piece and purchase GéNIA’s sheet music here.

Online

Online Piano Academy

Graham's pic 1 for blogPianist, teacher and writer, Graham Fitch is introducing a new Online Piano Academy. It is designed to be the complete resource for anyone learning to play the piano, irrespective of their level. Building on Graham’s e-book series and popular blog, Practising the Piano,  the Academy will be a comprehensive library of lessons, masterclasses and resources combined with insights from other leading experts. The Academy will be funded by an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and readers are invited to support and help shape the online resource. You can find out more here, and support the project here.

Musica Piano

HOME_main_logoThis is a new iPad app for classical music in scores, audio and video. Musica Piano offers free online access to copious classical music scores by Könemann Music Budapest and other publishers. This app comes with a whole collection of recordings by renowned artists in audio and in video. The recordings are synchronized with the scores, and are called Syntunes. The Könemann Music Budapest scores have been available in print since the 90s and have been academically edited mostly in Urtext quality.   The complete piano works of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Haydn, Brahms, Skryabin, and many more, are at your disposal wherever you are, provided you are connected to the Internet!  You can register and find out more here.

Hoffmann Academy

HAOM-color-web-RGB-croppedThe Hoffman Academy is an online resource for parents and students, enabling them to access piano lessons from their homes. These lessons are 5 -10 minutes, created by Joseph Hoffman and are free of charge. There are extra activity pages, sheet music, and mp3 files, which can be purchased for download alongside the lessons. Hoffman’s lessons are inspired by Suzuki and Kodaly methods, as well as from his own child development research. In addition, piano teachers and educators also favour using the Hoffman Academy materials in their own private practices. You can find out much more here.

Courses

The Dublin International Piano Festival and Summer Academy

DublinThis festival is gaining popularity and is considered the leading programme of its kind in Ireland, attracting students and audiences from all over the world to Dublin for a nine days of lessons, masterclasses and performances. The programme offers an intensive educational experience for advanced piano students as well as an exciting concert series open to the public. The Summer Academy gives young pianists a unique opportunity to explore the possibilities of a career as a pianist, to work with the faculty, and to excel in piano performance and technique, while enjoying everything Dublin city has to offer. Eighteen participants will enjoy daily practice sessions, lessons and masterclasses, seminars on topics such as performance psychology from experts in the field. The dates are 23rd – 31st July, and you can find out much more here.


My publications:

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.

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Top Recommended Piano Resources for January 2016

Badge Graphics Draft 3As we wave goodbye to January (how is it possible already!?), my blog celebrates its fourth Birthday! Mulling over the past four years, I can’t help observing just how much my life has changed; this website has given me the opportunity to meet many interesting pianists, teachers, composers, publishers, and writers. It has expanded and shaped my life in ways I could have never imagined, for which I’m extremely grateful.

January brings a crop of varied piano resources from sheet music and books, to online products and courses. I hope there will be something to interest everyone.


Beginners and Elementary:

Music Me Piano Practice Time Notebook

RobertaThese notebooks have been designed by Roberta Wolff and are a fun and useful addition to piano lessons; they are suitable for young learners everywhere. Music Me Piano Practice Time notebook features an all-in-one style practice page with keyboards, manuscript, cycle of fifths and up to six different practice activities per week for your student to explore. The pages are interactive, involving your student as well as  supporting their practice. For a free trial pack and to place your order, click here.

Composer’s Choice: Glenda Austin

Glenda AustinAn interesting, innovative series published by the Willis Company, featuring various Contemporary composers. This book introduces eight pieces by American composer, arranger and pianist, Glenda Austin. The collection includes six of Glenda’s favourite pieces through the years, as well as two brand new ones composed especially for this series. Titles: Betcha-Can Boogie • Jivin’ Around • The Plucky Penguin • Rolling Clouds • Shadow Tag • Southpaw Swing • Sunset Over the Sea • Tarantella (Spider at Midnight). The volume contains helpful performance notes too, and I enjoyed reading through each piece, which will introduce students to a variety of modern, Contemporary styles. Educational music at its best! Purchase your copy here.

Intermediate

5 Pieces for 5 Left Hands at One Piano

Mike CornickBritish composer, Mike Cornick’s latest addition to this popular series for numerous players at one piano, published by Universal Edition, is for 5 left hands. This is, by all accounts, a fairly unusual combination! However, I’ve used this series on many occasions when running my sight-reading courses and students really do enjoy playing these volumes. Entertaining for the audience and fun to perform, each piece encourages pianists to listen, interact with each other, and above all, become accustomed to ensemble playing.  A second copy of the score is included for easy reading in performance and free downloads of the single parts are available to make practising at home possible.  Intended for those between Grades 2 – 5 level (early Intermediate), you can find out lots more here.

Advanced:

Virtuoso Transcriptions Piano Transcription Series

VirtuosoPianoTransBackPublished by Schott Music, this is an excellent collection of favourite works, all arranged for piano, and, as the title suggests, in a virtuoso manner. For those who enjoy a good romp around the keyboard, there are many works from which to choose, from musicologically significant transcriptions to interesting modern arrangements. I particularly like Paganini Jazz and Alla Turka Jazz, both written by Fazil Say, but there are also works arranged and transcribed by Franz Liszt, Glenn Gould, Olli Mustonen, Marc-André Hamelin, Percy Grainger, amongst others. There is definitely something for everyone in this series which celebrates the piano in all its glory! You can find out much more here.

Books:

So You Want To Learn To Improvise? and So You Want To Play The Piano?

Books by AlfredThis series has been written by Andrew Higgins and myself, and published by Alfred Music.  Andrew’s book focuses on developing improvisation technique; there are plenty of written instructions and explanations throughout, to guide students.  Much information is proffered, and those who digest this book thoroughly will surely be on the way to honing excellent improvisational skills. My book is intended for prospective students and beginners everywhere; those who want to know the best ways to begin learning to play. It may also be useful for anyone considering becoming a piano teacher. There is a myriad of information; from which instrument, teacher, and piano method is suitable, to piano technique, piano exams and information on piano music and composers. So You Want To Learn To Improvise? can be purchased here, and So You Want To Play The Piano?, here.

Online:

Easy Ear Training

imagesEasy Ear Training is a music education technology company, who are developing digital products like mobile apps and audio-enhanced eBooks to make learning the essential listening skills of music easy, fun and effective. Easy Ear Training offers many different apps for musicians and aspiring musicians of all different levels and abilities, encouraging them to develop an increasingly sophisticated ear. You can browse their courses, and digital products here.

Piano Courses:

Piano Week

Piano WeekThis course is held at Moreton Hall School in Shropshire, UK and is organised by Artistic Director Samantha Ward. Piano Week is an international piano festival and Summer school for pianists of all ages and abilities. Consisting of many recitals, master classes, talks, discussions, one-to-one lessons, and performance opportunities for all participants. Course dates are 17th – 24th July: Piano Week 1, and 24th – 31st July: Piano Week 2. Stephen Kovacevich will be giving the celebrity recital, and there is a host of pianists and teachers providing coaching (the faculty changes slightly over the two-week course). For more details visit the website, here


My publications:

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.

 


 

New Year Weekend Competition!

20160108_085820_resizedThe first competition of the New Year features a series written by Paul Harris and published by Faber Music. A piece a week is just that: a repertoire of short pieces for Elementary pupils to learn in a week, encouraging quick study and instant score recognition (these volumes could also be used as sight-reading for more advanced students). They are companions to the Improve your sight-reading! Series also published by Faber and written by Paul.

I have two books to give away; Grade 1 and Grade 2. As always, please leave a comment in the comment box at the end of this post to be in with a chance of winning, and I will announce the two winners on Sunday evening (British time). Good luck!

If you would like to buy A piece a week, please click here.


My publications:

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.

 


 

Top Recommended Piano Resources for November 2015

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Another month has passed and it’s nearly Christmas! November’s resources include the usual range of piano related fare; music for beginners, elementary and intermediate pieces for you or your students, piano games, books, competitions and an online resource offering a 10% discount to all my readers! Read on to find out more….


Beginners and Elementary:

Ornament Moves

OrnamentStepsSkips

The latest worksheet to emerge from Susan Paradis’ ever popular piano teacher and student blog is this one, featuring Ornament Moves (pictured above). A Christmas worksheet aimed at reviewing steps and skips; you can either print the sheet or download to your tablet. It helps beginners learn about skipping notes, and reinforces their appearance on the stave. Students need only ‘tick’ the correct answer – so it’s a handy resource for teachers especially. You can print, download and find out much more information about Susan’s blog here.

Improve Your Sight-reading! A Piece a Week

A piece a week

A Piece a Week is a welcome new addition to the Improve Your Sight-reading series by Paul Harris, published by Faber Music. The series isn’t actually sight-reading as such (although could be a perfect supplement to the more advanced player’s sight-reading practice session); it is designed to encourage elementary players to literally learn one piece every week. The volume, which can used alongside Paul’s original Improve Your Sight-Reading! series, contains a selection of short pieces starting with simpler tunes, gradually increasing in difficulty (two books exist at present – for Grade 1 and 2). Paul’s introduction explains all the essentials, and the concept of learning different notation and varied pianistic textures week by week is very beneficial, and eventually reading at sight will become easier and more manageable. Find out more and get your copy here.

Practice Games

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Practice Games have been devised by the Take Piano Lessons website. The website offers 20 fun and educational games for children as well as many ideas for piano recitals too. The suggestions involve traditional style games such as Jenga, Twister and Flash cards, which have all been given an appropriate musical ‘twist’.  The recital ideas essentially revolve around theming concerts by including various favourite characters and traditional stories. All suggestions are free and you can find out much more here.

Intermediate:

The Wheels of Time Piano Duet

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Heather Hammond has featured frequently on my resource list. Her piano (and woodwind) compositions are popular around the world and, earlier this week, Heather’s music was performed at Steinway Hall in a concert for composers (held by EVC Music Publications). The Darina Piano Duo played this energetic, pulsating arrangement of Heather’s solo piece (watch their performance here), The Wheels of Time (already featured on this list). This duet is a showstopper and around Grade 4-6 level. Purchase your copy here.

Vladimir’s Blues

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I recently discovered this haunting piece by German-born British composer Max Richter. It’s probably around Grade 6 level (intermediate) and is a reflective, meditative, essentially Minimalist work, which would work perfectly (in my opinion) in a cinematic setting. Written in 2004, the piece comes from Richter’s album, The Blue Notebooks; each work forming a series of ‘interconnected dreams’. Vladimir refers to the writer Nabokov, who, like Richter, was fascinated by butterflies. The oscillating pattern in the right hand is apparently a nod to Chopin and are akin to the fluttering of wings in slow motion.You can listen to the piece here and purchase here.

Books:

Making the Tailcoats Fit

Making Tailcoats fit

This is the first ever biography on the life of pianist, conductor, composer and Oscar-winner Richard Hageman. Dutch-born RIchard Hageman (1881 – 1966) toured the US at the beginning of the twentieth century as accompanist to the French cabaret singer Yvette Guilbert. For years he conducted the Metropolitan Opera in New York, performing with such musicians as Enrico Caruso and Sergei Rachmaninoff.  Writing duo, South African-born pianist Nico de Villiers and Dutch journalist Asing Walthaus, have unearthed a wealth of remarkable facts about Hageman from archives and newspapers, making this a fascinating read. You can find out much more here, and purchase a copy here.

Online:

iPiano

iPiano Screenshot

iPiano is an innovative online platform which allows students to learn to play the piano at their own pace. Created in a linear lesson series, iPiano can apparently take total beginners through to a level where they can confidently read music and play the piano. iPiano also offers a cover series which shows students how to play their favourite pieces as well as a series teaching students how to write and compose their own music.  As a special introduction to iPiano, my readers are being offered a 10% discount on all memberships. Just type in the word ‘MELANIE’ at the checkout! Enjoy! Find out more here.

Competitions:

International Piano Competition For Young Players

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Competitions aren’t usually a remit on this list, but I couldn’t resist mentioning this one (initiated by publishers, Edition HH and the Windsor Piano School), to be held next year; the winners receive cash prizes and a recital opportunity in Oxford at the Holywell Music Room on July 10th 2016. The competition is open to pianists between the ages of 5 – 18 living anywhere around the world (there are three categories) and entered by submitting a video of specific repertoire. You can find out much more here.


My publications:

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.


Christmas Cool Piano Duets; the winner is…

Many thanks to everyone who took part in this weekend’s competition. Heather Hammond’s music is always very popular, and I enjoyed reading all your comments. Only one winner today, but there will be lots more competitions and giveaways coming soon.

FPS Resources (Jennifer Foxx) is today’s winner. Congratulations!

Please send your address via my contact page, and the music and practice notebooks will be on their way to you very soon.

If you would like to purchase Heather’s Cool Christmas Piano Duets, click here.



My publications:

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.


 

7 Top Recommended Piano Resources for July 2015

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This month’s recommended resources include a mixture of piano music, text books and courses. Hopefully I’ve featured something of interest for all levels and abilities. Enjoy!


Beginners and Elementary

Floating Snowflakes, I Like Bananas, & Martians Come to Town

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Three new pieces written by American composer and teacher Dr. Julie Knerr are published by Piano Safari. Piano Safari is an increasingly popular method for beginners and these little pieces reinforce the method book teaching. They are essentially duets for pupil and teacher, providing excellent practice for students as well as the much-needed confidence playing with a teacher bestows. The primo parts are written on one stave, and they are all jolly, tuneful, upbeat pieces that pupils will enjoy. You can hear and purchase them as either a print or digital copy here.

Famous & Fun Deluxe Collections

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Piano teachers are always searching for ways to keep students engaged and interested. The Famous & Fun Deluxe Collections arranged by American composer and teacher Carol Matz and published by Alfred Music Publishing, helps teachers do just that, by providing arrangements of pieces which students love and are motivated to practice! Each book contains a mixture of well-loved selections drawn from the entire series. In the “Deluxe Collections,” you’ll find pieces from “Famous & Fun”: Pop, Classics, Favorites, Rock, Duets, and Pop Duets. The series ranges from Early Elementary to Intermediate. Learn more and purchase here (Amazon UK here).

Intermediate

Ballads Without Words

Ballades-Without-Words-for-piano-by-Heather-Hammond-296x415

Last month’s recommendations included British composer Heather Hammond’s new piece, The Wheels of Time.  Heather has now completed her collection of eight pieces for piano (published by EVC Publications). As the title suggest, these works are all lyrical, with attractive tunes and poignant melodies. They are ideal for pupils who want to play something different between exams and for those who like to explore essentially jazzy harmonies and syncopated rhythms. Around Grades 5-7 standard (Intermediate/late Intermediate).

Arietta and Nuit d’etoiles

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American composer and teacher Rick Robertson, has written a whole library of works for the piano. Arietta and Nuit d’etoiles are late intermediate level pieces (for Grades 5-7), and are both melodically interesting and eminently playable. Nuit d’etoiles (Starry Night) reflects impressionistic colours with ‘Ravelian’ sweeps and a dreamily expressive melody.  Arietta consists of bold thematic material, which is split between the hands, and accompanied by chords, building to a resounding climax; this is a passionate, beautiful piece.

Advanced

Lotus Preludes

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The Lotus Preludes, which are a set of 24 short pieces, were composed by Ecuadorian-American composer Alexander J Leon. The works are short, effective and will certainly be of interest to pianists and teachers. Exploring a wide variety of emotions, they range from fairly straightforward to complex pieces. The composer says; ‘Each work in the set is a character piece, exploring a variety of feelings, moods, and motivic material. Each piece is short, trying to play with the sensation that the piece ends before the listener’s attention span is depleted. As a result, the listener is sort of “shocked” that the piece has ended, and consequentially desires to hear more. The work as a whole is hence like a sort of musical popcorn, in which the listener takes small bites and doesn’t want to stop eating.’

Books

Piano by Ear

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A very useful new volume, Piano By Ear is written by British teacher Lucinda Mackworth-Young and published by Faber Music. Learning to play by ear and improvise is often a colossal task for Classical pianists (particularly for students), and it still often remains a largely ignored topic in piano lessons. This may be partly due to lesson time constraints, but it’s also up to teachers to inspire and ignite interest. Lucinda carefully paves the way for success; starting with playing by ear, through to suggesting appropriate tunes, possible chords, chord structures, cadences, accompaniments, practice ideas, and various scale patterns and harmonic progressions. It’s the perfect book for those preparing for ABRSM Practical Musicianship exams (I wish I’d had this book when doing my Grade 8 Musicianship exam!). Going beyond exams, it could really help teachers wanting to diversify and those wishing to feel confident playing without the score, extemporising or even composing.

Piano Courses

Jackdaws Courses 2015/6

jackdaws

I’ve written about Jackdaws Music Education Trust’s renowned courses before here on my monthly recommendations. This coming year (2015/6) features many piano expert teachers, each offering a weekend piano course with a plethora of workshop sessions. Set in Somerset (UK) in beautiful surroundings, you can study, meet liked-minded people and enjoy excellent home cooked food. I’m honoured to be amongst this year’s tutors and my  course takes place from 23rd – 25th October 2015. It includes eight workshop sessions and all meals. However, you can also choose to study  with a whole array of fabulous teachers including Graham Fitch, Philip Fowke, Margaret Fingerhut, Julian Jacobson, Timothy Barratt, Mark Tanner, and Elena Riu.



My publications:

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.


9 Top Recommended Resources for June 2015

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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

Rami pic

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

ENCORE

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.

Intermediate:

The Wheels of Time

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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.

Improve Your Theory! Grades 4 & 5

Theory Grade 4

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.

Advanced:

Game of Thrones

Radnich

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.

Books:

How To Teach Piano Successfully

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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.

Online:

101 Piano Practice Tips

Tracy Selle Book Image for Blog

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:

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

33rd SS 2015 edit 3

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.


My publications:

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.


 


9 Recommended Resources for May 2015

Badge Graphics Draft 3

My recommended resources have finally appeared on the last day of this month (my Birthday!), and I hope there are some useful and interesting selections of piano music, books, online resources, and piano courses.

Elementary:

Easy Beans!

Easy Beans by Ben Crosland

British composer Ben Crosland has written many piano pieces for young players, and his compositions have been included in the Trinity College of Music Examination syllabus (including the current 2015/7 syllabus). His latest offering, Easy Beans! contains 32 Progressive Studies in Popular Styles. Published by Editions Musica Ferrum, the pieces are around Grades 2-5 standard (ABRSM and TCL level), consisting of completely contrasting styles. This will be helpful and interesting to both students and teachers, who not only like variety but will also appreciate the progressive nature, encouraging pupils to tackle increasingly complicated repertoire. You can listen to a selection of works here and purchase the score here.

Intermediate:

Digressions: 5 Piano Pieces

FRONT COVER MS WK

My own piano pieces were published earlier this month, and it has been an exciting project. Entitled Digressions – 5 Pieces for Piano, and published by EVC Publications, the pieces are approximately Grades 4 – 6/7 standard. My aim is to provide an alternative to the ‘jazzy’, pop, easy listening or musical theatre genres which regularly appear for less experienced players. Mature amateur pianists sometimes feel less comfortable playing these styles, so my pieces are intentionally Minimalist, tuneful and meditative. They fall easily under the hands and can be played individually or as a set. You can listen to each piece here and purchase them here.

Rock & Soul Styles

A great collection for those wanting to explore lighter repertoire. Written by John Kember and published by Schott Music, the volume includes 18 pieces of around Grades 5/6 standard. Nine pieces are in  a ‘rock’ style , whilst a further nine, in a ‘rock ballad and soul’ style. Bright, lively tunes, many with a strong rhythmic pulse plus copious syncopation, provide lots of opportunity to relish piano sonority. Chord symbols are also written in the score. Purchase here.

Rains for Solo Piano

Written by British composer Jenni Pinnock, whose works are heavily influenced by nature and the natural world, Rains is a beautiful contemplative piece for those of approximately Grade 6 standard. Composed in August last year, and lasting around three minutes, it was inspired by summer rain falls. A gentle, meditative flow forms the anchor of the piece, over which a singing melody floats.  As torrential rain ensues, the music increases in volume, texture, power and difficulty before the gentle flow of rain returns, slows and finally stops. You can hear and purchase this piece here.

Online:

PianoFlix

teaching pop music

This online resource was devised by Australian teacher Tim Topham, who runs a popular blog and who specialises in teaching pop music, particularly for piano teachers. PianoFlix is a series of eight videos; Tim takes prospective pop players and teachers through various methods, via different tools. The first two videos are free and full of helpful advice. Many find teaching pop styles challenging, and this resource provides masses of information, practice techniques and ideas, and repertoire suggestions.  For much more information click here.

Publications:

Technique Trainer 1: Purrfect Practice

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 12.29.24 PMAustralian piano teacher Jackie Sharp has written this extremely beneficial and detailed guide enabling piano students to develop a perfect technique. Technique Trainer 1 is the first in a three-part series of technical and musical exercises, presented systematically in order to hone ‘the foundations of a competent technique’. This book contains copious drawings relating to hand positions and posture (which are effective and easy to comprehend). Piano playing ‘Dos and Don’ts’, wrist movement, and forearm rotation are carefully explained with many musical exercises and bonus learning activities for the student to assimilate. There are also links to video presentations.  You can purchase the e-book here.

A Piano Teacher’s Guide to Creative Composition

Written by Carol Klose, this guide cleverly breaks down compositional techniques, allowing teachers to deliver them in bite size chunks in lessons, devoting just a few minutes of lesson time to composition. The book is essentially structured in five sections; preparing the foundations, exploring compositional components, outlining a composition, how to plan a lesson, and putting finishing touches to a work. With a book such as this, teaching composition to piano students won’t seem so daunting. Purchase the book here.

Piano Courses:

Joy of Piano at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire

Stowe

The Joy of Piano conference is ideal for pianists and piano teachers who would like to enhance their teaching skills and discover new and exciting ways to inspire and motivate their students.  An excellent opportunity to meet fellow piano teachers as well as observe presentations and master-classes. Guests include Joanna MacGregor OBE, Paul Harris and Christopher Norton. 

There will also be presentations given by Ben Andrew, Head of Keyboard at Stowe and Simon Dearsley, Director of Music.  The conference will take place in the Chung Music School at Stowe School, Buckingham on June 13th, and you can find out lots more here.

Julian Jacobson and Mariko Brown at Jackdaws

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Jackdaws is a music education trust providing short residential courses in the tranquillity of the English Somerset Countryside. Expert instrumental and vocal teachers offer their advice and tips to small groups over the period of a couple of days. This course, featuring pianists Julian Jacobson and Mariko Brown, focusses on playing duets, and will be held from 3rd – 5th July 2015. Players are invited to attend as a pre-formed duo or solo (where they will be teamed with another like-minded soul!). This will no doubt be a fun and inspiring event and you can book here.


My publications:

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.


Miniatures for Piano by Robert Bruce

Piano MIns 1

This post follows on from my first of the year; highlighting useful piano resources. Whether a teacher, pupil or a professional, we can never have too much piano repertoire it seems, and discovering new possibilities is always exciting.

Canadian composer and pianist Robert Bruce has been active in Ontario for many years. He has penned copious works for the instrument, and published his first set of piano pieces in 1991 for Celestial Music Publications (his own publishing company).

Robert has written music for young children, as well as piano repertoire for students which is used by all the major music conservatories in Canada for formal piano examinations, is performed in many music festivals each year and is included in the 3rd edition of the well-known reference book Pianists’ Guide to Piano Literature by Dr Maurice Hinson. His catalogue also includes music for film, television and animation; music for healing and meditation; piano works; ensemble works; orchestral works.

Stylistically, the music is predominantly tonal with  touches of blues and impressionistic flavours; Robert labels both his style and his performing ensemble, Classical Nouveau. Believing firmly in the connection between music and spirituality, he has written two text-books, In Between the Lines – Books 1 and 2, which outline the philosophy he has discovered and developed over a period of seventeen years.

Three Books entitled Miniatures for Piano were written in 1991, 1992 and 1995 respectively, and they will suit both younger and more mature players. Each book contains 6 piano pieces, which are brief, but yet (according to the composer) ‘are streamlined musical expressions that convey, in sequence, a variety of feelings ranging from happy and carefree to warm and sentimental, and they draw upon a few of the many “sound colours” that are inherent in the piano’. The works are title-less, therefore encouraging performers to be ‘imaginative, creative, expressive and musically-free’.

The first set is probably the least taxing technically, with numbers 1 and 4, easily being within the capabilities of a Grade 5 student, the others are suitable for those around Grade 6-8 (UK exam boards). Brief and occasionally very simplistic, they do demand players to be aware of emotions and feelings, and this aspect is what makes them (in my opinion), an ideal addition to repertoire. There is plenty of guidance in terms of expression and colour, but pedalling is left to the performer, and the notes (at the back of the book), ask the pianist to ‘colour these pieces freely, but carefully, with sustain pedal’.

Book 2 and 3, follow a similar structure; I really like the harmonic changes in No. 2 (of Book 2), which relies on chromatically shifting chords in the LH, and a legato octave melody in the RH (excellent practice for smooth Cantabile playing!). Book 2 No. 6, is clearly inspired by Debussy, whilst the first piece of Book 3 has many similarities with Chopin’s Prelude No. 2 in G major (from 24 Preludes Op. 28), although it’s taken at a much more leisurely tempo.

www.robertbrucemusic.com

Robert Bruce

Composer and pianist Robert Bruce


My publications:

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.