Digressions: 5 Piano Pieces

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 ‘These five entertaining, beautifully written and concise pieces are little gems’

 John Lenehan, Concert Pianist, UK

 

‘Melanie Spanswick’s Digressions are compelling and accessible works to play – from the moving Bach-like ‘Chasing’ to the two hypnotically flowing ‘Moving On’ and ‘Karma’. Perfect for the intermediate level player. And I have no doubt that pianists of all tastes will enjoy learning them – in fact, I doubt they’ll want to put the music down!’

Erica Worth, Editor, Pianist magazine, UK

 

Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in writing music, originally to get to grips with Sibelius software, but eventually blossoming into a creative outlet. When publisher and composer Elena Cobb kindly asked if I’d like to write a collection of piano pieces, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Digressions consists of 5 piano pieces; designed for those who are around Grades 4-6 standard (ABRSM level). The pieces were inspired by Minimalism and cinematic music, and lie comfortably under the hands without appearing too simple or lacking in content.

Educational piano pieces are, by necessity, succinct and brief, but  in my opinion, little pieces are mostly written with the younger learner in mind. There’s an emphasis on colourful pictures, cartoon characters, all framed by jazzy pieces with bright, cheerful tunes, which is fine if you like this genre (and many do). My goal was to write works for teenagers and adults who want an alternative to the jazz/ragtime idiom, Musical Theatre genre or ‘easy listening’ culture.

Many adult amateur pianists love performing and learning new pieces, but they would rather not endure the challenge of preparing pages of complicated, demanding music; they prefer works to be short, attractive and easy to digest. Digressions are perfect in this respect. Each piece contains a different mood or character, and could be included in a Contemporary recital programme, a festival programme, school concert, music club or meet-up group performance or just enjoyed with a glass of wine after dinner!

‘The lyricism of Karma and dramatic nature of Digression, in particular, should appeal; the pianistic writing also promotes technical development’. Pianist Magazine

‘I finally had an opportunity to sit down & play through Melanie Spanswick’s “Digressions”. WOW… I wish I had ordered more than 1 book! Each piece is so unique & incredibly well written. It’s perfect for so many various performance venues. My students will love it! Bravo!!’ – Sarah Robertson (Florida, US)

‘I love this book!! Written for intermediate level, the pieces are so well done and beautiful! I am looking forward to sharing these selections with my more advanced students as well as playing them myself because the music is so wonderful!! I highly recommend it as an addition to your music library!’ – Donna Reed (Mississippi, US)

‘I love this book very much. Not only the pieces are beautiful, they are excellent for working with various technical skills. My son is learning Karma to work on beautiful tone and phrasing, and Digression to work on arpeggios, intervals, and RH/LH melody over arpeggio accompaniment. We plan one of those pieces for 2016 National Piano Guild.’ – Irma Khouw (Ohio, US)

The pieces; Chasing, Moving On, Karma, Musing and Digression, can be played as a set or individually, and are tuneful and approachable. Also included are Piano Notes for each piece; essentially a few tips and practice ideas which I hope will be helpful. They are available as a digital download and hard copy  from Elena Cobb’s website: EVC Publications. You can listen to all 5 works 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.


6 Top Piano Resources for April 2015

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My recommended resources for April contain an eclectic group of piano related practice books, sheet music, a book and an online resource, which I hope will be of interest.


Beginners and Elementary

Improve Your Theory!

Last month I mentioned Faber Music’s new selection of Simultaneous Learning editions, Improve Your Piano Grade! Faber’s latest release in this series, Improve Your Theory! provides more very useful material. As before, I looked at Grades 1, 2 and 3; Grade  1 contains all the expected information, from time signatures, ties and dotted notes, and intervals, to note learning and basic key signatures. They are presented in a logical, easy-to-learn method, in tandem with the Simultaneous Learning ethos as established and honed by educator Paul Harris. They will serve as a thorough grounding for theory, especially for those sitting exams. Get your copy here.

On the Lighter Side

16 Pieces for Piano

A collection of 16 short piano pieces for those of approximately Grades 1-3 standard. Written by John Kember and published by Schott Music, these little pieces will appeal to anyone just starting their piano playing. The jazz-inspired selection  provides a wide-ranging introduction to swing and rock phrasing, use of blue notes and pentatonic melodies, walking bass and syncopated rhythms, plus some more reflective pieces exploring jazz harmonies. These works would appeal to young learners as well as more mature players.

Intermediate

Welsh Folk Tunes For Piano

Welsh Folk Tunes

I picked this volume partly due to my Welsh heritage (!), but essentially because the arrangements work well in this piano version. Written by Barrie Carson Turner, and published by Schott Music, the book consists of 32 traditional solo pieces. Welsh fans will love the collection which contains favourites such as The Ash Grove, The Maid of Sker and The Bishop of Bangor’s Jig, all transcribed tastefully for those of around Grades 4-5 level. The score is relatively detail free, which gives performers scope for plenty of imaginative touches and dynamic colour.

Glo for Piano

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This work, written by celebrated composer Roxanna Panufnik, is a beautiful little reflective piece. Composed in 2002, in memory of a family friend who died of cancer, it meanders around the keyboard, featuring widespread note patterns. Requiring controlled piano and pianissimos, and careful pedalling, Glo would suit pianists of intermediate level (perhaps Grades 5-7), who want to learn less familiar Twenty-First Century repertoire, and who enjoy experimenting with tone colour and timbre.  Recorded by pianist Clare Hammond, Glo appears amongst a whole collection of piano works by Roxanna and her father, Andrzej Panufnik; the recording is called Reflections (cover pictured above). Glo is published by Edition Peters; get a copy of the score here and buy the recording here.

Advanced

On My Travels

Image for After Hours: On My Travels

This is the latest in the series of After Hours volumes written by composer Pamela Wedgwood and published last month by Faber Music.  These pieces would suit those of Grades 6 upwards, and have a relaxed, blues feel, requiring thoughtful tonal control and colour. We are taken on a journey from the French Alps to Canada via South Africa and Australia in this dynamic volume which travel lovers will enjoy: it’s perfect for stress relief after a hard day at work or school, and these pieces are also great material for sight-reading too. Get a copy here.

 Piano Technique Demystified

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I’ve only just discovered this interesting book about piano technique. Written by American pianist and pedagogue Neil Stannard, it focuses on breaking down piano technique and revisiting it in a different way. The ideas presented are based on the principles of the Dorothy Taubman method and is a must for anyone interested in honing their playing, or those just wanting to understand how to move around the piano economically. Each chapter deals with various technical and musical issues, and ideas are presented logically and are easy to grasp. Get your copy 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.


 


 

 

Variations for Judith: And the Winner is…

Many thanks to all those who took part in my weekend competition. The prize is a signed copy of Variations for Judith; a wonderful collection of 11 piano pieces composed by eminent composers for students of around Grade 4-6 standard.  Variations were composed for Judith Serota as a leaving gift when she retired from her job as Executive Director of the Spitalfields Music Festival in East London.

Judith selected the winner this morning, and she loved David’s comment. So many congratulations David! Please send your address via my contact page (here on the blog) and a copy will be on its way to you.


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.


More Memorising tips

That poor piano...

I had some interesting responses to the post I wrote a few days ago dealing with memorisation (which you can read here). It was suggested that I should also focus on what happens when memory fails – i.e. a memory slip! So here are my thoughts on this incredibly stressful event in any pianists life. Memory slips happen to virtually everybody at some point and they can be difficult to ‘get over’ because lots of courage is needed to get back on stage and try again. However, this is a must if a pianist is to overcome the problem.

Whilst Liszt and Clara Schumann both loved to play from memory (and indeed invented the concept), it does put so much extra pressure on public performance. A pianist needs to develop a different kind of mind set entirely in order to perform large concert programmes without the score effectively. If I know I am going play a piece from memory before learning begins, I approach it in a different way from the outset thus making  a conscious effort to memorize every bar, nuance and phrase as I’m going along. A lot of memorisation takes place in the early learning stages as you become more familiar with the piece.

One problem with memorising digitally i.e. fingerings, note patterns, shapes on the keyboard and how the work ‘feels’ under the fingers (although this type of memory is normal and should be cultivated), is that it makes forgetting very easy. Reliable memorisation really comes from thinking about the music and analyzing it. If you can spend time working through the piece away from the piano looking at the structure and form, then this will be a great help when playing without the score. It was also aid your interpretation skills too.

Even after methodical analysis and careful preparation, it is still possible to get into a muddle on stage. Nerves often undermine practice and preparation so what do you do when a memory slip occurs? Whatever happens, don’t stop playing! Some pianists have the ability to extemporize or improvise when they lose where they are in the score until the ‘find themselves’; apparently Vladimir Horowitz, amongest others, was blessed with this ability and used it from time to time.

I can’t improvise at all sadly, so I make sure that I know the piece in sections and am able to ‘jump’ quite cleanly (hopefully!) into another section or passage of the work. I find it’s not helpful to ‘go back’ and play the elusive passage again as this just encouarges another slip and can make you more and more frustrated and upset too. Once it has gone from your mind it doesn’t seem to reappear miraculously a few minutes later so it is best to move on and finish the piece in a convincing way. I find it helpful to try to completely eradicate the slip from my head otherwise I am constantly thinking about it for the entire recital.

I hope this is helpful to those working on their memory skills. Everybody finds their own way of remembering ultimately and the main factor in successful memorisation is to do it regularly in front of an audience thus building confidence. Good luck.


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.