Weekend Competition: At the movies…

Wishing you and your family a very HAPPY EASTER! I hope you enjoy a restful weekend wherever you are in the world.

The weekend’s competition focuses on music from the movies, thanks to Faber Music’s vibrant, interesting new collections.

Film Themes: The Piano Collection consists of thirty film tunes arranged for piano solo; a selection of sympathetically arranged classic yet contemporary, and ‘up to the minute’ pieces for the intermediate to advanced player. Featuring favourites from such films as Star Wars, Frozen, Hunger Games, How To Train Your Dragon and Twilight, plus several pieces from the Harry Potter film series.  This selection offers an excellent alternative to standard repertoire, particularly for the film buff. A great addition to the student, teacher and piano lover’s library.

Who doesn’t love the new hit movie La La Land? My second competition offering is a collection of music from the film.  Ten songs have been transcribed for piano and voice with guitar chords, following the original music and keys as closely as possible. I would suggest the arrangements are generally for more advanced pianists, but some are simpler, and may be suitable for intermediate players.

I have one copy of each book to give away to two lucky winners. Please leave your comment in the comment box at the end of this blog post to be in with a chance of winning. I will announce the winners on Monday evening (British time). Good luck!

You can purchase a copy and find out more about the books here and here.


My Books:

For much more information about practising repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece.

If you’re thinking about learning to play the piano, my guide-book, So You Want To Play The Piano? (Alfred) is full of useful help and support.

The Faber Music Piano Anthology (Faber) is also a valuable resource for those who desire a collection of standard repertoire from Grades 2 – 8, featuring 78 pieces in total.

My Compositions:

I have written a selection of educational piano music (both solo and duet) and you can hear it and find out much more here: EVC Music Publications.

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AllAboutPiano

The Musicians’ Union (MU) have launched a new website for pianists, piano teachers, students and piano lovers everywhere. AllAboutPiano focuses on all aspects of piano teaching and playing, and has been developed by the MU and publishers 1Hub Media, with support from Faber Music, EPTA UK and a host of other partners.

The site will feature resources, articles, videos, information about events, and special offers on sheet music and books as well as instruments. There will be an AllAboutPiano directory of key organisations, and as the site develops and evolves other benefits such as free membership packages will also be available.

The MU is calling for piano teachers and pianists to register; during the first month (March) the AllAboutPiano website will feature teaching tips, practice advice and repertoire from across the piano community.

A piano portal community such as this is a great idea, and it will hopefully provide lots of relevant information; I look forward to watching its development over the next year.

You can find out much more here: www.allaboutpiano.co and join the community on Facebook by clicking here.

My contribution to the site’s launch consists of the following three videos. Shot in January at Jaques Samuel Pianos in London, they focus on three facets of technique: ornaments, octaves and thumbs. I hope you find them of interest.

Tutorial 1

Many find the addition of ornaments (to a piece), cumbersome; they can disturb the pulse and can be difficult to play evenly and with clear articulation. In this video, I have suggested a few different ways to practise, which will hopefully instigate finger strength and agility.

Tutorial 2

Whilst the interval of an octave can seem a large ‘reach’ for some, it is possible to feel more relaxed and comfortable with the hand in this out-stretched position. This video presents a few ideas for keeping flexible and for developing the necessary strength and control required to play octaves without any strain.

Tutorial 3

It’s easy to forget that thumbs play an important role in piano playing. In this video, I offer a few practice tips to get the thumb moving, encouraging it to work to its fully capacity, aiding rapid passagework and general keyboard dexterity.


www.musiciansunion.co.uk

www.fabermusic.com

www.epta-uk.org

www.1hub.co


My Books:

For much more information about practising repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece.

If you’re thinking about learning to play the piano, my guide-book, So You Want To Play The Piano? (Alfred) is full of useful help and support.

The Faber Music Piano Anthology (Faber) is also a valuable resource for those who desire a collection of standard repertoire from Grades 2 – 8, featuring 78 pieces in total.

My Compositions:

I have written a selection of educational piano music (both solo and duet) and you can hear it and find out much more here: EVC Music Publications.

12 Top Recommended Piano Resources for September 2016

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September brings a bumper crop of new publications and resources which I hope you will find of interest. A selection of beginner’s volumes, great little elementary pieces, anthologies and fascinating piano related books as well as a novel, which should provide reading and playing material for the new school term. Enjoy!

Beginners and Elementary

The Lang Lang Piano Method Volumes 4 & 5

lang-langEarlier this year The Lang Lang Piano Method (volumes 1, 2 & 3), written by Chinese star pianist Lang Lang, was launched by Faber, and now volumes four and five have been released. A cartoon Lang Lang appears throughout these books providing encouragement, taking young pianists step by step through every section.These books build on the learning process already established in the first three publications, introducing new keys, rhythms, extending technique through repertoire which includes original pieces and famous tunes. Find out more and purchase here.

Improv Exercises

impov-exerices-for-piano-by-elena-cobb-730x1024Created by British composer and publisher Elena Cobb, Improv Exercises For Classically Trained Beginners is a 21st century educational concept based on the belief that, in addition to regular practice, classically orientated piano lessons should also include elements of improvisation. This book deals with blues scale improvisation on the basic twelve-bar blues with only three chords, and it will bring you to a firm understanding of how to structure your approach to improvisation. You will also be able to apply this new skill to another very popular element for playing jazz –  accompanying a band without the score. Containing a Twelve-bar blues chart & formula, Rhythm exercises, Noodling exercises, Blues scale exercises on all twelve keys, Basslines and much more. Purchase here.

Piano Piccolo

heumannThis is a new collection of 111 original easy piano pieces published by Schott and collated by the excellent German composer, teacher and arranger, Hans-Günter Heumann. Including popular repertoire as well as many less known works, over 60 composers from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern periods are featured. This books comes from the Pianissimo series, designed as an introduction to the collection, Für Elise. You can find out much more and purchase here.

Piano Train Trips

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Piano Train Trips is the first book written by Spanish pianist, teacher and composer Juan Cabeza. The book includes 18 Études  and 9 Exercises with duet accompaniment, downloadable audio recordings of the pieces and play-along accompaniment for the exercises. Each étude covers a particular technique: scales, intervals, arpeggios and chords, which are all presented in an original and attractive way. They are fresh, modern and exciting pattern-based pieces. These pieces can be enjoyed by children or adult students, and are of a late elementary level. The book is available for Europe here and a digital edition can be purchased here. Soon, It will also be released  in the US by Piano Safari (pianosafari.com) and a German edition will be published by zauberklavier.de.

Sonorous

sonorousNew this past month,  Sonorous is an original collection of Piano Solos by Colombian pianist and educator Harold Gutiérrez. The books take students from beginner to intermediate level (Book 1), and intermediate to advanced level (Book 2) adopting the 21st century view of music education, in which enjoyment of performance is first and foremost. Each piece presented in this book has been composed as complementary material for young players and their teachers, encouraging students to perform and experience their musical achievements on stage. There are two books in the series so far, and the first is designated ‘for little hands’ with plenty of interesting melodies and technical exercises at the end of the book. You can find out much more, hear some of the pieces, and purchase here.

Safari

safari-firstA collection of 23 pieces by Irish composer June Armstrong. Intended for elementary level students, June’s music is predominantly educational with emphasis on interpretative qualities, engaging a pupil’s imagination. This is certainly evident in these works, which rely heavily on atmospheric harmonies. Safari charts the course of a day in Africa, starting with African Dawn and ending with Night Sky with Stars.  Meet all the animals along the way – gazelles, flamingos, lions, giraffes, hyenas, monkeys, elephants and many others. Pieces often use specific hand positions, suitable for less experienced players. You can hear each piece here, and find out more and purchase here.

Elementary to Advanced

The Faber Music Piano Anthology

faber-piano-anthologyContaining 78 piano pieces, this large volume is suitable for those from Grade 2 – 8 (elementary to advanced), and has been designed as a gift book; a luxury hardback edition featuring high-quality premium paper and ‘The Concerto’ linocut cover image by Cyril Edward Power. Published by Faber, it has been compiled by myself and will hopefully interest a variety of levels and abilities. Many pieces are very well-known penned by the great composers, but there is also a cohort of less familiar works (and composers). From late Renaissance music through to mid to late Twentieth century, piano lovers can enjoy reading through (and learning) a much-loved repertoire of core pieces. Out later this month, you can find out more and purchase here.

Intermediate to Advanced

Russian Folk Tunes

russianPublished by Schott and containing 25 traditional tunes, this book is sure to be popular with all those who appreciate and enjoy playing traditional music. A selection of melodies including Russian folk tunes, Russian Gypsy music and Russian Jewish music, as well as folk music from the Ukraine. The pieces have been edited and arranged by British bandoneonist, composer and arranger Julian Rowlands, who performs them on an accompanying CD. There is also a brief history of Russian music as well as notes on the pieces (which are also available in French and German). The arrangements are from approximately Grades 4-8 level. You can find out more and purchase here.

Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection

bluesA new collection published by Schott, written by British jazz composer and writer Tim Richards. This volume contains 13 original works for piano by Richards and 2 arrangements (a traditional song and another by Jelly Roll Morton). There are copious interpretation, technique, theory and performance notes, accompanying each piece and a helpful CD of all the pieces (played by Tim). Chord symbols are provided to aid improvisation, and in my opinion, the volume complements other books in the series; Improvising Blues Piano, Exploring Latin Piano and Exploring Jazz Piano (all Richards’ publications). For more and to purchase click here.

Books

The Mindful Pianist

mindfulWritten by British pianist, teacher, writer and composer Mark Tanner and published by Faber in conjunction with EPTA (European Piano Teachers Association), this book is sure to be a winner for all pianists, presenting a fresh perspective on playing and performing. Applying the concept of mindfulness to the piano, this text explores the crucial connection between mind and body: how an alert, focussed mind fosters playing which is more compelling, refined and ultimately more rewarding. It also tackles the issues encountered by pianists when practising, performing, improvising and preparing for an exam too. Drawing on the expert advice of 25 leading pianists and educationalists (I’m delighted to be amongst those mentioned!), this unique book offers a wealth of exercises and musical examples to help every player succeed in becoming a Mindful Pianist. Out later this month, you can pre-order here.

The Steinway That Wouldn’t Budge

budgeA delightful little book written by British piano tuner Peter Tryon (cousin of concert pianist Valerie Tryon) and published by Austin Macauley. This volume is essentially an autobiographical tale of a life spent tuning the pianos of those in East Anglia (in rural UK). It’s full of anecdotal tales from boyhood piano lessons and moving pianos in all kinds of situations, to ghostly tunings (my favourite stories!), there is much to enjoy in this publication. You can purchase it for kindle and as a hard copy, on Amazon here.

Moscow Nights

moscowA thick non-fiction volume written by British historian and biographer Nigel Cliff, and published by Harper Collins, this book tells the story of Van Cliburn, who, as a young pianist from Texas in 1958, travelled to Moscow to compete in the First International Tchaikovsky Competition.  An unknown pianist, Van Cliburn was not the favourite to win, indeed a Russian had already been selected, but his playing captivated the nation. The novel brings together the drama and tension of the Cold War era, with a gifted musician  whose music would temporarily bridge the divide between two dangerously hostile powers. You can find out more and purchase here.


 

 

 

 

Weekend Competition Double Bill…

GetAttachmentThumbnailThis weekend’s competition features two piano resources which I hope will be of interest.

The first is a collection of 12 Tangos, written by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992), arranged by Rachel Chapin, and published by Boosey and Hawkes. Each piece contains all the expected tango inflections, incorporated alongside elements of classical music and jazz. The works would suit those of Grades 3 – 5 (ABRSM; approximately intermediate level). The selection ranges from Libertango and Milonga for Three, to Vuelvo al Sur and Sin Rumbo.

The second book, Piano Village, is a selection of original compositions, written by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin (1957 – ) also published by Boosey and Hawkes. Consisting of 25 works, this generous volume features some of Kats-Chernin’s most well-known pieces including Eliza’s Aria. Ranging in difficulty, these gems are generally for more advanced players, and are often highly rhythmic, patterned and Minimalist in style.

To win, please leave a comment in the comment box at the end of this post, and I will select two winners on Sunday evening (British time). Good luck!

You can find out more about Piazzola’s Tangos here and about Piano Village, 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:

My Piano Trip To London 2

My-Piano-Trip-To-London-2-by-Elena-Cobb-Pink

My Piano Trip To London 2 is the second volume for beginners by composer and publisher Elena Cobb. It consists of trios (three pianists at one piano) in a collection of original compositions and some arrangements (of traditional tunes) for various levels. Young (and older!) learners love playing duets and trios; it’s a great way to understand and experience ensemble playing and it allows beginner pianists to enjoy the possibility of producing an instantly larger sound. The book is packed with fab facts, interesting tips and plenty of impressive illustrations. Great for those teaching or playing in a class situation too. Listen to all the pieces and get your copy here.

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’. You can find out much more about them here. 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:

I Saw Three Ships

I-Saw-Three-Ship-for-piano-by-Alsion-Mathews

Composer Alison Mathews has written this effective piano arrangement of the classic tune. Intermediate players will enjoy the rippling, imaginative accompaniment which lies comfortably under the hands. Great for anyone of around Grade 5 or 6 standard, and useful sight-reading material for more advanced players. You can listen to this piece and get your copy here.

The Wheels of Time Piano Duet

The-Wheels-Of-Time-Piano-Duet-By-Heather-Hammond

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

Notebooks

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

EditionHHtop

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.


11 Top Piano Resources for September 2015

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I can’t believe it’s the end of September already, and therefore time for another round-up of piano resources. As usual, I’ve mentioned music, books, online apps and ebooks, music  clubs, as well as a festival, and everything relating to the piano. I hope you find them all interesting and useful.


Beginners and Elementary

70 Keyboard Adventures with the Little Monster

Keybaord Adventures

This early piano book could be described as a ‘method’ or tutor book, and is designed for those at the very start of their musical journey. It’s not a new publication, but does seem to be increasing in popularity. Written by a cohort of German composers and published by Breitkopf, the volume is beautifully illustrated, produced and presented. The little pieces become slightly more complicated as the book progresses and there are many opportunities for the young pianist to experiment with improvisation and less familiar keyboard effects. I must confess I was introduced to this book a few years ago and have used it with one or two students (including my nephew), and they didn’t particularly like it, but for the right student, it could be a fun and highly beneficial supplement to regular method books. Get your copy here.

Intermediate

Classical Favourites from Russia

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Classical favourites from Russia is a new collection of pieces for four hands (or duets) published by Universal Edition and arranged by Russian composer, arranger and editor Nicolai Podgornorv. Consisting of 7 well-known themes hailing from Russian opera and ballet, they are intended for those between Grades 2-5 level. The publication includes; Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from Sleeping Beauty and Dance of the Little Swans, Borodin’s Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens, Prokofiev’s Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet, Shostakovich’s Waltz from Jazz Suite No.2, Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance from Gayane and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumblebee. Ideal for those playing duets for the first time, or wanting extra material for sight-reading practice. For more information and to purchase, click here.

Snapchats Duets

Snapchats Front Cover

A shameless little plug for my new duets. They are intended for those between Grades 2-4 level (ABRSM) and are tuneful, diatonic and allude to Minimalism. I’m forever interested in Buddhism and its influence on daily life, so I’ve named some of the pieces accordingly. Each duet is very short (8 – 10 bars) and  they explore different piano sonorities, with effects such as glissandi (not generally used at this level of playing), the harmonic series, and less familiar chordal progressions. I hope they are fun to play too. Published by EVC Music Publications, you can hear each piece here and get your copy here.

Christmas Carols 

Christmas-Carols-Piano-Arrangements-by-Gail-Fischler-296x415

This sparkling collection of familiar and less well-known carols has been published by EVC Music Publications and arranged by American pianist, writer and blogger, Gail Fischler. I know it’s too early in the year for such music (!), but some pupils like to purchase their Christmas music ahead of the game, in order to be well-prepared when the big event arrives! Gail is known for her blog, Piano Addict, and she has selected a wide range of tunes from all around the world. There are carols from Norway, Poland, Mexico, France, Ukraine, and of course the US too. They are perfect for intermediate players. You can hear them and order your copy here.

Books

My Life in Music

My Life in Music

This is the new autobiography by Dame Fanny Waterman, published by Faber Music. Dame Fanny occupies an eminent position in the piano teaching fraternity. Not only is she an expert teacher who has published a whole host of piano publications, but she is also the joint-founder of the Leeds International Piano Competition. This book provides an upbeat, fascinating glimpse at a life dedicated to music, and more specifically piano playing. Yielding countless stories, told in a frank and often candid demeanour, the book offers plenty of ‘behind the scenes’ moments and a collection of wonderful colour photos. A must read for anyone interested in the world of the pianist, and especially those wanting to glean more about the inception and development of an international piano competition. Get your copy here.

The Pianist’s Guide To Standard Teaching and Performance Literature

Magrath

This hefty volume, written by Jane Magrath and published by Alfred Music, isn’t a new book at all. However, I have found it very useful and feel compelled to include it in this list. Helpful for teachers, students and all those interested in playing the piano, it’s essentially a list of all standard and less familiar piano repertoire from elementary up to advanced levels. It takes readers on a journey from early music to Twentieth Century piano music (although not Contemporary, as the book was written in 1995), and looks at a considerable amount of repertoire. Magrath also discusses the music, in some cases in-depth, and indicates its suitability for various levels. Great to have as a reference book on the piano. Get your copy here.

Online

Mastering the Piano with Lang Lang

Lang Lang

This new app, pioneered by Faber Music and powered by Tido, is an inspired approach from Lang Lang to learning piano technique. The App contains innovative technology, exclusive content and practice tools. It’s designed to run in tandem with Lang Lang’s mastering the piano books (I’ve reviewed these before, here on my blog, and also for Faber’s Pianofforte Magazine), and there are five levels (from elementary to intermediate). The app features a whole range of carefully selected digital sheet music, composer biographies, historical content, and exclusive coaching videos with Lang Lang demonstrating at the piano, as well as videos of him playing many of the pieces. It’s also easy to use and navigate. You can purchase and find out much more here.

Strike a Chord

This app provides a ‘creative approach to mastering music theory’. This idea is certainly welcome, as many struggle with theory and it can also be tricky fitting theory tuition into an already packed piano lesson. Now available for the iPad, the app is designed to consolidate theory, as well as encouraging improvisation and composition too. There’s also a helpful play back feature allowing pupils to record their work. It is ‘great for complementing in-person piano lessons & for learning on the road or traveling’. You can purchase from the iTunes App Store, and check it out for yourself here.

Practising the Piano eBooks

Practising the Piano

Many readers will no doubt enjoy Graham Fitch’s excellent blog, Practising the Piano. Graham, an expert teacher, has a series of ebooks which have proved very popular. More recently, he has embarked upon a project to combine many of the blog posts (featured on Practising the Piano) into a series of free eBook mini-guides. These can be downloaded for eBook readers and apps, or viewed online. Each mini-guide will focus on one or more topics featured on Graham’s blog, with the first two guides relating to performance.  To find out more and download these ebooks, click here.

Clubs

Schott Piano Meetup Group

Schott

Meetup groups are certainly gaining popularity. They provide a performance platform for (generally) amateur pianists, allowing them to relish the opportunity of playing to a sympathetic audience mostly consisting of fellow pianists. Schott Music is superbly situated in London (on Great Marlborough Street) and is the perfect place to host such events. Held throughout the year in a beautifully appointed room (downstairs at the shop) which houses a Steinway Model M grand piano, participants can enjoy a variety of themed evenings. Ranging from concerts for Grades 1 – 4 level (elementary), to those featuring certain composers, there is sure to be something to suit all tastes. The next Meetup event takes place on October 16th, participation is extremely reasonably priced (£5.00 per person) and you can find out much more here.

Festivals

Hounslow Music Festival

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I don’t normally highlight festivals, but this year the Hounslow Music Festival (affiliated to the Federation of Festivals) is re-opening its piano classes, which have been dormant since 2009. To be held at the Musical Museum near Kew Bridge in London, which houses a Steinway grand piano, the classes will take place on June 18th and 19th 2016. The festival will feature a whole spectrum of classes from beginners through to advanced levels, and it will also feature Elena Cobb‘s music, as well as more traditional fayre. This festival provides an excellent opportunity to practice for those Summer piano exams! I will be adjudicating all the piano classes. Click here for much more information and the syllabus.


11 Recommended Resources for May 2015

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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.

Beginners:

Morning Prayer for Three Beginners

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This easy arrangement of Morning Prayer by Elena Cobb is perfect for those who have just started playing. Written as a trio, for three players at one piano, the first part is designed for the late elementary player, second part for elementary, and third part is really very simple and could be considered primary. Trios can be great fun, encouraging good ensemble playing and rhythmic grasp. Listen to the piece and purchase here.

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

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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

Rock And 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

Jenni Pinnock

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

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Australian 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.

Piano Cantabile

Stage Piano Cantabile

Piano Cantabile is a professional training centre which provides coaching in interpretation and instrumental technique throughout the year for advanced pianists who have graduated from a conservatoire. Eminent pianists and teachers Bernard D’Ascoli and Eleanor Harris run this centre from their home in captivating Aubagne (France). They are holding a Summer Course this year from July 16th – 23rd, which is open to pianists with a minimum of Grade 8 level. This looks to be an inspiring week of high level teaching coupled with a stunning location (and great food too!). You can find out more information and download application forms here.

9 Recommended Resources for March 2015

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This month I have listed nine resources, and I hope they contain some interesting and useful selections. Focusing again on ideas for beginners and younger players, as well as some intermediate pieces. The online content is often the most popular choice for many teachers and students.

Beginners and Elementary:

Improve Your Piano Grade!

Paul Harris/Richard Crozier: Improve Your Piano - Grade 1

A new set of publications by Faber Music. Written by Paul Harris and Richard Crozier, these volumes (I looked at Grades 1, 2 & 3), focus on the ABRSM exam syllabus for each grade, and they are based on Paul’s Simultaneous Learning method. The Simultaneous Learning map is printed at the beginning and referred to substantially for each piece. Nine works are featured in each book, and are given a holistic approach although the actual piece isn’t included, because these volume are designed to be used alongside the ABRSM syllabus. The method segregates each musical element; providing pre-notation activities (such as rhythm and pulse, aural, key and scale patterns), introducing the notation i.e. opening the book, playing and refining the piece and a worksheet. This encourages students to really ‘know’ their pieces from every angle, and some teachers may find it beneficial too. Buy a copy here. Watch the introductory video here.

Music, Me, Piano

A series of piano workbooks which have been written and devised by British piano teacher Roberta Wolff. They are very user-friendly and have been colourfully illustrated by Claire Holgate, really appealing to children of all ages. The practice note books are designed to make practising more fun and also encourage development and progress. Although interactive and lively, the basis for the concept is built on one of deliberate practice, and to this end they are beneficial for all piano students. The books work with any teaching method, and they can help set termly targets, make weekly practice notes and plans, asses whether students are on track, allow parents to check progress, draw scale patterns onto keyboards, and use manuscript paper and note pages. There are three different versions: Express, Workbook and Practice Pages, and they work for pupils of all standards too. You can find out lots more here and order your copy here.

The Classical Piano Method: Repertoire Collection 2

The Classical Piano Method: Repertoire Collection 2

I discovered this series whilst repertoire searching for my latest Sinfini Music article. The article focuses on interesting works for beginners and elementary pianists (Pre-Grade 1 – Grade 2) and my brief was to include one transcription or arrangement, providing players with a recognizable tune. This collection, arranged by German composer and arranger Hans-Günter Heumann and published by Schott Music, contains many well-known pieces such as Salut d’amour (Elgar), Clair de Lune (Debussy), Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (J S Bach), Greensleeves (Anonymous) and The Entertainer (Joplin). Beginners and Elementary pianists will enjoy the tasteful arrangements which bestow the character of the original, but without the burden of too many notes! You can find out more about the collection of books and order your copy here.

Improvisation Exercises for Beginners

Improv Notation Exercises

If you like the Higgledy Piggledy Jazz tunes series, and use the Piano Maestro app, these exercises are for you! British composer and publisher, Elena Cobb, has created them for students and presented them for the first time at the MusicExpo workshop in London. They will work with any tune in C major but you can easily transpose them into various keys. The exercises are designed for complete beginners in jazz, and late elementary level piano. Find out more and order your copy here.

Intermediate:

Picture Studies

It’s great to highlight less familiar composers and their music. These lovely miniatures certainly fall into this category. Robert Bruce is a Canadian composer of both educational and film music. Many of his compositions have been included in the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto) examinations syllabus, as well as various Canadian music festivals. Picture Studies contains six pieces for pupils of around Grade 3-5 level (British exam board standard), and they lie well under the hands, are bright, tuneful and fun to play. Piano Studies make an excellent alternative to standard repertoire and will give students a break from exam syllabuses. Listen to some of the pieces and get your copy here.

Little Passacaglia

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This effective, contemplative  little piece was written by Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe, who died last year. It’s around grade 5/6 exam standard, and contains a beautiful serene, minimalist flavour (for those who appreciate and enjoy playing this style). Contemplative chord progressions lurching from one eloquent melodic strand to the next is a feature throughout, yet it has a wistful, melancholic character which will appeal to students. It requires a smooth, legato, cantabile touch; every note needs to contain pathos. Listen to the piece here and get a copy here.

Online:

Susan Paradis

American teacher, Susan Paradis, was one of the first teachers online to start a website exclusively for piano teachers. For almost 10 years, piano tutors from all over the world have come to her website to print music theory games, worksheets, early level music, flash cards, and other “printables”. Her free downloads of early level music, include off the staff notation for beginners. UK and Australian teachers especially love her webpage of material containing UK music terms. You can find out much more about Susan’s website and resources here.

Wolfie Piano App

Wolfie Piano App essentially provides students and teachers with a new or different way to practice. Download the app on the iPad or tablet, and Wolfie behaves in a similar method to a teaching assistant for the piano teacher, helping students master each piece. Wolfie has around 1000 scores in its digital sheet music catalogue, so there will be something for everyone. The App can listen to a performance, turn pages for you, provide practice statistics, score synchronized recordings, annotations and more. Visit the website here, and you’ll find more information about how to use the app here.

Musical Orbit

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This is an interesting new website for all those wishing to learn to play an instrument. You can sign up completely free of charge, and once signed in, browse various teachers and their services. Select a date and time when you would like to connect with the teacher. Once you have booked your slot, you pay the price which is listed on the teacher’s profile. Musical Orbit will then put you in touch with your new teacher. All teachers have professional profiles and many are principal players of top orchestras. Musical Orbit has recently entered into lessons for beginners and young people too, offering beginner lessons and aural tests for a fraction of the price. Find out more here.