9 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.

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

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

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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

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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.


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

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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.


 


 

 

8 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.

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 order your copy here.

The Classical Piano Method: Repertoire Collection 2

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.

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. 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

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.


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.