Autumn Repertoire Challenge

The Autumn Repertoire Challenge is ideal for players of all ages, and offers a great starting point for developing and building an Active Repertoire at the piano. Are you up for it?


Getting Started

As we all return from summer holidays and look ahead to the cooler weather and darker evenings, we can feel daunted.

What can we remember about piano playing? Hopefully we have several pieces ready to play, thanks to the Summer Repertoire Challenge, but also there’s a sense of the new, and that in the months ahead it’s time to work on new projects, prepare for concerts and exams later in the season, and leave behind what we’ve played before.

Having new projects is always exciting, but let’s not forget to continue playing our favourite pieces, ensuring that we always have a good answer to the simple question What Can You Play?

And it’s this question which underlines the importance of developing an Active Repertoire…

An Active What?

I have written here before about the need for pianists to take the time to enjoy playing the piano, not just working at it. 

And I am on a mission to enthuse players everywhere to develop an Active Repertoire. The Autumn Repertoire Challenge is rooted in this vision. 

There are two parts to the challenge:

Firstly, the Challenge encourage players to list three pieces that are performance-ready. Throughout the coming season commit to:

1. Play the three pieces regularly – if possible, daily. For most players this should only take a few minutes.

2. Try to memorise them. Allow the memorisation process can be as natural and unforced as possible over the coming months.

3. Play the pieces to others. Perform to family and friends as much as you can this autumn. 

Perhaps this season, with many moving to new schools, colleges and jobs, will bring an opportunity to play to a brand new audience.

Secondly, the Challenge encourages players to learn a selection of brand new pieces over the coming months.

The Autumn Repertoire Sheet includes nine spaces to list a new set of pieces you would like to have a go at learning.

These longer evenings can offer a good opportunity to sit down at the piano and tackle a host of new pieces which can later be honed and polished for performance as required.

Your Autumn Sheet

Use the sheet to hold yourself (and your students) to account:
Making a written list makes it official!

You can download your FREE Autumn Repertoire Challenge Sheet here, and distribute the sheets to other players and students:

pdf-logo   Autumn Repertoire Sheet

What’s Next?

If you are a teacher, think about opportunities for your students to perform their Active Repertoire pieces, and listen to them regularly in lessons.

If you are a player, make sure you keep your Autumn Repertoire Sheet with your piano music and use it to the full.

Challenge yourself and others to develop an Active Repertoire!

More Info: Getting Started Guide


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Josh Cohen: Radiohead for Solo Piano

Sheet Music Review

Radiohead hardly need any introduction. Since forming in 1985, they have established themselves as one of the most unique and admired bands in the world, selling more than 30 million albums and regularly topping listener and critical polls.

Australian pianist and teacher Josh Cohen will perhaps be a new name to some readers however, although he has garnered an impressive following of some 70,000+ followers on YouTube, drawn to his improvised solo piano arrangements of popular songs by Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Sigur Rós and David Bowie.

Now, thanks to Faber Music, 11 of Cohen’s arrangements are being published (with the approval of Radiohead themselves) in a beautifully presented collection.

Here’s Cohen explaining in his own words the journey that brought us this publication:

Let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Josh Cohen: Radiohead for Solo Piano

The View from the Pavilion

An original short story.

The following story is written in the manner of an old Chinese folk tale. The meaning, perspective of the characters, and relevance to the world of piano playing, is for the reader to determine…

Continue reading The View from the Pavilion

The Pianist’s Brew

The Pianist’s Reflections Series

I used to be a coffee addict. Seriously. I had several pots of fresh coffee a day, and when I tried to cut back I experienced acute withdrawal symptoms.

Unfortunately though, coffee has some fairly unhelpful side-effects; among other things, it is especially bad for us if we suffer from anxiety (which is so common among pianists).

Having read about the virtues of tea drinking, I decided to try a switch. My previous experience of tea was the warm, milky, teabag variety. I realised that this is not exactly the drink that the great Daoist sages spoke of, so I jumped into the deep end and started to explore the wide variety of Chinese leaf teas that are available without straying too far from the beaten track.

To cut a long story short, switching to tea has proven one of the best choices I’ve made. Aside from tea drinking being better for my health (physical and emotional), my exploration of different Chinese teas has become a fascinating and absorbing journey in its own right.

It may seem odd to encounter an article about tea drinking on a piano site, but I will explain some of the reasons why tea might actually be the perfect brew for all pianists (and, well, people in general).

Also bear in mind that Pianodao addresses my interest in Daoist philosophy and practices; hence the “dao” part of the site name. Tea drinking is so embedded in Daoist culture and practice and that it might as well be described as a core tenet of the Daoist worldview.

As the contemporary Daoist master Zhongxian Wu explains:

Pin Ming Lun Dao is a commonly used Chinese phrase which means ‘to discuss and understand the Dao through the taste of tea‘. This phrase embodies the lifestyle of the most traditional Chinese sages and scholars, whether they be a master of Daoism,, Confucianism, Buddhism, martial arts, music, calligraphy, and/or Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

foreword to Daniel Reid, The Art and Alchemy of Chinese Tea, Singing Dragon, 2011.

With all this in mind, this article will address the following questions:

  1. Why is tea good for pianists (and people in general)?
  2. How does one get started with drinking Chinese tea?
  3. What different types of tea are there?

Tea is by far the single most popular beverage on earth today, so chances are that many reading this are already tea drinkers.

I hope that for those readers, the article will add to your enjoyment of tea, while for those who haven’t yet considered this fascinating subject my hope is that this article will pique your interest, and give you good reason to try something new!

Let’s start by going back in time….

Continue reading The Pianist’s Brew

Fazil Say: Troy Sonata

Sheet Music Review

It’s my pleasure to review a lot of superb new piano music on this site, but rarely do I have the chance to hail a monumental masterpiece to compare with Fazil Say’s Troy Sonata.

The piece was recently recorded by the composer himself and released on his outstanding Fazil Say Plays Say CD from Warner Classics, which was highly praised as my Recording of the Month and reviewed here.

In that review I noted:

“There really is no doubt in my mind that the Troy Sonata is one of the most significant solo piano works of our current century.”

It is with therefore with genuine pleasure that I can also now tell you about the sheet music publication, brought to us by Schott Music

Continue reading Fazil Say: Troy Sonata

Christopher Norton’s “Connections” Series

Sheet Music Review

I first reviewed Connections last spring as, then, a series of eight repertoire books offering a staggering 185 original compositions by the wildly popular educational composer Christopher Norton. First published for the North American market by Frederick Harris Music, the series had just been republished worldwide by Norton’s own in-house company, 80 Days Publishing.

Since writing my original review, Books 9 and 10 in the series have now been released, each including a further nine Christopher Norton originals suitable for advanced players.

In this review (which supersedes and replaces the original one) I can therefore offer an updated overview of the full series…

Continue reading Christopher Norton’s “Connections” Series

My First Haydn

Sheet Music Review

Few would argue with the statement that Haydn composed some of the most important and brilliant music in the Western classical canon. And the older I get, the more I am finding that his compositions (in a similar way to Bach’s) have the power to restore balance when I feel off-key, and enrich my days.

But Haydn’s music isn’t just for miserable old fogeys; I consistently find that even the youngest of my students quickly learn to enjoy his music more than most, its appealing melodies and jaunty, humorous spirit never far away.

Of course, children (and older beginners) can only make this discovery if teachers make a point of introducing Haydn’s oeuvre to their students. And Schott Music’s latest publications My First Haydn may be just the ticket for ensuring this happens.

The book joins Schott’s imaginative “My First…” series of music books, each featuring a major keyboard composer. I have previously reviewed My First Schumann and My First Beethoven and My First Haydn follows the same format to a tee, so do check those earlier reviews.

But for now let’s dig into this latest in the series…

Continue reading My First Haydn

Pianodao at Four, and the Knowledge Economy

It has now been four years since the launch of Pianodao

It’s been a rollercoaster journey, and over these years I have published more than 500 articles (with plenty more in the pipeline!), all of which are available to readers worldwide for FREE.

That’s a lot of work – and a lot of words!

Some would of course question the wisdom of spending so much time creating all this, but these words by Deng Ming-Dao have long been important to me, and underpin my outlook:

“Nowadays, many people regard knowledge as a mere commodity to be packaged, marketed and sold… We live in a world where the selfless sharing of knowledge is no longer a virtue.
The more knowledge that you give away, the more will come to you. The more you hoard, the less you will accumulate. Be compassionate to others. What do you have to fear by being open?”

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao Daily Meditations (1992)


This doesn’t mean that we should give away all our professional expertise for free. But the internet offers us an unparalleled opportunity to be generous with our knowledge, raise awareness, promote discussion, disseminate ideas and improve the quality of communication and understanding. It offers a valuable supplement that can coexist alongside our professional work.

When I launched Pianodao I hoped of course that there would be those who would discover and enjoy the site, especially the Daoist philosophical angle.

But I couldn’t have anticipated that, four years on, the Pianodao site would have welcomed readers from almost every country, more than half a million times, and have established a reputation as a source of reliable information and advice. Goodness… THANK YOU!

I’ve often explained why I choose to write here, but mostly I would simply sum up Pianodao as being a “labour of love”.

Pianodao is truly my online journal, and the place where I can explore my thoughts, experiences, and enjoy the gift of writing for its own sake.

And it’s good to be able to share the journey.

I always hoped there would be an element of community around the site (and the Pianodao Tea Room has become a particular embodiment of that.)

Of course I’ve also welcomed the donations of those who appreciate the site, and who so generously choose to support it.

But the core of Pianodao has been, and will remain FREE.
It is not simply my gift to you: it is my gift to myself too.

Why not check out the very first post I ever wrote here, four years ago today: the vision outlined there still holds true!


How about You?

What does Pianodao mean to you? Please leave a comment below!

And if you have appreciated Pianodao and would like to make a donation to help towards the next four years, please do so right here:



Schubert’s “Moments musicaux”

Sheet Music Review

Wiener Urtext Edition have, in recent years, made a particular effort to renew their editions of Schubert’s smaller-scale piano works, the two sets of Impromptus, Op.90 and Op.142, and the Moments musicaux op.94, a new edition of which has just appeared on the market.

Is this new version the definitive edition? Let’s see…

Continue reading Schubert’s “Moments musicaux”