Welcome to Pianodao!

Welcome to the piano education website and online blog of teacher, published composer and author ANDREW EALES.

Andrew provides regular lessons at his private studio in Milton Keynes and consultations both online and in person. His Masterclass feedback service delivers detailed constructive written advice to players all over the world.

Pianodao features more than 600 articles and music reviews, all written to inform and support players, teachers and enthusiasts everywhere, and free to access thanks to the support of readers.


The Gamification of Musical Learning

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

The rise and rise of electronic video, console and computer games over the last two decades has been spectacular. From Pokémon to Grand Theft Auto, and from Minecraft to Wii Sports, games have become hugely popular and lucrative, and some academics even suggest that they are now the dominant cultural form of the 21st century.

In his much-discussed paper Manifesto for a Ludic Century (available here), Eric Zimmerman suggests that while the twentieth century was the age of information and of moving pictures, the twenty-first is the ludic (play-centric) century. He enthuses,

“Increasingly, the ways that people spend their leisure time and consume art, design, and entertainment will be games, or experiences very much like games.”

We certainly see growing evidence of gamification in music education. In this article I consider the transformative impact this may be having, for better or worse…

Continue reading The Gamification of Musical Learning

Nikki Iles & Friends: Easy to Intermediate

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Reviewing the first two volumes in the ABRSM series Nikki Iles and Friends when they appeared in April 2021, I concluded:

“I have no hesitation in declaring this series an “epic win” for ABRSM. Don’t hesitate in getting copies!”

Suitable for intermediate to advanced players (UK Grades 4-8), the books have proven popular with players in my studio here in Milton Keynes and elsewhere. You can read my full review here.

Somewhat sneaking under the radar, a third book has now been added to the series. Nikki Iles & Friends: Easy to Intermediate will, I am certain, have huge appeal to players who are less advanced.


The sensibly age-neutral cover matches the designs of the previous two books, but beyond that there are some points of departure worth noting, so let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Nikki Iles & Friends: Easy to Intermediate

More Than Music Lessons

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Merlin B. Thompson (shown above) is a forward-thinking music educator with over forty years teaching experience in private studio, conservatory and university settings. His career has taken him around the world, and podcast enthusiasts may know of his excellent series, The Music Educator’s Crucible.

Subtitled “A Studio Teacher’s Guide to Parents, Practicing, Projects and Character”, Thompson’s book More than Music Lessons was published a few months ago by Rowman & Littlefield, and is one of those books which could prove to be a game-changer for any instrumental teacher who takes time to absorb and apply the author’s key messages.

According to the author’s introduction,

More than Music Lessons shifts the focus away from established music curricula to something of equal importance: the personal and interpersonal dynamics of students’ own musical life. This book demonstrates what can happen when music teachers take an interest in and have an ongoing appreciation for their students’ home life, sense of self, musical interests, personal and world views, culture and spiritual individuality.”

The book has a four-part framework with sections on Parents, Practising, Projects and Character. In this review, I will touch on the content and give a general overview of the publication itself, hopefully enticing teachers to take a closer look for themselves…

Continue reading More Than Music Lessons

Debussy: Préludes pour piano

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The two books of Préludes by Claude Debussy (1862 -1918) are undoubtedly among the most important and popular piano compositions of the early twentieth century, and have exercised a truly seminal influence on the piano music of subsequent generations.

Published in 1910 and 1913 respectively, each book contains 12 pieces, each one of them an invitation to another unique, fully imagined world. In many ways a summation of Debussy’s extraordinarily vivid piano writing, these miniatures are self-contained miracles of sonority, impressionistic and colourific effect; they are equally a lesson in taut compositional clarity and structural genius.

Originally published by Durand, the Préludes are now available in various combinations and editions from most of the major publishing houses, including Henle Verlag, Wiener Urtext, Edition Peters, Schirmer, Alfred and Dover.

In this review I am looking at the new urtext edition by Thomas Kabisch, published by Bärenreiter in two volumes; both volumes are exemplary in their scholarship, also including helpful editorial fingering supplied by the pianist Martin Widmaier.

Continue reading Debussy: Préludes pour piano

‘Graded Gillock’: A New Series

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I have long been an admirer of the brilliant piano music of William Lawson Gillock (1917-1993), so it is with huge pleasure and a sense of pride that I can now announce that, in conjunction with the Willis Music Company, I have selected and edited a new series of ‘graded’ collections showcasing a varied range of his best pieces.

Graded Gillock appears in three volumes, now available:


There’s little doubt in my mind that Gillock was one of the most significant educational piano composers of the twentieth century, as adept at turning out distinctively memorable and colourful piano pieces in an accessible style as he was at engaging the imaginations and enthusiasm of young learners, in doing so paving the way for today’s educational composers.

Gillock is perhaps best known here in the UK for his evocatively bluesy New Orleans Nightfall, stomping Swinging Beat and Latin-infused Carnival in Rio, all of which have been popular graded exam pieces in recent years. But what of his other music?

For this new series, I have used these favourites as a starting point, working with the composer’s long-term publisher Willis Music to explore and select Gillock’s most enjoyable and pedagogically useful music.

Continue reading ‘Graded Gillock’: A New Series

South African Folk Songs Collection

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Last October, I welcomed Artina McCain’s African American Folk Songs Collection, reviewed here, and took as sideways look at several other titles from Hal Leonard’s uniformly excellent series of elementary to intermediate piano solo arrangements of music from around the world.

Now I am delighted to introduce the latest title to this superb series. The South African Folk Songs Collection contains 24 traditional folk songs arranged by James Wilding and Nkululeko Zungu, and is now available.


Here’s the Pianodao review…

Continue reading South African Folk Songs Collection

Discovering the piano music of Leoš Janáček

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Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) lived a life of music, but it was in his mature phase that he created the most enduring of his masterpieces.

Works such as The Cunning Little Vixen, the orchestral Sinfonietta and Taras Bulba, the Glagolitic Mass, and two popular string quartets have ensured that Janáček’s reputation is now immortalised as one of the greatest ever Czech composers, and a leading figure in the narrative of European music in the early twentieth century.

Janáček composed for the piano throughout his career, from his younger days as a student in Leipzig through to Vzpomínka [Reminiscence], composed in his final year. However, his major published works date from between 1900-1912:

  • On an Overgrown Path (1900, 1908, 1911)
  • Sonata I. X. 1905 (1905) and
  • In the Mists (1912).

In this survey I will take a look at each of these works, followed by a recent compilation of Janáček’s less well-known solo piano music.


In all cases, I will be turning to the benchmark editions from Bärenreiter, which can be regarded as the authoritative performing versions.

Continue reading Discovering the piano music of Leoš Janáček

Recordings of the Month: July 2022

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The summer is a slower time for new releases, offering a good opportunity to explore beyond the more obvious to discover hidden gems.

First, for this month’s Recording of the Month, I have been blown away by a truly stunning debut recording on Warner Classics …

Continue reading Recordings of the Month: July 2022

Paul Harris Webinar: A Piece a Week

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Paul Harris’s Piece a Week series has been among the triumphs of recent years. In my own teaching these books have become a staple with students of all ages, and the number one top sight reading resource that I recommend and use. I have reviewed the books for Grade 1-6 here and for Initial Grade here.

Now Faber Music bring us a combined book covering Grades 7 and 8, which completes the series. The book maintains the educational approach and musical engagement of its predecessors, so for more information please be sure to read those previous reviews.

The final book well and truly lives up to the sky-high standards of the rest in the series, and is in my view truly superb.

To give you a taste, Faber Music have generously provided this FREE piece from the book as an exclusive Pianodao download:


And now for Paul Harris in person…

Faber Music kindly organised a special webinar for Pianodao Tea Room members, celebrating the new release and giving him the opportunity to outline the series in person, introduce the final book, play some of the pieces, and answer questions. For those who missed it, I am pleased to share the full webinar recording below.

To catch future events in the Tea Room, why not come and join us?

Here is the recording…


To use the special promotional code announced by Rachel Topham in the webinar, here is the Faber Music online purchase link.

The Piece a Week series is available now from music retailers everywhere.


PIANODAO TEA ROOM members receive 20% DISCOUNT on
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Now AvailableAndrew’s essential guide to practice:



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Hal Leonard’s ‘Classical Piano Sheet Music Series’

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I love it when a music book exceeds my initial expectations, and the three books in Hal Leonard’s new Classical Piano Sheet Music Series score a hat trick on that front.

Between them, these three handsomely presented and well-edited books deliver a very decent survey of Western Classical piano music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic Eras, and I can warmly recommend them to intermediate pianists and their teachers.

In the review that follows I will include an easy-to-read piece listing for all the pieces in each of the three books, individual purchase links, having first given a general overview of the series…

Continue reading Hal Leonard’s ‘Classical Piano Sheet Music Series’

Philip Godfrey’s ‘Hotchpotch’

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2022 is turning into a vintage year for excellent new music composed for elementary pianists. I’ve already raved about Victoria Proudler’s Piano Grades are Go! and Anna Robinson’s Cats on the Keys, and I’m equally excited about Philip Godfrey’s Hotchpotch, newly published by Editions Musica Ferrum.

This small collection offers ten new compositions, each one page long, suitable for players at around UK Grade 2 level. And it is great!

Read on to find out more and have a listen…

Continue reading Philip Godfrey’s ‘Hotchpotch’

Singing in Aural Tests: the Bottom Line

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

The topic of singing in aural tests has long been a contentious one, but has become more so in recent years. Not only have growing numbers of teachers noted how unpopular the singing tests are, but research in the field of cognitive science now casts doubt on the previously assumed validity of such tests.

In this article I will explore the requirements of the five main boards, consider the links between singing and “audiation”, touch on some basic scientific research (with links for those wanting to read more) and suggest change.

Continue reading Singing in Aural Tests: the Bottom Line

Sibelius: Three Sonatinas Op.67

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Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is best known for his seven Symphonies, ever-popular Tone Poems and brilliant Violin Concerto; many pianists are unaware that he also wrote prolifically for our instrument.

Although Finland’s greatest composer famously declared that he didn’t like the piano and only composed for the instrument to generate income, he wrote more than 150 solo works, predominantly miniatures, and in many cases works of tremendous musical value and appeal.

Among these many works, the Three Sonatinas Op.67 are later pieces which fully embody the compressed craftsmanship and musical language of the mature Sibelius.

Published by Breitkopf & Hārtel, the benchmark edition is the Complete Edition of Jean Sibelius Works, series V Works for Piano, edited by Karl Kilpeläinen and published in 2008. Happily, Breitkopf have now released the Three Sonatinas as an individual folio, the subject of this review…

Continue reading Sibelius: Three Sonatinas Op.67

Anna Robinson: Cats on the Keys

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Cats on the Keys is a new collection of sixteen character pieces for piano, designed to be appealing and relatable to the 21st century piano student.

Composed by Melbourne-based piano teacher Anna Robinson (whose Notes on a Neighbourhood I reviewed here) the book is vividly presented and would suit elementary players at around UK Grade 0-2 level.

Before turning to the publication, which is available in the UK from Forsyth Music, I am pleased to mention that the composer has generously provided a FREE piece for Pianodao readers to download and play; the score is here:


And now here’s my review of the whole collection…

Continue reading Anna Robinson: Cats on the Keys

Naoko Ikeda: Aya

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The Willis Music Company have long been a leading name in the publishing of educational and accessible piano pieces, best known for the Dozen A Day series, the John Thompson Piano Method, and their extensive catalogue of great music by William Gillock.

I recently reviewed their Accent on William Gillock compendium and Jason Sifford’s Keybop series, and in this review I turn to another of their leading names, the Japanese composer Naoko Ikeda, whose music has met with considerable popularity in the States already, and is now gaining long-overdue attention here in the UK.

Ikeda’s extensive back catalogue includes many individually published pieces as well as several collections, a couple of which I picked up last year. I will be looking at her back catalogue in a future article, but for now I am turning to the recently published Aya, “10 Introspective Pieces for Piano Solo”.

The book is suitable for intermediate players (I would suggest around UK Grade 4-5 level), and is a superbly rewarding discovery…

Continue reading Naoko Ikeda: Aya

Alexis Ffrench: ‘Truth’

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Alexis Ffrench’s star has continued to rise since my review of Hal Leonard’s Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection a couple of years ago.

Last year Ffrench became Composer in Residence with Scala Radio; readers will be still more interested in the recent announcement of his appointment as the new Artistic Director of ABRSM, the music examination board, a role of which he has enthusiastically said,

“I can’t wait to start working with ABRSM’s Chief Executive, Chris Cobb, and his wonderful team in service of teachers and learners all over the world!”

On the creative front, Ffrench recently released his latest album on Sony. Truth introduces thirteen brand new tracks, including collaborations with singer Leona Lewis, guitarist Jin Oki, and with the lush backing of a 70-piece orchestra.

According to the artist,

“In writing these pieces, as we were all locked down, I imagined what the world would look like if we all asked ourselves the question “who am I and what is my purpose in the world?” and what we, as a human race, could create and change together. Out of that intensely personal moment, and as a reaction to feelings I could barely fathom at the time, these songs were born – as an elegy to the audacity of hope.”


Hal Leonard have just published the official sheet music folio of all the tracks from the album in solo piano transcriptions, the subject of this review…

Continue reading Alexis Ffrench: ‘Truth’

Liszt’s Late Pieces 1880-1885

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Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was undoubtedly a towering giant among the pianist-composers of the nineteenth century, but the significance of his late piano pieces has been the subject of much debate.

On the one hand these works are considered heralds of the elderly Liszt’s waning inspiration; on the other, they are often praised as visionary pieces, stark in their radical simplicity, bold in their chromaticism and opaque relationship to the highly evolved tonal system of their time.

Dusting off some of these most remarkable compositions, a new edition by Michael Kube has recently been published by Bärenreiter, which deserves investigation by players, teachers and academics alike…

Continue reading Liszt’s Late Pieces 1880-1885

Recordings of the Month: June 2022

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Following the successful revamp of this series, Pianodao now includes a monthly selection of interesting new music and top recordings.

Read on to discover four releases which captivated me this month, from the romantic music of Québec composer Augustine Descarries to reflective jazz by Bugge Wesseltoft and intelligent minimalism from Vanessa Wagner. But first…

Continue reading Recordings of the Month: June 2022

ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2023-24

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IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER
ABRSM have selected my original composition Fresh Air for inclusion in the Grade 1 Piano Pieces book for 2023-24. I have however written the following review as a fully-independent agent, and as a teacher who has entered students for ABRSM exams for 30 years. Readers will note that my conclusions are entirely consistent with my other writings.

The arrival of a new piano syllabus from ABRSM has become etched in the calendar as a biennial event of important interest for piano teachers here in the UK and in those countries where the board has a significant presence.

The current 2021-22 syllabus, reviewed here, was launched at the height of the pandemic in Summer 2020 and met a mixed reaction, its broadly popular repertoire accompanied by a revision to the scales syllabus that divided opinion.

For this new syllabus, ABRSM tell us that they have refreshed the pieces lists to give a greater choice of repertoire than ever before, including “music by a more diverse range of composers”. Of particular interest:

  • There are now 39 pieces per grade, divided equally between Lists A, B and C.
  • 70% of the 2021 & 2022 repertoire has been retained.
  • The contents of Piano Exam Pieces books have been fully updated with nine new choices per grade.
  • A further nine “new” pieces have been added to the ‘other piece’ lists for each grade.

The 2023-4 syllabus is valid both for the “Practical Grades” (ABRSM’s face-to-face exams) and their recently introduced “Performance Grades” (which despite their name remain video recordings, made at the candidate’s leisure and submitted online).

From August 2022, the Performance Grades are available “on demand”, which should in my view add to their popularity. As with the Practical Grades however, those taking Performance Grades 6, 7 or 8 must first have passed ABRSM’s online-only Grade 5 theory exam or accepted alternative.

The 2023-24 syllabus comes into effect on 1 January 2023, and only then can candidates begin to present pieces from the new lists. There is a one year overlap up to 31 December 2023 but all three set pieces must be prepared from the same syllabus.

For Practical Grades, the scales and arpeggios, sight-reading and aural-test requirements remain exactly the same as for the 2021-22 syllabus.

As in previous syllabus reviews, I will consider the new publications, repertoire trends and content, select some of my favourite choices at each grade, and share some initial conclusions… read on to find out more!

Continue reading ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2023-24

Andrew Eales: Fresh Air

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I am delighted to announce that my composition Fresh Air has been selected and licensed by ABRSM for inclusion in their 2023-24 Grade 1 Piano Exam Pieces book.

The piece was originally composed for and published in the 2018 Editions Musica Ferrum collection Mosaic 1.

The composition is a gentle tune which I wrote in my head while walking in the local park with my dog Bella one lovely spring morning. The chords I’ve used mostly lack their bass note, giving a sense of weightlessness, as if floating in calm blue skies.

Here’s my recording of the piece, followed by my practice tips…

Continue reading Andrew Eales: Fresh Air

The Piano Player: British Classics

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Faber Music have a well-earned reputation for producing outstanding series of music books. From their lush Faber Piano Anthology series to Paul Harris’s Improve Your Sight Reading and Pam Wedgwood’s Jazzin’ Around, their best series have become landmark publications.

With their latest publication, British Classics, Faber are launching a new series, with seven titles projected, simply called The Piano Player. So let’s take a look at the series debut…

Continue reading The Piano Player: British Classics

ABRSM’s Piano Star

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ABRSM’s colourful Piano Star series of books for elementary players has been one of their most brilliant and popular successes of recent years, and I was happy to be a contributor, my original compositions featuring in all four core music books.

I have previously written independent reviews of two series extras in which I had no involvement, Piano Star Theory and Piano Star Duets, but have yet to introduce the core series.

As with the Mosaic Series, even though I cannot independently review these publications they clearly belong in the Pianodao Music Library. This article will therefore offer a basic series overview, personal insight into the music I contributed, and I hope, enough information for readers to decide whether to take a closer look for themselves…

Continue reading ABRSM’s Piano Star

The Mosaic Series

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Mosaic is a series currently comprising four music books, each showcasing fresh and varied repertoire newly commissioned and composed by piano educators from around the world.

The pieces are loosely graded, arranged in order of difficulty, compiled as books suitable for elementary, intermediate and advanced players, and published by Editions Musica Ferrum. A fifth book (reaching towards Grade 8 level) is currently planned.

I am honoured to be one of the composers featured in all four books, alongside such well-established names as Barbara Arens, Ben Crosland, June Armstrong and others.

The collections are a natural addition to the Pianodao Music Library, and while I obviously cannot ‘review’ them in quite the usual way, this article will introduce the series with an overview of the concept, several recordings, and hopefully sufficient information for readers to decide whether to take a closer look.

Continue reading The Mosaic Series

Stanisław Prószyński: Easy Pieces for Piano


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MUSIC FROM CHOPIN’S LAND
In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing piano music by Polish composers. Captivated by new musical discoveries, I have continued to independently explore and review this repertoire…


Stanisław Prószyński’s name will be new to many readers, as it was to me when I found a copy of his Easy Pieces for piano on the shelf at the PWM headquarters during my visit to the publisher in Kraków in 2020.

Then freshly reprinted with a lovely new cover design by Joanna Rusinek, the book includes 15 pieces suitable for elementary players (UK Grades 1-2), and I brought a copy home (along with the many other books which I have been introducing here over the months).

Let’s find out a little more about the composer and these pieces…

Continue reading Stanisław Prószyński: Easy Pieces for Piano

Barbara Arens: One Hand Piano

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The Pianodao Music Library includes several collections by educator and composer Barbara Arens, and regular readers will know I am a fan.

It has been a little while since she last brought us a new collection with a major publishing house, so I am delighted to be reviewing her latest from the world’s oldest music publisher Breitkopf and Hārtel, who are also the company with whom she has the longest history.

One Hand Piano 2 is the sequel to One Hand Piano, Arens’ only Breitkopf publication not previously reviewed on Pianodao, so I am going to make the most of the opportunity to review both books here. Each volume contains 40 pieces for Left or Right hand alone, and as she so often does, Arens has identified a niche and brilliantly filled it…

Continue reading Barbara Arens: One Hand Piano