Your Journey at the Piano

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“For 30 years I have had the pleasure of helping students of all ages and abilities take their next steps at the piano. I would love to support your journey at the piano too, and very much look forward to hearing from you – do please get in touch.

ANDREW EALES • piano teacher and mentor

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PIANODAO • Supporting Your Way of Piano.

The Future of ABRSM Grades?

PATHWAYS FOR PLAYING • by ANDREW EALES
for support with your playing • BOOK A CONSULTATION


In the last couple of weeks I have come across two well argued letters in the music press, the first by Alex Aitken and published in the September 2021 issue of Music Teacher magazine, the second by Pauline Carter and appearing in the October issue of the BBC Music Magazine.

Both letter writers lament a perceived decline in music education, singling out ABRSM as being uniquely responsible for this malaise. Their charge is probably unavoidable, and not without merit bearing in mind that ABRSM are in their own words,

“…the UK’s largest music education body, and the world’s leading provider of music exams.”

The diametrically different solutions each of the two propose points to the serious challenge ABRSM now face in charting a path that reconnects with all of their stakeholders, wins wide support, and restores confidence in their ability to (as they put it) “inspire musical achievement”.

It is certainly beyond doubt that many in music education are reflecting anew on the role, relevance and value of music exams:

What is the future of ABRSM grades?

I am coming to the view that it’s time to focus on a live performance assessment and scrap divisive “support tests” and other prerequisites from grade exams. Done well, this could raise a bar which does seem to have been steadily slipping in recent years, while better matching the real-world priorities of the 21st century.

When ABRSM announced their “Performance Grades” a few months back, I admit that I was skeptical. But having listened carefully to a range of opinion, I now believe that making the performance of music the whole focus of graded assessments could prove unifying, and makes a lot of sense for a variety of reasons. Let’s consider three of particular significance…

Continue reading The Future of ABRSM Grades?

The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces

THE PIANODAO BOOKSHELF
books for piano players, teachers, students and music enthusiasts


Before the last rays of summer settle into the colours of autumn, let me tell you about this wonderful book, my summer holiday read, but equally suitable for the cozy evenings ahead, or for that matter as a Christmas gift.

Indeed, whether you find yourself wanting inspiration for fresh beginnings, a reboot in your piano journey, or simply a brilliant read, Susan Tomes’ The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces is poised to perfectly hit the spot and deliver the tonic you are looking for.

It’s a book which very much delivers on the promise of its title, giving a chronological survey of the storied history of the instrument and, more particularly, the development of a glorious repertoire that is surely one of the pinnacles of human achievement.

So let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces

September in the Pianodao Tea Room

Throughout the coming month, the focus of Daily Dao posts in the Pianodao Tea Room community will be Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians, a series of aphorisms that the great composer initially intended as a companion to his famous Album for the Young.

Join our convivial Facebook community to reflect on and discuss your piano journey in the company of other Pianodao readers and supporters!

Remember that as a member you are also entitled to 20% discount on all sheet music purchases from Musicroom.com, EVC Music, Editions Musica Ferrum and Edition HH.

For more information about joining our special community:


FREE! James Welburn: Cool Cat Blues

FREE SHEET MUSIC DOWNLOAD
Courtesy of EDITIONS MUSICA FERRUM

James Welburn has produced two collections of original music for Musica Ferrum which I have previously reviewed: Reflections in Waltz and Musical Escapades, both highly enjoyable.

Cool Cat Blues comes from his hotly anticipated and soon to be released third collection Adventures & Accolades.

I will review the collection once it’s available, but in the meantime here’s a preview of Cool Cat Blues, an astutely observed jazz piece for the intermediate player; those looking for fresh material that will get their toes tapping are in for a treat!

And here’s your free promotional copy of the sheet music to this piece, courtesy of Editions Musica Ferrum:


Further details of the book, including the option of purchasing a digital copy or studio license, are available from the publisher here.


TEA ROOM COMMUNITY members receive 20% off sheet music
from Musicroom and selected online retailers.

All products featured on Pianodao are independently selected by Andrew Eales.
However, when you buy something through the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, without affecting the price you pay.


FREE! Christine Artemis Pappa: Baby Rag

FREE SHEET MUSIC DOWNLOAD
Courtesy of EDITIONS MUSICA FERRUM

Baby Rag is a riot of fun, and comes from the colourfully varied early intermediate collection Mosaic 3, recently published by Musica Ferrum as part of this growing, progressive series.

Christine Artemis Pappa points out in her introduction to the piece that the stride left hand leaps and right hand sixths could prove challenging for some, but I think any player by around Grade 4 will be able to have lots of fun playing this jauntily syncopated and memorably melodic skit. Note that quaver/eighth notes here are meant to be swung.

You can catch a few bars of this piece in this promotional video, which also reveals the range and character of the Mosaic 3 book:

The Mosaic series is available from Musicroom here, and digital copies and site licenses are as ever available directly from Musica Ferrum here.

Here’s your FREE sheet music download of Baby Rag to enjoy:



TEA ROOM COMMUNITY members receive 20% off sheet music
from Musicroom and selected online retailers.

All products featured on Pianodao are independently selected by Andrew Eales.
However, when you buy something through the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, without affecting the price you pay.


FREE! Borislava Taneva: Autumn Mood

FREE SHEET MUSIC DOWNLOAD
Courtesy of EDITIONS MUSICA FERRUM

Autumn Mood is one of the many expressive, evocative pieces to be found in Borislava’s magnificent pair of books Riddles, Puzzles and Pieces, which I recently reviewed here.

The complete books make an excellent purchase for any creative piano teacher and their students looking to enlarge their library of superb music, and Autumn Mood straight away confirms the calibre of Taneva’s brilliant writing.

Suitable for late elementary (Grade 2) to Early Intermediate (Grade 3) player, the composer tells us that the educational goal of Autumn Mood is the improvement of legato technique and the crossing of the hands.

I would add that the delicious harmonies found here will work their magic on the developing ear, helping the early intermediate player absorb exquisite chromaticism and learn to hear the directional pull within a chord.

Riddles, Puzzles and Plays is available from Musicroom here and as a digital download or studio license from the publisher here.

In the meantime, it’s time to get into an Autumn Mood



TEA ROOM COMMUNITY members receive 20% off sheet music
from Musicroom and selected online retailers.

All products featured on Pianodao are independently selected by Andrew Eales.
However, when you buy something through the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, without affecting the price you pay.


FREE! Alison Mathews: Whispering Breeze

FREE SHEET MUSIC DOWNLOAD
Courtesy of EDITIONS MUSICA FERRUM

Whispering Breeze is drawn from Alison Mathews 2019 publication Landscapes: Poetic Piano Solos, which I reviewed here when it was published.

Landscapes is available from Musicroom here, or as a digital copy or site license from the publisher’s website here.

Whispering Breeze is one of the easiest pieces in the collection, and could be attempted by an intermediate player at around UK Grade 3.

The beautifully meandering but memorable melody here enjoys a gently mesmerising syncopation which you will easily pick up after listening to the composer’s recording:



TEA ROOM COMMUNITY members receive 20% off sheet music
from Musicroom and selected online retailers.

All products featured on Pianodao are independently selected by Andrew Eales.
However, when you buy something through the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, without affecting the price you pay.


FREE! Ben Crosland: Memento

FREE SHEET MUSIC DOWNLOAD
Courtesy of EDITIONS MUSICA FERRUM

Memento is a taken from the latest album of fresh, original music by British composer Ben Crosland, which is available here in physical form, and as a digital download from the publisher here. The collection will be reviewed on Pianodao soon.

Originally written for “felt piano”, the music weaves its gentle magic with a 12/8 left hand figuration that benefits from a large hand span and requires supple wrist movement. The nostalgic melodies of the right hand above this deft harmonic base will enchant player and listener alike.

Suitable for players at around Grade 4 level.


TEA ROOM COMMUNITY members receive 20% off sheet music
from Musicroom and selected online retailers.

All products featured on Pianodao are independently selected by Andrew Eales.
However, when you buy something through the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, without affecting the price you pay.


Cordelia Williams: Nightlight

RECORDING OF THE MONTH • review by ANDREW EALES
showcasing an inspiring recent piano recording.


Cordelia Williams’ dual interests are quickly uncovered by the discovery that she was not only the Piano Winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2006, since when she has embarked on a globetrotting performing and recording career, but that she has also has a First in Theology from Clare College, Cambridge.

Williams’ pianism and spiritual enquiry share the focus of Nightlight, her fourth solo piano disc for SOMM Recordings, and Pianodao’s August 2021 Recording of the Month

Continue reading Cordelia Williams: Nightlight

Which Piano Exam Board 2021/3?

PATHWAYS FOR PLAYING • by ANDREW EALES
for support with your playing • BOOK A CONSULTATION


Taking grade exams on the piano has for many been a rite of passage, and many teachers and parents convey an expectation that they are an important landmark in any pianist’s journey. Whatever one’s view of this, it is no surprise that so many of the questions, comments and requests made on internet forums concern the different exam boards available.

Five equally accredited boards operate internationally from a UK base, giving rise to endless comparisons and discussions, often generating more heat than light. This article is a sincere attempt to offer the latter, providing a level playing field for each of the five boards to present themselves in their own words, outline what they offer and their recent developments.

The following pages, one for each board, will supplement this information with links to Pianodao’s independent syllabus reviews, and a representative sampling of the customer feedback users of each board have generously provided in response to the recent Pianodao reader survey.

Continue reading Which Piano Exam Board 2021/3?