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You’ve found the piano education website and blog of teacher, published composer and author Andrew Eales.

Active Repertoire, Winter 23/24

The Active Repertoire Challenge offers an exciting pathway to a more motivated and truly rewarding piano journey. Are you ready to take part? If so, here’s your latest FREE sheet to plan and track your progress during the Winter months:

The Christmas Shortlist

Keeping track of all the seasonal music reviewed on Pianodao is becoming more challenging with each passing year. Here are all of my recommendations, brought together in one easy-to-use shortlist to help you find what you are looking for:

How to Practise Music

The essential, pocket-sized companion for every musician!

Accessible and authoritative, HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is Andrew’s highly acclaimed book of tips for anyone who wants to get more out of their practice…

Graded Gillock • Three Essential Collections

William Gillock’ music continues to inspire piano students around the world with its catchy tunes and imaginative content. These three collections deliver 41 of his very best pieces, sorted by level.

Naoko Ikeda Graded Collection

For this publication I have selected and edited 24 of Naoko Ikeda’s best solo works, presenting her pieces in approximate order of difficulty, grouped from Grade 2 to Grade 5 level.

Keep scrolling for the very latest news, reviews and blog posts…

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Embracing Contradictions

Pause • Reflect • Sundays on Pianodao

In her novel Lessons in Chemistry (recently dramatised as a superb Apple TV+ series), Bonnie Garmus periodically verbalises the observations and thoughts of the character Six Thirty, the principal protagonist’s pet dog.

Here’s an example of Six Thirty’s canine wisdom:

A fair point! But perhaps it is our contradictions that define us. Certainly in the Daoist worldview, ever-present contradictions define all things.

Continue reading Embracing Contradictions

The Morricone Collection

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Italian maestro Ennio Morricone (1928-2020) is undoubtedly one of the great names in the firmament of film composers. Rising to global fame for his scores to the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns of the 1960’s, he went on to compose for more than 400 movies, including such classics as Cinema Paradiso, The Mission and The Untouchables.

In a year that has seen several new solo piano collections of film transcriptions, Hal Leonard have recently brought out The Morricone Collection, including tasteful arrangements of thirty of the composer’s best themes.

Being something of a fan of Morricone’s work, I am certainly pleased that this publication didn’t slip under my radar, because it is excellent…

Continue reading The Morricone Collection

When East Meets West

Pause • Reflect • Sundays on Pianodao

Charles A. Moore

These words come from the foreword to Wing-Tsit Chan’s A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, published in 1963 by Princeton University Press, and still one of the outstanding collections of Chinese philosophical writing in English translation.

In the six decades since Moore wrote these inspiring words, I wonder how far we have come. Here in the 2020’s, have our continents, countries and communities become more tolerant, more open to the ideas and culture of others? It seems to me that, perhaps, we still have quite a distance to cover.

Ever since my very first post to launch the Pianodao site back in 2015, I have continued in my efforts to apply the wisdom of Eastern philosophy to piano playing and education. As a music reviewer, pianist and teacher, I have also increasingly discovered the wonderful benefits of developing a more inclusive, extended core performance and pedagogy repertoire.

Continue reading When East Meets West

Thelonious Monk • Intermediate Piano Solos

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Though initially misunderstood, Thelonious Monk came to be regarded as one of the key figures in the evolution of jazz music in the 1950’s to 70’s, even appearing on the cover of Time magazine.

Undoubtedly a maverick pioneer, his profound influence remains a bright flame, his compositions an important continuing resource in the jazz repertoire.

Monk’s pianistic approach was rooted in the stride style of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. Building on that foundation he embraced modes, whole tones, clusters and polytonality. It is perhaps no surprise that his music took its time to catch on, but his virtuosic playing and unique musical personality ultimately made him a difficult genius to ignore.

Monk’s body of work is an unlikely candidate for study at intermediate level, but renowned jazz pianist, composer and arranger Ronnie Mathews has risen to an improbable challenge in producing a slim and accessible collection of 14 intermediate piano solos, published Stateside some years ago but only recently clearing licensing for release here in the UK…

Continue reading Thelonious Monk • Intermediate Piano Solos

“In the three moons of winter”

Pause • Reflect • Sundays on Pianodao

As Autumn turns to winter, dead leaves wither on our pathways, migrating birds have headed off in search of warmer climes, insects are crawling into holes, and many animals are settling down to hibernate until the spring thaw.

In Chinese medicine and Qigong practice, the human metabolism also slows down in the Winter, and our energy can become dormant. And yet we seem to largely ignore the challenges of the season. Instead, we work and play even more frenetically than usual as we head towards the Christmas season at breakneck speed.

There is a real danger that our over-exertion in the early winter leaves us physically depleted, mentally and emotionally exhausted, and more susceptible to infection, illness and a general sense of feeling “run down”. We need to take stock…

Continue reading “In the three moons of winter”

ABRSM Performance Diplomas

Supporting Your Piano Playing Journey

A few months ago I brought news that exam board ABRSM had announced their intention to replace their range of diploma assessments in performance, teaching and direction with a new set of digital qualifications from 2024.

The popularity of that article underlined the point that these diplomas are not just of interest to several of my regular students, but to a far wider community within the piano playing and teaching world.

Now, with additional information available from ABRSM, it’s time to retire my previous post and bring you this updated one to replace it.

Continue reading ABRSM Performance Diplomas

Jóhann Jóhannsson • Piano Works

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Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018) was an award-winning Icelandic composer, musician, and producer, who wrote music for a wide array of media including film, television, theatre and dance. With his passing in 2018, aged just 48, the world of music lost one of its brightest stars, still in the ascendent.

Faber Music celebrate this extraordinary talent with the publication of a new cloth-bound book, Jóhann Jóhannsson Piano Works, the subject of this review, in which they tell us,

The book is undoubtedly a beautiful and important tribute, so let’s take a look…

Continue reading Jóhann Jóhannsson • Piano Works

Gradebusters 3 and 4

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If you are looking for fresh and superbly arranged songs that will appeal to early intermediate piano players of all ages, who are you going to call?

That’s right! Hal Leonard’s superb Gradebuster series is back, with two shiny new collections aimed at UK Grade 3 and 4 players respectively, each offering another “15 Awesome Solos”.

The first two books in this series have proved predictably popular. Upon their release, I reviewed Gradebusters 1 here, and Gradebusters 2 here, and those previous articles explain what is so great about this series.

So let’s find out if the latest two busters on the scene live up to the high standards of the series so far….

Continue reading Gradebusters 3 and 4

Active Repertoire, Winter 23/24

Active Repertoire is the music we can play any time, any place. These are the pieces we can perform without notice, without any embarrassment, and even from memory.

We often fret about the things we can’t do, the music we can’t play. It can lead to a negative spiral that leaves us feeling defeated and deflated.

But what if we recalibrated our expectations and turned our focus positively towards what we can do, and what we can play?

The Active Repertoire Challenge is all about rediscovering our enthusiasm for playing our favourite pieces, developing confidence, and even sharing the music we enjoy the most with others,

The challenge encourages piano players to develop their own Active Repertoire of three or four pieces which can be played any time, any place: without notice or embarrassment, and hopefully over time from memory.

Take up the challenge, download your FREE Active Repertoire Challenge sheet, and make a decision that will change your piano journey forever. By making Active Repertoire our top priority, we can:

  • start our practice sessions positively, with music we enjoy
  • more quickly memorise our favourite pieces
  • overcome our anxiety and feel more at ease playing to others

A new Active Repertoire challenge sheet is issued each quarter, and can be freely downloaded here on the Pianodao website. For the coming months, the sheet includes sections for the following:

My Active Repertoire
Use the spaces here to list pieces which you can play to performance standard. To find out more about how to continue working with these pieces, read the Getting Started Guide below.

Pieces I am working on
These are the pieces that you are currently practising, and which are not yet ready to perform.

Warming pieces for colder evenings
Each quarter the sheet includes a more imaginative and thought-provoking section. For these coming months, consider which pieces remind you of warmth, home, comfort. List any that you can play or would like to play here.

Piano Goals for 2024
This season sees the move into a fresh year, and as always it is good to consider what our goals are. This section could include ideas you want to discuss with a teacher, mentor or piano friend, and which excite you as ongoing possibilities.

Disney @100 – my favourite songs
This year we have marked the Disney centenary year, with a wide selection of sheet music available for pianists to explore. Do you have a few Disney songs that you especially enjoy? List them here!

The Active Repertoire Challenge offers an exciting pathway to a more motivated and truly rewarding piano journey.
Are you ready to take part? If so, here’s your FREE sheet to plan and track your progress:

Printing directly from the web may work, but it’s best to save the download as a PDF file, and when printing check the “scale to fit page” and “plain paper, best quality” options.

Please also check out the Getting Started Guide, which includes full instructions for how to use the sheet to support your piano journey in the coming year…

Your Active Repertoire is at the heart of your piano journey!

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‘Hanging on a Cliff of Sorrow’

Pause • Reflect • Sundays on Pianodao

The rather stark title of this week’s Fermata post comes from a quote found in a book written by two of the world’s leading education experts:

Pasi Sahlberg & William Doyle: Let the Children Play
(2019, Oxford University Press)

Assuming we respect the research, expertise and authority of Sahlberg and Doyle, as so many leading international organisations and educationalists do, then the strength of their impassioned plea will command our immediate and undivided attention.

Continue reading ‘Hanging on a Cliff of Sorrow’