Jazz is caught, not taught!
So goes the cliché (although I believe this also applies to classical and other styles too). So much of the nuance, the energy, the essence and the inflection of piano music cannot be expressed away from the instrument, whether in words or using notation.
As I write this I am about to deliver a workshop entitled Introducing Jazz Piano for the Piano Teachers’ Course UK, where I am a guest tutor. And as I consider the point that listening to jazz piano playing must be our starting point, this raises the question, “where do we start?”
So to that end I’ve compiled this list of 20 seminal jazz pianists, with clips of their playing and a suggestion that you go on to more fully explore their recorded legacy.
Understand, these aren’t necessarily the 20 greatest jazz pianists of all time (and it isn’t, in any case, a competition!). However, they are all genuine greats, and between them they represent a wide range of styles and approaches within the very broad world of jazz music.
Dip in now, and keep coming back, because ongoing exposure to the genius of these players is the key to developing as a player and teacher of jazz music…
Continue reading 20 Great Jazz Pianists
Piano Qigong Exercise
In my article about Breathing at the Piano, I shared some tips and simple exercises to help you reconnect with your breathing while playing.
Breathing at the Piano was warmly received. I have heard from, and worked with, many players who found the simple exercises helpful – even revolutionary for their playing. If you’ve not already printed off and tried the FREE exercises, please check them out before going on.
The aim here is to help players easily check in with our breathing when at the piano. To understand the importance of this, please read about “Awareness in Breathing” in my article What is Piano Qigong? and refer back to my article András Schiff and Natural Breathing for more background.
In this article, I will now build on the foundation of the exercises and ideas previously shared…
Continue reading More Breathing at the Piano
Sheet Music Review
Without doubt one of the more interesting, indeed extraordinary, composers of our times, Nikolai Kapustin was born in the town of Gorlovka in eastern Ukraine in 1937.
At the age of 14 he relocated to Moscow, studying piano at the Conservatoire, and announcing his composing career in 1957 with the Concertino for piano and orchestra Op.1. During this time he also had his own quintet and was a member of Yuri Saulsky’s Big Band; his enthusiasm for jazz continued after graduation when he joined the Oleg Lundstem Big Band.
Focussing purely on composing from the 1980s, Kapustin uses jazz idioms within the context of formal classical structures, writing orchestral, chamber and piano solo works for the concert hall.
Kapustin’s piano writing is for the most part rhythmically complex and highly virtuosic, making huge technical and musical demands on the performer.
Although his jazz-infused classical music is gaining an ever-larger audience of enthusiastic connoisseurs, few of us it seems have found a suitable entry point for learning and performing his works, in spite of the fact that his publishers Schott Music have many of his solo piano works available in print.
Schott’s two latest additions to the Kapustin catalogue may provide impetus, however: the Sonata No.6 Op.62 (1991) and Sonatina Op.100 are among his more approachable works, and should be accessible to players upwards from UK Grade 8 to Diploma level.
Continue reading Discovering the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin
Sheet Music Review
The Piano Playlist is an anthology of 50 popular classics in easy solo piano arrangements by Barrie Carson Turner, published by Schott Music. According to the publishers,
“Taking the concept of the ‘playlist’ from the world of digital streaming, the book presents a carefully chosen selection of the world’s favourite classical pieces for today’s student and amateur musicians.
Including works from the symphonic, operatic and solo repertoire, this collection will provide hours of enjoyable music making. From the relaxing to the dramatic and the uplifting to the melancholic, there’s music for every mood and occasion.”
I included a short review of this when it first appeared, but having now used it successfully with adult students I am pleased to offer a more detailed look and recommendation …
Continue reading The Piano Playlist
Guest post by Roberta Wolff
Alternatives to an outdated word
I propose a new word…
The word ‘practise’ is insufficient, it provides
- No insight into what the activity entails
- No guidelines on how to be successful at it
- Little in the way of mass appeal
As a teacher and writer, I am not in the habit of making up words. I find using words my students and readers already comprehend far more efficient. So, my research started with a thesaurus. Here is a summary of the synonyms listed for ‘practise’:
- Knock off
- Take up
Obviously, they won’t do. There were a few others though:
Not bad, but still not the full picture. From this overview a realisation emerged. There isn’t a word already in existence that can update and improve on the word ‘practise’.
If I wanted a new word, I would have to make it myself.
Continue reading It’s Time To Stop Practising & Start…?
Sheet Music Review
There is always room on the music shelf for easy piano arrangements of well-known and popular songs – players of all ages naturally find it encouraging and enjoyable to tackle tunes that are familiar to them, their family and friends.
It is no doubt with this in mind that Faber Music have just released two collections in The Easy Piano Series, one covering famous show tunes, the other film themes, all aimed at players who are at around Grades 1 to 2 level.
Let’s take a quick look …
Continue reading Easy Piano Series: “Film” and “Shows”
Sheet Music Review
Bartók’s monumental cycle of 153 educational piano pieces and 33 exercises, published in six volumes as the Mikrokosmos in 1940, is rightly regarded as a seminal work within the pedagogic literature. But it often strikes me that it is more important than it is popular.
Even in my own studio (and I am a self-confessed Bartók fanatic!) it emerges from the music cupboard far less frequently than the more obviously popular For Children, First Term at the Piano, Rumanian Folk Dances and Ten Easy Pieces.
For those wanting to explore this musical smorgasbord there has never been more opportunity to do so, however, with three excellent editions to choose from. Which, though, is the best?
In this review I will be looking at classic New Definitive Version from Boosey & Hawkes, and comparing the more recent Urtext editions from Henle Verlag and Wiener Urtext Edition. I should note in passing that there is also a budget all-in-one-volume edition from Chester Music, not submitted for review or included in this survey.
Continue reading Which Mikrokosmos?