Mark Tanner’s ‘The Mindful Pianist’

Book Review

Mindfulness” has become one of the buzzwords of the decade. We’ve no doubt all seen the regular articles about it in the popular press, exploring the possible benefits of mindfulness practice for our physical and mental health, productivity, learning, and general happiness.

But what of piano players – how can we benefit from mindfulness practice?

It’s a question for which we might hope to find answers in highly respected teacher, composer and pianist Mark Tanner’s hotly anticipated book and much lauded The Mindful Pianist, published by Faber Music this autumn.

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Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 3

Improvisation in Action – A Video!

In this series, I have written many words and imparted knowledge from my experience. But merely in print form.

I have mentioned a few times though, that you need to dip your foot in the pool and go for it yourself. That got me thinking about videoing myself noodling around until I “found” something that constituted a tune.

I’ve never done this before, so it was quite interesting for me as well. I put my phone on a shoe box and started taping in my music room. I only did one take and had never consciously heard this tune before.

Continue reading Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 3

Ultimate Easy Piano Songlist

Sheet Music Review

Here’s a book that I suspect many will rush to buy – a bumper collection of easy piano arrangements of great popular tunes, from the contemporary to the classic.

With (according to the cover) over 90,000 units sold, the hits that make up this “Ultimate Songlist” plunder the charts across many decades, from Cilla Black to One Direction, from Nat King Cole to Elbow, and from Wham! to Radiohead. Movies are well represented too, with The Hanging Tree (from The Hunger Games series) and Let it Go! (from Frozen) standing out as welcome highlights.

In theory there should be something here for everyone, and in practice … there probably is!

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Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection

Sheet Music Review

tim-richards-bluesTim Richards will be known to many readers as the best-selling author of the seminal Improvising Blues Piano, which set a new standard in jazz education publishing upon its first release back in 1997.

His follow up books Exploring Jazz Piano volumes 1 and 2, and Exploring Latin Piano (co-written with John Crawford de Cominges) have consolidated his place as a leading authority in the field of blues and jazz piano playing and teaching. Before proceeding, let me say that if you don’t already own Tim’s previous books, you owe it to yourself to buy copies right away.

Tim’s latest publication (once again brought to us by the forward-thinking Schott Music) is called Tim Richards Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection – hereafter BBGC for short.

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Capturing the Spirit of Christmas

Sheet Music Review

Hot off the press from Editions Musica Ferrum, Capturing the Spirit of Christmas features 12 Carols arranged for piano, six by Barbara Arens and six by Alison Mathews. Several of Barbara’s books have been featured here before, and Alison will be known to many readers as the composer of Piano Planets, a collection of original pieces previously published by EVC Music Publications.

As with all Editions Musica Ferrum publications, the book has a high quality presentation with a traditional vibe. I’m a fan of this approach, and rather feel the score is a work of art in its own right! But what of the content?

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Take a Bow! How, When and Why…

Advice for New Performers

As the pianist releases the final notes of the piece, the audience bursts into enthusiastic applause. The player stands and takes a bow…

It’s a code of conduct that we tend to take for granted – but one that should be taught and practised as part of performance preparation.

Because I try to cultivate a friendly, non-competitive, informal atmosphere at my student concerts, I have not always been careful to make sure that new performers understand the importance of “stagecraft”, and the essential place of taking a bow in order to receive and acknowledge audience applause.

I have been trying to address that by giving students a “mock performance” experience in their lesson, including teaching them how to bow. Here is a quick summary that supports that practice.

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My Practice Palette

Author of several great resources, Roberta Wolff here discusses the value of teaching students How to Practice, and introduces her latest publication ”My Practice Palette

Guest post by Roberta Wolff

Question:  “Why should my child learn the piano?”
Answer:  “Because it will give them the opportunity to learn how to practice!”

What Our Students Learn

This is what students learn when we teach them How to Practise:

Continue reading My Practice Palette

Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 2

Improvisation – Jump In!

Guest post by Simon Reich  (pictured)

The amazing thing about improvisation, in my experience, is the fact that inspiration and output can come no matter how I am feeling.

In fact, some of the best tunes I have composed have been when I am feeling down and compromised. The flip side to this is that when I am happy, the creative juices still flow! So in essence, nothing need hold you back from a productive improvisation.

As mentioned in the previous article, armed with your skills of scale and chord understanding it’s always the right time to start noodling around the keyboard and find a gem waiting to be unearthed. Sometimes it starts with a chord progression, other times a melody.

When I was quite young, I remember hearing certain tunes and feeling a funny tingling sensation in my stomach. This became my yardstick for great chord progressions. If I could make myself feel those “butterflies in my tummy”, I’d done it!

You are your own best guide to what sound good, so trust your intuition.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear – Jack Canfield

Continue reading Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 2