Sheet Music Review
Reviewing Paul Harris’s A Piece A Week grade 1 and 2 books last year, I concluded:
“While not all players will have need of these books, a great many will benefit from using them, and A Piece A Week admirably fills a gap in the market for outstanding “quick study” material.
A Piece A Week lives up to the excellent standards Paul Harris and Faber Music have previously set, and for which they are so well known. I would say that the series is a genuine “must have” for all piano teachers.”
In the months since that review, I have started to use the books with students, and can confirm from experience that they succeed in all the respects that I previously hoped and noted. The books really are very good!
Indeed, the quick study format of A Piece a Week is establishing itself as one of my preferred ways of helping students develop their reading ability, which I find nicely complements my generally holistic, multi-sensory approach.
So before reading on, it would be a good idea to recap my previous review of the first two books, which gives a better idea of what the series is all about – you can read it here.
A Special Preview
I have known for some time that a third book was in the works. So I was delighted when Paul offered, after a meal out one evening, to play through the new collection, inviting my comments. I mention this story because Paul has graciously given me a credit in the inside cover, and you may be wondering what my involvement was.
Adopting my best “piano teacher pose” next to his piano, I listened with care as the pieces unfolded, hoping to be able to offer one or two intelligent and helpful comments along the way!
Uppermost in my mind was, of course, an enthusiasm to see whether the Grade 3 book would live up to the standards of the previous two publications. But I came away wondering whether Paul had actually over-achieved…
Put simply, the quick study works that make up A Piece A Week: Grade 3 are in my opinion far more musically interesting than many of the pieces published elsewhere as standard repertoire.
This is testament to the fact that Paul not only has one of the best minds in the music teaching world, but is also a composer of music which is attractive and accessible, and not simply educational fodder.
In short, I very much doubt pupils will want to stop playing each piece after just a week – these are works that I believe many of my students will cherish as Active Repertoire, performing in concerts and to friends.
A Piece a Week: Grade 3 looks and feels just the same as the previous two books in the series, in keeping with the high standards that publisher Faber Music continue to set.
Each of the 27 pieces takes up a full page and is, in my opinion, a highly enjoyable journey of musical discovery.
Titles – including such as Ants and aardvarks, Ghosts in a hurry, Agent TX9 goes undercover and Zero Gravity – are imaginative, engaging, and in several cases humorous.
Although a little easier than standard repertoire pieces set for Grade 3, they are not sight-reading material as such, but provide interesting challenges that pupils are sure to find stimulating.
In fact, I can’t help feeling that pupils who have learnt these pieces largely on their own during the week will start to demand more from the repertoire and exam pieces they are more generally fed at this level – these pieces really do raise the musical and imaginative bar. I am excited, as a teacher, to see the impact they will have.
For those familiar with the first two books, there are minor differences to note:
Firstly, because each piece here essentially fills the page, the illustrations are more subtle than in the previous two books, although they continue the same simple style that fans of the series will be familiar with.
Secondly, A Piece a Week: Grade 3 dispenses with the Activity Pages that were in the previous books. Again, this is because the pieces take up more space, and are rightly at this level the primary focus.
Thirdly, Paul has slightly expanded his opening Introduction, offering extended advice which I think can be equally applied to the previous two books. I suggest teachers take their time to read this carefully – it’s good advice!
Quoting again from my review of the first two books in the series, I wrote:
“Paul is without question one of the top educational composers around, and personally I am in awe at his continuing ability to produce creative and imaginative music with such frequency and consistency, bringing out several new publications each year!”
A Piece a Week: Grade 3 more than confirms this assessment, and in my view exceeds the first two books on several levels. There can really be no denying that Paul Harris has an extraordinary talent for composing music which consistently and absolutely “hits the spot”.
A Piece a Week: Grade 3 is simply brilliant, and I can recommend it without any reservation. An essential purchase.