The Intermediate Pianist

Sheet Music Review

The Intermediate Pianist series is a fresh and ground-breaking approach which is full of brilliant musical ideas. It’s sure to enable pianists to play with greater understanding and engagement, and comes very highly recommended.

Continue reading The Intermediate Pianist

Easy Concert Pieces: Book 3

Sheet Music Review

Reviewing the first two books in this series last year, I concluded:

No need to beat around the bush: I really like this series!

Put simply, the two books so far both include a really appealing range of pieces in varied styles, beautifully presented and well-edited, and with a well recorded CD as a bonus. The first book contains 50 pieces, the second 48, and each has a recommended retail price of just £11.99, which represents excellent value for what’s included.

I would certainly want to use these books alongside some more contemporary repertoire, but overall I think they are likely to become standard collections used in my own teaching practice in the coming months. And I can’t wait to see Volume 3 when it comes out!

Since writing that, both books have indeed become resources that I use in my own teaching practice, particularly with older beginner/elementary players, and the students using them have been uniformly enthusiastic.

And now Book 3 is with us, completing the series. So let’s take a look!

Continue reading Easy Concert Pieces: Book 3

Emotions – playing their part.

Guest post by Simon Reich

Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brian Wilson & Johnny Cash all had things in common. Not only were they gifted musicians and composers, but they managed a depressive side to their lives.

Continue reading Emotions – playing their part.

Piano Blogs: a new community

I am pleased to announce a new Facebook community group for those who read and write blogs about the piano: Piano Blogs!

The aim of the group is to provide a dedicated space for pianists and writers to share and encourage one another, as well as a focal point where bloggers can share our latest posts.

This is important, because many online communities don’t appreciate bloggers who link to their sites, regarding the free sharing of articles as a form of self-promotion. For example, on Reddit not all subreddit areas welcome blog links, while forums such as Piano World can react with hostility towards bloggers who share their posts. Similarly, some Facebook piano groups prefer to limit or restrict the sharing of online writing.

And that’s why those who READ blogs will enjoy the Piano Blogs group as much as those who write them! I believe that the group can offer a unique space online where interaction between readers, writers and pianists can flourish.

Personally, having received so much encouragement, and from so many, I hope Piano Blogs can now support other writers and those interested in taking up blogging, while providing ongoing stimulus to those of us already active creating piano related content online.

Continue reading Piano Blogs: a new community

Get Set! Practice Chart

Guest post by Karen Marshall

Here is the Get Set! Practice Chart   DOWNLOAD

“… for student, teacher and parent partnership …”

The Get Set! Practice Chart is a simple practice record designed to support communication between students, teachers and parents. I’ve used it for over two years now, and it’s been the most ‘filled in’ chart to date!

As a teacher I have gained some excellent insights into what my students have enjoyed and found challenging each week, and it has really helped me to focus lessons on their needs.

The chart includes:

  • practice focuses for the week ahead
  • a daily practice log for students to fill in
  • a list of questions for the student to complete during the week
  • comment spaces for teacher and parents
  • two staves to jot down any musical notes

The practice chart is free for anyone to download. I hope you find it as helpful as I have!

And remember – there’s loads of other FREE Get Set! Downloads available here.

Very best wishes, Karen Marshall

Karen, Heather and Collins Music want to thank all teachers for their support for Get Set! Piano and apologise for the delay in getting this out to you. Many thanks also to Andrew Eales for hosting this on the Pianodao site!

Online Piano Teacher Training

Guest post by Garreth Brooke

This is an updated and expanded version of Garreth’s previous post.

Like many other piano teachers I have studied music but not pedagogy.

When I first began teaching after finishing my music degree this did not seem such a problem, and certainly it did not stop me from finding work or  my students from telling me that I’m a good teacher. Increasingly, however, I’ve realised that if I want to be a great piano teacher I need to be trained both as a pianist and as a teacher. It doesn’t matter how much we know about music or how well we can play, we have to also understand how to communicate that knowledge effectively to our students.

A 2014 survey on the UK-based Cross-Eyed Pianist blog of private piano teachers revealed that less than half of the respondents had teaching diplomas, and only 30% had training in music pedagogy. This is understandable. Piano teaching often comes as a result of a passion for playing the piano, not because we have always wanted to be a teacher. I’m certainly true in that regard, and indeed actively avoided teaching until forced to by circumstance, when I realised to my surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In an ideal world, once we realise we want to be a piano teacher, we’d all be able to afford to take 3 years off and get a degree in music pedagogy but unfortunately that’s rarely – if ever –  realistic. Luckily there are several options for part-time study for teachers who are based in the UK or who use the UK examination boards, including studying for a diploma with an exam board like ABRSM or Trinity, getting a qualification from a pedagogical group like Suzuki or Kodály, attending the EPTA’s Practical Piano Teaching course, or signing up for the Curious Piano Teachers.

Only one of these, however, allow you to get a qualification from a recognised examination board from the comfort of your own home: the Curious Piano Teachers run a course that prepares student teachers to take either the ATCL from Trinity College or the DipABRSM in Teaching from ABRSM. This course was however not open for enrollment when I was researching what I could study (the next enrollment date as I write is likely to be in June 2018) and I was therefore excited to learn about the RCM’s Online Piano Teacher Specialist Course, which is run more frequently. (NB for Brits – this is the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music, not the Royal College of Music).

I eagerly signed up and was thrilled to be invited to share my experiences with the Pianodao readers. I first wrote an article on this topic back in February 2017, when I was in Week 3 of the course. What you are currently reading is the revised and updated version, written in September 2017, a few months after I completed the course.

Continue reading Online Piano Teacher Training

Returning to Learning

September 2017 Reflection

What can piano teachers learn from stepping into the shoes of the beginner and taking up a new skill or pastime? Quite a lot, in my experience…

Like many adults, I periodically look to introduce a new discipline or hobby into my life. And as a teacher, it is always fascinating to put myself in the position of student.

The latest activity to find its way onto my list of exploits is Pilates, the exercise system developed by Joseph Pilates and often mentioned in the same breath as Yoga (though I think, quite different!)

This lot are learning Pilates too. They look happy, don’t they?

Pilates-1

And certainly I was hoping that I would find Pilates enjoyable – and hopefully beneficial for my health and fitness too.

And inevitably I also hoped that putting myself in the shoes of the complete beginner, there would be teaching parallels that I could reflect on, and which would give me fresh insight.

In this post I am going to list a few observations I made, followed by questions which make connections to piano teaching – these are for self-reflection only.

Continue reading Returning to Learning

Play it Again: Piano

Sheet Music Review

As Pianodao has become more widely regarded for its independent reviews, I find myself with a mounting pile of material sent for me to look at, most of which is really very good indeed.

That said, some products genuinely stand out from the crowd, because they are innovative, unusual, speak to my particular interests, or are just excellently done.

Melanie Spanswick’s Play it again: Piano books 1 and 2 are all of the above, and easily stand out in the crowd. In this review I will do my best to explain why I think that is.

Continue reading Play it Again: Piano

Milton Keynes & Me

To what extent does the place we live, and the community we are a part of, shape the person, musician and teacher that we become?

That’s a question that I have been reflecting on, prompted by the recent BBC documentary ’Milton Keynes and Me, in which documentary filmmaker Richard Macer returned to Milton Keynes to reflect on his childhood growing up here, and celebrate Milton Keynes’ 50th Anniversary.

Macer’s film was at times thought-provoking, informative, personal, historical, and moving. I didn’t agree with his sometimes negative perspective (and nor did many in Milton Keynes, it would seem!), but that hardly mattered. What was so much more important is that the programme inspired me to reflect on my own experiences of living here over the last nearly three decades.

We probably all wonder from time to time what impact we have made for the good. Hopefully piano teachers such as myself can recall students who gained a lifelong love for music, which sometimes defined their future. But this post isn’t about my contribution, but rather the imprint that has been made on me.

Having lived in Milton Keynes for 28 years – more than half of my life, and more than half of the city’s existence – how has this shaped who I am today?

Continue reading Milton Keynes & Me

A Scottish Collection

Sheet Music Review

Avid newsreaders may have seen that earlier this week it was announced that Scotland has been voted The Most Beautiful Country in the World, and those of us who have enjoyed the privilege of a visit there will know why!

But what about Scotland’s musical heritage? Well again, those in the know can quickly advise that it is one to treasure and to preserve with a passion.

As it happens, the ever-prolific Barbara Arens is one of those in the know…

Continue reading A Scottish Collection

A Weekly Smiling Face

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

A few weeks ago when I arrived at school I was given an envelope from the secretary.

One of my pupils (she’s only 5 years) had given her the letter to save and give to me on my next arrival. The envelope was beautifully decorated with some of my catch phrases written all over it.  I was a little stunned but very touched. And then I opened the envelope.

Not one letter but three, each about how much she loves the piano, is excited about coming to lessons, and is always greeted with a big smile!

Gratefulness spilled from the pages, I was truly humbled by the generosity of this little girl, but also very aware of the power of my words (repeated by her in the notes), which had all been absorbed and responded to.

Continue reading A Weekly Smiling Face