Sheet Music Review by Karen Marshall
As piano teachers or pianists, I am sure that you – like I – have ventured “with much love” through the pages of Edna-Mae Burnam’s A Dozen A Day.
These books continue to be standard issue in my own teaching, and indeed my students even ask for the next in the series (without prompting).
When I saw that A Dozen A Day All Year Round was available – published by The Willis Music Company and distributed by Music Sales, retailing with a UK price of £19.99 – I was keen to review it.
I haven’t been disappointed…
The book is well bound and pretty similar in quality to Music Sales’ thicker volume publications such as their Great Piano Solos collections (Black book, White book etc). It stays open better than some!
The engraving is the original, and paper colour white; an off-white (as used in many other music books) could perhaps be considered in a re-print in order to make the book easier to read, and prevent any black and white glare.
The orange cover is attractive and also in line with the much loved familiar cover designs:
The Ultimate Teacher Book
My thoughts are that this really is the ultimate ‘Teacher book’ edition, which will now sit happily on top of my piano to dip in and out of in lessons.
Having already done this for a full weeks teaching, the delight of my students’ faces seeing the familiar stick characters has got to be testament to the timeless value of the late Edna-Mae Burnam’s work.
This edition is well worth purchasing (despite being £19.99 – do get your Music Room 10% teacher discount) for one easy copy ‘to hand’ when technique attention is most needed in our lessons or at home during practise.
As a brief introduction I think it’s well worth looking at Edna’s thinking behind the series. Here is a rare interview with her where she explains the ethos around the books – including that the material was written to develop technique but via rote teaching:
In the original series there were six books, taking a student up to intermediate level (around Grade 5). This edition includes all 6 books (with added features) in one place.
In reality though, some of the later exercises are for advanced pianists – this is a purchase that a studying Grade 8 pianist could find benefit from (the Dozen A Day Book 5 section).
In contrast the first book (mini book) can be used in the very first lessons. Perfect for rote teaching, it puts in place legato, staccato and couplet slurs, along with two note and triad chord playing, contrary motion work and chromatics.
Across the board (through all the six books) the left hand is not neglected, being given an absolutely thorough workout in every edition. Technique on all levels, and at all stages is addressed, which is testament to the brilliance of Enda’s pedagogical skills.
A Dozen A Day can provide our students with a solid foundation to tackle challenging technical repertoire throughout the different stages in their playing.
So What’s New here?
As already mentioned, all six books are included (and the total purchase price of these individually on Music Room is £36).
Added to the original volumes is a new performance piece by Christopher Hussey at the end of each. These are very much in the style of dear Edna, and a lovely addition for practising all the skills tackled in the previous pages.
But what makes these books really worth the purchase (along with having it all in one place!) is the super-useful thematic index (again by Hussey).
The categories include:
- Step-wise finger patterns
- Repeated notes
- Scalic: Chromatic, Similar motion, Contrary motion
- Hands crossing over/movement around keyboard
- Changing fingers on one note
- Shifting hand position around the thumb
- Chords: 2-note, 3-note. 4-note
- Broken Chords
- Note Clusters
- 2 part playing in one hand
In all these categories (if applicable), all the books which include relevant exercises are listed, stating the book number, group number and page.
All Year Round
A clever twist to the book is that it provides 360 piano exercises (one for every day!) hence the ‘All Year Round’ title.
I must say, though, that it is pretty unlikely that any pupil will ever get through this book in one year – they are much more likely to have it as a much loved addition to their music bag which they can use throughout their life practising the piano.
And yes, Karen Marshall has added some of the later exercises into her practice regime (which doesn’t happen frequently enough!).
More advanced pianists will be challenged by the later pages that include whole tone scales, five finger cluster chords, rapid arpeggio passages and octaves galore!
I hope the book will be enjoyed by many, but more importantly, help continue to develop the foundational techniques that Edna-Mae Burnham honed in on, and which serve pianists so well as they explore the wealth of repertoire the piano has to offer.
Available worldwide from all good music retailers.