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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 …
Both books in the series have an attractive presentation with simple but striking glossy covers. Inside, the following tunes make their appearance:
The Easy Piano Series: Shows
- Breaking Free (High School Musical)
- Maybe This Time (Cabaret)
- Memory (Cats)
- Nowadays (Chicago)
- On the Street Where You Live (My Fair Lady)
- Someone to Watch Over Me (Oh, Kay!)
- Summer Nights (Grease)
- Summertime (Porgy and Bess)
- Tomorrow (Annie)
- You Give a Little Love (Bugsy Malone)
- Wait for It (Hamilton)
- Where is Love? (Oliver!)
The Easy Piano Series: Film
- As Time Goes By (Casablanca)
- City of Stars (La La Land)
- Davy Jones Theme (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest)
- Hedwig’s Theme (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)
- How Far I’ll Go (Moana)
- New Moon (The Twilight Saga)
- Not About Angels (The Fault in Our Stars)
- Pure Imagination (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
- Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head (Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid)
- The Ring Goes South (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
- See You Again (Furious 7)
- Star Wars (Main Theme)
Rather than the PVG (Piano, Vocal and Guitar) approach that is common in collections of this type, these are all proper solo piano versions, simplified for easy to intermediate level (more on this in a moment…).
That said, Faber have included all the song lyrics, and chord symbols appear above the piano stave – an excellent addition enabling pianists to invite their guitar-playing friends to join in!
The insides of the books are printed on white paper, without introduction, and with clean well-spaced notation – in some cases perhaps a little too spaced, requiring page turns (backwards for repeats) that might have been avoided.
Another small criticism worth getting out-of-the-way: although some suggested fingerings are included, they are often rather sparse.
For example, the arrangement of Breaking Free (High School Musical) includes just six RH fingerings across the four pages of the score, despite being in the key of Eb and including a number of chords and hand position changes. The demands of this piece are likely to prove significant for Grade 1-2 players, and more fingering would be a help – and probably save teachers time adding it in lessons!
This leads me to the broader point that while some arrangements here would suit a Grade 1 pianist (for example, the lovely and nicely simplified C major arrangement of Memory from Cats), most would better suit players post-Grade 2, and in several cases the key signatures, complex rhythms and overall difficulty place the arrangements closer to Grade 3 .
Happily, enthusiasm for learning these songs, combined with a strong aural sense of them, will undoubtedly offset the challenges.
And younger players who have spied the books in my studio are super-keen to play Hedwig’s Theme, Breaking Free and How Far I’ll Go (Moana), while several older students have shown a particular interest in the Shows book. So despite any minor reservations, I think these books are going to be a hit.
These are by-and-large very well-arranged versions of the included tunes, and I have no hesitation in recommending both collections for players at around Grade 2-3 level.
The song selections seem effectively calculated to be equally enticing both to children and adult players, including popular material from a wide range of show and film genres, and from different generations. It’s tricky to get this balance just right – I believe that Faber have done it, and these collections will appeal to a wide market.
The Easy Piano Series: Film and Shows collections are both therefore strong recommendations, combining excellent and musical simplifications with an appealing contemporary presentation.
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