A couple of years ago I reviewed Rosamund Conrad’s Delightfully Easy Duet Books along with several other duet publications (read the review here), concluding,
“I would highly recommend having a look at the two books – I don’t think you will be disappointed!”
At the time I also received a copy of Rosa’s beginner piano book Fun Games and Party Pieces, which I was equally impressed with but didn’t manage to review. Now however, Rosa has brought out a “Second Edition” of Fun Games and Party Pieces, including 50% extra, new material!
And again, it is well worth a look …
In the introduction to the book, Rosa writes:
“This book is designed to be used with a teacher, alongside beginner methods as an extra source of fun and interest.
There are so many elements in music which can enthuse and capture a student’s imagination and can be explored right from the beginning. You don’t have to wait till you have mastered an instrument to enjoy discovering how music is put together.”
Rosa goes on to list the many musical elements which are highlighted in the book, including pentatonic scales, transposition, variation, improvisation, and the Twelve Bar Blues structure.
Many of the pieces include a chord structure mapped out bar by bar, shown in a small table at the bottom of the page. This is useful for others to play along, for example on the guitar or ukulele, or for the teacher to improvise duet parts. And of course, the more adventurous pupil can be introduced right away to playing from chord notation themselves.
“There are many suggestions of ways in which to play these tunes. I hope my suggestions will inspire the students and teachers who use this book to make their own versions and encourage them to approach written music in a flexible and creative way.
Tap a rhythm on the piano. Play Chords. Try tunes in a different octave, key or dynamic. Make you own variations on a tune. Play with friends and swap over. Play things in different ways and have fun!”
Fun Games and Party Pieces is, then, a book with laudable ambitions and high goals, all of which I am pleased to say it happily and succinctly fulfils within its mere 24 pages.
Teachers will be keen to know a little more, and in particular how well this book would work alongside their chosen method.
Given the variety of approaches taken by popular methods, I can’t guarantee that you will find this book an ideal fit, although personally I wouldn’t have difficulty using alongside any of my preferred methods.
Notation-wise, the pieces in the first half of the book are centred around ‘Middle C’, in common with many traditional method books, while the later pieces move outwards to ‘C’ an octave either side of ‘Middle C’. While this isn’t the order that some teachers and methods prefer, I see no reason why a good teacher couldn’t teach any extra notation required in order for their student to benefit from the musical enjoyment this book offers.
Indeed, for the teacher who prefers a creative approach, this would be an ideal book for consolidating some notation reading; in just the same way, the teacher using a fairly traditional approach will hopefully embrace the creative and fun musical opportunities that this material presents.
While Fun Games and Party Pieces is clearly a self-published affair, lacking the gloss of a big-budget publishing house, and without the lavish colour illustrations found in publications such as ABRSM’s Piano Star series (read my review here), it is nevertheless a well-produced product, with an attractive presentation and lovely design.
The cover itself is simple, a little quirky and charming, and printed on good quality card:
Within, the black-and-white book includes enjoyable pencil illustrations by Catherine Eley. Younger players would probably have added fun colouring these in with crayons, and perhaps embellishing them!
The notation is crystal-clear (no pixelated clefs here!) and well sized, suitable for younger players. Interestingly (and I approve!), fingering is largely absent except where essential.
Those who saw the original 16-page version of this book will probably need no enticement to now consider the updated 24-page version. Personally, when I saw the first version of this book I was excited by the approach and concept; now, with the added material, the book feels properly fleshed-out, a more complete realisation of a great idea.
As a supplement to many of the method books on the market, Fun Games and Party Pieces is very attractive. For the slightly older beginner who has already played another instrument and has a basic grasp of some notation concepts, it could perhaps even suffice on its own (and might, I think, in the hands of an experienced teacher be a superior choice to many of the established methods).
Certainly the book is competing in an incredibly crowded market, but in my view it not only holds its own but offers a genuinely delicious alternative to more commercial fare. I’m looking forward to using it with my own younger pupils.
All in all, like Mary Poppins, Fun Games and Party Pieces is practically perfect in every way!
More information and purchase from Rosa Conrad’s website here.
Listen to the pieces on Rosa’s YouTube channel here.