Gradebusters 2

Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by ANDREW EALES.

Of the various books to have appeared in the last few years offering easy arrangements of favourite popular songs for elementary players, Hal Leonard’s Gradebusters Grade 1 quickly became a favourite here, and a runaway success with my students.

When I reviewed the book here, I loved everything about it, and hoped that a promised Grade 2 book would quickly peek its head around the corner. It’s taken a while for the second book to arrive but I’m very happy to report it’s been well worth the wait, and is a sequel to celebrate!

A Winning Formula

Rather than repeat everything I mentioned in my previous review, here’s a very quick recap of the key features of the series.

For more details, again, you can always read my previous review, because everything that was true of the Grade 1 book is equally true here:

  • the book is robust, with a glossy card cover and quality pages within
  • helpful fingering is included throughout to support independent learning
  • demonstration recordings of all the pieces can be streamed or downloaded using the unique code found inside the book
  • these can also be played using Hal Leonard’s excellent PLAYBACK+ audio player, which allows you to slow down tracks without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys and more
  • each piece is also prefaced by a short text noting the points of interest or possible difficulty

Once again there are 15 pieces, and as before the arranger is the brilliant Christopher Hussey, whose powers of producing superbly pianistic arrangements that combine simplicity with authenticity show no signs of diminishing.

The only obvious difference this time around is the size of the book. With notation that is well apportioned and generously spaced, the pieces range from two to four pages, bringing the book up from the 20 pages of the first book to 40 pages this time.

“15 Awesome Solos”

That is how the pieces are billed on the cover and I am happy to agree!

The 15 are:

  1. Shotgun (George Ezra)
  2. Greensleeves (Traditional)
  3. Moon River (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
  4. Circle of Life (from The Lion King)
  5. Windmills of Your Mind (Michel Legrand)
  6. A Million Dreams (from The Greatest Showman)
  7. Havana (Camila Cabello)
  8. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
  9. Someone Like You (Adele)
  10. How Far I’ll Go (from Moana)
  11. Into the Unknown (from Frozen 2)
  12. The Bare Necessities (from The Jungle Book)
  13. You’ve Got a Friend in Me (from Toy Story)
  14. Star Wars (Main Theme) (John Williams)
  15. Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)

Once again, Hal Leonard have delivered a winning list of songs here, with enough classics to interest older learners alongside fresh contemporary titles that will appeal to the youngest learner. There’s no weakest link, and every one of the arrangements is totally spot on.

Who are you going to call?

The Gradebusters series looks set to grow from strength to strength, and I have every expectation that this book will be as popular with students as the first. Roll on Gradebusters 3, and let’s hope the wait isn’t too long!

Looking for something fresh?
Who are you going to call …again?

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Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is the author of HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC, published worldwide by Hal Leonard. He is a widely respected piano educator and published composer based on Milton Keynes UK.