Hal Leonard’s large and growing range of “really easy piano” books hardly needs introduction, having established a firm foothold and superbly filled its niche in the market.
The latest addition to the series is a collection of “20 Smash Hits” from 2021. Let’s see what is included and how it measures up to the high standards Hal Leonard have previously set…
20 Smash Hits
To answer the first of those questions, here is the impressive track list for the new collection:
- Bad Habits [Ed Sheeran]
- Beggin’ [Måneskin]
- Black Magic [Jonasu]
- Cold heart (PNAU Remix) [Elton John]
- Don’t Play [Anne-Marie]
- Don’t Shut Me Down [ABBA]
- Drivers License [Olivia Rodrigo]
- Easy On Me [Adele]
- Friday [Riton x Nightcrawlers]
- Good 4 U [Olivia Rodrigo]
- Happier Than Ever [Billie Eilish]
- Levitating [Dua Lipa]
- No Time To Die [Billie Eilish]
- Oh My God [Adele]
- Paradise [Meduza]
- Save Your Tears [The Weeknd]
- Shivers [Ed Sheeran]
- Stay [The Kid LAROI]
- Wellerman [Nathan Evans]
- Willow [Taylor Swift]
So many huge hits in one book serves as a reminder that Hal Leonard have an unrivalled access to the current hit parade, but what of the “really easy” piano arrangements?
Really Easy Piano… and beyond
According to the publishers the simplified arrangements are suitable for (UK) grades 1-3, and I think that is spot on. But as we’ll see, the collection could also be useful for intermediate to advanced players…
Looking at the written music, it is immediately striking that in most of the songs each hand plays just one note at a time throughout, with no inner parts or voicings.
The arrangements don’t require legato pedalling, and none are in keys that extend beyond the typical Grade 1 requirement of up to one flat or two sharps. However, rhythms are sometimes complex, with syncopations, tied notes, rests and semiquavers.
The note patterns require a well-formed finger technique, including hand stretches and thumb-under movements. Fingering suggestions are included but are somewhat minimal: there aren’t many, and where they are included, the finger numbers are tiny.
Each song is preceded by interesting background notes about the artists and tidbits about the songs themselves, as well as performance tips. These are absolutely spot on at highlighting the main challenge of each song, and written in language that will be accessible to players (and their teachers) at this level.
Further extending creative possibilities, lyrics are included for all the songs, and simple chord notation appears above the RH stave. Though lacking guitar tab, the included chords are basic, making it easy for friends and family to join in. Piano players can also use these included chord symbols to embellish and pad out the written piano part, for example by filling in the chords and vamping.
In my own attempts at playing the songs, I found that the combination of written notation and chords enabled me to play enjoyable, fleshed-out arrangements. Whether as a learning activity or simply to enhance pleasure, I suspect that many will want to explore these possibilities.
Chart Hits of 2021 is tastefully presented with a typically glossy, eye-catching cover. The notation within is cleanly and spaciously presented, leaving plenty of space for players and teachers to add to what is in the score. It perfectly delivers exactly what is expected.
With its combination of the latest smash hits, excellent (but uncredited) arrangements, useful background and performance notes, lyrics and chord notation, here is a collection which is genuinely a cut above similar publications I’ve seen in the past. And with top-drawer quality but an asking price under a tenner, it is quite the bargain.
This book deserves to be a smash hit in its own right, and I have every expectation that those who invest in it will gain a huge amount of enjoyment exploring the arrangements within. I am truly impressed.
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