Faber Music Ballads Piano Anthology

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

The latest bumper publication to join the popular Faber Music Piano Anthology series focusses on pop ballads in solo piano arrangements suitable for advanced players.

As ever, the 176-page collection arrives wrapped in a classy, high quality thick matt card cover, with a sturdy but (in mine and my students experience) flexible spine that can both stand the test of time and lie flat on the music stand with minimal persuasion.

A lot of adults bring these books to my studio and consistently love them. Whether purchased as a gift book for a pianist friend or for your own study and enjoyment, any of the Faber Music Piano Anthologies is a top choice. With titles to suit all. including Soundtracks, Jazz, Contemporary and Christmas, you can explore the series here.

So let’s consider the latest addition…

52 Piano Ballads

Those familiar with the series, or at least with my previous reviews here, will want to jump straight to the list of the songs included in the book, which are:

  • 9 Crimes [Damien Rice]
  • A Change is Gonna Come [Sam Cooke]
  • A Thousand Years [The Piano Guys]
  • All by Myself [Eric Carmen]
  • All I Ask
  • Arthur’s Theme [Christopher Cross]
  • Asleep [The Smiths]
  • City Of Stars (from La La Land)
  • Elegie [Patti Smith]
  • Endless Love [Diana Ross & Lionel Richie]
  • Everglow [Coldplay]
  • Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime [The Korgis]
  • The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face [Roberta Flack]
  • God Only Knows [The Beach Boys]
  • The Greatest [Cat Power]
  • Halo [Beyoncé]
  • Heal [Tom Odell]
  • Home Again [Michael Kiwanuka]
  • Húsavik (My Hometown) [Wil Ferrell & Molly Sandén]
  • I Can’t Make You Love Me [Bonnie Raitt]
  • I Won’t Hold You Back [Toto]
  • Is That Alright? [Lady Gaga]
  • Kiss From A Rose [Seal]
  • Last Request [Paolo Nutini]
  • Leave the Door Open [Bruno Mars]
  • Lovely Day [Bill Withers]
  • Memory (From Cats)
  • Nights In White Satin [The Moody Blues]
  • One Moment in Time [Whitney Houston]
  • The Rose [Bette Midler]
  • Samson [Regina Spektor]
  • Songbird [Fleetwood Mac]
  • Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word [Elton John]
  • Stairway To Heaven [Led Zeppelin]
  • Strange [Celeste]
  • Sunshine On Leith [the Proclaimers]
  • Sweet Child Of Mine [Taken By Trees]
  • This Year’s Love [David Gray]
  • This Woman’s Work [Kate Bush]
  • Time After Time [Cyndi Lauper]
  • Unbreak My Heart [Toni Braxton]
  • Unfinished Sympathy [Massive Attack]
  • Visiting Hours [Ed Sheeran]
  • The Weakness In Me [Joan Armatrading]
  • What The World Needs Now Is Love [Dionne Warwick]
  • When a man loves a woman [Percy Sledge]
  • When I Was Your Man [Bruno Mars]
  • When You’re Gone [The Cranberries]
  • Where Are We Now? [David Bowie]
  • A Whiter Shade Of Pale [Procol Harum]
  • Wild Is the Wind [David Bowie]
  • Wind Beneath My Wings [Bette Midler]

You will soon spot that these songs have been drawn from across several decades of popular music, but include many of the most classic ballads, popular love songs and cried-to breakup songs of our time.

Whether loved-up or romantically moribund, there’s certainly much here for anyone to identify with, although pianists may find the emotional landscape of the quirkily selected cover image (Room in New York by Edward Hopper, 1932) particularly bleak in this context:

As with previous releases in the series, the arrangements are pianistically-conceived as solo pieces (new arrangements are by ever-busy Faber regular Oliver Weeks).

There are no lyrics, chord symbols, or tab, although in most cases the arrangements quite literally follow original recordings, down to their signature licks, chord voicing and vocal lines. As tends to be the case with this type of material, there are lots of repeat signs, first- and second-time bars, so get ready to turn pages back and forth!

While suited to the notation-reading player at advanced level (around Grades 6-8), the writing is in a pop piano vein, with complex chords and riffs that require deft pedalling to connect. The RH fourth and fifth fingers share a lot of the melody line, requiring those weaker fingers to produce a focused tone, and happily there is a good amount of suggested fingering to help the player adapt to the playing style.

Closing Thoughts

With the Ballads Piano Anthology, Faber Music have added another sure fire winner to their already popular range, and the collection undoubtedly offers keen value for money.

Those who are confident playing this sort of material will undoubtedly enjoy many hours exploring the collection, while developing players keen to expand their repertoire to include well-crafted arrangements of contemporary popular material can rejoice in the generous selection delivered here.

Did I mention that these collections make lovely gifts for enthusiastic piano players? Beautifully presented, long lasting, and filled to the brim with classic song arrangements, the Faber Music Ballads Piano Anthology deserves to fly off the shelves and into music-loving homes everywhere.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based in Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.