Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK, where he runs Keyquest Music - his successful independent music education business, private teaching practice and creative outlet.
At the time of writing, most of us are feeling uneasy. We are, after all, in the midst of a global pandemic, concerned for ourselves, our loved ones, our finances, and fearful of what our world might be like in a few months time.
But as we spend more time away from our usual routines, we might also discover a deeper unease. A rock has plunged into the pool of our lives. The ripples are still clearing, and a lot of mud has been churned up. As the waters settle again, we are coming to see things that were perhaps unclear to us before.
As pianists we might hope to see glimpses of answers to life’s most profound questions sat before our piano, absorbed in our playing. And certainly, as I’ve written here before, piano playing can provide a sanctuary from all else that is unfolding around us.
But while some presently find they can use their piano playing as an escape from grim news, many others are experiencing frustration at their lack of motivation, focus and inspiration.
In this entry to The Pianist’s Reflections Series I will consider some basic elements of self-care from a Daoist (Taoist) perspective in the hope that readers will find some helpful suggestions, and that each of us can enjoy a piano journey that reflects an easier, more connected and settled experience of life.
The highs, the lows and hopes for months afterwards.
Just like the majority of my colleagues, my working life has in the click of a finger moved from classrooms, music rooms, and students coming in and out of my home, to staring at a screen and – you guessed it – more staring at the screen!
I’m doing some of my work (but not other parts, I so miss my classroom music teaching) along with having my entire family at home (there’s five of us).
My book launches are now ‘virtual’ and I feel most of the time like I’m in a dream.
I know I am not alone. But time moves on.
I thought I’d be open with Pianodao readers about some of my experiences. We are all in this together, and I think it’s helpful to feel this togetherness. Added to that, I hope parts of this give you all a bit of a chuckle. And by sharing some practicalities of teaching on-line, others may hopefully find it useful…
Without question, Penelope Roskell’s The Complete Pianist is the most monumental publication yet to arrive for review, and with 560 large format pages, 250 newly-devised exercises and more than 300 supporting online videos, I can well believe that it’s the most comprehensive book ever written on piano playing, as well as the most superbly presented.
Striking among the claims made for the book, we are told that Roskell’s approach is based not only on a lifetime’s experience of teaching and performing, but also on “ground-breaking research into healthy piano playing” …
The Complete Pianist thus offers the reader an…
“… innovative approach to piano technique based on the use of natural, ergonomic movement which achieves a rich range of sounds, allows greater artistic freedom, and helps to prevent injury.”
Once in a while a music book comes my way which quite simply “blows me away”, and such a book is Little Stories, a new collection of 16 late elementary pieces by Polish composer Agnieszka Lasko, published by Euterpe and distributed by Universal Edition.
With it’s truly lush illustrations and presentation of Lasko’s highly original and attractive compositions, the book is a natural winner. The inclusion in several pieces of opportunities for children to improvise and compose takes the book to another level again, making it a truly essential addition to the childrens’ pedagogic literature.
Over the last three years, Faber Music seemed to establish a pattern of releasing deluxe Piano Anthologies in the run up to the Christmas season. For 2020, they have ‘upped the ante’ by bringing forward the next title in this stunning series to the Spring, with further anthologies (Contemporary and Easy) already in preparation.
The Faber Music Jazz Piano Anthology builds on the quality of its predecessors to deliver a sumptuous and brilliantly conceived book of jazz standards, newly arranged as piano solos for more advanced students and adult piano enthusiasts everywhere.
The critically acclaimed Get Set! Piano books cover the key elements of musical learning and are packed with tunes and ideas to support and inspire young pianists.
My First Piano Book is a new tutor book written for young beginners (from aged 5 years) to use with a teacher. It introduces young children to the piano and music-making through fun activities, rhymes, songs and pieces. My First Pieces, Puzzles and Activities is a new companion book that can be used alongside My First Piano Book (or similar primer) by the pupil at home to consolidate learning. It includes traditional tunes and playful new pieces, plus lots of additional activities to consolidate learning and offer an extra layer of fun.
In this special Guest Post, author Karen Marshall tells the story behind the development of these new resources …
Do you teach younger beginners or fancy having a go at working with these little ones in the future?
We are providing some new free digital resources, which have been designed just for you, and to celebrate the launch of two brand new books (My First Piano book and My First Piano Pieces, Puzzles and Activities) both in the Get Set! Series.
This is a free Teacher Starter Pack (courtesy of Collins Music) based on the material in the books.
Writing these books has been quite a journey (the most difficult books I’ve written to date). They took 5 years to write, with material tried and tested in the development process.
These resources are for children from 5 years; the idea is to use the piano as an introduction to music.
As he did for many piano-lovers, Federico Colli first came to my attention when he appeared as a finalist at the Leeds International Piano Competition, which he went on to win in 2012. Since then he has established a successful performing career and has an exclusive recording deal with the Chandos label.
I have to confess that in 2012, Colli was not my favourite to win; nor was I enamoured with his Bach recording when I caught up with it last year.
However, seeing glowing reviews for his second CD of Scarlatti Sonatas elsewhere I took the plunge. And how glad I am, because it is stunning! I am finally a belated convert to Colli’s cause!
So what makes this recording special? Let’s find out…
Here is a resource I have used over many years to help me track the material I provide students for their technical development post Grade 1 – to around Grade 3, formatted by Faber Music especially for you:
It covers many of the technical areas students need to be proficient in at these early stages so they can progress easily at intermediate and advanced levels, an easy to use ‘one place’ record to list repertoire, exercises, scales, broken chords and arpeggios that you have covered.
It can also be useful for curriculum planning, making sure that all these areas are covered, from even finger work to part playing, articulation to independence of the hands, syncopation to tone production, agility and so much more.
These foundational areas of technique are based on the pedagogical training I received working with the late Christine Brown. As a teacher and mentor, Christine did so much for my understanding of teaching piano technique.
I sincerely hope this little record sheet will be useful to teachers and their students at the beginning of their piano playing journey!
Pianodao hosts a wealth of material which you can download FREE, created by Faber Music to support the PianoTrainer series:
Those looking for good anthologies of easy piano music are fairly spoilt for choice these days.
Latest to arrive (on the same day as ABRSM’s rather disappointing Core Classics series reviewed here), a set of three new books from Schott Music, compiled by the ever-prolific Hans-Günter Heumann, and collectively titled: Mini Maestro.
With each of the three books containing 50 solo pieces and 3 bonus duets, Mini Maestro certainly offers great value and plenty to dig into, so let’s take a look…