Grooves for Piano Dudes

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Heather Hammond is well established as one of the best-loved educational composers in the UK today, with more than 100 publications in print (piano and woodwind) from a variety of publishers.

The last time I took a good look at Hammond’s music was in my review of her Ballads Without Words, brought to us by EVC Music.

In this review, I’m considering a contrasting series of her music from the same publisher. Grooves for Piano Dudes currently includes three volumes of which the second and third (with a special Halloween theme) have just recently been released.

The three books are all suitable for intermediate players, and between them offer 37 fresh Hammond compositions in jazz, rock, blues and boogie styles…

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Recordings of the Month: September 2022

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Autumn as ever brings a string of compelling recordings from many of the world’s top artists, and choosing a September Recording of the Month has proven challenging; October is looking equally exciting!

The four albums I have settled on all mix wonderful pianism with exquisite artistic taste, elevating them above the crowded pack of releases…

Continue reading Recordings of the Month: September 2022

A Streak of Calm

Setting our piano journey in its living context.
Written by Andrew Eales.

A few years back I purchased an app called Calm, which has subsequently become one of the most popular mindfulness apps available on iOS and other digital platforms. With its range of guided meditations, ambient music, soundscapes, breathwork exercises and ‘sleep stories’, Calm has grown to become a superb lifestyle resource, and a deserved success.

Interestingly though, Calm also delivers user stats after each session, with a badge showing one’s ‘streaks’ of consecutive days of practice. I’ve regarded this feature with vague amusement; it seems to owe more to the culture of the gambling arcade than to the ethos of the meditation traditions.

There’s even the opportunity to share your official streaks on social media platforms, something I recently did myself having reached the modest achievement of 100 consecutive days, and curious to see whether it would generate much discussion with friends.

But then an odd, and instructive thing happened: it must have been less than a week later that I ‘missed’ a day…

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Podcast with Chris Woods

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

Readers may be aware of the Music Education Podcast hosted by Chris Woods of The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra and brought to us by the Soundstorm Music Education Agency.

I was honoured to recently be invited to take part. Below, you can listen to a newly released Podcast in which the genial Chris talks to me about my recently published How to Practise Music, as well as having a more general chat about the important place of practice in our musical journeys.

First, I asked Chris to introduce the podcast series in his own words, and here’s what he said:

The Music Education Podcast welcomes an exciting range of guests to chat about the things that affect the music education community and offer new and inspiring perspectives for music educators. Always packed full of insight and inspiration for all. Whatever it is you do within music education, every episode is for you.

The conversations are relaxed and honest. The tone of the conversations is like a supportive friend for all listners. It’s the questions you were scared to ask and the answers you were hoping to find.

With that in mind, I hope you will check out other podcasts in the series.

And without further ado, here’s my podcast chat with Chris:


More Information:
The Music Education Podcast
Chris Wood Groove Orchestra
SoundStorm Music Education Agency


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Donald Thomson’s Halloween Piano Tunes

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Having only just reviewed the Willis Music’s Halloween anthology Spooky Sounds here’s another dastardly publication, this time from EVC Music and scaring us with 19 original pieces from the excellent Donald Thomson.

I have previously praised Thomson’s Celtic Piano Music (reviewed here), and am equally enthusiastic about this collection. Let’s open it up to find out what’s lurking within…

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Willis Music’s ‘Strange Sounds’

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With autumn well upon us, and a new school year firmly underway, many teachers and players will no doubt be looking for repertoire to enjoy as we approach Halloween.

Each year I am asked to recommend suitable music for the annual spook-fest, and for elementary to early intermediate players, around UK Grades 1-3, a recent compilation of “10 Bewitching Piano Solos” from The Willis Music Company could be just the ticket.

Intrigued? Let’s tiptoe through the gate and investigate the secrets within…

Continue reading Willis Music’s ‘Strange Sounds’

In Memory of Queen Elizabeth II ‘Lilibet’


During this time of sadness and reflection, I am heartened to share a beautiful free score courtesy of Faber Music, which they have kindly made available until the end of September.

Faber Music’s renowned educational composer Pam Wedgwood marks the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with a solo piano piece, based on her adaptation of the National Anthem.

Introducing In Memory of Queen Elizabeth II ‘Lilibet’, Pam says,

“During this time of national mourning I want to help piano teachers and students mark the occasion. This arrangement of our National Anthem will hopefully serve not only as a tribute to The Queen, but also provide you with a little something to enjoy playing in lessons over the next few weeks.”

Pam’s arrangement is suitable for early intermediate pianists and above.

It is available to download for free during the period of mourning via the link:


You can read Faber Music’s official announcement here.

I would like to thank Pam, and all at Faber Music, for this kind gesture of support as we all process our sense of loss.

The Symphony: From Mannheim to Mahler

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With impeccable timing at the start of a new academic year, Faber Music have just released The Symphony: From Mannheim to Mahler, an accessible new guide written by Christopher Tarrant and Natalie Wild, which hopes (and in my view deserves) to become a standard text for A’ level and undergraduate students.

While not a piano book, this publication certainly merits the attention of any advancing pianist or teacher with an interest in the core classical tradition; as the dominant instrumental form from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, the symphony’s parallel development and symbiotic relationship with the sonata undoubtedly make an understanding of the former helpful for a full appreciation of the latter.

With that in mind, let’s take a look…

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Rendezvous at the Zoo

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Jennifer Linn is one of America’s most respected educational composers, authors and arrangers, with dozens of titles to her name. These include several collections of her own compositions, arrangements of music from popular shows, the Hal Leonard Piano for Teens method, and several award-winning classical editions in the Schirmer Performance library.

Many of Linn’s publications are best-sellers in the US, but most are less well-known here in the UK. Her latest publication is Rendezvous at the Zoo, and will certainly be of interest to anyone teaching children at early elementary level, regardless where in the world they are based… so let’s take a look!

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ABRSM: Pop Performer!

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There has long been speculation that at some point ABRSM would launch a pop piano syllabus, but they have perhaps sensibly resisted any call to do so.

The wide disparity and significant difference in approach taken by Rockschool Piano and Trinity Rock and Pop Keyboards illustrates the difficulty in creating a syllabus that is both helpful and true to the skills required by keyboard players in the contemporary commercial sphere.

Some forget, too, that the four Royal Schools of Music affiliated to ABRSM don’t offer specialist courses in this field. And then there’s the issue of copyright clearances: ABRSM simply don’t have access to the latest chart material without permission and significant cost.

Happily, ABRSM have now addressed this last hurdle by teaming up with Hal Leonard, the world’s largest sheet music publishers, who represent the rights to an unparalleled catalogue of commercial hits. It is certainly to the board’s credit that they can both recognise their own core strengths and collaborate with so prestigious a partner.

Enter Pop Performer!, two books of solo piano arrangements of contemporary pop standards and chart hits carefully graded for players from Initial to Grade 5 level. These striking publications look like the work of ABRSM, with songs arranged by examiners and looking little different to the pieces in their official exam repertoire books. But with Hal Leonard’s stamp equally evident in the songs, not to mention the inclusion of their online audio Playback+ software, it’s clear that this is an equal and exciting partnership.

Pop Performer! is neither a new syllabus, nor a hint that one is on its way. On the contrary, these are arrangements that can be played for enjoyment by those taking ABRSM’s traditional grades, and the board makes much of the important point that they can be used as ideal fourth pieces for their recorded Performance Grades.

In other words, what we have here is the option to include commercial popular hits, carefully curated, arranged and benchmarked, alongside and within ABRSM’s existing exam offer.

I’ll state upfront that I think this is a brilliant concept, am impressed with the books, and anticipate that they will be the most essential “must-have” purchase for piano teachers and students in this new academic year. So let’s take a much closer look…

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