Barbara Arens: One Hand Piano

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


The Pianodao Music Library includes several collections by educator and composer Barbara Arens, and regular readers will know I am a fan.

It has been a little while since she last brought us a new collection with a major publishing house, so I am delighted to be reviewing her latest from the world’s oldest music publisher Breitkopf and Hārtel, who are also the company with whom she has the longest history.

One Hand Piano 2 is the sequel to One Hand Piano, Arens’ only Breitkopf publication not previously reviewed on Pianodao, so I am going to make the most of the opportunity to review both books here. Each volume contains 40 pieces for Left or Right hand alone, and as she so often does, Arens has identified a niche and brilliantly filled it…

Continue reading Barbara Arens: One Hand Piano

Piano Grades Are Go!

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Compared to the large quantity of music reviewed here for intermediate and advanced players, relatively few publications for elementary players make an appearance. This is perhaps in part because so much of the music written for beginning players is swallowed whole into lucrative method book series and exam resources. But there’s also no denying that it’s particularly difficult to write standout, imaginative music at this level.

Pianodao features reviews for relatively few of the publications received, in the hope of offering the clearest, well-informed and most helpful recommendations, thus saving readers time. Nothing makes it onto the site unless I would very happily use in my own teaching studio.

How wonderful, then, to introduce a brand new collection of “20 Characterful Solos” by Victoria Proudler. Piano Grades Are Go! has just appeared from EVC Music and is that rarest of beasts: a genuinely stunning music book for elementary players. I will be adopting it with my students, and believe other teachers should consider doing so too. Let’s find out why…

Continue reading Piano Grades Are Go!

Joachim Raff: Heralds of Spring

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Back in 2019 I published this review of Joachim Raff’s Piano Sonatas Op.14 and Op.168, newly edited by Ulrich Mahlert and published by Breitkopf & Hārtel, concluding:

“Had history told a different story, these three Sonatas could comfortably and confidently sit astride the peak of the Romantic piano repertoire; they more than deserve rediscovery, and I can recommend an exploration of these great works with genuine enthusiasm…
I hope that the publisher’s stated aims are fulfilled: that this new edition helps to overcome the cycle of ignorance of Raff’s music. Ulrich Mahlert and Edition Breitkopf are to be highly commended for so enterprising, important and rewarding a publication.”

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

The team are now back with Mahlert’s new edition of another major find in the Raff catalogue, his Frühlingsboten (Heralds of Spring) Op.55, a cycle of 12 piano pieces which are simply brilliant, and again surely deserve a far more prominent place in the modern pianist’s repertoire…

Continue reading Joachim Raff: Heralds of Spring

Recordings of the Month: May 2022

RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Revamping this monthly series, Pianodao now includes a headline Recording of the Month as well as selected other top choices.

Read on to find out about five new recordings of interest, with music by Mozart, Bach, jazz from Tord Gustavsen and Daniel Barenboim’s 80th birthday disc. But first…

Continue reading Recordings of the Month: May 2022

A Common Approach 2022

PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING • by ANDREW EALES
Lessons & Advice • BOOK A CONSULTATION


Originally published in 2002, A Common Approach is perhaps the ultimate instrumental music teaching manual, offering a complete curriculum and extensive lesson activities for most instruments, including separate schemes of work for piano and electronic keyboard.

Now it has just been fully revamped and made available as an updated, free online resource to support instrumental teachers everywhere. Whether working privately or in a school, all piano and keyboard teachers would do well to have a look at this extensive and superb material.

According to its publishers Music Mark,

“A Common Approach is an online resource to support music educators in their teaching practice and help develop a holistic approach to music education. Relevant to all vocal and instrumental teaching, including individual, small-group, large-group and whole-class lessons, music educators at all stages of their career can use the support and shared learning found in A Common Approach.”

Music Mark Chief Executive Bridget Whyte tells us,

“Twenty years after the original version of A Common Approach was published, Music Mark has worked with a skilled team of music tutors from across the UK to update and enhance this valuable teaching tool. Containing both universal guidance and instrument-specific content, this online resource not only provides a great starting point for trainee and early-career tutors, but also gives those who are more experienced the opportunity to reflect on their practice.”

This has particular interest to me because back in 2002, I was a member of the national steering group who put together the original version of A Common Approach which provides the ongoing foundation of this update.

It’s therefore time both to take a short stroll down memory lane, and to consider how the updated version of this milestone resource can help piano teachers today…

Continue reading A Common Approach 2022

The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Reviewing Pam Wedgwood’s The Rusty Pianist when it appeared around this time last year, I concluded:

“Some of the publications which come my way are absolutely perfect for their intended niche, while others go far beyond their remit to become enduring classics with huge appeal. I am happy to say that this is one of those publications, and it belongs not only on the shelves of the rusty, but of piano lovers everywhere.”

• READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Wedgwood’s latest publication, the cannily titled Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces is a companion to that brilliant volume, and continues the ruse of appealing to the modesty of returning adult players.

The book delivers an enticing collection of 16 “easy-to-learn piano solos for the returning player”, pieces which can be enjoyed in their own right by piano returners at intermediate level, without any deadline or need to prove their progress in an exam room. Let’s once again lift the lid…

Continue reading The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces

Phillip Keveren’s Three-Minute Encores

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


“As the last note hangs in the air, there is a magical moment when an audience will, once in a while, decide they want to hear more! Not a lot more, mind you. The clock is ticking and the babysitter can only stay until 10 pm. But, can we make this evening last just a little longer?”

So enthuses ace arranger Phillip Keveren in the preface to his latest collection from Hal Leonard, the cunningly conceived Three-Minute Encores.

Keveren will be known to regular Pianodao readers from my reviews of his superb Piano Calm (reviewed here) and Circles (reviewed here), both of which have become absolute studio essentials here, favourites with multiple students, and are among the most-used collections I have ever reviewed.

One of America’s leading arrangers, Keveren has also delivered literally dozens of other books for Hal Leonard, collectively The Phillip Keveren Series, to which this new issue belongs. And it’s another corker, so let’s investigate…

Continue reading Phillip Keveren’s Three-Minute Encores

Górecki: Piano Album

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1933-2010) has come to be regarded as one of the most important composers of the second half of the twentieth century, significantly due to the astonishing commercial success of his Third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (1976).

A leading figure in Poland’s avant-garde in the 1960’s to ’70’s, Górecki was inspired by (among others) Webern, Messiaen, Stockhausen, and his compatriot Krzysztof Penderecki (who was just two weeks his senior), although his later work transitioned toward a more tonal approach, the Third Symphony marking an important staging post in that musical metamorphosis.

Boosey & Hawkes, long at the forefront of bringing contemporary piano music to market, have recently issued a new collection of Górecki’s more modest pieces for the instrument. The Piano Album is edited by the composer’s daughter, concert pianist Anna Górecka, and offers a fascinating and approachable snapshot of his evolving art…

Continue reading Górecki: Piano Album

Couperin’s Troisième Livre

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Reviewing the new Denis Herlin edition of the Second Livre of Pièces de Clavecin by François Couperin ‘le grand’ (1668-1733) when it was published by Bärenreiter back in 2019, I concluded:

Occasionally I receive for review a volume that is, quite simply, above any reproach. This is one such edition. For any harpsichord player, this must surely be an essential and immediate purchase; for pianists keen to explore this too-little-known keyboard repertoire, this new edition must also be the one to seek out and highly prize.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Three years later, and the next volume of this incomparable benchmark edition has appeared, and once again I have no hesitation in lavishing it with praise…

Continue reading Couperin’s Troisième Livre

Ludovico Einaudi: Cinema

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Ludovico Einaudi’s music continues to divide opinion, often derided by those whose preferred music is less accessible, while fêted by fans and adored by enthusiastic pianists, students and audiences around the world. And along the way, his music has perhaps nowhere found a wider (or more lucrative) embrace that in the movie theatre…

Cinema appeared as a CD album about a year ago, and features 28 of Einaudi’s memorable works from film and television, including tracks from the Oscar-winning ‘Nomadland’ and ‘The Father’. The sheet music folio from publishers Chester Music is now with us, the subject of this review, in which I will also consider a separate publication of the music from the Nomadland soundtrack…

Continue reading Ludovico Einaudi: Cinema

Women Composers: A Graded Anthology

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Hot on the heels of Karen Marshall’s lovingly curated HerStory from Faber Music, which I recently reviewed here, Schott Music bring us three brilliantly compiled and vividly presented collections of music by neglected female composers past and present.

Melanie Spanswick’s Women Composers: A Graded Anthology is equally as groundbreaking, and being a larger series these books offer space to a wider and more diverse range of repertoire, particularly in their inclusion of playful jazz and 20th century piano works.

It is interesting to note that of the 30 works in Marshall’s book and the 52 more here, not only are there no actual duplicates, but few of the composers themselves appear twice, an extraordinary confirmation (were it needed) that the pool of neglected music by female composers is a deep one indeed.

So let’s cast an eye over Spanswick’s series…

Continue reading Women Composers: A Graded Anthology

A Fresh Perspective

The FERMATA SERIESby ANDREW EALES
Taking the time to pause and reflect


Those who know me well enough to have observed some of my personal struggles often urge me to stop caring what others think of my choices, opinions, beliefs and work. Many of us become trapped in the mindset of the “people-pleaser”; manipulated or bullied by others, we can easily lose sight of our own core values if we aren’t careful.

A decision not to care what others think about us can be emancipating, and can empower us to be our more authentic selves. I’m not surprised that this sentiment has become a common theme in self-help manuals.

But wait. If we stop caring about what others think, how long before we stop caring about them at all? Mutual understanding of each other’s ideas, feelings and perspectives is a crucial foundation for building empathetic, honest relationships.

We may not always agree with the opinions of others, but shutting them out ultimately isolates us. Clearly a balance is needed, along with an ability to accept the perspectives of others without feeling belittled.

As in life, so too this applies in our piano playing.

It seems growing numbers of players are so assertively independent that, at best, they regard the views of teachers and other players as an optional “take-it-or-leave-it” commodity. It is a viewpoint which I countered in some detail in my article Who Needs Piano Lessons Anyway?

The simple truth is that all of us, however good we believe we are, and however much personal satisfaction we presently gain from our playing, can benefit from the advice of other experienced players and teachers.

As the Chinese saying goes,

“However good your eye-sight, you still can’t see the back of your own head.”

There is always value in getting another, fresh perspective on our playing.

But not all opinions carry equal weight, despite the best efforts of social media to present them thus. The commenting of Facebook peers and strangers may be useful, but won’t always convey special insight; and how does one sift through so many contradictory opinions?

It seems obvious that when we consider (and if necessary, research) the expertise of the person who is giving us feedback, and reflect on the quality of our relationship with them, then we will be better placed to find the healthy balance we need.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the person offering advice just want to show off their own knowledge, are they touting for business, or do they genuinely want to help me?
  • Do they have the experience of playing this music well, or at least a good knowledge of the repertoire?
  • Are they listening carefully and engaging positively with me?
  • Am I looking for the support of a friend or the constructive advice and insight of an expert?

How we answer these questions might give us a clue as to whether we should care about a person’s opinions or not. There remains the possibility to take charge of our personal and pianistic development while also nurturing respectful, honest relationships.

But we might notice that sometimes the feedback we are given, invited or otherwise, can be useful even when we don’t feel a particular connection to the individual offering it. The observations of somebody we might not generally agree with, or even particularly like, can present the fresh perspective we were previously missing.

Beyond personality issues then, when receiving feedback on your piano playing ask yourself:

  • Does the feedback increase my understanding of the music in a way which will help me to play it better?
  • Does the feedback include practical, physical or technical advice which I might benefit from trying out?
  • Does the feedback inspire me musically, get my creative juices flowing, or offer an alternative interpretation of the music which could be interesting to explore?

Maya Angelou once said,

“We do the best we can with what we know,
and when we know better, we do better.”

Are you ready for a fresh perspective on your playing?


Andrew’s essential handbook of practising tips:




PIANODAO includes more than 600 articles and reviews,
which are free for everyone, everywhere to access and read.
Please support the site by making a small donation.



“The Thinking Pianist” Summer Course

PATHWAYS FOR PLAYING • by ANDREW EALES
Get Expert Support & Advice • BOOK A CONSULTATION


Summer schools and courses for (especially) adult piano enthusiasts have become an embedded feature of the music education landscape in recent years, and last year saw the launch of the latest.

The Thinking Pianist is the brainchild of David Jones, an established pianist, educator, and presently Head of Keyboard Studies at Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

I am delighted to announce that for this, the course’s second year, I will be joining the faculty. Here in advance, I talk to Jones about what it is that makes this particular course special, and distinct from other successful summer schools…

Continue reading “The Thinking Pianist” Summer Course

How to Practise Music: Reviews

THE PIANODAO BOOKSHELF
Books For Musicians, Educators & Enthusiasts


It has been a couple of months since the release of my first book for Hal Leonard in the UK, and it is now available in a US english version, and n digital format from the Amazon Kindle and Apple Books stores.

I have been thrilled and touched by the many wonderful comments I have received and reviews that have appeared. Here is a selection…


“In this helpful little book, the author considers 50 aspects of practice and unpacks them in such a way as to be useful to instrumentalists and vocalists of any genre… Any independent learner or parent committed to their child’s progress would benefit from having this book to dip into, and to make sure they are investing all that practice time as well as possible.”

Helena Ruinard
Music Teacher Magazine April 2022


“This hold-in-the-hand 80-page book is the perfect practice manual for teachers to draw ideas from and for students to develop their own personal practice tool kit to help make the most of the time… This compact book, packed with sage advice and wonderful content, will help any teacher or student reading it to resolve their practice challenges. The result will potentially be a greater love of their instrument and so much more success playing it.”

Karen Marshall
Piano teacher, presenter and best-selling author
Read the full review here.


“Andrew’s book unquestionably considers in equal measure the organisational and creative aspects of practising most persuasively. The presentation and style is lucid and practical. This is not a florid, pictorial production. Rather, it cuts to the chase, fits neatly into your jacket pocket and will be of invaluable use to an enormous number of practicing musicians.”

Murray McLachlan
Pianist, writer, recording artist and educator 
Read the full review here


“This pocket-sized volume is the perfect companion for every musician, packing a punch in less than 100 pages with its wealth of supportive, imaginative, practical and thoughtful suggestions to keep the musician, whatever their age or ability level, focused and motivated… You may wish to read the book from cover to cover, or to simply dip into it; either way, you will find it an invaluable resource. Teachers too will find much useful information in finding creative ways to encourage students to practise.”

Frances Wilson
The Cross-Eyed Pianist website
Read the full review here


“Packed with wisdom gleaned from decades of making and teaching music, Eales’ guide offers practical advice on how to practice in ways that are both productive and joyful. What many of us had to learn through years of trial and error can be found in this pithy, must-have book.”

Rhonda Rizzo
Pianist, novelist and writer
No Dead Guys website interview


“This publication is full of accessible, supportive, imaginative, wise practical advice and strategy for today’s learner, gleaned from Eales’ many years as a music educator. I think this is a great book and recommend it highly as an easily-digestible guide. Eales recognises the challenges faced by any musician. The reader is encouraged to focus, plan, reflect and explore in a spirit of creativity, mindfulness and engaged curiosity. It presents a fairly comprehensive compendium of useful  and wide-ranging ideas with warmth and understanding without ever being patronising or didactic. Elements of motivation, progress and satisfaction are all acknowledged, both in the nitty-gritty of planned practice and the joy of playfulness and discovery.”

Rachel Sherry
AOTOS Newsletter


My sincere thanks to all the reviewers who have taken the time to read, to reflect on and to write such wonderful reviews of my book. I know from experience the long hours of work that go into writing an informative and helpful review, and it is much appreciated!


Andrew’s essential handbook of practising tips:




PIANODAO includes more than 600 articles and reviews,
which are free for everyone, everywhere to access and read.
Please support the site by making a small donation.



Boogie Woogie Piano Solos

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Of all the jazz styles, boogie woogie surely sits at the “unabashed fun” end of the spectrum, with a musical appeal, approachable good-nature and lack of pretensions that invites classical players as well as jazz-devotees to get down and have a go.

Intermediate players who want to boogie are well catered for by the likes of William Gillock, Martha Meir and Mike Cornick, while for the advancing player Tim Richards’ Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection (reviewed here) is a great resource.

Meanwhile, those who want to master the style at the highest level and play transcriptions of the classics will welcome the latest addition to Hal Leonard’s Jazz Piano Solos series (volume 60, and you can explore previous highlights here). Simply titled Boogie Woogie, this new collection is terrific, and more advanced players will absolutely love it.

Continue reading Boogie Woogie Piano Solos