Jazz Piano for Kids

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW

While there’s a growing number of good published resources for the keen jazz student these days, most are aimed at the serious adult player, and in many cases too-quickly get embroiled in complicated jazz theory. Meanwhile, for young players who enjoy “jazzy pieces” and want to explore the style, there’s long been a gap in the market.

Jazz Piano for Kids, new from ace jazz educator Richard Michael and published by Hal Leonard, aims to fill that gap.

Introducing the book, Michael writes,

“Welcome to Jazz Piano for Kids and your very first steps in making up your own solos. What do you need? Apart from a piano or keyboard, just two hands, two wide-open ears, and the ability to have a go without fear of making mistakes. This beginner’s course will give you the building blocks of playing jazz on the piano… Before you know it, you will be improvising your own solos and starting a lifetime’s discovery in the wonderful world of jazz.”

Let’s get started right away…

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Myriam Barbaux-Cohen plays Granados

Recording of the Month

The music of Spanish composer Enrique Granados (1867-1916) is surely one of the great treasuries of the piano repertoire, with imaginatively engaging and brilliantly crafted pieces suitable for players at all levels of development.

And yet too many are unaware of the breadth of Granados’s output, despite instantly recognising his name; aside from a couple of the pieces from his monumental masterpiece Goyescas and one or two easy pieces which have been picked up by music examination boards, much of his music remains largely unexplored by today’s players.

The brilliant Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009) did much to popularise the music of Granados alongside the other great composers of her country, but for me the discovery of his music was first made through the fabulous complete set recorded by Martin Jones for Nimbus back in 2001, which has proved an ongoing source of musical delight.

And yet still too-little cherished, much of this music remains rarely heard.

Appearing last year, but a fresh discovery to me, French pianist Myriam Barbaux-Cohen’s disc of Granados’s music offers another noteworthy opportunity to discover some of the hidden music that you may have missed!

With Spring in the air, the sunny disposition of this disc definitely belongs to this moment, so let’s take it for a spin. It’s my February 2021 Recording of the Month…

Continue reading Myriam Barbaux-Cohen plays Granados

Ji Liu: Fire and Water

Sheet Music Review

Ji Liu is one of the young upcoming generation of Chinese pianists to find global success in the wake of Yundi and Lang Lang.

Following studies at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and London’s Royal Academy of Music, Liu has had significant success as a Global Classic fm recording artist, topping the UK Classical Charts, and as a concert artist who has performed around the world, appearing in such distinguished venues as the Royal Albert Hall in London and Carnegie Hall in New York.

Liu’s 2018 album Fire & Water took as its inspiration the Chinese five-element theory Wu-Xing, which is at the heart of Daoist philosophy, qigong practice and traditional acupuncture. Of the five (Wood, Earth, Metal, Fire, Water) Liu selected the pairing of fire and water as a basis for programming contrasting pieces by Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Einaudi, de Falla, Scriabin, Ravel, Xian Xinghai, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky.

Fire & Water delivers an intoxicating blend of virtuosity and appealing melody that has proved immensely popular. Several of the pieces are Liu’s own arrangements, fuelling demand for the sheet music to be made available.

For the Fire & Water publication, recently brought to us by newcomer Master Music Publications, Liu has obliged with his transcriptions, together with his annotated editions of some (but not all) of the album’s other pieces, and a brand new composition Tragicomic Trilogy.

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The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook

Sheet Music Review

A couple of years ago I suggested to author Karen Marshall and publishers Faber Music that it would be really useful to have an all-in-one scales manual within the popular Piano Trainer series. And here it is!

According to Faber Music,

“This all-in-one workbook for scales, arpeggios and broken chords includes all the keys and basic shapes piano students should learn. With clear scale notation, easy-to-visualise keyboard diagrams and excellent theory activities to consolidate understanding and underline the importance of writing music. It is ideal for developing a bespoke scale curriculum.”

The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook is certainly all of this, and the 72-page book is chock-full of neat ideas and judiciously selected material, so let’s take a closer look…

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Your Next Steps at the Piano

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The Post-Pandemic Piano Player

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over.
But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

As I write this, we are starting to consider and look forward to the relaxation of lockdown rules in the coming weeks, with a hope that schools will resume in March and most other activities by Easter. Being cautious, I had anticipated the probability of a return of face-to-face lessons by mid-summer, but it now seems possible that life will begin returning to some-kind-of-normal sooner. Hooray!

But what will we all have learnt in the last year?
How will we have changed in general, and as piano players?
And in what ways will the teaching and learning of the piano have been fundamentally and permanently altered?

Let’s consider the “Post-Pandemic Piano Player”…

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Patrick Hamilton: Journey to the Unknown

Sheet Music Review

According to Decca Publishing,

“Patrick Hamilton is a flag bearer for the next generation of producer, composer and arranger. A leading figure in classical crossover music, his ambitions include the verticals of artist production alongside film and TV score composition, which together bring his unique skill set to the adult contemporary classical space.”

Judging from Journey to the Unknown, Hamilton’s first solo piano CD, what this lofty statement actually means is that he is the latest to join the ever-growing pantheon of composers creating gentle, soothing piano music in the style popularised by Ludovico Einaudi.

Journey to the Unknown is also now available as a sheet music publication from Hal Leonard. I really like it, so let’s find out what makes it special…

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RSL Classical Piano

Sheet Music Review

It used to be possible to joke that piano exam syllabi, like busses, arrived three at a time. But with the addition of the Music Teachers’ Board to the mix and fresh arrival of a “classical” syllabus from RSL Awards (Rockschool), students and teachers have five fully and equally accredited UK boards to choose between.

A disclaimer at the start. Eagle-eyed readers will soon spot that in the nine RSL Classical Piano books the name Andrew Eales appears as a “syllabus consultant”. While I didn’t actually contribute directly to the syllabus, I did offer a little feedback in the later stages of its conception.

On the plus side this perhaps gives me particular insight, but at the same time I will try to maintain distance, as ever avoid bias, and focus on providing the independent factual outline that you need in order to evaluate for yourself whether the syllabus might be the right fit you.

So let’s take a look…

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Schubert: The Late Sonatas

Sheet Music Review

Back in June 2018 I reviewed Bärenreiter’s then new issue of Schubert’s G major Fantasy Sonata, concluding:

“I am grateful that this beautifully presented edition of the Fantasy Sonata has given me a fresh opportunity to explore such a magnificent work – and with this Bärenreiter edition to hand, it becomes still more enticing.
The Fantasy Sonata must surely be among Schubert’s greatest piano works, and one of the more accessible of the later Sonatas. And whether for studying or performing this masterpiece, this new edition from Bärenreiter is undoubtedly the one to own!”

Now that edition reappears as the opening work in Volume III of Bärenreiter’s complete Schubert Sonatas edition, in which is is joined by the great Sonatas in C minor, A major and B flat major, D 958, 959 and 960 respectively, surely three of the most hallowed pieces in the entire classical piano repertoire.

Read on for the Pianodao review…

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Compose Yourself!

Guest Post by Lindsey Berwin

From a very young age, my ambition was to forge a career which in some way involved the piano.

After completing my A levels, I was fortunate enough to spend four rewarding years studying at the Royal Academy of Music. However the one area of formal musical training that was missing from my time spent there was composition.

As a result, when I began my piano teaching career and decided to embark on a journey into this unknown territory, it was very much an exploratory one. It began with me gingerly feeling my way, but it very quickly became one of excitement for both myself and my pupils!

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