How to Practise Music: Reviews

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Books For Musicians, Educators & Enthusiasts

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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 in 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…

Continue reading How to Practise Music: Reviews

How to Practise Music: The Handbook

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I am thrilled to announce my first publication with Hal Leonard, described by the publishers as:

“The essential, pocket-sized companion for every musician. Accessible and authoritative, How to Practise Music is an ideal guide for anyone learning to play music. Suitable for instrumentalists and vocalists of any genre, this comprehensive handbook will give you a better idea of how to practise music, good reasons for doing so, and the confidence to succeed. “

The book is now available in both UK and US versions (Practice/Practise!):


The book is also available digitally for Amazon Kindle and Apple Books.

In this post I will give you an exclusive first look…

Continue reading How to Practise Music: The Handbook

Paul Harris: Unconditional Teaching

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Many readers will already have benefitted from Paul Harris’s numerous and superb teaching and learning resources, and perhaps also read one or more of his best-sellers written to support teachers. His seminal The Virtuoso Teacher, Improve Your Teaching! and Simultaneous Learning books have established themselves as essential modern classics.

New from Faber Music, and presented in a similar format to those previous books, Harris’s latest publication is called Unconditional Teaching. And it is undoubtedly one of his most provocative and thought-provoking yet…

Continue reading Paul Harris: Unconditional Teaching

The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces

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Before the last rays of summer settle into the colours of autumn, let me tell you about this wonderful book, my summer holiday read, but equally suitable for the cozy evenings ahead, or for that matter as a Christmas gift.

Indeed, whether you find yourself wanting inspiration for fresh beginnings, a reboot in your piano journey, or simply a brilliant read, Susan Tomes’ The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces is poised to perfectly hit the spot and deliver the tonic you are looking for.

It’s a book which very much delivers on the promise of its title, giving a chronological survey of the storied history of the instrument and, more particularly, the development of a glorious repertoire that is surely one of the pinnacles of human achievement.

So let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces

Musicians Who Teach

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Faber Music’s latest publication is a slim book called The Essential Handbook for Musicians Who Teach.

Written by singing teacher, researcher and lecturer Dr. Kerry Boyle and Diane Widdison, formerly National Organiser for Education and Training at the MU, the book is aimed at any musician teaching in the UK, whatever the context, and offers a wealth of generic advice covering the many practical aspects of earning money from instrumental/singing teaching.

I’ll look at the content in detail, and let’s find out whether this new handbook is indeed “essential”….

Continue reading Musicians Who Teach

Howard Smith: Note for Note

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Any self-published autobiography could too quickly be written off as a vanity project; Howard Smith’s newly available Note for Note offers a strong rebuttal of any such inclination, delivering a rich banquet that could both inspire the “returning adults” of the amateur piano world and inform those of us who teach them.

We are told at the start of the book that,

“The events narrated in this book took place between Friday, February 14, 2014 and New Year’s Day 2018”.

With equal precision, Smith lays out the story of his piano journey, self-described as “climbing onto an escalator”, and in so doing achieves much more than a simple memoir. As we accompany the author on his journey, we learn a mix of theory and practice at his side, set in the context of his ‘late returning adult’ story.

Before I read the book, its author self-effacingly warned me,

“The text is as much a moral tale of how not to go about learning to play the piano, as it is a set of pointers to a more enlightened and effective approach.”

Having now read Smith’s “musical fable” from cover to cover, here are my personal thoughts on his success, together with some suggestions as to why I think the book is a truly essential read…

Continue reading Howard Smith: Note for Note

Mindfulness in Sound

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Mark Tanner’s little book Mindfulness in Music, which I reviewed here, is one of those super-quotable books that has proven not just a wonderful read from cover to cover, but also great for dipping into for inspiration whenever the urge arises.

Now Tanner returns with another book in Leaping Hare Press’s superb series of hardback mindfulness books, Mindfulness in Sound, in which he invites us to Tune in to the world around us.

While this book isn’t directly about music the subject inevitably crops up, and this is another lovely book which I’m sure many Pianodao readers will enjoy immensely…

Continue reading Mindfulness in Sound

Blood, Sweat and Tours

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Rami Bar-Niv is known and beloved worldwide as one of Israel’s most acclaimed and sought-after pianists.

Performing worldwide as a soloist with orchestra, recitalist and chamber musician, Bar-Niv has become an ambassador of goodwill for Israel. He has made several well received recordings for CBS, many of his compositions have been published and recorded, and he is widely in demand as a teacher.

Bar-Niv will be known to some readers as author of the outstanding book, The Art of Piano Fingering (which I have reviewed here), and from his illuminating interview with Pianodao last year.


And we can all get to know him in depth and far more intimately, thanks to his recently published autobiography Blood, Sweat and Tours: Notes from the Diary of a Concert Pianist.

Continue reading Blood, Sweat and Tours

Memoirs of an Accompanist

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Specialist literary publisher Kahn & Averill have a stellar reputation for delivering compelling biographies and autobiographies of interesting and important figures within the classical music world.

I have previously reviewed their biography of iconic pianist Dinu Lipatti and recent autobiography of filmmaker Christopher Nupen.

And now, hot off the press, comes the autobiography of Helmut Deutsch, one of the most successful and sought-after lieder accompanists of our time.

Deutsch has accompanied, both on stage and in the recording studio, the likes of Hermann Prey, Olaf Bär, Brigitte Fassbaender, Jonas Kaufmann and many others.

His is a career and life in music that will surely yield both insight and a rich seam of anecdote, in the tradition of Gerald Moore’s excellent memoirs, so let’s take a look…

Continue reading Memoirs of an Accompanist

Penelope Roskell’s ‘Complete Pianist’

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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.”

Intrigued? I bet! So let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Penelope Roskell’s ‘Complete Pianist’

Listening through the lens

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Listening through the lens is the recently published memoir of BAFTA-award winning documentary-maker Christopher Nupen, who has made more than 70 productions on classical music and musicians.

Nupen’s pioneering portrait-films count among their subjects Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline du Pré, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Itzhak Perlman, Andrés Segovia, Alice Herz-Sommer, Yevgeny Kissin and Daniil Trifonov, many of whom have become lifelong friends.

His 1969 film The Trout, featuring Barenboim, Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré and Zubin Mehta performing the beloved Schubert quintet, is legendary; while We Want the Light has won some of the most prized awards in documentary making.

In his book, Nupen tells the story of his varied and often astonishing life…

Continue reading Listening through the lens

Paul Harris: Cancer and Positivity

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One Saturday morning in March 2018, I learnt that my good friend the composer, author and educator Paul Harris had been rushed to our local hospital emergency department overnight.

Paul had for several months been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a virulent cancer that had already seemed to take so much from him.

He was receiving excellent treatment at The Churchill Hospital in Oxford, but having taken a turn for the worse the previous night, Paul had been instructed to come straight to Milton Keynes, his nearest A&E.

Continue reading Paul Harris: Cancer and Positivity

The Waco Variations

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I should preface this review by saying that, disappointingly, in the last couple of years I have too rarely found time to start reading a good novel, and even less frequently succeeded in finishing one.

The Waco Variations, written by the American pianist and writer Rhonda Rizzo, kept me up late into the night, and demanded to be finished!

Perhaps no further recommendation is needed, but you probably want to know more about what makes this such a great read, so…

Continue reading The Waco Variations

The Classical Piano Sonata

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“Since my youth I have been fascinated by sonata form and, over a period of some forty years, all the programmes I have performed have been centred on works in that form. Therefore this book is a labour of love as much as, hopefully, a useful guide to some of the most marvellous music ever conceived.”

So writes Michael Davidson of his superb book The Classical Piano Sonata, which has since its publication in 2004 become something of a classic itself, and an indispensable guide for every serious pianist and music-lover.

Let’s take a closer look at the book, and evaluate what it is which makes it such an essential addition to the pianist’s library…

Continue reading The Classical Piano Sonata

Mindfulness in Music

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Once upon a time, books were something very special – not mere repositories of bullet-pointed knowledge, but containers of true magic whose words could unfetter the imagination and conjure into being a genuine sense of wonder.

It seems to me that as the internet age comes to maturity there has been a concurrent if unexpected reappraisal and renewed appreciation of the tactile immersion made possible by a traditional, high-quality physical book.

Riding the crest of an exciting wave of publications crafted to the highest standard, and with a deliberate nod towards the publishing values of an earlier generation, comes a small but highly significant volume by Mark Tanner entitled Mindfulness in Music, published by Leaping Hare Press as an imprint within their ongoing series of mindfulness-related books.

The book is an inspirational delight from cover to cover (and including the covers themselves!) and I highly commend it to Pianodao readers as the “must-read” book of the season…

Continue reading Mindfulness in Music

The Piano Teacher’s Survival Guide

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A brilliant new publication from Faber Music, The Piano Teacher’s Survival Guide instantly establishes itself as one of the best practical manuals available for today’s piano teachers…

Continue reading The Piano Teacher’s Survival Guide

Lipatti: Remembering a Legend

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“Music is a serious matter”
Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950)

Dinu Lipatti was born in Bucharest on 19th March 1917. His life and career shone with a brightness that helped illuminate the piano’s “golden age”, leaving an indelible hue on our cultural heritage. That blazing light was tragically extinguished on 2nd December 1950, when Lipatti died of Hodgkin’s Disease.

But Lipatti’s legacy lives on, and such was the precision, luminosity and spirituality of his playing that, these many decades later, many of his recordings (mostly from the 1940s) are still regarded as milestones in the history of music…

Continue reading Lipatti: Remembering a Legend

Mark Tanner’s ‘The Mindful Pianist’

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Mindfulness” has become one of the buzzwords of the decade. We’ve no doubt all seen the regular articles about it in the popular press, exploring the possible benefits of mindfulness practice for our physical and mental health, productivity, learning, and general happiness.

But what of piano players: how can we benefit from mindfulness practice?

It’s a question for which we might hope to find answers in highly respected teacher, composer and pianist Mark Tanner’s hotly anticipated book and much lauded The Mindful Pianist, published by Faber Music this autumn.

According to the publishers:

The Mindful Pianist presents amateurs and professionals with a fresh perspective on playing and performing. Applying the concept of mindfulness to the piano, this invaluable text explores the crucial connection between mind and body: how an alert, focussed mind fosters playing that is more compelling, more refined and ultimately more rewarding …

Continue reading Mark Tanner’s ‘The Mindful Pianist’

The Art of Piano Fingering

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Rami Bar-Niv is one of Israel’s most acclaimed and sought-after pianists. He performs worldwide as a soloist with orchestra, recitalist and chamber musician, and has become an ambassador of goodwill for Israel.

Bar-Niv has made several well received recordings for CBS, several of his compositions have been published and recorded, and he is widely in demand as a teacher.


Art of Piano Fingering

Though some UK readers may not have come across Rami, those who are active networking on Facebook will have seen, and no doubt benefitted, from his erudite, constructive and generous support of other pianists. In short, Rami has won many friends around the world with his warmth, charm, and passion for the piano.

The Art of Piano Fingering

The Art of Piano Fingering is essentially a large manual for piano playing, published as a 212 page book via CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Several readers have asked me about it, and my opinion can effectively be summed up in just two words: Buy it.

Books about piano technique are rarely page-turners, and the idea of a large book that just deals with the nitty-gritty of piano fingering may not immediately appear enticing, but don’t be put off. In this review I will explain why I believe this book is an essential purchase for anyone who plays or teaches the piano…

Continue reading The Art of Piano Fingering