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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More Than Music Lessons

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Merlin B. Thompson (shown above) is a forward-thinking music educator with over forty years teaching experience in private studio, conservatory and university settings. His career has taken him around the world, and podcast enthusiasts may know of his excellent series, The Music Educator’s Crucible.

Subtitled “A Studio Teacher’s Guide to Parents, Practicing, Projects and Character”, Thompson’s book More than Music Lessons was published a few months ago by Rowman & Littlefield, and is one of those books which could prove to be a game-changer for any instrumental teacher who takes time to absorb and apply the author’s key messages.

According to the author’s introduction,

More than Music Lessons shifts the focus away from established music curricula to something of equal importance: the personal and interpersonal dynamics of students’ own musical life. This book demonstrates what can happen when music teachers take an interest in and have an ongoing appreciation for their students’ home life, sense of self, musical interests, personal and world views, culture and spiritual individuality.”

The book has a four-part framework with sections on Parents, Practising, Projects and Character. In this review, I will touch on the content and give a general overview of the publication itself, hopefully enticing teachers to take a closer look for themselves…

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How to Practise Music: Reviews

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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”….

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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…

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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…

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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.

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