Alison Mathews’ “Doodles”

Sheet Music Review

Alison Mathews’ excellent collection Treasure Trove has proved a big hit with my students who have been working through it, and I’m delighted that publishers Editions Musica Ferrum have now brought out another collection composed by her: Doodles.

It is very clear straight away that this publication explores very different terrain to Treasure Trove however.

So what is the concept here, and do I think it works?
Let’s find out…

Continue reading Alison Mathews’ “Doodles”

LCM Syllabus 2018: The Big Review

Sheet Music Review  by Karen Marshall

November has seen the London College of Music present their new piano syllabus.

Due to staff changes the last time the syllabus was changed was back in 2013. So I was very excited to see what LCM were offering – especially as many of my colleagues Andrew Eales, David Barton, Francis Wilson and Melanie Spanswick have consulted on the main albums.

As a teacher who actively uses LCM, along with Trinity and ABRSM, Andrew asked me to write the review (to maintain impartiality).

As my first full syllabus review on Pianodao, I have worked really hard to get a broad collection of voices – many thanks to my piano teaching colleagues who have helped me shape this review.

I must say that the overall impression is that this is a job very well done by LCM, and a big step up from previously piano syllabi in terms of pedagogical content, variety of repertoire, quality of editing and presentation of the publications. Huge congratulations to William Alexander, David Duncan and the rest of the team at LCM for this achievement.

Now here’s my review, and in true Pianodao style, it is equally as detailed as Andrew’s! I really hope it proves helpful to teachers and pupils.

Continue reading LCM Syllabus 2018: The Big Review

LCM’s First Steps

Sheet Music Review

Of the accredited music exam boards in the UK, LCM (London College of Music) Exams offer the most diverse and perhaps most interesting range of graded and other assessments for piano players, and although perhaps less well-known than their main competitors ABRSM and Trinity College London, their brand new piano syllabus for 2018 may go a long way towards altering perceptions and the appeal of LCM.

As with ABRSM and TCL, LCM Exams offer a series of eight Grades, followed by a range of professional diploma exams. I was bowled over by the quality and content of the excellent new diploma anthology published back in the summer, which I reviewed here.

The new series of Piano Handbooks for the eight Grades are, in my view, equally stunning, and leave no doubt that LCM have set their sight on being the best in their field.

Not for me to review those books here, however, as I must openly state that I acted as a syllabus consultant for the 8 Grades, advising LCM on repertoire selection and editorial questions. Karen Marshall is therefore kindly stepping in, with an in-depth and independent review of those books for Pianodao.

In the meantime, I offer this review of LCM’s pre-grade one assessments, which are rather more extensive than the other examination boards’ …

Continue reading LCM’s First Steps

A Dozen A Day: All Year Round

Sheet Music Review  by Karen Marshall

As piano teachers or pianists, I am sure that you – like I – have ventured “with much love” through the pages of Edna-Mae Burnam’s A Dozen A Day.

These books continue to be standard issue in my own teaching, and indeed my students even ask for the next in the series (without prompting).

When I saw that A Dozen A Day All Year Round was available – published by The Willis Music Company and distributed by Music Sales, retailing with a UK price of £19.99 – I was keen to review it.

I haven’t been disappointed…

Continue reading A Dozen A Day: All Year Round

Piano Junior 3

Sheet Music Review

Concluding my review of Levels 1 and 2 of Hans-Günter Heumann’s new method series, Piano Junior (published by Schott), I wrote:

“I have often said that teachers owe it to themselves and their students to have a few different methods to draw on, remembering that one size does not fit all. And I strongly recommend that teachers consider including Piano Junior among their options…
My own view is that Piano Junior has in many respects raised the bar, in some ways perhaps even setting a new standard by which piano courses for children will be judged.”

Those who followed my suggestion and took a look for themselves will be keen to hear that Level 3 is now available. Once again, there are four books, covering Lessons, Duets, Performance (additional pieces) and Theory. Let’s take a look…

Continue reading Piano Junior 3

NEW Piano Music from Breitkopf & Hārtel

Sheet Music Review

Over recent months, esteemed and enterprising German music publishers Breitkopf & Hārtel have unleashed a succession of interesting new piano sheet music publications, and in this group review I’m going to introduce you to the whole lot:

  • Ulrich Mahlert (editor): Spielbuch für Klavier
  • Friedrich Grossnick: More Catchy Tunes
  • Luis Zett: Busy Lizzy & Lazy Daisy
  • Alexey Shor: Childhood Memories
  • Martin Reich: Primo & Secondo  (4 hands)
  • Manfred Schmitz: Jazz Parnass  (6 hands)
  • Jairo Geronymo: 4 Prima Vistas  (2 pianos, 4 hands)

Here goes…

Continue reading NEW Piano Music from Breitkopf & Hārtel

Improve your sight-reading!

Sheet music Review

“When pupils can sight-read, not only do they do well in exams but (rather more importantly) it allows them to learn pieces more quickly, which frees up much of our teaching time, allowing us to concentrate on developing the musician. Ultimately, it gives them independence: they are able to learn music on their own – the greatest gift we can give.”

So says best-selling author Paul Harris in the introduction to Improve your sight-reading: Teacher’s Book – latest addition to his ever growing Improve Your Sight-Reading series, just published by Faber Music.

Written to work alongside the well-known, long-published Improve your sight-reading ‘pupil’ books, the Teacher’s Book mirrors the introduction of keys and concepts in those, as well as offering useful tips for teachers.

Most important of all, the Teacher’s Book includes dozens of new progressive practice tests for each of Grades 1-5, which can be used in lessons to complement the use of the pupil books for home practice.

As such, the book offers the potential to elevate what was already a great resource into a more complete sight-reading system which bridges both lesson and home use.

Let’s find out how well it succeeds in this aim…

Continue reading Improve your sight-reading!

Trinity syllabus 2018-20: The Big Review

The publication of a new Piano Exam Syllabus is always (rightly or wrongly) a major event in the piano teacher’s calendar, a “big reveal” in which we learn the repertoire around which our musical curriculum might to some extent orbit for the next few years.

Judging by the response to my review of the current ABRSM Piano Syllabus, I am sure that readers will be keen to know my thoughts on the latest syllabus from their largest UK competitor, Trinity College London, published this month.

I must start with a disclaimer: as a teacher I rarely enter students for exams other than ABRSM. With that in mind, I am delighted that Karen Marshall has again agreed to offer her “Second Opinion” later in the review.

As in my recent review of Anthony Williams’ Piano Teacher’s Survival Guide, Karen’s contribution will take the form of an interview following on from my own comments. She will offer the perspective of a well-regarded teacher who has used the Trinity Syllabus with her students over many years.

But first, my thoughts, essentially coming to this syllabus fresh…

Continue reading Trinity syllabus 2018-20: The Big Review

A Piece a Week: Grade 3

Sheet Music Review

Reviewing Paul Harris’s A Piece A Week grade 1 and 2 books last year, I concluded:

“While not all players will have need of these books, a great many will benefit from using them, and A Piece A Week admirably fills a gap in the market for outstanding “quick study” material.

A Piece A Week lives up to the excellent standards Paul Harris and Faber Music have previously set, and for which they are so well known. I would say that the series is a genuine “must have” for all piano teachers.”

In the months since that review, I have started to use the books with students, and can confirm from experience that they succeed in all the respects that I previously hoped and noted. The books really are very good!

Indeed, the quick study format of A Piece a Week is establishing itself as one of my preferred ways of helping students develop their reading ability, which I find nicely complements my generally holistic, multi-sensory approach.

So before reading on, it would be a good idea to recap my previous review of the first two books, which gives a better idea of what the series is all about – you can read it here.

Continue reading A Piece a Week: Grade 3

Piano Junior – the Big Review

Sheet Music Review

The current decade is proving to be a significant one for beginner tutor books, with new publications appearing thick and fast. In many cases these are a breath of fresh air following on from several years in which ageing “favourites” have maintained market dominance.

Latest arrival, Piano Junior from Schott Music, is one of the most ambitious yet. The series progresses through four levels, with four books at each, totalling a projected 16 books. The series is written by the well-known German composer and author Hans-Günter Heumann, with support and advice from experts Carolyn True, Melanie Spanswick and Sally Cathcart.

The first two levels are now available. Levels 3 and 4 will follow later, and I look forward to reviewing them in due course.

Continue reading Piano Junior – the Big Review