Grooves for Piano Dudes

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Heather Hammond is well established as one of the best-loved educational composers in the UK today, with more than 100 publications in print (piano and woodwind) from a variety of publishers.

The last time I took a good look at Hammond’s music was in my review of her Ballads Without Words, brought to us by EVC Music.

In this review, I’m considering a contrasting series of her music from the same publisher. Grooves for Piano Dudes currently includes three volumes of which the second and third (with a special Halloween theme) have just recently been released.

The three books are all suitable for intermediate players, and between them offer 37 fresh Hammond compositions in jazz, rock, blues and boogie styles…

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In Memory of Queen Elizabeth II ‘Lilibet’


During this time of sadness and reflection, I am heartened to share a beautiful free score courtesy of Faber Music, which they have kindly made available until the end of September.

Faber Music’s renowned educational composer Pam Wedgwood marks the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with a solo piano piece, based on her adaptation of the National Anthem.

Introducing In Memory of Queen Elizabeth II ‘Lilibet’, Pam says,

“During this time of national mourning I want to help piano teachers and students mark the occasion. This arrangement of our National Anthem will hopefully serve not only as a tribute to The Queen, but also provide you with a little something to enjoy playing in lessons over the next few weeks.”

Pam’s arrangement is suitable for early intermediate pianists and above.

It is available to download for free during the period of mourning via the link:


You can read Faber Music’s official announcement here.

I would like to thank Pam, and all at Faber Music, for this kind gesture of support as we all process our sense of loss.

ABRSM: Pop Performer!

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There has long been speculation that at some point ABRSM would launch a pop piano syllabus, but they have perhaps sensibly resisted any call to do so.

The wide disparity and significant difference in approach taken by Rockschool Piano and Trinity Rock and Pop Keyboards illustrates the difficulty in creating a syllabus that is both helpful and true to the skills required by keyboard players in the contemporary commercial sphere.

Some forget, too, that the four Royal Schools of Music affiliated to ABRSM don’t offer specialist courses in this field. And then there’s the issue of copyright clearances: ABRSM simply don’t have access to the latest chart material without permission and significant cost.

Happily, ABRSM have now addressed this last hurdle by teaming up with Hal Leonard, the world’s largest sheet music publishers, who represent the rights to an unparalleled catalogue of commercial hits. It is certainly to the board’s credit that they can both recognise their own core strengths and collaborate with so prestigious a partner.

Enter Pop Performer!, two books of solo piano arrangements of contemporary pop standards and chart hits carefully graded for players from Initial to Grade 5 level. These striking publications look like the work of ABRSM, with songs arranged by examiners and looking little different to the pieces in their official exam repertoire books. But with Hal Leonard’s stamp equally evident in the songs, not to mention the inclusion of their online audio Playback+ software, it’s clear that this is an equal and exciting partnership.

Pop Performer! is neither a new syllabus, nor a hint that one is on its way. On the contrary, these are arrangements that can be played for enjoyment by those taking ABRSM’s traditional grades, and the board makes much of the important point that they can be used as ideal fourth pieces for their recorded Performance Grades.

In other words, what we have here is the option to include commercial popular hits, carefully curated, arranged and benchmarked, alongside and within ABRSM’s existing exam offer.

I’ll state upfront that I think this is a brilliant concept, am impressed with the books, and anticipate that they will be the most essential “must-have” purchase for piano teachers and students in this new academic year. So let’s take a much closer look…

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The Piano Player: Classical Favourites

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Less than three months after Faber Music launched ‘The Piano Player’ (a plush new series of intermediate piano solo collections) with British Classics (reviewed here) they are back with the second instalment.

The Piano Player: Classical Favourites features “20 of the most popular pieces of classical music”, some originals but mostly arrangements. And in line with the signature style of this new series, the publication is beautifully presented sporting the lush artwork of Edward Bawden (1905-1989)…

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Paul Birchall’s Blues, Boogie, Jazz & more…

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Paul Birchall is a veteran keyboard and piano player with a career in commercial music spanning four decades of touring the world with the likes of M People, Jim Diamond, Snake Davis and Wang Chung. Now based in Manchester, he composes for TV, film, theatre, and for his own record label.

Some readers may know of Birchall’s Daily Expressions, previously published by the enterprising EVC Music. Now he’s back with a brand new publication. Blues, Boogie, Jazz & More (again from EVC Music) offers a superb mix of nine pieces in contemporary popular styles with full backing tracks, suitable for intermediate piano players…

Continue reading Paul Birchall’s Blues, Boogie, Jazz & more…

Thanos Fotiadis: Welcome to Earth

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Editions Musica Ferrum continue to deliver creative new music suitable for players of all ages and levels, showcasing interesting composers from around the world, the latest of whom is Thanos Fotiadis, a pianist, teacher and composer based in the Netherlands.

According to the publisher,

“Welcome to Earth is a collection of diverse solo piano pieces that capture the imagination of the piano player in multiple ways. Featuring a total of 10 short pieces, plus a bonus one in the end, each piece holds the interest of the pianist, or piano student, by moving from style to style with great ease, but always offering the personal touch of the composer.”

Let’s go exploring…

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Nancy Litten’s Piano Postcards

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Nancy Litten has made her mark as a leading educational composer here in the UK, with string, vocal and electronic keyboard publications from Alfred Music, and enjoyable contributions to ABRSM publications such as Keyboards Together, Piano Mix and Piano Star.

Litten has recently joined the roster of composers whose music is published by EVC Music, and her debut piano solo publication has now arrived…

Piano Postcards offers 12 Recital Piano Works Inspired by Travel, suitable for intermediate players at around UK Grade 3-4 level. Let’s take a look…

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Nikki Iles & Friends: Easy to Intermediate

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Reviewing the first two volumes in the ABRSM series Nikki Iles and Friends when they appeared in April 2021, I concluded:

“I have no hesitation in declaring this series an “epic win” for ABRSM. Don’t hesitate in getting copies!”

Suitable for intermediate to advanced players (UK Grades 4-8), the books have proven popular with players in my studio here in Milton Keynes and elsewhere. You can read my full review here.

Somewhat sneaking under the radar, a third book has now been added to the series. Nikki Iles & Friends: Easy to Intermediate will, I am certain, have huge appeal to players who are less advanced.


The sensibly age-neutral cover matches the designs of the previous two books, but beyond that there are some points of departure worth noting, so let’s take a closer look…

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‘Graded Gillock’: Three New Collections

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I have long been an admirer of the brilliant piano music of William Lawson Gillock (1917-1993), so it is with huge pleasure and a sense of pride that I can now announce that, in conjunction with the Willis Music Company, I have selected and edited a new series of ‘graded’ collections showcasing a varied range of his best pieces.

Graded Gillock appears in three volumes, now available:


There’s little doubt in my mind that Gillock was one of the most significant educational piano composers of the twentieth century, as adept at turning out distinctively memorable and colourful piano pieces in an accessible style as he was at engaging the imaginations and enthusiasm of young learners, in doing so paving the way for today’s educational composers.

Gillock is perhaps best known here in the UK for his evocatively bluesy New Orleans Nightfall, stomping Swinging Beat and Latin-infused Carnival in Rio, all of which have been popular graded exam pieces in recent years. But what of his other music?

For this new series, I have used these favourites as a starting point, working with the composer’s long-term publisher Willis Music to explore and select Gillock’s most enjoyable and pedagogically useful music.

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South African Folk Songs Collection

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Last October, I welcomed Artina McCain’s African American Folk Songs Collection, reviewed here, and took as sideways look at several other titles from Hal Leonard’s uniformly excellent series of elementary to intermediate piano solo arrangements of music from around the world.

Now I am delighted to introduce the latest title to this superb series. The South African Folk Songs Collection contains 24 traditional folk songs arranged by James Wilding and Nkululeko Zungu, and is now available.


Here’s the Pianodao review…

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