A Streak of Calm

Setting our piano journey in its living context.
Written by Andrew Eales.

A few years back I purchased an app called Calm, which has subsequently become one of the most popular mindfulness apps available on iOS and other digital platforms. With its range of guided meditations, ambient music, soundscapes, breathwork exercises and ‘sleep stories’, Calm has grown to become a superb lifestyle resource, and a deserved success.

Interestingly though, Calm also delivers user stats after each session, with a badge showing one’s ‘streaks’ of consecutive days of practice. I’ve regarded this feature with vague amusement; it seems to owe more to the culture of the gambling arcade than to the ethos of the meditation traditions.

There’s even the opportunity to share your official streaks on social media platforms, something I recently did myself having reached the modest achievement of 100 consecutive days, and curious to see whether it would generate much discussion with friends.

But then an odd, and instructive thing happened: it must have been less than a week later that I ‘missed’ a day…

Continue reading A Streak of Calm

Podcast with Chris Woods

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

Readers may be aware of the Music Education Podcast hosted by Chris Woods of The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra and brought to us by the Soundstorm Music Education Agency.

I was honoured to recently be invited to take part. Below, you can listen to a newly released Podcast in which the genial Chris talks to me about my recently published How to Practise Music, as well as having a more general chat about the important place of practice in our musical journeys.

First, I asked Chris to introduce the podcast series in his own words, and here’s what he said:

The Music Education Podcast welcomes an exciting range of guests to chat about the things that affect the music education community and offer new and inspiring perspectives for music educators. Always packed full of insight and inspiration for all. Whatever it is you do within music education, every episode is for you.

The conversations are relaxed and honest. The tone of the conversations is like a supportive friend for all listners. It’s the questions you were scared to ask and the answers you were hoping to find.

With that in mind, I hope you will check out other podcasts in the series.

And without further ado, here’s my podcast chat with Chris:


More Information:
The Music Education Podcast
Chris Wood Groove Orchestra
SoundStorm Music Education Agency


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Donald Thomson’s Halloween Piano Tunes

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Having only just reviewed the Willis Music’s Halloween anthology Spooky Sounds here’s another dastardly publication, this time from EVC Music and scaring us with 19 original pieces from the excellent Donald Thomson.

I have previously praised Thomson’s Celtic Piano Music (reviewed here), and am equally enthusiastic about this collection. Let’s open it up to find out what’s lurking within…

Continue reading Donald Thomson’s Halloween Piano Tunes

The Serial Starter

Guest Post by Joanna García

Joanna originally shared these thoughts on her Facebook studio page. I am delighted that she has allowed me to reproduce them here for the encouragement of Pianodao readers…

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Essential Piano Teaching Resources 2022

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

It can be overwhelming keeping track of all the latest and best resources for piano teaching. As we enter another academic year, I am therefore sharing this list of some of the most essential educational resources and piano music publications of the last couple of years or so.

To read my in-depth evaluations of each publication shared below, and to get a better understanding of whether it will suit your and your students’ particular needs, simply click on the titles to open the full reviews. Better still, right-click to open in a new tab.

Please bookmark this page so that you can refer back here as need arises.

Continue reading Essential Piano Teaching Resources 2022

Thoughts on the Art of Practice

Guest Post written by Philip Fowke

I am delighted to include this incredibly helpful post from the internationally acclaimed concert pianist, recording artist and teacher Philip Fowke.

I had the pleasure of working alongside Philip on the faculty of the Thinking Pianist course, where he shared this very wise advice, and am delighted that he has agreed to make it public via the Pianodao website. There is so much here to take in, and of such lasting value.

Before Philip’s article, let’s remind ourselves of his stunning musicianship, recorded here at the BBC Proms performing that beloved masterpiece, Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell:


And now read on for Philip Fowke’s advice on practice…

Continue reading Thoughts on the Art of Practice

The Gamification of Musical Learning

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

The rise and rise of electronic video, console and computer games over the last two decades has been spectacular. From Pokémon to Grand Theft Auto, and from Minecraft to Wii Sports, games have become hugely popular and lucrative, and some academics even suggest that they are now the dominant cultural form of the 21st century.

In his much-discussed paper Manifesto for a Ludic Century (available here), Eric Zimmerman suggests that while the twentieth century was the age of information and of moving pictures, the twenty-first is the ludic (play-centric) century. He enthuses,

“Increasingly, the ways that people spend their leisure time and consume art, design, and entertainment will be games, or experiences very much like games.”

We certainly see growing evidence of gamification in music education. In this article I consider the transformative impact this may be having, for better or worse…

Continue reading The Gamification of Musical Learning

Singing in Aural Tests: the Bottom Line

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

The topic of singing in aural tests has long been a contentious one, but has become more so in recent years. Not only have growing numbers of teachers noted how unpopular the singing tests are, but research in the field of cognitive science now casts doubt on the previously assumed validity of such tests.

In this article I will explore the requirements of the five main boards, consider the links between singing and “audiation”, touch on some basic scientific research (with links for those wanting to read more) and suggest change.

Continue reading Singing in Aural Tests: the Bottom Line

A Common Approach 2022

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

Originally published in 2002, A Common Approach is perhaps the ultimate instrumental music teaching manual, offering a complete curriculum and extensive lesson activities for most instruments, including separate schemes of work for piano and electronic keyboard.

Now it has just been fully revamped and made available as an updated, free online resource to support instrumental teachers everywhere. Whether working privately or in a school, all piano and keyboard teachers would do well to have a look at this extensive and superb material.

According to its publishers Music Mark,

“A Common Approach is an online resource to support music educators in their teaching practice and help develop a holistic approach to music education. Relevant to all vocal and instrumental teaching, including individual, small-group, large-group and whole-class lessons, music educators at all stages of their career can use the support and shared learning found in A Common Approach.”

Music Mark Chief Executive Bridget Whyte tells us,

“Twenty years after the original version of A Common Approach was published, Music Mark has worked with a skilled team of music tutors from across the UK to update and enhance this valuable teaching tool. Containing both universal guidance and instrument-specific content, this online resource not only provides a great starting point for trainee and early-career tutors, but also gives those who are more experienced the opportunity to reflect on their practice.”

This has particular interest to me because back in 2002, I was a member of the national steering group who put together the original version of A Common Approach which provides the ongoing foundation of this update.

It’s therefore time both to take a short stroll down memory lane, and to consider how the updated version of this milestone resource can help piano teachers today…

Continue reading A Common Approach 2022

A Fresh Perspective

Take a little time to pause before playing on…
Written by Andrew Eales.

Those who know me well enough to have observed some of my personal struggles often urge me to stop caring what others think of my choices, opinions, beliefs and work. Many of us become trapped in the mindset of the “people-pleaser”; manipulated or bullied by others, we can easily lose sight of our own core values if we aren’t careful.

A decision not to care what others think about us can be emancipating, and can empower us to be our more authentic selves. I’m not surprised that this sentiment has become a common theme in self-help manuals.

But wait. If we stop caring about what others think, how long before we stop caring about them at all? Mutual understanding of each other’s ideas, feelings and perspectives is a crucial foundation for building empathetic, honest relationships.

We may not always agree with the opinions of others, but shutting them out ultimately isolates us. Clearly a balance is needed, along with an ability to accept the perspectives of others without feeling belittled.

As in life, so too this applies in our piano playing…

Continue reading A Fresh Perspective