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


PIANODAO includes more than 600 articles and reviews,
which are free for everyone, everywhere to access and read.
Please support the site by making a small contribution.



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…

Continue reading The Serial Starter

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

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 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

“The Thinking Pianist” Summer Course

Fluency, understanding, expression and confidence.
Written by Andrew Eales

Summer schools and courses for (especially) adult piano enthusiasts have become an embedded feature of the music education landscape in recent years, and last year saw the launch of the latest.

The Thinking Pianist is the brainchild of David Jones, an established pianist, educator, and presently Head of Keyboard Studies at Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

I am delighted to announce that for this, the course’s second year, I will be joining the faculty. Here in advance, I talk to Jones about what it is that makes this particular course special, and distinct from other successful summer schools…

Continue reading “The Thinking Pianist” Summer Course

The Pianist’s Procrastination

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

Verse 64 of Lao Tau’s Tao te ching contains perhaps the most famous line in all Daoist philosophy (quoting here from Solala Towler’s rendition):

“The largest tree grows from a tiny shoot.
The highest tower is built brick by brick.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

Preceding this great quote, and shedding further light on the philosophy of Daoism, we read in verse 63:

“Deal with the difficult while it is easy.
Create the large from the small.”

These words offer an important blueprint for how we might approach any task, including learning a new piece of piano music.

They also provide us with the ammunition we need in order to stop putting off our practice, and overcome procrastination.

Let’s consider each of these points in turn…

Continue reading The Pianist’s Procrastination

Competition & Conflict

Fluency, understanding, expression and confidence.
Written by Andrew Eales

“To compete always damages your soul.”

Maria João Pires (International Piano, January 2014)


With auditions for the finals of this year’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition underway, we are yet again presented with the spectacle of competing pianists pitted against one another by an industry that would have us all believe that there is no other way to launch a career (despite so many high-profile examples to the contrary).

A lot of people seem to love this stuff, and certainly we can look forward to some fabulous performances. But personally, while perhaps not as outspoken on the subject as the marvellous Maria João Pires, I have long felt uneasy with the whole idea of piano competitions.

The climax of any competition is the victory of the “winner”. And of course, everyone knows what the opposite of a winner is. Mitigating this, multiple medals and accolades might be awarded, but when players are divided into good, better and best, they have still fundamentally been divided.

We don’t need to beat others to have value.

I sometimes hear it suggested that competition is natural, an evolutionary imperative. Whether the sibling rivalry between Cain and Abel set the tone for our species, or the ‘survival of the fittest’ determined who we have corporately become, the point is made that we are hard-wired to compete. Is competition the Natural Way?

Continue reading Competition & Conflict

Discover Timeless Classics

Fluency, understanding, expression and confidence.
Written by Andrew Eales

To what extent does your voice today harmonise with the chorus that went before you?

A ‘deep’ question perhaps, and one which we can use to ground ourselves, a reminder of that which is more permanent in our lives, as well as more broadly indelible in our communities, history and culture.

The Music We Play

When it comes to the music we play, bombarded with the new we can lose sight of those established favourites and foundations which have nurtured and nourished us before, and which in many cases have been treasured by previous generations.

As a piano teacher, I am thrilled that such a wealth and variety of new piano music comes my way. Overwhelmed, even. Through my reviews I try to promote a rich and varied selection of the very best new music suitable for all levels of player. Sometimes readers mention that it is too much, and certainly we all need to cherry-pick the fresh discoveries that excite us most.

It would be possible for a pianist or teacher to use these latest publications as the core of their performing or teaching repertoire, ignoring all that went before. Those newer to the piano may well choose to do so. But what of our peerless heritage?

As pianists we have an astonishing range, depth and wealth of repertoire upon which we can fix our gaze and focus our practice…

Continue reading Discover Timeless Classics

How to Practise Music: The Handbook

Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission without affecting the price you pay.

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