Autumn Repertoire Challenge

The Autumn Repertoire Challenge is ideal for players of all ages, and offers a great starting point for developing and building an Active Repertoire at the piano. Are you up for it?

Continue reading Autumn Repertoire Challenge

The View from the Pavilion

An original short story.

The following story is written in the manner of an old Chinese folk tale. The meaning, perspective of the characters, and relevance to the world of piano playing, is for the reader to determine…

Continue reading The View from the Pavilion

The Pianist’s Brew

The Pianist’s Reflections Series

I used to be a coffee addict. Seriously. I had several pots of fresh coffee a day, and when I tried to cut back I experienced acute withdrawal symptoms.

Unfortunately though, coffee has some fairly unhelpful side-effects; among other things, it is especially bad for us if we suffer from anxiety (which is so common among pianists).

Having read about the virtues of tea drinking, I decided to try a switch. My previous experience of tea was the warm, milky, teabag variety. I realised that this is not exactly the drink that the great Daoist sages spoke of, so I jumped into the deep end and started to explore the wide variety of Chinese leaf teas that are available without straying too far from the beaten track.

To cut a long story short, switching to tea has proven one of the best choices I’ve made. Aside from tea drinking being better for my health (physical and emotional), my exploration of different Chinese teas has become a fascinating and absorbing journey in its own right.

It may seem odd to encounter an article about tea drinking on a piano site, but I will explain some of the reasons why tea might actually be the perfect brew for all pianists (and, well, people in general).

Also bear in mind that Pianodao addresses my interest in Daoist philosophy and practices; hence the “dao” part of the site name. Tea drinking is so embedded in Daoist culture and practice and that it might as well be described as a core tenet of the Daoist worldview.

As the contemporary Daoist master Zhongxian Wu explains:

Pin Ming Lun Dao is a commonly used Chinese phrase which means ‘to discuss and understand the Dao through the taste of tea‘. This phrase embodies the lifestyle of the most traditional Chinese sages and scholars, whether they be a master of Daoism,, Confucianism, Buddhism, martial arts, music, calligraphy, and/or Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

foreword to Daniel Reid, The Art and Alchemy of Chinese Tea, Singing Dragon, 2011.

With all this in mind, this article will address the following questions:

  1. Why is tea good for pianists (and people in general)?
  2. How does one get started with drinking Chinese tea?
  3. What different types of tea are there?

Tea is by far the single most popular beverage on earth today, so chances are that many reading this are already tea drinkers.

I hope that for those readers, the article will add to your enjoyment of tea, while for those who haven’t yet considered this fascinating subject my hope is that this article will pique your interest, and give you good reason to try something new!

Let’s start by going back in time….

Continue reading The Pianist’s Brew

Fazil Say: Troy Sonata

Sheet Music Review

It’s my pleasure to review a lot of superb new piano music on this site, but rarely do I have the chance to hail a monumental masterpiece to compare with Fazil Say’s Troy Sonata.

The piece was recently recorded by the composer himself and released on his outstanding Fazil Say Plays Say CD from Warner Classics, which was highly praised as my Recording of the Month and reviewed here.

In that review I noted:

“There really is no doubt in my mind that the Troy Sonata is one of the most significant solo piano works of our current century.”

It is with therefore with genuine pleasure that I can also now tell you about the sheet music publication, brought to us by Schott Music

Continue reading Fazil Say: Troy Sonata

Christopher Norton’s “Connections” Series

Sheet Music Review

I first reviewed Connections last spring as, then, a series of eight repertoire books offering a staggering 185 original compositions by the wildly popular educational composer Christopher Norton. First published for the North American market by Frederick Harris Music, the series had just been republished worldwide by Norton’s own in-house company, 80 Days Publishing.

Since writing my original review, Books 9 and 10 in the series have now been released, each including a further nine Christopher Norton originals suitable for advanced players.

In this review (which supersedes and replaces the original one) I can therefore offer an updated overview of the full series…

Continue reading Christopher Norton’s “Connections” Series

My First Haydn

Sheet Music Review

Few would argue with the statement that Haydn composed some of the most important and brilliant music in the Western classical canon. And the older I get, the more I am finding that his compositions (in a similar way to Bach’s) have the power to restore balance when I feel off-key, and enrich my days.

But Haydn’s music isn’t just for miserable old fogeys; I consistently find that even the youngest of my students quickly learn to enjoy his music more than most, its appealing melodies and jaunty, humorous spirit never far away.

Of course, children (and older beginners) can only make this discovery if teachers make a point of introducing Haydn’s oeuvre to their students. And Schott Music’s latest publications My First Haydn may be just the ticket for ensuring this happens.

The book joins Schott’s imaginative “My First…” series of music books, each featuring a major keyboard composer. I have previously reviewed My First Schumann and My First Beethoven and My First Haydn follows the same format to a tee, so do check those earlier reviews.

But for now let’s dig into this latest in the series…

Continue reading My First Haydn

Pianodao at Four, and the Knowledge Economy

It has now been four years since the launch of Pianodao

It’s been a rollercoaster journey, and over these years I have published more than 500 articles (with plenty more in the pipeline!), all of which are available to readers worldwide for FREE.

That’s a lot of work – and a lot of words!

Some would of course question the wisdom of spending so much time creating all this, but these words by Deng Ming-Dao have long been important to me, and underpin my outlook:

“Nowadays, many people regard knowledge as a mere commodity to be packaged, marketed and sold… We live in a world where the selfless sharing of knowledge is no longer a virtue.
The more knowledge that you give away, the more will come to you. The more you hoard, the less you will accumulate. Be compassionate to others. What do you have to fear by being open?”

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao Daily Meditations (1992)


This doesn’t mean that we should give away all our professional expertise for free. But the internet offers us an unparalleled opportunity to be generous with our knowledge, raise awareness, promote discussion, disseminate ideas and improve the quality of communication and understanding. It offers a valuable supplement that can coexist alongside our professional work.

When I launched Pianodao I hoped of course that there would be those who would discover and enjoy the site, especially the Daoist philosophical angle.

But I couldn’t have anticipated that, four years on, the Pianodao site would have welcomed readers from almost every country, more than half a million times, and have established a reputation as a source of reliable information and advice. Goodness… THANK YOU!

I’ve often explained why I choose to write here, but mostly I would simply sum up Pianodao as being a “labour of love”.

Pianodao is truly my online journal, and the place where I can explore my thoughts, experiences, and enjoy the gift of writing for its own sake.

And it’s good to be able to share the journey.

I always hoped there would be an element of community around the site (and the Pianodao Tea Room has become a particular embodiment of that.)

Of course I’ve also welcomed the donations of those who appreciate the site, and who so generously choose to support it.

But the core of Pianodao has been, and will remain FREE.
It is not simply my gift to you: it is my gift to myself too.

Why not check out the very first post I ever wrote here, four years ago today: the vision outlined there still holds true!


How about You?

What does Pianodao mean to you? Please leave a comment below!

And if you have appreciated Pianodao and would like to make a donation to help towards the next four years, please do so right here:



Schubert’s “Moments musicaux”

Sheet Music Review

Wiener Urtext Edition have, in recent years, made a particular effort to renew their editions of Schubert’s smaller-scale piano works, the two sets of Impromptus, Op.90 and Op.142, and the Moments musicaux op.94, a new edition of which has just appeared on the market.

Is this new version the definitive edition? Let’s see…

Continue reading Schubert’s “Moments musicaux”

Lingering Awhile with Friends

The Fermata Series

“Morning rain in Wencheng dampens rising dust.
Sprouting willows colour the guest house green.
Sir, let us drain another cup of wine.
Once you’re west of Yang Gate, you’ll have no friends.”

Seeing Yuan Er off on a mission to Anxi, Wang Wei (699-759)
translated Deng Ming-Dao, Each Journey Begins with a Single Step (2018)


This simple, if somewhat oblique verse has been bearing down on my thoughts in recent weeks. Ever since encountering it, it has stuck in my mind as a salient reminder of the importance of cultivating lasting relationships and savouring friendships.

It is also, in context, a poem about journeying. The writer entreats his travelling friend to wait awhile before taking the next step, not simply because it is wise to be circumspect, but because the security of the present moment provides the best launchpad into the uncertainty of the next.

Many will be starting out in new jobs, classes and positions as we enter a new academic year, or as the next concert season gets underway. We may, or may not, have friends lined up as travelling companions.

Soon there will be change, bringing fresh challenges, adventures and new faces into our daily lives. But for today, it’s important to treasure the friendships we have.

For those enjoying a holiday this month, I hope you will have a refreshing and relaxed time in the company of those close to you. I hope that you will linger in special moments, and craft wonderful memories that will strengthen you for the future and add incredible value to your life.

I have to confess that I too often rush my “goodbyes”, impatient for the next moment. But life does not comprise next moments; it is made up of the present ones. Let’s take time to enjoy them, and treasure our time with friends!

Lastly, it would be remiss of me not to draw attention to the metaphorical link between this verse and our piano playing…

There will always be new repertoire to explore, including the latest compositions we’ve discovered as well as the manifold treasures of the keyboard literature from generations past…

But there’s really no hurry. So before stepping into new territory, remember to spend time with familiar favourites: the Active Repertoire with which you can relax, express and enjoy yourself.

As in life, so too in our piano playing,
let’s take time to linger awhile with our old friends.


Fermata Series

The Fermata Series offers short reflective posts, and a chance to PAUSE.
Read more from The Fermata Series here.


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