Pianodao is Two!

Happy Birthday to Pianodao …

That’s right – it’s been a massive, erm, two years since the Pianodao site launched. In some ways it seems like only yesterday, while in other ways it seems an age. And already I can look back on a huge amount of work, and be immensely grateful for the loads of support from readers.

In raw statistics, Pianodao has welcomed approaching a quarter of a million visits from more than 90 countries. It has recently been listed as one of the Top 20 piano blogs in the world, and became the first piano blog featured by WordPress in their Discover section, which spotlights the cream of the blogging community.

I literally had no idea it would be possible to gain this sort of reach, so the journey has been an unfolding and sometimes emotional surprise to me. And I would encourage any aspiring writer with some good ideas to commit them to a blog – it’s a great and unfettered way to engage with others!

What better time to say THANK YOU to all who support the site!

And in keeping with the theme of the site, it’s a good time to reflect. I’m going to do that by highlighting just a few of the posts which for me, as a writer, stand out as important in my personal journey as a writer here so far…

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At the Piano: Mozart

Sheet Music Review

Ask any classical performer to name which edition of the core repertoire they most highly regard both for daily use and as an authoritative Urtext Edition, and the name G. Henle Verlag will be at or close to the top of their list.

In their own words:

“Musicians need to be able to rely on their sheet music. This should be undistorted, free of errors, practical and durable. This is exactly what we provide. We call it Henle Urtext. Musicians around the world, both amateurs and professionals, know us.

Unlike the other music publishers, we have concentrated almost exclusively on producing Urtext editions of the great “classical” compositions ever since Günter Henle founded our company in 1948. As the world’s undisputed leader in this premium class, we have the most know-how about Urtext as well as the most comprehensive Urtext catalogue, comprising 1.000 titles to date.”

To this extensive catagloue, Henle recently added a new series of publications specifically aimed at those “returning to the piano”. That series, ‘At the Piano’ is happily now available in English.

According to the publisher:

  • Each volume includes original pieces by one composer.
  • The works are arranged in progressive order of difficulty (from easy to medium level).
  • The works complement one another conceptually.
  • The length of the pieces ranges from one to eight pages.
  • The works contain fingerings and practical tips on technique and
    interpretation.

There’s even this promotional video:

There are 12 volumes in the series, each focussing on the music of one core composer, and for this review I will be focussing on the Mozart volume in the series.

Details of the rest, including the lists of pieces they include, are on the Henle Verlag website here.

Continue reading At the Piano: Mozart

A Policy for Touch

The hottest potato on UK Piano Forums within the last couple of weeks has been the issue of using touch in our teaching.

One good thing to come from the discussion has been the reminder that UK professional associations usually have Codes of Conduct requiring teachers to obtain written permission from parents before using touch with students under the age of 18.

This post considers how we can create such a policy, and why it is actually useful to do so.

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The Pianist’s Anxiety

The Pianist’s Reflections

“Leave your thoughts in a place you will not visit …”

Most of the pianists that I have met are easy to describe as “deep thinkers”, and I would argue that an aptitude for analytical thinking is an essential skill for the advanced piano player.

But the jump from analytical thinking to overthinking is a small one. And here’s the problem. In recent years, we have become increasingly aware that overthinking any problem can break rather than solve it, and can often lead us to bizarre conclusions. Overthinking is inextricably linked to anxiety.

If we overthink an upcoming performance, this can undoubtedly contribute to performance anxiety. And in the same way, if we overthink life in general, this can have a significant and debilitating effect on our whole lives.

A growing body of research supports our suspicions that many physical health problems are rooted in the activities of the mind. Overthinking can be associated with anxiety, fear, paranoia and mental instability, all of which can have serious physical as well as social consequences.

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Martha Mier: “Jazz Suite in Color”

Sheet Music Review

Martha Mier is undoubtedly one of America’s finest educational composers.

Best-known in the UK for her Jazz, Rags & Blues and Romantic Impressions series, she is also a co-writer of the Alfred Premier Piano course (the new Express version of which I plan to review here soon) and composer of several other collections and stand-alone works.

Hot off the press, Jazz Suite in Color (don’t blame me for the spelling here!) joins Alfred Music’s growing Recital Suite Series aimed at intermediate players – in terms of the UK grades, these pieces are around Grade 4 level.

Let’s take a look…

Continue reading Martha Mier: “Jazz Suite in Color”

The Pianist’s Handshake

The Pianist’s Reflections

Do you ever feel a bit uncomfortable about shaking hands with people when you meet them?

Concerned about hygiene, and all those germs you’ll pick up “pressing the flesh”?
Worried about having your piano-playing fingers crushed by the over-enthusiastic clench of Mr. Assertive?

Then read on, and I will go over a few points that might help!

Continue reading The Pianist’s Handshake

“Unsent Love Letters” (Elena Kats-Chernin)

Sheet Music Review

Elena Kats-Chernin’s new collection of 26 pieces, titled Unsent Love Letters, has recently been published by Boosey & Hawkes, with a full recording by concert pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska released worldwide on the Deutsche Grammophon label.

In this review I will be considering both products and reacquainting myself with the music of one of my favourite living composers…

Continue reading “Unsent Love Letters” (Elena Kats-Chernin)

LCM ‘In Concert’ anthology

Sheet Music Review

London College of Music Exams may be less well known to readers than the ABRSM and Trinity College London boards which I have written about previously, but that may be about to change. Certainly LCM offer a very wide range of different assessments for piano players – according to David Barton in this excellent blog post:

“I estimate that LCM offer nearly 20 different options for pianists at 15 different levels, right from the earliest stages of learning, through to the Fellowship of the London College of Music (FLCM). The range of options now available is fantastic; I feel enormously lucky to be teaching at a time when the needs of a diverse range of learners of all ages is finally being met by examination boards, led, in my view, by LCM. We live in exciting times, and it will be interesting to see what options continue to develop in the future.”

And it isn’t just in the area of examinations that LCM are looking to innovate and lead the way, but also in the area of publications…

When new Publications Officer David Duncan told me that he hopes to significantly shake up their publications, I quietly thought to myself ”thank goodness, as their previous efforts haven’t been particularly user friendly, well edited, or attractively presented.

That said, nothing prepared me for the extent and speed with which LCM Publications would reinvent itself: their new collection of selected works from their Piano Diploma syllabus has taken my breath away.

Put simply ’In Concert is an extraordinary achievement, and in a completely different league from LCM’s previous published efforts. And whether of not you are interested in LCM’s Diploma exam, this is a highly desirable new collection for players looking for interesting and diverse repertoire at this level.

Let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading LCM ‘In Concert’ anthology