Making the World a Better Place

On Saturday evening, a student piano concert took place here in Milton Keynes. It was one of a couple of concerts I organise each year, giving young players and adults alike the opportunity to perform to a supportive audience, so developing their confidence and maturity in musical communication – and raising money for charity in the process.

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Improve your Music Theory!

Sheet Music Review

ABRSM’s CEO Michael Elliott has reportedly said:

“Separating theory from practice can’t be a good thing.”

While this is a great soundbite for those promoting theory courses, the obvious irony here is that ABRSM have themselves – for generations – separated music theory from practice in their own examination syllabus and published materials.

Paul Harris’s new series ‘Improve your Theory!’, written for students preparing for ABRSM Theory Grades 1-5, aims to change this situation for the better.

Introducing the series, publishers Faber Music explain that:

“Firmly rooted in Paul Harris’s Simultaneous Learning approach, it will transform how music theory is taught and learnt, improving every aspect of musicianship along the way. Never before has theory been so fun or seemed so natural!”

The books have already been awarded “Best Print Resource 2016” at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, so let’s see if they live up to the hype…

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Radical Resources for Sight-Reading

Sheet Music Reviews

One of the certainties of my professional life in music has been the frequency with which I am asked to sight-read. This can include accompaniments at rehearsals, auditions, and even public concerts. More informally I often find myself sight-reading when pupils bring their own choices of pieces to learn. So I am very grateful to those teachers who, often in spite of my protests, ensured that sight-reading was a part of my musical learning.

Karen Marshall’s recent article  A Practical Guide to Teaching Sight-reading’  has been warmly received with more than 2,000 readers already turning to it for advice since it was published at the weekend. This shows the extent to which piano teachers are keen to discover effective ways to teach sight-reading.

As a follow up, I am now going to overview two recent series of publications which aim to break the mould and make sight-reading more relevant and pleasurable than is often the case – innovative and exciting publications which I am sure readers will want to explore…

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A Practical Guide to Teaching Sight-Reading

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

My Lessons from Christine Brown on how to teach sight-reading

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My First Beethoven

Sheet Music Review

In my recent review of Schott’s ‘My First Schumann’ I concluded :

“This is a collection that will “keep on giving”, with such a great selection of pieces for students to enjoy over a number of years…
‘My First Schumann’ is a brilliant introduction to one of the world’s greatest ever piano composers. Highly Recommended!”

Hot on its heels comes the latest book in the series, ‘My First Beethoven’. Can it repeat the success of the previous book?

Let’s take a closer look…

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Stars: 14 Constellations for Piano

Sheet Music Review

‘Stars: Fourteen Constellations for Piano’ is the most recent publication from piano teacher and composer June Armstrong‘s Pianissimo Publishing. The pieces are for piano solo, in a contemporary style, and the level of difficulty is aimed at between grades 3 to 5.

The book joins the growing library of works from June, which include some dozen books to suit players from beginner level (‘Toy Box’ and ‘Paint Box’) up to and including the higher grades (‘Causeway Coast Fantasy’‘The Girona Suite’ and ‘Strangford Sketchbook’).

Taken as a whole, June has produced an impressive, growing catalogue of piano music written in a modern musical language which will appeal to players of all ages, and which reflects her motto “Music of the Imagination”.

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The Pianist’s Expertise

The Pianist’s Reflections Series

How do you feel when so-called “experts” say things that just don’t match your experience? Is their academic learning superior to your practical experience?

Does the input of the “expert” leave you feeling more, or less confident than you were before? 

I firmly believe that practical experience and academic learning should ideally go hand in hand – the one neither replacing nor outbalancing the other.

But it’s helpful to consider how the right balance between the two is best achieved, because different temperaments tend to be drawn more to one or the other. Western society as a whole perhaps needs to redress that balance and listen more carefully to voices of experience.

So what can we learn from one another?

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Confessions of a piano student.

Regular guest author Simon Reich (pictured above as a little boy) has a confession to make… 

“I’d let down my piano teacher, my parents and ultimately myself, by not being able to read music better than my grades suggested”. This was the unfortunate soundtrack playing inside my head, each time I went to piano lessons.

But deep inside me a sleeping talent was about to emerge – and I didn’t yet know it!

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My First Schumann

Sheet Music Review

Schott Music, the revered German publishers founded back in 1770, are maintaining an impressive commitment to new piano music publishing projects, including a wide range of resources and publications for players of all levels.

Of particular interest to intermediate players (and their teachers) will be there ongoing “My First …” series. The first two issues (Bach and Mozart – see below) have recently been joined by “My First Schumann”, which I am delighted to review here.

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