The Piano Player: British Classics

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Faber Music have a well-earned reputation for producing outstanding series of music books. From their lush Faber Piano Anthology series to Paul Harris’s Improve Your Sight Reading and Pam Wedgwood’s Jazzin’ Around, their best series have become landmark publications.

With their latest publication, British Classics, Faber are launching a new series, with seven titles projected, simply called The Piano Player. So let’s take a look at the series debut…

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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…

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“The Thinking Pianist” Summer Course

Written by Andrew Eales
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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…

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Which Adult Piano Method 2022?

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In my article Teaching Adults to Play the Piano I explained how adults learn differently to children. It follows that we need a range of resources more suited to adult needs.

In this post, I will now present my shortlist of the best adult method books, updated for 2022, and with full reviews of my Ten Top Choices

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Howard Smith: Note for Note

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Any self-published autobiography could too quickly be written off as a vanity project; Howard Smith’s newly available Note for Note offers a strong rebuttal of any such inclination, delivering a rich banquet that could both inspire the “returning adults” of the amateur piano world and inform those of us who teach them.

We are told at the start of the book that,

“The events narrated in this book took place between Friday, February 14, 2014 and New Year’s Day 2018”.

With equal precision, Smith lays out the story of his piano journey, self-described as “climbing onto an escalator”, and in so doing achieves much more than a simple memoir. As we accompany the author on his journey, we learn a mix of theory and practice at his side, set in the context of his ‘late returning adult’ story.

Before I read the book, its author self-effacingly warned me,

“The text is as much a moral tale of how not to go about learning to play the piano, as it is a set of pointers to a more enlightened and effective approach.”

Having now read Smith’s “musical fable” from cover to cover, here are my personal thoughts on his success, together with some suggestions as to why I think the book is a truly essential read…

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Which Adult Piano Method?

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.

In my article Teaching Adults to Play the Piano I explained how adults learn differently to children. It follows that we need a range of resources more suited to adult needs.

In this post, I will now present my shortlist of the best adult method books, updated for 2022, and with full reviews of my Ten Top Choices

Continue reading Which Adult Piano Method?

Play it Again: Piano

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Melanie Spanswick’s Play it Again: Piano series launched with two books published by Schott Music back in 2017. Now, with a third book joining the series, it’s time for another look.

This new review covers all three books in the series, so let’s dig in…

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Accomplishment

Written by Andrew Eales
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”In the beginning of training, it may seem as if you are doing very little. You compare yourself to your teachers and to more accomplished people, and you may despair at ever reaching their levels.
But if you are diligent, then it is inevitable that you will make something of yourself. Once you reach such a plateau, you will be able to relax a bit and contemplate where you are on your journey.”

Deng Ming-Dao,  365 Tao Daily Mediations (204).

Piano students, and adults in particular, often underestimate the time it will take to become proficient players, to play the music they aspire to, and to sound as good as they hoped.

When newcomers ask me, “how long until I can play really well?” I typically answer, “How does ten years sound?

It’s an easy (if entirely random) guess, but the point is the aspiring pianist’s response. Are they mentally prepared for the climb ahead?

The idea that after ”ten years” a player will be attempting advanced repertoire isn’t entirely incorrect. It can be qualified by pointing out that if “really well” equates to ABRSM Grade 8 (the highest amateur qualification), many who start as children progress by around one grade a year. Unless they make exceptional progress, young beginners who stick the course can expect to be attempting the higher grades in their mid to late teens.

But there’s a much more important truth, which I quickly bring up. Unless something is very amiss, we do not begin to enjoy playing music only once we reach that the more advanced stages of playing.

EVERY STEP of the journey is a real ACCOMPLISHMENT in which the player should take personal satisfaction and find musical engagement and reward.

We may wish our skills could be multiplied, but often moving a single step at a time counts for more. One PLUS One is actually more than One TIMES One, and it is foolish to miss out steps along the way. Mistakes and weaknesses in our playing can lead to us losing our footing long before we reach the upper summits.

And ultimately, as piano playing is a journey with no fixed destination, it’s important that we really take time to enjoy the scenery.

If patience is really a virtue, perhaps it is because learning to appreciate each moment leads to a rewarding lifetime of happiness and health.


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Piano Lessons: Dealing with Anxiety

Written by Andrew Eales
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I am sure that most piano teachers will be alert to the fact that some pupils coming to lessons are anxious. This post will look at some reasons for that, and offer some suggestions that might help normalise lessons.

The article is written for any player who has ever said. and any teacher who has ever heard the words:

“It was perfect when I practised it at home this morning…”

Clearly, in order for student and teacher to make the most of any piano lesson we all want to move beyond this point!

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