‘Graded Gillock’: Three New Collections

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I have long been an admirer of the brilliant piano music of William Lawson Gillock (1917-1993), so it is with huge pleasure and a sense of pride that I can now announce that, in conjunction with the Willis Music Company, I have selected and edited a new series of ‘graded’ collections showcasing a varied range of his best pieces.

Graded Gillock appears in three volumes, now available:


There’s little doubt in my mind that Gillock was one of the most significant educational piano composers of the twentieth century, as adept at turning out distinctively memorable and colourful piano pieces in an accessible style as he was at engaging the imaginations and enthusiasm of young learners, in doing so paving the way for today’s educational composers.

Gillock is perhaps best known here in the UK for his evocatively bluesy New Orleans Nightfall, stomping Swinging Beat and Latin-infused Carnival in Rio, all of which have been popular graded exam pieces in recent years. But what of his other music?

For this new series, I have used these favourites as a starting point, working with the composer’s long-term publisher Willis Music to explore and select Gillock’s most enjoyable and pedagogically useful music.

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Gradebusters 2

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Of the various books to have appeared in the last few years offering easy arrangements of favourite popular songs for elementary players, Hal Leonard’s Gradebusters Grade 1 quickly became a favourite here, and a runaway success with my students.

When I reviewed the book here, I loved everything about it, and hoped that a promised Grade 2 book would quickly peek its head around the corner. It’s taken a while for the second book to arrive but I’m very happy to report it’s been well worth the wait, and is a sequel to celebrate!

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Piano Sight Reading: A Progressive Method

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Few professional musicians would question the value and usefulness of sight reading, meaning that skill which allows us to play music that we’ve never heard, just from the notation, and without preparation.

As a teacher who allows my students considerable freedom to choose the music they want to learn and bring along to the lesson, I find myself relying on this skill very regularly. And yet some teachers and students treat the development of sight reading as an afterthought, and a rather dull one at that. Compounding the problem, while sight reading has traditionally been an element of public grade exams, it is decreasingly so.

Trinity College London include sight reading as an optional test in their piano grade exams, but some teachers choose only to introduce it with “serious students” after intermediate level, and on the basis that players will at that point miraculously “get it”.

Perhaps this lack of enthusiasm will change with the launch of Trinity’s excellent new series, Sight Reading: A Progressive Method, a suite of three books offering a clear route for teaching sight reading skills from the get-go.

In common with most sight reading resources the series is linked to the grade exams, but happily it goes far beyond specimen tests and basic exam cramming, and can be used as a powerful resource to actually teach and develop sight reading ability.

As Trinity explain,

“The study of sight reading is valuable because it enables musicians to enjoy music that is new to them, either on their own or in a group. As with any other skill, confidence in sight reading comes with training and regular practice.”

So let’s take a look and see how the series can support teachers and students in those aims…

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The Foundation Pianist

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Around this time last year, Faber Music unleashed The Intermediate Pianist series, co-authored by Karen Marshall and Heather Hammond. It was a solid success, warmly received by teachers and students alike, and in the Pianodao review I wrote:

“The Intermediate Pianist books get right to the heart of what learning music is really all about. This truly could prove a milestone publication – don’t miss it!”

As many readers will know, The Intermediate Pianist deservedly went on to win Best Print Resource at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence 2018.

This Autumn, it’s a joy to welcome the arrival of The Foundation Pianist, two companion books in Faber’s growing Piano Trainer seriesThis time, Karen is joined by new co-author David Blackwell.

Let’s see what’s included, and consider how these books might fit into a rounded curriculum for young pianists…

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June Armstrong’s Sea World

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Over recent years, piano teacher and composer June Armstrong has steadily developed an enviable reputation as one of Britain’s most prolific and distinctive educational composers.

Armstrongs’s impressive range of self-published – and beautifully produced – titles now stretches to some 15 collections of pieces suitable for players at most levels from beginner to advanced.

Along the way, she has gained a cult following from teachers-in-the-know – and no doubt gained many new fans following the recent inclusion of several pieces in the graded syllabuses of the examination boards.

I have reviewed a number of Armstrong’s publications on Pianodao; you can find out more here:

June has also kindly shared her piano story with us here as part of the Your Stories series.

June’s latest collection, Sea World, contains 17 new “Impressions for Piano”, aimed at players between UK Grades 1 to 3 (Elementary to Early Intermediate standard). Let’s take a look …

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