‘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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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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Andrew Higgins: Seasons

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From time to time I review a music book here which subsequently establishes itself as a favourite with my students; such a book was the brilliant Birds: Études-Tableaux composed by Andrew Higgins, which I reviewed here.

I was therefore naturally pleased to receive Higgins’ latest collection, Seasons, which is again published by the forward-looking publisher EVC Music, whose many recent useful and eye-catching publications have made such a positive mark on the pedagogic repertoire in recent years.


Rather than lazily giving us more of the same, Seasons is quite a different proposition from Higgins’ last book, so let’s take a closer look…

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Ragtime by Scott Joplin

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In addition to this year marking the Debussy centenary, November 24th 2018 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Scott Joplin, composer of some of the most popular piano pieces ever written.

In this review I will be looking at the recently published volume, Ragtime by Scott Joplin, by Jean Kleeb, appearing as part of Bärenreiter’s Ready to Play series.

But first, a few words about the importance of Joplin himself…

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Solo Xtreme Books 4-6

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Barely were the pixels dry on  my review of the first three Solo Xtreme books  when Books 4-6 landed on my door mat. While the initial books in the series were suitable for Elementary level players, these new additions are for the Intermediate pianist.

My favourable impression and comments about the first three books equally apply to all these. Indeed, the presentation, feel and quality is unchanged, the concept a simple extension of the series. Please therefore consider this review an addendum to the previous one, and once again be sure to read that first.

Like the previous books, each book includes a selection of new compositions which are billed as “X-traordinary and Challenging Piano Pieces”.

The levels covered by Books 4-6 are:

  • Book 4: Early Intermediate to Intermediate (ABRSM Grade 3)
  • Book 5: Intermediate to Late Intermediate (Grades 4-5)
  • Book 6: Late Intermediate to Early Advanced (around Grade 6)

Grade equivalents are necessarily vague, because as with the previous books they are not so much designed to fit snuggly into any particular assessment system, but rather to bust out the player beyond their current level.

What remains to be written, then, is an evaluation of the music in these new collections…

Continue reading Solo Xtreme Books 4-6