June Armstrong: Take Ten

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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June Armstrong is not only one of the UK’s most creative composers, but one of the most prolific. Having only reviewed her Dreams and Dragons last December, she’s already now back with her next publication, Take Ten.

Capitalising on the immense popularity of her piece Dusty Blue, recently a Grade 2 favourite here, Armstrong’s new book delivers 14 brand new ‘Jazz Miniatures for piano solo, suitable for elementary players.


With so many competing publications in this territory, and the prevalence of jazzy pastiche, it’s inevitable that Take Ten is a less musically distinctive collection than some Armstrong publications.

But I have no doubt that it will be a best-seller, and deservedly so, because it’s excellent and has some cool twists…

So read on for my detailed review…

Continue reading June Armstrong: Take Ten

June Armstrong’s ‘Dreams and Dragons’

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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June Armstrong continues to consolidate her status as one of our most interesting, characterful and imaginative composers. Her latest publication, Dreams and Dragons, is suitable for early advanced players around UK Grade 6 level and has just arrived…

For a recap of June’s previous publications, check out these reviews from the growing Pianodao archive:

The new book is subtitled Twelve Reveries for Piano and is once again published by her own Pianissimo Publishing business. Let’s jump into Armstrong’s latest magical creation…

Continue reading June Armstrong’s ‘Dreams and Dragons’

ABRSM: ‘Piano Star’ Duets

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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ABRSM’s popular Piano Star series, which originally aimed at bridging the gap between the pupil’s first tutor book and ABRSM Grade 1 piano, continues to grow.

The seventh and latest book in the series, Piano Star Duets offers 26 newly composed or arranged piano duets for ‘early beginners to Grade 2 level’, compiled and edited by David Blackwell and Karen Marshall.

With five of these pieces also selected as duet alternatives in the 2021-2 ABRSM Piano Syllabus, which I recently reviewed here, the book is likely to tempt teachers and students looking for a one-stop collection of duets that they can dip into over a couple of years of lessons.

That the pieces have been commissioned from some of our leading pedagogic composers further adds to the attraction.

Before taking a look, full disclosure. I contributed a single piece each to four previous titles in the series. However, I receive no ongoing royalty income from those, have absolutely no vested interest in the series, and chose not to contribute to the Piano Star Duets collection. I write here with full independence.

So, with that out of the way, let’s jump in with all four feet…

Continue reading ABRSM: ‘Piano Star’ Duets

June Armstrong’s Sea World

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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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 …

Continue reading June Armstrong’s Sea World

Six Little Preludes & Fugues

Sheet Music Review

June Armstrong (see Your Story: June Armstrong) has proven not only to be one of our more imaginative contemporary educational composers, but also to have a keen eye for gaps in the existing pedagogic repertoire.

Her many excellent and innovative publications via her business Pianissimo Publishing (see my reviews of Safari, Stars and Rayan’s Duet Book) fill a wide range of such gaps, and between them comprise a genuinely important body of work. Every collection, too, is a joy to explore and a delight to own.

June’s latest collection is Six Little Preludes and Fugues, and looks set to continue this trend, living up to the high standards of previous publications.

Continue reading Six Little Preludes & Fugues

Your Stories: June Armstrong

Your Stories

June Armstrong is a piano teacher and composer of educational piano music which focusses on the promotion of technical development whilst engaging the imagination and encouraging the exploration of interpretation.  She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Here’s her story…

Continue reading Your Stories: June Armstrong

Safari: Adventures for Piano (June Armstrong)

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Composer June Armstrong has now published more than a dozen collections of original solo piano music through her business Pianissimo Publishing, and I have previously published favourable reviews of her book Stars: 14 Constellations for Piano and her easy duet collection Rayan’s Duet Book’.

June is well known to many piano teachers for ‘Toy Box’ (aimed at beginner to pre-grade 1 standard) and its sequel ‘Paint Box’ (pre-grade 1 to grade 1), the most popular of her previous collections.

‘Safari: Adventures for Piano  is June’s latest publication, released September 2016. Aimed at “Beginner to pre-grade 1 standard”, the book revisits the level of ‘Toy Box’.

Continue reading Safari: Adventures for Piano (June Armstrong)

8 Great Piano Duet Books

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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The Piano Duet is a musical genre that I have explored too little with my students in the past, so a few years ago I decided to stock up on a few duet books. Finding excellent material for more advanced students was easy enough, given the wonderful works for “One Piano Four Hands” by such classical greats as Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Debussy, Poulenc et al. But finding good material for beginners and intermediate players proved far more difficult.

Fast forward to 2016 and that gap in the market has been addressed by a succession of simply great publications over the last few years.

Here is my selection of some of the best, which I hope you will go ahead and explore for yourselves!

Continue reading 8 Great Piano Duet Books

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”.

Continue reading Stars: 14 Constellations for Piano