Working Positively with Parents

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

Pushy Parent Syndrome

Is this something you are experiencing in your studio?

I recently attended a teacher meeting where a teacher was relaying her recent experiences with a very difficult parent of a young 6-year-old student. As I pondered the topic I realised that ‘pushy parent syndrome’, luckily, has not been something that I’ve recently encountered as regularly as in my young teaching years.

I felt it may be helpful to share some practices I’ve developed which have certainly made my teaching life far easier.

My approach is partly a conflict resolution one.  I would add its a “work in progress” – I would never claim to have all the answers and I’m still learning constantly after over 25 years of piano teaching!

I say conflict resolution because a relationship between a teacher and parent has potential for conflict, simply because the parent purchases the lessons and the child receives them. The relationship is a triangle – if anyone has ever had a dotted line with two managers you will know first-hand the problems that can cause.

  • The parent’s needs may be different to the child’s – conflict.
  • The parent’s expectations may be different to the abilities of the child – conflict.

Before you know it, you are jam-sandwiched between the child and the parent. So, what are the practical things I try to employ to make things easier and – most importantly – best for the student whilst maintaining good professional practices?

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LCM Syllabus 2018: The Big Review

Sheet Music Review  by Karen Marshall

November has seen the London College of Music present their new piano syllabus.

Due to staff changes the last time the syllabus was changed was back in 2013. So I was very excited to see what LCM were offering – especially as many of my colleagues Andrew Eales, David Barton, Francis Wilson and Melanie Spanswick have consulted on the main albums.

As a teacher who actively uses LCM, along with Trinity and ABRSM, Andrew asked me to write the review (to maintain impartiality).

As my first full syllabus review on Pianodao, I have worked really hard to get a broad collection of voices – many thanks to my piano teaching colleagues who have helped me shape this review.

I must say that the overall impression is that this is a job very well done by LCM, and a big step up from previously piano syllabi in terms of pedagogical content, variety of repertoire, quality of editing and presentation of the publications. Huge congratulations to William Alexander, David Duncan and the rest of the team at LCM for this achievement.

Now here’s my review, and in true Pianodao style, it is equally as detailed as Andrew’s! I really hope it proves helpful to teachers and pupils.

Continue reading LCM Syllabus 2018: The Big Review

Benny Andersson Piano Album

Sheet Music Review by Karen Marshall

Benny Andersson Piano
Music from ABBA, Chess and more –
21 transcriptions for solo piano.
A MUST this Christmas.

When the store manager of Banks, Music Room York, introduced me to the new Benny Andersson Piano book I knew I had to buy a copy. I really haven’t been disappointed – not only has it been wonderful to play, it has brought back so many memories.

I am just 7 years old stood in the living room, wobbling in my Mum’s high heels, wearing a favourite long frilly skirt and hair brush gripped in hand. And yes, I’m singing! I’m singing my little heart our pretending I am Anni-Frid in Thank You For The Music.

And it appears that Benny himself has been down memory lane recording the Album, from which this music was transcribed by Göran Arnberg. In his own words ………

“In the process of recording this album, which has been tremendous fun, I have come to realise that the pieces I have chosen to play are an integral part of me. In endeavouring to reach for some core within them, I have found that the more I strip away the clothing, i.e. treatments and arrangements from the ‘original versions’, the closer I feel to the music, regardless of whether it was created last year or 40 years ago. In a strange way, I feel like I’m playing my memoirs.”    Benny Andersson

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Get Set! Piano Characters

Collins Music have just made available a brand new FREE resource to accompany and support the Get Set! Piano series, written by Karen Marshall and Heather Hammond.

The latest additions to the stunning range of materials are a set of “Character” posters featuring the books’ popular Louis Legato, Suzie Staccato, Patrick Piano and Francesca Forte, as wonderfully illustrated by Julia Patton.

Each poster can be printed off as an A4 sheet to display in your teaching studio and use as a teaching and learning resource.

The complete set comes as a PDF file which Collins Music are generously offering on their own site, and by special permission, right here via Pianodao:



And many thanks indeed to the creators of Get Set! Piano and the lovely people at Collins Music.

You can also still find the full range of the Get Set! Piano downloads here.

And my review of the method books is here.

A Dozen A Day: All Year Round

Sheet Music Review  by Karen Marshall

As piano teachers or pianists, I am sure that you – like I – have ventured “with much love” through the pages of Edna-Mae Burnam’s A Dozen A Day.

These books continue to be standard issue in my own teaching, and indeed my students even ask for the next in the series (without prompting).

When I saw that A Dozen A Day All Year Round was available – published by The Willis Music Company and distributed by Music Sales, retailing with a UK price of £19.99 – I was keen to review it.

I haven’t been disappointed…

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Making Music Accessible

… especially to those with dyslexia and other learning difficulties

Guest post by Karen Marshall

I have been teaching students with specific learning difficulties (especially dyslexia) for twenty years now.  It’s been a real journey which has been packed with lots of learning, creativity, patience, joy, challenge but most of all reward.

Reward in being able to share in music making with students who can find music learning has challenges.

It is important to remember that no two students are the same – and especially no two dyslexic or students with special needs. The solutions may need adapting for individual students, or strategies specially selected for them. And also remember that some students with learning difficulties don’t have any problems with music learning at all. One size does not fit all!

The topic is vast. In this post I identify four of the main Guiding Principles for working with students with special needs.

These principles work well across all my teaching – good teaching is, I believe, good teaching! And I am sure many teachers reading this post will do much of what I describe anyway.

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The Intermediate Pianist

Sheet Music Review

The Intermediate Pianist series is a fresh and ground-breaking approach which is full of brilliant musical ideas. It’s sure to enable pianists to play with greater understanding and engagement, and comes very highly recommended.

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A Weekly Smiling Face

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

A few weeks ago when I arrived at school I was given an envelope from the secretary.

One of my pupils (she’s only 5 years) had given her the letter to save and give to me on my next arrival. The envelope was beautifully decorated with some of my catch phrases written all over it.  I was a little stunned but very touched. And then I opened the envelope.

Not one letter but three, each about how much she loves the piano, is excited about coming to lessons, and is always greeted with a big smile!

Gratefulness spilled from the pages, I was truly humbled by the generosity of this little girl, but also very aware of the power of my words (repeated by her in the notes), which had all been absorbed and responded to.

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Trinity syllabus 2018-20: The Big Review

The publication of a new Piano Exam Syllabus is always (rightly or wrongly) a major event in the piano teacher’s calendar, a “big reveal” in which we learn the repertoire around which our musical curriculum might to some extent orbit for the next few years.

Judging by the response to my review of the current ABRSM Piano Syllabus, I am sure that readers will be keen to know my thoughts on the latest syllabus from their largest UK competitor, Trinity College London, published this month.

I must start with a disclaimer: as a teacher I rarely enter students for exams other than ABRSM. With that in mind, I am delighted that Karen Marshall has again agreed to offer her “Second Opinion” later in the review.

As in my recent review of Anthony Williams’ Piano Teacher’s Survival Guide, Karen’s contribution will take the form of an interview following on from my own comments. She will offer the perspective of a well-regarded teacher who has used the Trinity Syllabus with her students over many years.

But first, my thoughts, essentially coming to this syllabus fresh…

Continue reading Trinity syllabus 2018-20: The Big Review

The Piano Teacher’s Survival Guide

A brilliant new publication, The Piano Teacher’s Survival Guide instantly establishes itself as the very best practical manual available for today’s piano teachers …

Book Review by Andrew Eales, with a Second Opinion by Karen Marshall.

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