The Gamification of Musical Learning

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

The rise and rise of electronic video, console and computer games over the last two decades has been spectacular. From Pokémon to Grand Theft Auto, and from Minecraft to Wii Sports, games have become hugely popular and lucrative, and some academics even suggest that they are now the dominant cultural form of the 21st century.

In his much-discussed paper Manifesto for a Ludic Century (available here), Eric Zimmerman suggests that while the twentieth century was the age of information and of moving pictures, the twenty-first is the ludic (play-centric) century. He enthuses,

“Increasingly, the ways that people spend their leisure time and consume art, design, and entertainment will be games, or experiences very much like games.”

We certainly see growing evidence of gamification in music education. In this article I consider the transformative impact this may be having, for better or worse…

Continue reading The Gamification of Musical Learning

More Than Music Lessons

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Merlin B. Thompson (shown above) is a forward-thinking music educator with over forty years teaching experience in private studio, conservatory and university settings. His career has taken him around the world, and podcast enthusiasts may know of his excellent series, The Music Educator’s Crucible.

Subtitled “A Studio Teacher’s Guide to Parents, Practicing, Projects and Character”, Thompson’s book More than Music Lessons was published a few months ago by Rowman & Littlefield, and is one of those books which could prove to be a game-changer for any instrumental teacher who takes time to absorb and apply the author’s key messages.

According to the author’s introduction,

More than Music Lessons shifts the focus away from established music curricula to something of equal importance: the personal and interpersonal dynamics of students’ own musical life. This book demonstrates what can happen when music teachers take an interest in and have an ongoing appreciation for their students’ home life, sense of self, musical interests, personal and world views, culture and spiritual individuality.”

The book has a four-part framework with sections on Parents, Practising, Projects and Character. In this review, I will touch on the content and give a general overview of the publication itself, hopefully enticing teachers to take a closer look for themselves…

Continue reading More Than Music Lessons

Paul Harris Webinar: A Piece a Week

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Paul Harris’s Piece a Week series has been among the triumphs of recent years. In my own teaching these books have become a staple with students of all ages, and the number one top sight reading resource that I recommend and use. I have reviewed the books for Grade 1-6 here and for Initial Grade here.

Now Faber Music bring us a combined book covering Grades 7 and 8, which completes the series. The book maintains the educational approach and musical engagement of its predecessors, so for more information please be sure to read those previous reviews.

The final book well and truly lives up to the sky-high standards of the rest in the series, and is in my view truly superb.

To give you a taste, Faber Music have generously provided this FREE piece from the book as an exclusive Pianodao download:


And now for Paul Harris in person…

Faber Music kindly organised a special webinar for Pianodao Tea Room members, celebrating the new release and giving him the opportunity to outline the series in person, introduce the final book, play some of the pieces, and answer questions. For those who missed it, I am pleased to share the full webinar recording below.

To catch future events in the Tea Room, why not come and join us?

Here is the recording…


To use the special promotional code announced by Rachel Topham in the webinar, here is the Faber Music online purchase link.

The Piece a Week series is available now from music retailers everywhere.


Also available • Andrew’s essential handbook:
How to Practise Music

PIANODAO TEA ROOM members receive 20% DISCOUNT on
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Hal Leonard’s ‘Classical Piano Sheet Music Series’

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I love it when a music book exceeds my initial expectations, and the three books in Hal Leonard’s new Classical Piano Sheet Music Series score a hat trick on that front.

Between them, these three handsomely presented and well-edited books deliver a very decent survey of Western Classical piano music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic Eras, and I can warmly recommend them to intermediate pianists and their teachers.

In the review that follows I will include an easy-to-read piece listing for all the pieces in each of the three books, individual purchase links, having first given a general overview of the series…

Continue reading Hal Leonard’s ‘Classical Piano Sheet Music Series’

Singing in Aural Tests: the Bottom Line

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

The topic of singing in aural tests has long been a contentious one, but has become more so in recent years. Not only have growing numbers of teachers noted how unpopular the singing tests are, but research in the field of cognitive science now casts doubt on the previously assumed validity of such tests.

In this article I will explore the requirements of the five main boards, consider the links between singing and “audiation”, touch on some basic scientific research (with links for those wanting to read more) and suggest change.

Continue reading Singing in Aural Tests: the Bottom Line

Decoding Music Theory

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Of the various “innovations” ABRSM have made of late, the replacement of their popular written theory grades with online multiple-choice exams has perhaps been the most controversial, and seems already to be leading to an emphasis on logic-driven trick questions in place of the more creative elements which were a feature of the previous syllabus.

Happily, fact-based learning can still be fun-filled. Proving the point, Melodic Decoder founders Shona Newey and Alison Wood have recently self-published four slim books billed as, “interactive detective stories for children learning ABRSM music theory”.

These colourful and genuinely enjoyable story-puzzle books could be just the ticket for enthusing younger musicians with music theory, so let’s don a deerstalker and investigate…

Continue reading Decoding Music Theory

Welcome to Pianodao!

Welcome to the piano education website and online blog of teacher, published composer and author ANDREW EALES.

Andrew provides regular lessons and personal consultations at his private studio in Milton Keynes. Through his innovative Video Feedback Service he also offers affordable, detailed written advice to players everywhere.

Pianodao features more than 600 articles and music reviews, all written to inform and support players, teachers and enthusiasts, and free to access thanks to the support of readers.


How to Practise Music: The Handbook

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I am thrilled to announce my first publication with Hal Leonard, described by the publishers as:

“The essential, pocket-sized companion for every musician. Accessible and authoritative, How to Practise Music is an ideal guide for anyone learning to play music. Suitable for instrumentalists and vocalists of any genre, this comprehensive handbook will give you a better idea of how to practise music, good reasons for doing so, and the confidence to succeed. “

The book is now available in both UK and US versions (Practice/Practise!):


The book is also available digitally for Amazon Kindle and Apple Books.

In this post I will give you an exclusive first look…

Continue reading How to Practise Music: The Handbook

Paul Harris: Unconditional Teaching

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Many readers will already have benefitted from Paul Harris’s numerous and superb teaching and learning resources, and perhaps also read one or more of his best-sellers written to support teachers. His seminal The Virtuoso Teacher, Improve Your Teaching! and Simultaneous Learning books have established themselves as essential modern classics.

New from Faber Music, and presented in a similar format to those previous books, Harris’s latest publication is called Unconditional Teaching. And it is undoubtedly one of his most provocative and thought-provoking yet…

Continue reading Paul Harris: Unconditional Teaching

The Future of ABRSM Grades?

Fluency, understanding, expression and confidence.
Written by Andrew Eales

In the last couple of weeks I have come across two well argued letters in the music press, the first by Alex Aitken and published in the September 2021 issue of Music Teacher magazine, the second by Pauline Carter and appearing in the October issue of the BBC Music Magazine.

Both letter writers lament a perceived decline in music education, singling out ABRSM as being uniquely responsible for this malaise. Their charge is probably unavoidable, and not without merit bearing in mind that ABRSM are in their own words,

“…the UK’s largest music education body, and the world’s leading provider of music exams.”

The diametrically different solutions each of the two propose points to the serious challenge ABRSM now face in charting a path that reconnects with all of their stakeholders, wins wide support, and restores confidence in their ability to (as they put it) “inspire musical achievement”.

It is certainly beyond doubt that many in music education are reflecting anew on the role, relevance and value of music exams:

What is the future of ABRSM grades?

I am coming to the view that it’s time to focus on a live performance assessment and scrap divisive “support tests” and other prerequisites from grade exams. Done well, this could raise a bar which does seem to have been steadily slipping in recent years, while better matching the real-world priorities of the 21st century.

When ABRSM announced their “Performance Grades” a few months back, I admit that I was skeptical. But having listened carefully to a range of opinion, I now believe that making the performance of music the whole focus of graded assessments could prove unifying, provided the exams themselves are available live and not just digitally.

Continue reading The Future of ABRSM Grades?