Sheet Music Review
Paul Harris’s series of A Piece a Week books have been appearing at regular intervals over the last few years. Faber Music have just released the Grade 6 book, so let’s consider the series as a whole…
I’ll start with a quick reminder that while the books appear in the best-selling Improve Your Sight Reading series, they are not sight reading practice books per se. Rather they aim to support the broader development of music literacy.
In this review I will first explain the concept behind A Piece a Week, give an overview of the actual material included in the books, and explain how they develop to offer superb material across the range of playing levels from UK Grade 1 to the new Grade 6 book.
Continue reading Paul Harris: A Piece A Week
Sheet Music Review
Back in 2008, ABRSM published a series of books called Piano Specimen Sight-Reading Tests. Although deserving an award for having the most utilitarian and uninspiring titles in my whole music collection, they have nonetheless rarely been out of action in the intervening years.
In short, they were an essential purchase for any piano teacher preparing students for ABRSM’s world-leading piano grade examinations, and have seen very active service over many years.
Since 2008, many others have brought out alternative products to help teachers and students prepare for the sight-reading element of ABRSM exams. Paul Harris’s ubiquitous and respected Improve Your Sight-Reading series has been updated more than once, and now includes audio tracks. Useful and innovative alternatives have also appeared from Alan Bullard, Samantha Coates, e-music maestro and several others.
Now ABRSM return with a new series bearing the slightly-less scary title More Piano Sight-Reading, a suite of eight new books, one to tie in with each of their grades.
A superficial look at the eight books suggests that these aren’t radically different from their predecessors (which, I should add, are still valid, as the syllabus itself remains unchanged). However, a more detailed look reveals several tweaks and changes to the format which, between them, make the new books a step-improvement on the older ones.
For this review, I will focus on five specific improvements which I think make this new series a superior alternative to the previous books.
Continue reading More Piano Sight-Reading from ABRSM
Interview with Daniel Spreadbury
Until fairly recently, two big names dominated the world of music notation software: Make Music’s Finale and Avid’s Sibelius.
Other software – such as Presonus’ Notion and the free-to-use MuseScore have continued to challenge their supremacy, but with the October 2016 release of Dorico it was clear that a significant professional alternative had arrived on the scene, causing quite a stir.
The backstory has been repeated many times elsewhere – how Avid decided to close their London office in 2012, leaving their existing Sibelius development team – headed by Daniel Spreadbury – without their jobs.
By the start of 2013, music software giants Steinberg Media Technologies – a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha, and the creators of the VST standard, Cubase, Nuendo and Wavelab – had snapped up the team and tasted them with creating a brand new notation package from the ground up. Enter Dorico …
In this interview, I will be chatting with Daniel about his career in the music software world, the development of Dorico, and the birth of version 2.0.
But first …
Continue reading The Rise of Dorico
An article on the BBC News website last weekend highlighted an interesting controversy from the world of education: Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting? The issue is back in the news because the US state of Illinois has passed a law requiring school students to learn “cursive” (joined-up handwriting), overriding the governor’s veto.
Elsewhere in the US and in some other countries schools have dropped the skill from the curriculum, or made it optional.
Certainly some teachers and parents are concerned that the introduction of joined-up handwriting can prove to be a significant roadblock in childrens’ education.
And the BBC article points out that few adults ever use joined-up handwriting; most of us rarely write by hand at all, except for the occasional shopping list or post-it note. The block hand-writing of a young child is sufficient for this, given that most of us use electronic devices, apps and software for any serious written communication.
The same arguments about educational roadblocks and 21st-century relevance might be made with regard to teaching music pupils to write fluent, accurate and detailed music notation by hand:
Continue reading Should we still teach students to hand-write music?
Should we be teaching students to write music by hand at all?