David Hall: ‘There’s More to Playing the Piano’

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
Supporting your teaching • PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING


A preponderance of music theory publications currently exist which are specifically tailored for those preparing to battle with the somewhat arcane requirements of compulsory exams. And yet, for those who simply want to understand notation and written music in a way that’s useful and relevant to today’s piano players, the market has long been wide open.

Finally we can welcome a simple textbook which is clear, concise, and of practical benefit. While not entirely eschewing the testing regime, David Hall’s excellent self-published There’s More to Playing the Piano offers a thorough explanation of music theory which is for all, and which has two very special selling points.

In the author’s own words:

  • Each chapter ends with an activity to try at the piano. These activities will bring the theory topic to life and show you how your new theory knowledge can be applied to develop your skills of composition, improvisation, analysis and performance.
  • Scan the QR Codes to gain access to online videos where David explains each topic again and demonstrates the piano activities.

Could this be the ideal music theory primer for pianists of all ages?

In a word, “yes”. Whether you are searching for a better understanding of the music you play, a returning pianist refreshing your knowledge, or a student wanting a crash course or revising for an exam, I think that this book could well be for you. So let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading David Hall: ‘There’s More to Playing the Piano’

The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
Supporting your teaching • PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING


A couple of years ago I suggested to author Karen Marshall and publishers Faber Music that it would be really useful to have an all-in-one scales manual within the popular Piano Trainer series. And here it is!

According to Faber Music,

“This all-in-one workbook for scales, arpeggios and broken chords includes all the keys and basic shapes piano students should learn. With clear scale notation, easy-to-visualise keyboard diagrams and excellent theory activities to consolidate understanding and underline the importance of writing music. It is ideal for developing a bespoke scale curriculum.”

The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook is certainly all of this, and the 72-page book is chock-full of neat ideas and judiciously selected material, so let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook

Phillip Keveren’s Circles

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES
Also Available • CONSULTATION LESSONSVIDEO FEEDBACK


American composer and arranger Phillip Keveren’s books have become increasingly popular staples in my studio, his recent collection Piano Calm (reviewed here) establishing itself as a particular favourite.

Keveren’s latest publication, brought to us as ever by Hal Leonard, is Circles: Character Etudes in 24 Keys, once again a collection of brand new original pieces aimed at intermediate pianists.

And it’s another triumph…

Continue reading Phillip Keveren’s Circles

Jakub Metelka: Modern Piano Studies

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES
Also Available • CONSULTATION LESSONSVIDEO FEEDBACK


Jakub Metelka’s Modern Piano Studies is an educationally useful and thoughtfully produced collection of 30 miniature pieces which address aspects both of technique and notation-reading at upper intermediate level.

The book is certainly novel, and may have what it takes to establish itself as a contemporary classic in the pedagogy literature…

Continue reading Jakub Metelka: Modern Piano Studies

How to Blitz ABRSM Theory

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
Supporting your teaching • PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING


I’ve seen a number of good music teachers recommending Samantha Coates’ How to Blitz ABRSM Theory book on forums, and having obtained a set to take a closer look myself, I can see what all the fuss is about.

I met and interviewed Samantha Coates at this year’s Music Education Expo show in London, and she explained that in Australia, her homeland, the incumbent theory books she grew up with were (ahem!) rather dry.

Her criticisms surely apply equally here in the UK, where the official exam-board workbooks can similarly suck the joy out of a lesson, and have a surprising ability to make a bus timetable from 1976 look like a relatively exciting proposition.

Coates found a solution by producing her own course:

“What I wanted was an alternative, a theory book that essentially had the same content as this other boring book that I grew up on, because it was written for the same syllabus. So I just thought, there’s got to be a more hip and groovy alternative. 
I wanted a text that was conversational and user-friendly, and light-hearted, and in language that is not formal…
“I think the word “somewhat” should never appear in any child’s tutor book! I just wanted it to be much more casual.”


Happily, with publisher Chester Music on board, she has brought out adapted versions for the UK market, tailoring the content to match the requirements of our leading exam board.

So let’s find out just how different the How to Blitz ABRSM Theory books are. What distinguishes them from the official alternatives, and what are their advantages? Importantly, have they succeeded in making music theory more relevant and interesting for piano players?

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Piano Star Theory

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
Supporting your teaching • PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING


ABRSM’s Piano Star series of books for children have been warmly received since their introduction a couple of years ago, their pieces regularly appearing in student concerts, festivals, the Prep Test and Grade 1 exams.

Last year the original series of three progressive books of fresh new repertoire grew to include a book of “Five Finger Tunes at the entry level, and a “Piano Star Grade 1 book at the upper end. And now there’s another addition: the Piano Star Theory primer is published this week. Let’s take a look…

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Samantha Coates in Conversation

Exclusive interview with best-selling author Samantha Coates

Sydney-based music teacher and author Samantha Coates dazzled at this year’s Music Education Expo event, with a presentation brimming with energy and enthusiasm.

It was a pleasure to catch up with her afterwards to talk about her publications. In a warm, wide-ranging conversation, we discussed the importance of literacy, music theory and sight-reading, as well as Samantha’s recently developed passion for rote teaching.

But first I wanted to know more about Samantha’s back story …

Continue reading Samantha Coates in Conversation

Should we still teach students to hand-write music?

PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING • by ANDREW EALES
For lessons and advice • BOOK A CONSULTATION


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:  

Should we be teaching students to write music by hand at all?

Continue reading Should we still teach students to hand-write music?