A Streak of Calm

Setting our piano journey in its living context.
Written by Andrew Eales.

A few years back I purchased an app called Calm, which has subsequently become one of the most popular mindfulness apps available on iOS and other digital platforms. With its range of guided meditations, ambient music, soundscapes, breathwork exercises and ‘sleep stories’, Calm has grown to become a superb lifestyle resource, and a deserved success.

Interestingly though, Calm also delivers user stats after each session, with a badge showing one’s ‘streaks’ of consecutive days of practice. I’ve regarded this feature with vague amusement; it seems to owe more to the culture of the gambling arcade than to the ethos of the meditation traditions.

There’s even the opportunity to share your official streaks on social media platforms, something I recently did myself having reached the modest achievement of 100 consecutive days, and curious to see whether it would generate much discussion with friends.

But then an odd, and instructive thing happened: it must have been less than a week later that I ‘missed’ a day…

Continue reading A Streak of Calm

Essential Piano Teaching Resources 2022

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

It can be overwhelming keeping track of all the latest and best resources for piano teaching. As we enter another academic year, I am therefore sharing this list of some of the most essential educational resources and piano music publications of the last couple of years or so.

To read my in-depth evaluations of each publication shared below, and to get a better understanding of whether it will suit your and your students’ particular needs, simply click on the titles to open the full reviews. Better still, right-click to open in a new tab.

Please bookmark this page so that you can refer back here as need arises.

Continue reading Essential Piano Teaching Resources 2022

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

Nikki Iles & Friends: Easy to Intermediate

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Reviewing the first two volumes in the ABRSM series Nikki Iles and Friends when they appeared in April 2021, I concluded:

“I have no hesitation in declaring this series an “epic win” for ABRSM. Don’t hesitate in getting copies!”

Suitable for intermediate to advanced players (UK Grades 4-8), the books have proven popular with players in my studio here in Milton Keynes and elsewhere. You can read my full review here.

Somewhat sneaking under the radar, a third book has now been added to the series. Nikki Iles & Friends: Easy to Intermediate will, I am certain, have huge appeal to players who are less advanced.


The sensibly age-neutral cover matches the designs of the previous two books, but beyond that there are some points of departure worth noting, so let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Nikki Iles & Friends: Easy to Intermediate

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

The Mosaic Series

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Mosaic is a series currently comprising four music books, each showcasing fresh and varied repertoire newly commissioned and composed by piano educators from around the world.

The pieces are loosely graded, arranged in order of difficulty, compiled as books suitable for elementary, intermediate and advanced players, and published by Editions Musica Ferrum. A fifth book (reaching towards Grade 8 level) is currently planned.

I am honoured to be one of the composers featured in all four books, alongside such well-established names as Barbara Arens, Ben Crosland, June Armstrong and others.

The collections are a natural addition to the Pianodao Music Library, and while I obviously cannot ‘review’ them in quite the usual way, this article will introduce the series with an overview of the concept, several recordings, and hopefully sufficient information for readers to decide whether to take a closer look.

Continue reading The Mosaic Series

Women Composers: A Graded Anthology

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Hot on the heels of Karen Marshall’s lovingly curated HerStory from Faber Music, which I recently reviewed here, Schott Music bring us three brilliantly compiled and vividly presented collections of music by neglected female composers past and present.

Melanie Spanswick’s Women Composers: A Graded Anthology is equally as groundbreaking, and being a larger series these books offer space to a wider and more diverse range of repertoire, particularly in their inclusion of playful jazz and 20th century piano works.

It is interesting to note that of the 30 works in Marshall’s book and the 52 more here, not only are there no actual duplicates, but few of the composers themselves appear twice, an extraordinary confirmation (were it needed) that the pool of neglected music by female composers is a deep one indeed.

So let’s cast an eye over Spanswick’s series…

Continue reading Women Composers: A Graded Anthology

The Active Repertoire Challenge 2022

For 2022, many piano players are ready to embrace a fresh musical focus and revitalised piano goals. Whether frustrated by lack of playing in the last year or pleased with progress made, we all want to embrace the most motivated, positive version of ourselves at the piano.

Thankfully, there is an answer…


Continue reading The Active Repertoire Challenge 2022

Adventures & Accolades

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Composer James Welburn (whose Musical Escapades collection I reviewed here, and his Reflections in Waltz right here) continues to impress with his latest publication.

Written “for the aspiring virtuoso, this new addition to Welburn’s catalogue is alliteratively titled Adventures & Accolades. Comprising 14 short pieces, the collection is once again brought to us by the ever-brilliant Editions Musica Ferrum, while the recordings of the pieces are available on the composer’s website, or here:


In common with Welburn’s previous two publications, the music is suitable for intermediate players, although the pieces here are shorter than in his earlier collections, and have a wider variety of style, tending perceptibly towards the more jazzy.

Continue reading Adventures & Accolades

LCM Piano Syllabus 2021-24

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

London College of Music Examinations (LCME hereafter) bill themselves as a progressive, friendly exam board offering a wide selection of graded music exams and professional diplomas. Founded as far back as 1887, the board arrived on the scene two years before ABRSM, and ten years after the first board, Trinity College Exams.

LCME pride themselves on continuing to lead the way in developing exam options that are relevant to today’s global world. Indeed, the performance grade options that other boards have introduced in the last year follow a blueprint LCME laid down years ago.

Uniquely, having become part of the University of West London, LCME are now the first and only exam board whose qualifications are awarded by a University. Conducting exams in more than 80 countries around the world, LCME retain their traditional qualities while being widely praised for fielding examiners known for being warm and approachable, ensuring candidates are put at ease and able to perform to their full potential.

With such particular strengths, it is perhaps odd that relatively few teachers are aware of their offer, but the recent arrival of the 2021-2024 Piano Syllabus and accompanying Handbooks offers a timely opportunity to take another, closer look…

Continue reading LCM Piano Syllabus 2021-24