10 Important Memory Tricks for Pianists

Guest Article by Sofie Kay

Have you ever suddenly forgotten your PIN? It happened to me once. I was standing in line with a friend who said something to me just as I was about to enter my number, and it suddenly went out of my head. I couldn’t remember those 4 digits until about a year later! It was a bizarre experience.

Continue reading 10 Important Memory Tricks for Pianists

Effective Musical Learning

My article Sound before Symbol: Lessons from History has been one of the most popular and widely welcomed posts here on the Pianodao site. If you haven’t seen it already please have a read, because this post is in effect an addendum and update to that one.

Continue reading Effective Musical Learning

Playing the Piano “for Fun”?

I recently asked the members of an online piano teaching forum the following question:

“I want to learn to play piano for fun…”
What do you think when pupils/parents say this to you?

Perhaps it’s no surprise that answers ranged from “Get a trampoline!” at one end of the spectrum to “Great – that’s the best reason!” at the other. And the constructive debate that followed proved to be very interesting and enlightening. 

With this in mind, I would like to share a few of my own views and hope this will encourage further thought and ongoing discussion within the teaching and piano community.

Continue reading Playing the Piano “for Fun”?

Motivation: one size doesn’t fit all

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

What is motivation and how does it relate to music teaching?

Motivation is all to do with thoughts and tasks becoming actions.

There are 10,050 minutes between one 30 minute weekly music lesson and the next – or 10,020 minutes for a weekly hour music lesson.

Here are some ideas to hopefully motivate students to use the time in between lessons musically!

Continue reading Motivation: one size doesn’t fit all

The Definitive Bartók Edition?

Sheet Music Review

It is 1975. In the living room of a Victorian house in the middle of Bedford sits a nine-year-old boy at the piano. Fired by a life-changing encounter with the music of Mozart he recently started lessons, and dreams of one day “going in for” music.

For now though, he stares quizzically at the somewhat forbidding book on the music stand – 32 Klavierstücke by somebody called Béla Bartók. His piano teacher has set the first two pieces this week – The Little Lane and Game.

But what kind of music is this?? Very odd… but enchanting!

Four decades later, and one of the greatest joys and privileges I experience as a piano teacher is to see – time and time again – piano students young and old experience this same epiphany, this first discovery of the beguiling beauty and brilliance of Bartók’s extraordinary music for piano.

Continue reading The Definitive Bartók Edition?

Burgmüller: 25 Easy & Progressive Studies Op.100

J.F.F.Burgmüller (1806-1875) was a popular pianist based in Paris who improvised hundreds of Salon Pieces as well as composing a wide range of instrumental music.

He is best known today for his Piano Exercises, notable the 25 Easy and Progressive Studies Op.100. Although called “studies”, and very beneficial for piano playing technique, these are actually very attractive pieces which remain favourites with students of all ages.

I have recorded all 25 of these popular pieces as a resource to help students, and am making the recordings publicly available here so that other players and teachers can have a listen and freely download them for a limited time.



Individual tracks can be freely downloaded from my SoundCloud page here.

I hope you find these recordings useful – and perhaps feel inspired to play these very enjoyable classics for yourself!

The Sheet Music is available from Musicroom here.


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Radical Resources for Sight-Reading

Sheet Music Reviews

One of the certainties of my professional life in music has been the frequency with which I am asked to sight-read. This can include accompaniments at rehearsals, auditions, and even public concerts. More informally I often find myself sight-reading when pupils bring their own choices of pieces to learn. So I am very grateful to those teachers who, often in spite of my protests, ensured that sight-reading was a part of my musical learning.

Karen Marshall’s recent article  A Practical Guide to Teaching Sight-reading’  has been warmly received with more than 2,000 readers already turning to it for advice since it was published at the weekend. This shows the extent to which piano teachers are keen to discover effective ways to teach sight-reading.

As a follow up, I am now going to overview two recent series of publications which aim to break the mould and make sight-reading more relevant and pleasurable than is often the case – innovative and exciting publications which I am sure readers will want to explore…

Continue reading Radical Resources for Sight-Reading

My First Beethoven

Pianodao Choice

In my recent review of Schott’s ‘My First Schumann’ I concluded :

“This is a collection that will “keep on giving”, with such a great selection of pieces for students to enjoy over a number of years… ‘My First Schumann’ is a brilliant introduction to one of the world’s greatest ever piano composers. Highly Recommended!”

Hot on its heels comes the latest book in the series, ‘My First Beethoven’. Can it repeat the success of the previous book?

Let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading My First Beethoven

Confessions of a piano student.

Regular guest author Simon Reich (pictured above as a little boy) has a confession to make… 

“I’d let down my piano teacher, my parents and ultimately myself, by not being able to read music better than my grades suggested”. This was the unfortunate soundtrack playing inside my head, each time I went to piano lessons.

But deep inside me a sleeping talent was about to emerge – and I didn’t yet know it!

Continue reading Confessions of a piano student.

My First Schumann

Pianodao Choice

Schott Music, the revered German publishers founded back in 1770, are maintaining an impressive commitment to new piano music publishing projects, including a wide range of resources and publications for players of all levels.

Of particular interest to intermediate players (and their teachers) will be there ongoing “My First …” series. The first two issues (Bach and Mozart – see below) have recently been joined by “My First Schumann”, which I am delighted to review here.

Continue reading My First Schumann

Animal Jazz (Barbara Snow)

Sheet Music Review

Edition HH is a publishing house founded by Norwegian musician Per Hartmann, and based in Oxfordshire, UK. Their eclectic and ever-expanding catalogue embraces contemporary scores and scholarly performing editions of rarer items in the musical repertoire, from the Renaissance to the Romantic periods.

‘Animal Jazz’ is a recent addition, a selection of 15 brand new original short pieces for piano solo composed by London-based musician Barbara Snow.

Continue reading Animal Jazz (Barbara Snow)

‘Magic Beans’ (Ben Crosland)

Sheet Music Review

‘Magic Beans’ is the latest collection of easy piano pieces by Ben Crosland, and will be published on Saturday 5th March 2016. Having received an advance copy from publisher Editions Musica Ferrum, I am delighted to offer this first in-depth review of the book…

Continue reading ‘Magic Beans’ (Ben Crosland)

“Practice Starters” – Pick a Card!

New from Paul Harris and Faber Music, and launched at Music Education Expo in London today, “Practice Starters” is a pack of cards which aims to kick start and refresh your practice sessions. And it’s a lot of fun!..

Continue reading “Practice Starters” – Pick a Card!

The “People Person” Piano Teacher

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

In memory of Enid Oughtibridge, 1993

A number of years ago I wrote an article for Music Teacher Magazine after interviewing a large number of children on a theme of ‘what makes a good music lesson or music teacher’. It became pretty clear that the teacher’s personality was just as important (if not more important) than their subject knowledge.

Time and time again students would talk about the importance of the teacher making them feel ‘liked’, showing interest in them and simply ‘smiling’ on their arrival in lessons.

In this blog I want to share with you my experience with one of my teachers, who I feel was a powerful influence in my teaching career and the ultimate in being a ‘people person piano teacher’.

Continue reading The “People Person” Piano Teacher

Let’s talk about our practice expectations

Pathways for Teaching

Lack of practice is an issue that most piano players grapple with at some point – and it is something that teachers don’t always handle graciously and with understanding…

Continue reading Let’s talk about our practice expectations

Am I Really Good Enough?

Guest author Frances Wilson considers a question we all ask ourselves from time to time, sometimes more frequently than we should…

Continue reading Am I Really Good Enough?

The Practising, Playing, Performing Piano Teacher

In this Guest Post, well-known author and regular Pianodao contributor Karen Marshall considers how teachers can continue developing their own journey at the piano …

Continue reading The Practising, Playing, Performing Piano Teacher

21 Amazingly Easy Pieces

Repertoire: Elementary

21 Amazingly Easy Pieces is an original collection of new pieces  by Barbara Arens, published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 2014, which has recently come to my attention – and I am seriously impressed with it.

Composer Barbara Arens is a passionately dedicated piano teacher. She began her studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg at the age of 13. After a concert career performing primarily as harpsichordist and organist, she now puts her diverse abilities and experiences into composing for her piano
pupils. She presently lives near Würzburg, Germany, after living in Beirut, Dallas, San Francisco, Singapore, Salzburg, London and Munich.

Knowing that Barbara has such extensive experience – of performing, of teaching, and of the world – gave me high hopes for these books, and I was not disappointed.

Continue reading 21 Amazingly Easy Pieces

The Art of Piano Pedagogy

The great Russian pedagogue Heinrich Neuhaus (who taught such legendary classical pianists as Radu Lupu, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels) wrote:

“I consider that one of the main tasks of a teacher is to ensure as quickly and as thoroughly as possible that he is no longer necessary to the pupil; to eliminate himself, to leave the stage in time, in other words to inculcate in the pupil that independent thinking, that method of work, that knowledge of self and ability to reach his goal which we term ‘maturity’, the threshold beyond which begins mastery.”

Heinrich Neuhaus
‘The Art of Piano Playing’,
trans. K.A. Leibovitch, London 1973

Continue reading The Art of Piano Pedagogy

Karen Marshall: “Bespoke Teaching”

I am delighted to welcome Karen Marshall, the co-author of the excellent “Get Set! Piano” series and compiler of the ABRSM Encore books, as a regular contributor on the Pianodao site. In this, Karen’s first post here, she explores the importance of personalised teaching…

Continue reading Karen Marshall: “Bespoke Teaching”

Piano Technique, Weight in Motion, Boxing, Taichichuan and The Cherry Tomato

Guest Author Mark Polishook takes a look at the benefits of weight-based piano technique, with reference to boxing, martial arts and … cherry tomatoes.

Continue reading Piano Technique, Weight in Motion, Boxing, Taichichuan and The Cherry Tomato

“Sound before symbol”: lessons from history

Pathways for Teaching

Musicians and teachers often debate the relative merits of aural-based learning versus a notation-driven approach. Seeing the topic wheeled out for discussion again recently, I was reminded of this brilliant quote by the legendary concert pianist Andor Földes, taken from his book “Keys to the Keyboard” written back in 1950 :

“There is no such thing as a proper age for a child to start playing the piano. I avoid saying ‘to start his musical education’ because I believe that an education in music should start very early, perhaps years before the child ever actually learns how to read notes, or can find his way among the black and white keys.”

Földes’ basic point – made some four decades before “The Sounding Symbol” by George Odam re-popularised the phrase “sound before symbol” – is that music is essentially an aural language, and that playing and reading must build on that foundation.

Continue reading “Sound before symbol”: lessons from history

“Get Set! Piano”: six reasons to get excited!

Sheet Music Review

“Get Set! Piano” comprises two method books, two books of supplementary pieces, and extensive free website materials, all brought to us by Harper Collins. Aimed at younger beginners, the books claim to cover everything that pupils would need to know prior to taking Grade One piano (with any of the main boards).

Continue reading “Get Set! Piano”: six reasons to get excited!

Piano Lessons: Why 45 minutes?

During a recent forum discussion I mentioned that I prefer to teach my students for 45 minutes weekly or fortnightly, usually even when they are beginners (more advanced students often come for a consultation lesson once a month for 90 minutes).

The question was asked,

“45 minutes for somebody on Grade One is a lot, surely?
Isn’t 30 minutes plenty long enough?”

Continue reading Piano Lessons: Why 45 minutes?

“Grade by Grade”

Sheet Music Review

This innovative new series of books from Boosey & Hawkes makes the bold claim to be “the complete resource for the grade ‘x’ pianist”. But does it live up to its aims?

Continue reading “Grade by Grade”

ABRSM Encore! A game changer?

Sheet Music Review

Over the years ABRSM have produced a steady flow of graded piano repertoire books to supplement their exam resources, with series such as A Keyboard Anthology and Short Romantic Pieces becoming standard items in the teacher’s library.

However, one could have been forgiven for wondering whether some of these selections were made up of the most obscure pieces set in previous syllabi rather than the most widely enjoyed. So when Faber Music brought out their “Best of Grade…” books a few years ago, those looking for a one-stop collection of consistently appealing and varied pieces breathed a collective sigh of relief.

This summer ABRSM have responded with the publication of Encore, a set of four books which, based on their own data, include the most popular pieces featured in graded exams over the last decade or so.

Happily these collections include some great in-house pieces and arrangements now unavailable elsewhere. So, might these books play a central role in students learning over the next few years?

Let’s take a closer look.

Continue reading ABRSM Encore! A game changer?

Lucinda Mackworth-Young: “Piano by Ear”

Sheet Music Review

Lucinda Mackworth-Young’s new book “Piano by Ear” fills a massive gap in the market. Here’s my review :

Quite simply this is the book that I, and no doubt many other thousands of pianists and teachers, have been waiting for. For years!

I even considered writing something like it myself at one point, back at the time my own Keyquest books for electronic keyboard were just out. But thank goodness – Lucinda Mackworth-Young has saved us all the effort, and has certainly done a great job of it!

Continue reading Lucinda Mackworth-Young: “Piano by Ear”

“The Creative Pianist”: Interview with Mark Polishook

Interview by Guest Writer, Simon Reich

I have always thought that to be a well-regarded teacher in a particular area, you need to know the subject inside and out and be a proficient exponent of the subject and Mark Polishook is definitely one of those.

Continue reading “The Creative Pianist”: Interview with Mark Polishook

Finding your own way…

Concert pianist and writer Charles Rosen (1927-2012) offers some interesting advice in his book “Piano Notes

Do you agree with his conclusions?

“…  any dogmatic system of teaching technique is pernicious. Most pianists, in fact, have to work to some extent in late adolescence to undo the effects of their early instruction and find an idiosyncratic method that suits them personally.

Not only the individual shape of the hand counts but even the whole corporal shape. That is why there is no optimum position for sitting at the piano, in spite of what many pedagogues think.”

Charles Rosen: Piano Notes – The Hidden World of the Pianist (2002)


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The site is funded with the help of reader donations.
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