ABRSM’s Michael Elliott: The Pianodao Interview

An Interview with Michael Elliott, Chief Executive, ABRSM

I am hugely grateful to Michael Elliott, Chief Executive of ABRSM, for giving up his time to take part in this interview. At his suggestion, the questions were crowd-sourced prior to the interview.

As well as the many questions raised on the Pianodao site here, I received several via email and have included topics raised on the Piano Network UK forum.

So far as possible I will include reader questions word for word, but I have streamlined the recurring themes which cropped up.

And many of the questions asked were very probing – so get comfortable and prepare for an in-depth and revealing read! …

Continue reading ABRSM’s Michael Elliott: The Pianodao Interview

What Can You Play?

One of the major stumbling blocks for players is that we too often feel that we are struggling, making little progress, and perhaps just haven’t got what it takes to become a “good player” (however we define what that even is!).

To enjoy playing an instrument, we need to move beyond this negative self-talk. And I suggest that one of the most easy and powerful ways we can all achieve this is to adjust the balance between working and playing during our personal piano time.

Continue reading What Can You Play?

Mark Tanner’s ‘The Mindful Pianist’

Book Review

Mindfulness” has become one of the buzzwords of the decade. We’ve no doubt all seen the regular articles about it in the popular press, exploring the possible benefits of mindfulness practice for our physical and mental health, productivity, learning, and general happiness.

But what of piano players – how can we benefit from mindfulness practice?

It’s a question for which we might hope to find answers in highly respected teacher, composer and pianist Mark Tanner’s hotly anticipated book and much lauded The Mindful Pianist, published by Faber Music this autumn.

Continue reading Mark Tanner’s ‘The Mindful Pianist’

Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection

Sheet Music Review

tim-richards-bluesTim Richards will be known to many readers as the best-selling author of the seminal Improvising Blues Piano, which set a new standard in jazz education publishing upon its first release back in 1997.

His follow up books Exploring Jazz Piano volumes 1 and 2, and Exploring Latin Piano (co-written with John Crawford de Cominges) have consolidated his place as a leading authority in the field of blues and jazz piano playing and teaching. Before proceeding, let me say that if you don’t already own Tim’s previous books, you owe it to yourself to buy copies right away.

Tim’s latest publication (once again brought to us by the forward-thinking Schott Music) is called Tim Richards Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection – hereafter BBGC for short.

Continue reading Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection

Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 2

Improvisation – Jump In!

Guest post by Simon Reich  (pictured)

The amazing thing about improvisation, in my experience, is the fact that inspiration and output can come no matter how I am feeling.

In fact, some of the best tunes I have composed have been when I am feeling down and compromised. The flip side to this is that when I am happy, the creative juices still flow! So in essence, nothing need hold you back from a productive improvisation.

As mentioned in the previous article, armed with your skills of scale and chord understanding it’s always the right time to start noodling around the keyboard and find a gem waiting to be unearthed. Sometimes it starts with a chord progression, other times a melody.

When I was quite young, I remember hearing certain tunes and feeling a funny tingling sensation in my stomach. This became my yardstick for great chord progressions. If I could make myself feel those “butterflies in my tummy”, I’d done it!

You are your own best guide to what sound good, so trust your intuition.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear – Jack Canfield

Continue reading Simon Reich on Improvisation: Part 2

Snow on Snow

Like many in the UK, I woke up to an early blast of freezing temperatures this morning. The frost is deep and crisp and even. The pond is starting to ice over. “The hose is froze”.

And while I live in a mild temperate climate, far from the extremes that many friends and colleagues around the world experience, there remains no doubt that winter is coming even here.

I always associate the different seasons and time of the year with different music. And like many composers that is also reflected in my writing.

With that in mind, here is something to listen to from the warmth of the indoors – a small composition of mine from a few seasons ago, called “Snow on Snow”. The words (which I read aloud) are from Christina Rosetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”.

If you enjoy this, do feel free to explore my other original music on SoundCloud.

Stay warm!