Paul Harris Webinar: A Piece a Week

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Paul Harris’s Piece a Week series has been among the triumphs of recent years. In my own teaching these books have become a staple with students of all ages, and the number one top sight reading resource that I recommend and use. I have reviewed the books for Grade 1-6 here and for Initial Grade here.

Now Faber Music bring us a combined book covering Grades 7 and 8, which completes the series. The book maintains the educational approach and musical engagement of its predecessors, so for more information please be sure to read those previous reviews.

The final book well and truly lives up to the sky-high standards of the rest in the series, and is in my view truly superb.

To give you a taste, Faber Music have generously provided this FREE piece from the book as an exclusive Pianodao download:


And now for Paul Harris in person…

Faber Music kindly organised a special webinar for Pianodao Tea Room members, celebrating the new release and giving him the opportunity to outline the series in person, introduce the final book, play some of the pieces, and answer questions. For those who missed it, I am pleased to share the full webinar recording below.

To catch future events in the Tea Room, why not come and join us?

Here is the recording…


To use the special promotional code announced by Rachel Topham in the webinar, here is the Faber Music online purchase link.

The Piece a Week series is available now from music retailers everywhere.


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The Future of ABRSM Grades?

Written by Andrew Eales
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In the last couple of weeks I have come across two well argued letters in the music press, the first by Alex Aitken and published in the September 2021 issue of Music Teacher magazine, the second by Pauline Carter and appearing in the October issue of the BBC Music Magazine.

Both letter writers lament a perceived decline in music education, singling out ABRSM as being uniquely responsible for this malaise. Their charge is probably unavoidable, and not without merit bearing in mind that ABRSM are in their own words,

“…the UK’s largest music education body, and the world’s leading provider of music exams.”

The diametrically different solutions each of the two propose points to the serious challenge ABRSM now face in charting a path that reconnects with all of their stakeholders, wins wide support, and restores confidence in their ability to (as they put it) “inspire musical achievement”.

It is certainly beyond doubt that many in music education are reflecting anew on the role, relevance and value of music exams:

What is the future of ABRSM grades?

I am coming to the view that it’s time to focus on a live performance assessment and scrap divisive “support tests” and other prerequisites from grade exams. Done well, this could raise a bar which does seem to have been steadily slipping in recent years, while better matching the real-world priorities of the 21st century.

When ABRSM announced their “Performance Grades” a few months back, I admit that I was skeptical. But having listened carefully to a range of opinion, I now believe that making the performance of music the whole focus of graded assessments could prove unifying, provided the exams themselves are available live and not just digitally.

Continue reading The Future of ABRSM Grades?

Piano Sight Reading: A Progressive Method

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Few professional musicians would question the value and usefulness of sight reading, meaning that skill which allows us to play music that we’ve never heard, just from the notation, and without preparation.

As a teacher who allows my students considerable freedom to choose the music they want to learn and bring along to the lesson, I find myself relying on this skill very regularly. And yet some teachers and students treat the development of sight reading as an afterthought, and a rather dull one at that. Compounding the problem, while sight reading has traditionally been an element of public grade exams, it is decreasingly so.

Trinity College London include sight reading as an optional test in their piano grade exams, but some teachers choose only to introduce it with “serious students” after intermediate level, and on the basis that players will at that point miraculously “get it”.

Perhaps this lack of enthusiasm will change with the launch of Trinity’s excellent new series, Sight Reading: A Progressive Method, a suite of three books offering a clear route for teaching sight reading skills from the get-go.

In common with most sight reading resources the series is linked to the grade exams, but happily it goes far beyond specimen tests and basic exam cramming, and can be used as a powerful resource to actually teach and develop sight reading ability.

As Trinity explain,

“The study of sight reading is valuable because it enables musicians to enjoy music that is new to them, either on their own or in a group. As with any other skill, confidence in sight reading comes with training and regular practice.”

So let’s take a look and see how the series can support teachers and students in those aims…

Continue reading Piano Sight Reading: A Progressive Method

A Piece a Week: “Initial Grade”

Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
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Regular readers will know that I am quite a fan of Paul Harris’s Piece a Week series from Faber Music, having found that using these books within my own teaching practice has helped many of my students significantly improve in their music literacy and ability to learn independently using notation.

My main review of the series is here.

Harris has just added a new book to the series, A Piece A Week: Initial Grade, which merits a separate review to the rest of the series for a variety of reasons which I will come to presently.

My first reaction to hearing about this book was admittedly mixed, on the one hand delighted that this wonderful resource has been extended to accommodate the needs of early elementary players, but the other hand stifling a weary sigh that in a year which has seen exam boards straining to dominate the music education agenda, yet more grade material has appeared for review.

But, extraordinary fellow that he is, Harris has an unnerving and seemingly inexhaustible knack for pleasantly surprising me, indeed, hugely exceeding my expectations. And I’m happy to report that he’s done it again…

Continue reading A Piece a Week: “Initial Grade”