Autumn Repertoire Challenge

The Autumn Repertoire Challenge is ideal for players of all ages, and offers a great starting point for developing and building an Active Repertoire at the piano. Are you up for it?


Getting Started

As we all return from summer holidays and look ahead to the cooler weather and darker evenings, we can feel daunted.

What can we remember about piano playing? Hopefully we have several pieces ready to play, thanks to the Summer Repertoire Challenge, but also there’s a sense of the new, and that in the months ahead it’s time to work on new projects, prepare for concerts and exams later in the season, and leave behind what we’ve played before.

Having new projects is always exciting, but let’s not forget to continue playing our favourite pieces, ensuring that we always have a good answer to the simple question What Can You Play?

And it’s this question which underlines the importance of developing an Active Repertoire…

An Active What?

I have written here before about the need for pianists to take the time to enjoy playing the piano, not just working at it. 

And I am on a mission to enthuse players everywhere to develop an Active Repertoire. The Autumn Repertoire Challenge is rooted in this vision. 

There are two parts to the challenge:

Firstly, the Challenge encourage players to list three pieces that are performance-ready. Throughout the coming season commit to:

1. Play the three pieces regularly – if possible, daily. For most players this should only take a few minutes.

2. Try to memorise them. Allow the memorisation process can be as natural and unforced as possible over the coming months.

3. Play the pieces to others. Perform to family and friends as much as you can this autumn. 

Perhaps this season, with many moving to new schools, colleges and jobs, will bring an opportunity to play to a brand new audience.

Secondly, the Challenge encourages players to learn a selection of brand new pieces over the coming months.

The Autumn Repertoire Sheet includes nine spaces to list a new set of pieces you would like to have a go at learning.

These longer evenings can offer a good opportunity to sit down at the piano and tackle a host of new pieces which can later be honed and polished for performance as required.

Your Autumn Sheet

Use the sheet to hold yourself (and your students) to account:
Making a written list makes it official!

You can download your FREE Autumn Repertoire Challenge Sheet here, and distribute the sheets to other players and students:

pdf-logo   Autumn Repertoire Sheet

What’s Next?

If you are a teacher, think about opportunities for your students to perform their Active Repertoire pieces, and listen to them regularly in lessons.

If you are a player, make sure you keep your Autumn Repertoire Sheet with your piano music and use it to the full.

Challenge yourself and others to develop an Active Repertoire!

More Info: Getting Started Guide


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Fun Games and Party Pieces

Sheet Music Review

A couple of years ago I reviewed Rosamund Conrad’s Delightfully Easy Duet Books along with several other duet publications (read the review here), concluding,

“I would highly recommend having a look at the two books – I don’t think you will be disappointed!”

At the time I also received a copy of Rosa’s beginner piano book Fun Games and Party Pieces, which I was equally impressed with but didn’t manage to review. Now however, Rosa has brought out a “Second Edition” of Fun Games and Party Pieces, including 50% extra, new material!

And again, it is well worth a look …

Continue reading Fun Games and Party Pieces

Simple fixes for easing piano pain

Lesson Notes

Please note: “Bernice” is not the student’s real name.
However, her story is told here with permission, and with my gratitude.


Bernice is a 76-year-old learner who took up the piano about 5 years ago. She has made steady progress, is now early intermediate level, and particularly enjoys playing traditional classical favourites.

Bernice’s Wrist Problem

Bernice has recently developed some physical problems in her wrist area. On the right wrist, she has a large ganglion close to the base of her thumb, which cases mild discomfort. The surgeon she has consulted is going to remove this soon.

On the left wrist she has a more chronic problem. Here there is a ganglion just below the fifth finger, not noticeable to the eye, and a scan has revealed that it is pressing against a nerve. There is possibly also minor swelling in the tendon. The medical specialist cannot operate, but has suggested that with care and anti-inflammatories the problem may dissipate.

The mention of tendons might be enough to convince some that piano playing should be avoided altogether. It is natural that we teachers don’t want our students to experience pain, and most of us will be aware of the real danger that tendonitis presents to pianists.

However, the medical advice here is that it is fine for Bernice to continue playing the piano, provided she is careful and exercises moderation. The hospital specialist has pointed out that such problems, as well as arthritis, might become an ongoing issue, but that these need not stop her from pursing her love for music (which is real and important to her).

Happily then, we can assume that Bernice’s medical problems are essential “minor” at present. But this doesn’t diminish the discomfort she reported when coming to her lesson, nor her fear that she might not be able to continue playing.

Continue reading Simple fixes for easing piano pain

What Makes a Good Lesson?

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

A Student Perspective

Have you ever asked your student what makes a good instrumental lesson?

A number of years ago I did just that in a secondary school. There was a whole class full of students of different ages, learning different instruments with a variety of teachers.

Their feedback was enlightening. Here are the main themes, the messages I believe are still valuable.

Whilst revising this, from a personal perspective, it was a useful reminder to ask and listen more to the needs of my students and to think more creatively – especially when teaching sight reading and scales.

So, what did they say …

Continue reading What Makes a Good Lesson?

A Halloween Treat

Guest Post by Alison Mathews

including Free Sheet Music and Lesson Activity downloads


With Halloween approaching, it is an excellent time to engage pupils in some creative work and explore the evocative and haunting sounds the piano can make. I’d like to share a short story and resources that may inspire you and your pupils to be creative!

Continue reading A Halloween Treat

Get Set! Advent Calendar

Guest Post by Karen Marshall & David Blackwell

We are thrilled to be able to offer this Practice Advent Calendar to Pianodao readers.

The idea of a Practice Advent Calendar went down really well with Karen’s students last Christmas. That little bit of extra reward and recognition can be very helpful to motivate music practice.

1The simple logo-like Christmas symbol illustrations (for each day in December up to the 24th) are line drawings for children to colour in.

We are excited to see finished advent calendars in the future so please do take pictures and show us them on social media. We’d love to see them!

We really hope it will inspire your students to do a little more practice this festive period but most of all, to have some fun!

pdf-logo   Practice Advent Calendar  [PDF Download]

Very best wishes, Karen Marshall and David Blackwell

Continue reading Get Set! Advent Calendar

The Foundation Pianist

Sheet Music Review

Around this time last year, Faber Music unleashed The Intermediate Pianist series, co-authored by Karen Marshall and Heather Hammond. It was a solid success, warmly received by teachers and students alike, and in my Pianodao review I wrote:

“The Intermediate Pianist books get right to the heart of what learning music is really all about. This truly could prove a milestone publication – don’t miss it!”

As many readers will know, The Intermediate Pianist deservedly went on to win Best Print Resource at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence 2018.

This Autumn, it’s a joy to welcome the arrival of The Foundation Pianist, two companion books in Faber’s growing Piano Trainer seriesThis time, Karen is joined by new co-author David Blackwell.

Let’s see what’s included, and consider how these books might fit into a rounded curriculum for young pianists…

Continue reading The Foundation Pianist

The Problem with Method Books

Pathways for Teaching

Few topics generate as much heat online as discussion about which piano Method Book series is ‘the best’.

As a reviewer I have more than once found myself on the receiving end of some odd feedback on the subject. One teacher might chastise me for being in their view way too generous in my evaluation of a particular Method Book, while another responds to the same review as if I had just personally insulted their favourite grandma.

In this post I will explain why there will never be a truly perfect Method Book. We’ll consider a balanced curriculum, stare into the abyss of a world without Method Books at all, and hopefully come away with a better idea of how to use Method Books in a sensible, balanced way.

Continue reading The Problem with Method Books

Using Rounds in Piano Teaching

Guest post by Karen Marshall

I was first introduced to singing rounds as a very young child at Primary school…

It was much later in life that I realised their potential for instrumental use. I can remember being quite miffed that – even though I learnt three instruments – I’d not played one round during any of my instrumental lessons.

I try to incorporate rounds into my piano teaching along with using them constantly in my choir and whole school singing assemblies (I work as a music specialist in a Primary School along side piano teaching).

Continue reading Using Rounds in Piano Teaching

Piano Lessons: Dealing with Anxiety

I am sure that most piano teachers will be alert to the fact that some pupils coming to lessons are anxious. This post will look at some reasons for that, and offer some suggestions that might help normalise lessons.

The article is written for any player who has ever said – and any teacher who has ever heard – the words:

“It was perfect when I practised it at home this morning…”

Clearly, in order for student and teacher to make the most of any piano lesson we all want to move beyond this point!

Continue reading Piano Lessons: Dealing with Anxiety