Sheet Music Review
It used to be possible to joke that piano exam syllabi, like busses, arrived three at a time. But with the addition of the Music Teachers’ Board to the mix and fresh arrival of a “classical” syllabus from RSL Awards (Rockschool), students and teachers have five fully and equally accredited UK boards to choose between.
A disclaimer at the start. Eagle-eyed readers will soon spot that in the nine RSL Classical Piano books the name Andrew Eales appears as a “syllabus consultant”. While I didn’t actually contribute directly to the syllabus, I did offer a little feedback in the later stages of its conception.
On the plus side this perhaps gives me particular insight, but at the same time I will try to maintain distance, as ever avoid bias, and focus on providing the independent factual outline that you need in order to evaluate for yourself whether the syllabus might be the right fit you.
So let’s take a look…
Continue reading RSL Classical Piano
Sheet Music Review
With the publication of their 2021-22 Piano Syllabus (reviewed in full here), ABRSM have given their scales requirements a significant overhaul, also publishing new scales books and resources.
In this review I will consider three main areas of this development:
- The new syllabus requirements
- The new ABRSM Piano Scales & Arpeggios books
- Scale Explorer for Piano – a new series of five graded books written for ABRSM by Alan Bullard
Let’s get straight to it…
Continue reading ABRSM Piano Scales 2021
Sheet Music Review
For 2020/2021 I am pleased to present an updated feature on the adult method books I most highly recommend.
I’ll start with in-depth reviews of my Top 5 Choices. After that I will also include shorter reviews of some other great alternatives.
One of the most exciting developments over the course of my piano career has been the huge increase in adults taking up lessons. I have lost count of the number of adult beginners I’ve had the pleasure of teaching over the last three decades; at present I teach more than 30 adults.
I’ve seen adults taking up the piano for many reasons; some wish they had learnt when they were younger, while for others taking up piano as an adult is the next chapter in a growing musical interest.
Whatever the reason for starting lessons, the last thing most adults want is to be presented with Jimmy Timpson’s First Piano Lessons for Tiny Tots, or a minor variation with the word “adult” cannily stamped on the front cover.
And that’s perhaps one reason why my round-up of the adult beginner method books was by far the most-read article on Pianodao in 2019.
Fully refreshed for 2020/21, I’m delighted to present this updated and expanded version, including two major methods not mentioned last year.
But we’ll again begin with my top tips (also updated!) about what to look for in an adult method book, and why adults learn the piano differently to younger beginners…
Continue reading Which Adult Piano Method 20/21?
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
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
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
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 series. This 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
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
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