Uplifting Piano Solos

Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by ANDREW EALES.

I recently reviewed a series of seven books of arrangements of popular religious songs by Glenda Austin, an esteemed pedagogue, composer and arranger from Missouri USA. As I mentioned in my conclusion to that review, Solos for the Sanctuary offer their own masterclass in how to take a simple melody and create an engaging piano solo, rich in musical substance.

Now Austin is back with a brand new secular collection from The Willis Music Company. Uplifting Piano Solos offers “ten inspiring arrangements” suitable for intermediate to early advanced players, and I would suggest that the collection would suit players at around UK Grades 5-7 level.

I am thrilled to welcome this, a collection that showcases Austin’s brilliant skill to a potentially broader audience. So let’s take a quick look…

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Naoko Ikeda • The Graded Collection

Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by ANDREW EALES.

Following the success of my series of three Graded Gillock collections published by Willis Music last year, I was delighted to be asked to compile a companion collection showcasing the wonderful music of Japanese composer Naoko Ikeda. The collection, now available from Willis Music, can be purchased from the Musicroom website here.

Naoko Ikeda: The Graded Collection includes 24 of Ikeda’s best solo piano pieces, organised in approximate order of difficulty and appropriately grouped according to the UK Grade system from Grade 2 to Grade 5 level.

These stunning pieces would make wonderful selections as “own choices” in Performance Grades, and with six pieces for each of the four grades covered, they provide a rich feast to enhance the player’s development throughout their intermediate playing years.

The pieces have been chosen to offer a flavour of the musical range of this fine composer, ranging from jazz and pop ballads to emotive pieces infused with the musical language and imagery of Japanese culture.

In the introduction that follows I will offer background to the collection in greater depth, as well as including my own piano recordings of 8 of the 24 pieces, which give a varied, representative preview of the collection.

You will also hear from Naoko Ikeda herself, as she shares about her creative journey in her own words…

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A Dozen A Day • All Year Round

Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by ANDREW EALES.

Edna-Mae Burnam’s six books of technical exercises, A Dozen A Day, quickly established themselves as classics in the piano pedagogy literature, and in the decades since their first appearance back in the 1950’s, their short routines and iconic illustrations have found their way into the hearts (and fingers) of developing pianists around the world, selling some 25 million copies.

In her introduction to the books, Burnam gets straight to the point in explaining the value of A Dozen A Day:

“Many people do exercises every morning before they go to work. Likewise, we should all give our fingers exercises every day BEFORE we begin our practising.”

The joy and the genius with which the book’s famous and ever-popular stick characters convey this message cannot be overstated, and is a testament to the book’s enduring appeal and generation-busting brilliance.

I have been using these little books with my students since I first started teaching in the 1990’s, and although they have featured less prominently in my studio in recent years, they continue to make their appearance, and offer a hugely useful resource which can be used from the very first lessons, and right up to advanced level.

Encouraging a fresh look, publishers Willis Music brought out a bumper edition back in 2017, which I am going to be focusing on in this review. A Dozen A Day: All Year Round offers additional attractions for teachers, which I will outline, but I would still steer students towards the individual books, appropriate for each level.

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