LET IT GO, HAPPY & MORE HOT SINGLES – Grade Two

00128204FCThis book offers a great collection of chart topping pop and movie hits – with everyone’s favourite song of the moment… LET IT GO (OOOO) *cue theatrical vocal rendition*!

As the most accessible piece of the folio, Dark Horse could be introduced to grade 1 students, with the remaining selections used as motivation to achieve good exam results (starting on the funky Grade 2 pieces just in time for the Christmas holidays!)

The arrangement of Happy is my pick of the bunch, cleverly swapping the melodic line between right and left hand to imitate the solo and echo voices featured in the original (i.e. start of the chorus, bar 18).

Much of the remaining left hand work provides a stable percussive beat to ‘keep toes tapping’!

On a lighter note, this book is ideal for teachers and parents who really can’t bear the thought of more than one Frozen song on the practice list!

The 8 page long arrangement of Let It Go will keep developing pianists entertained for a while and pays homage to the original recording!

Although some passages will require careful fingering and attention, generally, the pieces sound more difficult than they actually are – great for end of year concerts to impress!

A great all rounder… 4 stars!

Thanks to Toowoomba piano teacher Courtney Feldman for this review.

Item code is 128204. This book is available from your favourite music retail store.

PRISM – KATY PERRY (Easy Piano – Grade One)

00124409FCCalling all Katy Perry fans!

This book features well-written and easy arrangements of songs from the DELUXE edition of the pop diva’s 2013 album ‘Prism’.

The page layout is crisp, fresh and easy to read – with simple key signatures and uncluttered staff spacing. Rhythmically, the songs are relatively straightforward, with only dotted rhythms, tied notes and triplets needing a special mention.

The melody is generally taken by the right hand (with left hand chordal accompaniment) and sounds true to the original, allowing students to quickly learn their favourite parts and sing along… perfect for budding singers who want to self accompany! Chord symbols range from basic root position (i.e C, G, Em) through to dominant/major/minor 7 and 9 (Birthday, Unconditionally), suspensions (Love Me), add2 (Ghost) and b5 (By The Grace of God).

Lyrics are included, but due to some suggestive content, the book may be better suited to teen-aged pianists. Whether you’re seeking to just play along with the melody, or to take a more in depth look at the the harmonic structure and form, this book is full of options for students (and their teachers!)

A perfect addition to the music library of all KP fans…. I give it 4 stars!

Thanks to Toowoomba piano teacher Courtney Feldman for this review.

Item code is 124409. This book is available from your favourite music retail store.

SAY SOMETHING, COUNTING STARS & MORE HOT SINGLES – Grade One

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A fabulously current book that pianists of all ages will love to play!

Featuring accessible arrangements of five chart topping pop singles, this book would be the perfect reward for students progressing through the 40 Piece Challenge – or perhaps even as an early Christmas present for your child!

With the addition of well-considered fingering suggestions, most students could comfortably work through the book at their own pace, but may need some guidance for translating trickier chord symbols such as add4 (Say Something), minor 7, added 6 and suspensions (Story of My Life).

All repeats, dal segno and codas are clearly marked, so the lack of bar numbers shouldn’t be noticed.

The arrangements are generally capped at intervals of a sixth (and any shifts or octave jumps can be achieved with clever pedalling) – so smaller handed pianists need not worry!)

Lyrics are neatly incorporated and the layout is clear, concise and easy to read. An accessible and funky resource, good value for money… I give it 5 stars!

Thanks to Toowoomba piano teacher Courtney Feldman for this review.

Item code is 125356. This book is available from your favourite music retail store.

UP ALL NIGHT – ONE DIRECTION (Easy Piano – Grade One)

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Squeals of joy will be heard when tween-age girls are presented with this fabulous collection of hits from British boy band sensation One Direction (or so was the case for my students!)

The album contains simple and easy-to-read arrangements of hits from the group’s 2011 debut album Up All Night, the perfect book to reward progress with the 40 Piece Challenge or good exam results!

But the benefits of this resource don’t stop at fun play… In addition to strengthening notational reading skills, students will be extending their chordal vocabulary with ‘sneaky suspensions’, added 2nds, major and minor 7th chords.

Rhythms range from basic crotchet and minim phrases to more complex dotted patterns, tied notes and syncopation. As an added teaching bonus, More Than This features brief time signature changes, a great opportunity to strengthen inner pulsing. The absence of bar numbers could be used to introduce pop-song form, encouraging students to complete basic song analysis to identify verses, chorus, bridge etc. Whole lessons could be spent working ‘outside the staff’ even before playing commences!

A great book with relevant music and ample teaching opportunities… I give it 5 stars!

Thanks to Toowoomba piano teacher Courtney Feldman for this review.

Item code is 124571. This book is available from your favourite music retail store.

Piano Music of Amy Beach

Big thanks to Geelong piano teacher Helen O’Brien for this review.

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The late-nineteenth-century American composer, Amy Beach, was taught by a pupil of Franz Liszt and the virtuosity of her training is evident in these piano works.

The current volume contains many fine examples of her lush Romantic style, and while influences of major Romantic composers are apparent, there is no sense of derivative writing. The compositions are impressive in both technical scope and musical inventiveness. These works are essentially character pieces, sometimes erring towards vignettes, excepting the last work which is a substantial set called Variations on Balkan Themes.

Some of the notable inclusions are: Arctic Night and although seemingly the least dense notation-wise, requires careful legato and voicing; In Autumn, a delicate but quietly virtuosic piece, has obvious touches of Tchaikovsky and Chopin. Fire-Flies is a wonderful study in playing thirds but without the searing complexity of the technical extremes encountered in Chopin’s Etude Op.25 no.6.

Most of the works in this Album are quite advanced: in an Australian context they would be equivalent to Grade 8 and beyond with the exception of Arctic Night.

I would highly recommend this collection to Australian teachers with advancing students as Beach’s compositions offer an untapped resource of material worthy of inclusion in competitions, recitals and general repertoire development. The volume is well-produced, offering clear editing and layout.

Verdict: A great addition to any music collection.

Item code is 121629

This book is available at all good print music retail stores.

 

Piano Puzzlers

We welcome Geelong piano teacher Helen O’Brien to our review team and thank her for this review.

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This book represents an unusual compilation of pieces originating from mash-ups presented for radio. The idea was to combine famous works in a well-disguised manner in order to discover the unique styles of composers. In other words, these pieces are best described as quasi-pastiches.

The works require a certain degree of musical familiarity with many styles and some of the songs referenced may or may not be well-known to Australian students. One of the best uses for this book— apart from the entertainment value, especially for adult students who may be more acquainted with some of the obscure choices— is to use it for composition study. Because of modern copyright laws, the age-old fashion for writing pastiches as part of the learning process —something done in both literary and musical fields— has been somewhat stifled. This book is about compositional exploration, that is, taking known ideas and synthesizing them into a completely new composition, hence the allusion to puzzles.

For anyone familiar with Arthur Wilson’s Beatlecracker Suite, this set of pieces could be best described as belonging to that genre of writing.

Certainly an interesting book but probably best kept for older students.

Item code is 42709 and it is now available from your favourite music retail store.

ChordTime Piano Jazz & Blues

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This year we are welcoming a new team of reviewers who are discovering all kinds of interesting publications that are proving useful when selecting 40 Piece Challenge repertoire. This review is by piano teacher Rachel Yeo from NSW.

ChordTime Piano Jazz & Blues is proving to be an interesting addition to my collection of teaching materials. For those familiar with Faber method books, this book is around Level 2B with an emphasis on mastering chords I, IV and V in the keys of C, G and F. As the title suggests, it is a collection of jazz and blues tunes and it introduces swing rhythms.

This book is a great way to introduce swing rhythms. It provides strategies such as tapping exercises and mini-practice plans to help a student to get into the swing of it (excuse the pun!). It also has questions at the end of each piece to encourage the student to think about the chords, rhythms and musical terms used. The collection features twelve songs consisting a mixture of original tunes as well as popular ones such as Fly Me to the Moon and Tea for Two.

I like this book as it introduces a whole new world of piano repertoire at an early stage. The pieces sound cool and harder to play than they actually are. It is great not just for students in their first or second year of piano lessons but it also provides wonderful sight-reading practice and distraction from exam repertoire for higher grade students. I like this book so much that I want to buy the next level of the same series!