Top Hits of 2014 – Grade 1 plus

Big thanks to Samantha Coates who joins our review team!

ISam_Coates_067_cropt is my pleasure to write a short review on Top Hits of 2014

The Top Hits volume contains an impressive array of songs (16 in total), popular in 2014 and still popular now, ranging from Despicable Me’s ‘Happy’ and Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ through to pop hits such as John Legend’s ‘All of me’.

The arrangements are for ‘Easy Piano’ – that is, the rhythms have been well simplified and the bass parts do not contain any large leaps or complicated chords.

Whilst a competent Grade 1 student would be able to learn these pieces, some of the rhythms and coordinated required would be more suited to Grade 2 or 3.

Students in higher grades will still get a lot of joy from this book as the chord symbols shown are extremely helpful and a great start for those wanting to read from a chord chart.

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Song List:
All Of Me, Am I Wrong, Best Day Of My Life, Dark Horse, Fancy, Happy (from DESPICABLE ME 2), Let It Go (from Disney’s Animated Feature FROZEN), Love Never Felt So Good, Love Someone, Pompeii, Problem, Raging Fire, Sing, Stay With Me, Summer, Timber

Item code is 137795 and the Australian Recommended Retail price is $26.95 and it is available from all these fine retail stores.

Journey Through The Classics Complete

00110217FCA review by NSW piano teacher, Sharon Ellam.

Journey Through The Classics Complete With 2 CDs

Hal Leonard Piano Repertoire Elementary Through Intermediate

Compiled and Edited by Jennifer Linn 98 Essential Masterworks

What a delightful collection of ‘old faithfuls’ and several pleasant surprises!

My first delight was the pretty paper inside! With an artistic, yellowed, aged look, big note format, clear sections with increasing difficulty, well packaged CDs, a brief musical dictionary of common terms, a page of blank large manuscript and a Repertoire Performance Log inside the back cover, this book is visually and functionally appealing.

This compilation would be my ‘no brainer’ recommendation as a purchase for any young piano teacher needing some inspiration with young students, and students (adult or child) who are looking for one volume that enables a progressive journey through the classics with clearly identifiable goals.

This Collection combines four ‘Journey Through The Classics’ Books – Elementary, Late Elementary, Early Intermediate and Intermediate – beginning with pieces at P Plate Piano level progressing through to about 4th Grade level.

I have to put my hand up for pouncing on suitable 40 Piece Challenge pieces such as The Pennywhistle by Gottlob Turk and Gurlitt’s Little Bird Op. 117 No. 7. Four clear sections (Books 1 – 4) begin with a Reference Chart identifying the CD track number, Title, Composer, Era, Key, Meter and Challenge Elements.

The Challenge Elements clearly identify the progression of musical elements to be mastered in each piece.

The corresponding CD tracks, with quality solo recordings by Jennifer Linn (I was impressed by the clarity of the recordings in terms of articulation and colour), are masterful in their simplicity.

I sat all night listening to the CDs whilst following the music & couldn’t get enough (and that was after two days of sitting at the piano ‘tinkling’ to my heart’s delight)!

Highlights:

Shepherd’s Flute by Tat’iana Salutrinskaya

Bourree in D Minor by Graupne

Trumpet Tune by Duncombe

Waltz by Vogel

Arabian Air by Le Couppey

Morning Prayer Op. 101, No. 2 by Gurlitt

Tarantella Op. 14, No. 8 by Lynes

Church Bells by Camidge

Sad at Heart Op. 47, No. 5 by Fuchs

Sarabande by Pachelbel

Distant Bells Op. 63, No. 6 by Steabbog

The Bear by Rebikoff

Theme and Variation Op. 228 by Gurlitt

Tolling Bell Op. 125, No. 8 by Heller

The Limpid Stream Op. 100, No 7 by Burgmuller

Quiet Morning by Maykapar

Old French Song Op. 39, No 16  by Tchaikovsky

Sonatina in A Minor by Benda

By the Spring Op. 101, No. 5 by Gurlitt

The Avalanche Op. 45, No. 2 by Heller

The Storm Op. 109, No. 13 by Burgmuller

LORDE – PURE HEROINE – Grade One

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Featuring a collection of accessible arrangements of 17-year-old Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine, this book is perfect for teenage pianists who are in need of some fresh material (or extra motivation) in their piano practice.

The lyrics are fresh and relevant to high school students, while fingering suggestions help to make learning a breeze.

Repeats, dal segno and coda sections are clearly marked, with the layout in general uncluttered and easy-to-follow.

Chord symbols range from basic root position (i.e. C, G, Am) through to suspensions and 7th chords – a great opportunity to extend understanding of pop music through harmonic analysis.

The album is ideal for ‘jamming’ with friends during the lunch break and is sure to be a huge hit… 4 stars!

Thanks to Toowoomba piano teacher Courtney Feldman for this review.

Item code is 127822. This book is available from your favourite music retail store.

EMILI SANDÉ – OUR VERSION OF EVENTS – Grade One

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A book well suited to teenage students needing a ‘pop injection’ in their repertoire list.

Featuring acoustic, ‘stripped back’, arrangements of Sandé’s 2012 album Our Version of Events (with bonus track Read All About It which was featured at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games), the collection would be ideal to impress in school music performances.

Rhythms vary from basic crotchets and minims through to more complex syncopated and semiquaver passages (imitating the vocal runs of the original recording).

Chord symbols and fingering are included, allowing for logical reading and fast-tracked learning.

This one’s sure to be a favourite… 4 stars!

Thanks to Toowoomba piano teacher Courtney Feldman for this review.

Item code is 123798. This book is available from your favourite music retail store.

KIDS BROADWAY FAVOURITES (Easy Piano – Grade Two)

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A fabulous collection of Broadway hits from old favourite and modern musicals alike including Annie, Mary Poppins, Oliver, My Fair Lady and South Pacific, sure to keep pianists of all ages entertained!

Fingering suggestions are provided throughout along with chord symbols and easy-to-follow lyrics.

The music is uncluttered and clearly set out, allowing for easy reading. No bar numbers are marked, but repeats, dal segno and coda sections are clearly shown.

Some pieces will require careful attention, particularly those with ‘instrumental’ like passages between sections, but would be perfect for Eisteddfodau or concerts once performance ready.

Primary aged students will enjoy energetic selections like Consider Yourself, Part of Your World and A Spoonful of Sugar while older students (and adult learners) may prefer to revisit old favourites like Dites Moi, Getting to Know You and Wouldn’t it Be Loverly.

Use of pedal is suggested, but no specific indications are included, so the album may be better learnt (and enjoyed) with teacher guidance.

A fun and challenging resource… 5 stars!

Thanks to Toowoomba piano teacher Courtney Feldman for this review.

Item code is 124316. This book is available from your favourite music retail store.

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.

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.

 

All things Frozen

Once in a while a musical phenomenon comes along that takes the world by storm.

Literally the world!
DakarLast night I was chatting to friends who live in Dakar, a coastal town in the African country Senegal and they said that children in Dakar are Frozen mad! Parents doing school pick-up have the Frozen soundtrack playing in their cars and the children have watched the movie so many times they know each song and line perfectly. So, not any different from children right here in Australia.

 

Luckily for young musicians Frozen is available in any number of formats that makes it possible for just about every musician to play, no matter the skill level or instrument. These books are perfect editions to the 40 Piece Challenge students repertoire, or perhaps great gifts for parents to give as rewards for 40 Piece Challenge successes.

FiveFingerFrozenThe Five Finger (130374) piano version of Frozen is ideal for young beginners who have perhaps been learning for a year or two. Students playing pieces at a P Plate level 3, perhaps.The arrangements are gorgeous and with a lovely teacher (or older sibling/student) accompaniment, they sound just like the real thing. There are a couple of slightly trickier moments in pieces (In Summer, for instance) but the beauty of Frozen is that because the children know the songs, they will be able to play the rhythms well before they really understand the notation. And that is OK!

For pianists Frozen is also available in Beginning Piano Solo 130375 (about a Preliminary level), BigNote piano 126105 (around a Grade One level), Easy Piano 125506 (about a Grade Two level), Piano Solo 128220 (about a Grade Four level) a version for Piano Playalong 126480 (including sound alike online accompaniments) PVG 124307, Vocal Selections 128053 and a choral version called Let’s All Sing Songs from Frozen 127889.

For instrumentalists there are the Songs from Frozen, Tangled and Enchanted.

FrozenInstrumental The solos featured in this collection are ideal for students at a Grade 1-2 standard. Once again, they will know the songs, so the trickier rhythms should not prove so much of a challenge. The books feature online access to audio demonstration tracks for download or streaming.
Songs include: Do You Want to Build a Snowman? • For the First Time in Forever • Happy Working Song • I See the Light • In Summer • Let It Go • Mother Knows Best • That’s How You Know • True Love’s First Kiss • When Will My Life Begin • I’ve Got A Dream • Love Is An Open Door and So Close.

Songs from Frozen, Tangled and Enchanted are available for Alto saxophone (126923) , Cello (126930), Clarinet (126922), Flute (126921), French horn (126926),Tenor saxophone (126924), Trombone (126927), Trumpet (126925), Viola (126929) and Violin (126928).

All of these publications are available from your local favourite music retail store.