Over the years, I’ve written several piano pieces, mostly to play myself in concerts. In fact I’ve been writing an on-going set of Preludes over recent years, which I come back to every so often.
But in the last few years I’ve been involved with two educational piano projects which have given me much enjoyment. These are Pianoworks and Joining the Dots.
Pianoworks, published by Oxford University Press, is co-authored with my wife Janet. She is a piano teacher, with a number of elementary adult pupils, and this series of books is for them, and for beginner pupils of any age who don’t fancy lots of pretty pictures or coy titles on each page.
There are two tutor books (Pianoworks 1 and Pianoworks 2), and both come with a CD to help with some of the activities. It took a lot of work to break down piano learning into separate 2-page units, and we had several attempts at it – but now we are pleased (and proud) with the result! The first book goes from absolute beginner to around Grade 2, and the second book moves on to Grade 3 or 4 – though they are not primarily intended as ‘exam books’. We hope that pupils will have a teacher to guide them, of course, but we have heard of people who have worked through the books quite happily on their own, using the CD to check their progress and accuracy. The books include a wide range of music, original pieces and arrangements, and technique is carefully and progressively introduced. There are also a number of supporting activities such as improvisation and sight-reading.
Alongside the tutor books we wrote two supporting repertoire books, Pianoworks Collection 1 and 2. These contain a wide range of supplementary pieces, arranged broadly in order of difficulty, and with short descriptive notes about each piece.
These collections then provided a template for subsequent themed collections. Pianoworks Christmas was one of the first: easy arrangements of lots of well-known carols and Christmas songs, with the words as well. One year Janet used this book very successfully in her adults’ Christmas concert: each pupil learnt one carol, and everyone else sang along, forcing the player to keep going!
There are also books of duets – Pianoworks Duets 1 and 2 – mostly arrangements of well-known classics, but a few new pieces too, and with an included CD of both parts, so that the player can play along if they don’t have a duet partner: ‘Duets for lonely people’ as a Chinese music salesman put it, though we don’t think that’s a very good sales pitch!
Other collections are Pianoworks A Night at the Theatre – arrangements of songs from operas, ballets, and shows, and Pianoworks Popular Styles, containing a wide range of new pieces in many contrasting contemporary styles, from pop to classical.
Lots of pupils and teachers have enjoyed using Pianoworks, and we hope that others will too. You can view the whole series here
The other educational piano series I’ve been writing is called Joining the Dots. I’ll write about that in another blog.