It’s just before back to school and students start walking through the door again for their piano lessons – and it’s always good to start the term with some new books! I’d like to share my own shopping list for students from Faber Music’s piano teaching library in the hope there may be some new things that others might also want to dip into to fire up enthusiasm for the new term. These books have served me well as I continue to consolidate but also rejuvenate my own teaching curriculum.
The Just for Kids series by Sarah Walker – perfect for the post-beginner/Grade 1+ pianist
This series of five books I revisit over and over! Sarah Walker is a wonderful arranger and composer who really hits the spot for children. Many pieces come with fun teacher duet parts, and there are lots of quizzes and puzzles thrown in along the way. The Princess Book includes the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme, The Superhero Piano Book features the Batman, Star Wars, Superman and James Bond themes, The Magic Piano Book includes ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ and ‘We’re off to see the Wizard’, The Strictly Dancing Piano Book includes: ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ plus ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ and The Christmas Book features the much-loved ‘Walking in the Air’. The books are very accessible for students at Grade 1 level – with some pieces slightly easier and others slightly harder. Sarah Walker includes her own compositions, but many are arrangements (as already mentioned) of well-known, much-loved classics from film and musicals.
Real Repertoire Library – selected and edited by Christine Brown
Christine Brown was a much-loved piano pedagogue who launched many brilliant pianists’ careers along with training lots of budding piano teachers (myself included!). The Real Repertoire series was her teaching method put into print – the whole series is worth a look but the two books I will be focussing on this new term are the easiest study book and the duets book. The Real Repertoire Studies Grade 2-4 was one of the last books Christine compiled before she died. She told me how keen she was to do it due to the importance of foundational piano technique at this level. I plan to use this with several students who are more advanced than the level but need intense work on their technique without taking too long to learn the material. Online teaching has affected some of my students’ effective use of the damper pedal as well as some other small areas – especially if it wasn’t possible for me to see their hands well in their online lessons. For a good piano technique make-over, this is a superb book to work through. The Real Repertoire Piano Duets Grades 4-6 is a beautiful collection that includes the famous female composer Cécile Chaminade along with timeless classics such as a movement from Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 6, Fauré’s ‘Berceuse’ and unmissable duets from Rowley, Brahms, Diabelli, Mozart and Seiber.
Pam Wedgwood: Jazzin’ About and other highlights
Pam Wedgwood is simply brilliant at writing a great tune! Every year I do use some timeless classics from her. These include:
Piano for Fun – Pre-Grade 1 to Grade 4 – I ask my students to purchase this after the beginner stages and we use it over many years! All my favourites (and my students’) are included in this from the Up-Grade! series. With the cost of living rising this is a fantastic ‘one-stop-shop’ for great pieces by Pam Wedgwood. Favourites include ‘Whirley Bird’, ‘Make Way for the King’, ‘Pluto’, ‘Minnie Mouse Hits the Town’, ‘Lazy Days’ and ‘Spider in the Bath’.
How to Play Jazz Piano – I have some students who love to play jazz and I want to help them have greater understanding of the mechanics of the genre. If you are a teacher who wants to give your student more knowledge in this area like me, then this step-by-step workbook is a real find. Perfect for the post-grade 2 pianist, do check it out!
Easy Jazzin’ About the Year – These make perfect ‘quick study pieces’ to keep reading progressing (especially when working on a music exam). The book has music that spans the seasons, covering appropriate themes along the way. Its strength is the sheer variety included, as well as having the perfect number of pieces for Hallowe’en, Christmas and other festivals to keep children thoroughly entertained all year round!