February 2018 New Discoveries

Welcome to my selection of new music, resources and discoveries for February!

Play: A psychological toolkit for optimal music performance (Ally and Greg Daubney)

Written by Ally and Greg Daubney, and published by the ISM Trust, Play is subtitled ‘A psychological toolkit for optimal music performance’. The primary aim of the ‘toolkit’ is to:

‘…arm you with practical and well-grounded psychological strategies so that you can recognise and effectively handle performance anxiety, and maximise your musical performances’.

The three main sections of the booklet focus on ‘You as performer’, ‘Your musical self’, and ‘Your environment’. In each section, different strategies are presented to help with different areas of your musical preparation and performance. For example, ways to cope with ‘social comparison’ which will have plagued many of us, both as teachers and performers. The really fantastic thing about this book, is that the strategies are provided clearly, with recommendations for when and how long you should practise them.

I’d recommend this book for anyone involved in playing, making or teaching music, at any level. Whilst it’s primarily geared towards performers, much will be useful to teachers, and in many cases, adult learners too. The book is available from the ISM Trust to download for £4 (non-members £5) or to buy for £8 (£10 for non-members).

Doodles (Alison Matthews)

Doodles is a collection of 128 short piano pieces by Alison Matthews, divided into four levels, and published by Editions Musica Ferrum. Described as ‘easy reading pieces’, one’s initial reaction might be that they are to be used in the same way we might use the books of specimen sight-reading pieces. But, this book is about much more than just sight-reading.

Taking a pupil up to around Grade 4 level, each short piece encourages pupils to above all, convey the character of the music. Emoticons are used for each piece rather than titles, for example, an angry face, sad face, dizzy face etc. Whilst directions and ideas are given, pupils are encouraged to make each piece their own. For example, the first piece in the book (prefaced by a happy face) suggests that pupils could play it again at a different dynamic. It’s marked to be played forte anyway, so I expected pupils to play it piano the second time; however, both pupils insisted it could be played fortissimo the second time as that made it sound happier. With some creativity on the part of the teacher, the pieces could be expanded into much longer improvisations.

As with all their publications, the book is beautifully presented and very good value. Although the pieces are very short, at £8.99, 7p a piece is pretty excellent value! The book is available to order direct from the publisher.

Watch Alison here explaining more about the book:

Choral and Vocal Warm-Ups for Pianists (Nancy Litten)

One of the good things about the Music & Drama Education Expo is not just discovering newly-published music, but also finding things which you’ve simply not come across before. I was therefore very pleased to come across this book published in 2015. As Nancy quite rightly points out:

‘The pianist has to be the most versatile of instrumentalists…they will often be called upon to accompany, especially for choirs…so often the accompanist is expected to improvise something right there and then, in every key! Many can do this effortlessly, but even then it can be difficult to remember what you played from week to week.’

When I looked at this book, I looked at it not through the eyes of an accompanist, but rather from that of a singing teacher. But overall, I think this book has many different uses. There are some excellent, basic vocal warm-ups which any singing teacher should be equipped with. I was particularly pleased to see the inclusion of exercises using the French ‘u’ (as in ‘Tu’) sound for focussing of tone. Just as Nancy says though, this book will be especially useful to pianists, choir leaders and accompanists. Published by Alfred UK (20143UK) it’s excellent value at just £8.95!