October 2017 New Discoveries

The Novello Guide to Sight-Singing (Ralph Allowed and Timothy Teague)

I was initially a bit reluctant to purchase this book because to me, £20 for a relatively small book seems a lot. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. Firstly, let’s be clear, for the money, you’re not only getting the book, but also access to the eBook version, video demonstrations and the SoundCheck app. The purchase is, therefore, extremely good value.

I’ve seen so many sight-singing books over the years, but this really is, in my view, a game-changer. Not only is it very clearly laid out, but it also applies the skills and knowledge acquired to real life musical situations. It’s fair to say that the book is primarily aimed at choral singers, and the music choices reflect this, but it would be equally useful for solo singers too. It covers everything from singing very basic intervals right through to  chromaticism and tritones. I think that this advanced material really sets this book apart. Using the app allows you to try the exercises and get immediate feedback from your performance. Yes, it’s a machine, so the feedback is never going to be as accurate as a real-life practice situation, but especially for singers working alone (or practising between lessons) it’s ideal. The progression through the book is very clear, and a good amount of theoretical knowledge is also included.

The Secret Piano (Alexis Ffrench)

Classical pianist, Alexis French, was a name new to me, but I was very pleased to be introduced by a very good friend to his music. Making his concert debut in 1992, he has several albums to his name, and indeed, with a new single, Bluebird, recently released, Classic FM have been playing his music recently. This book, The Secret Piano contains 12 pieces for solo piano from his 2011 album of the same name. I’d suggest that these pieces are likely to suit pianists in the Grade 4-6 bracket. This is favourite of mine, ‘I’ll Fly Away’:

Piano Tracks (Barbara Kennedy)

Barbara Kennedy, a piano teacher, composer and organist based in Didcot, Oxfordshire, has been developing an exciting new resource for piano teachers and students. The piano TRACKS programme is a collection of materials designed to help piano teachers assess their students, without necessarily using the traditional graded exams.

Barbara has developed a broad piano curriculum, which is supported by resources, checklists, quizzes, lesson ideas and worksheets. She’s currently aligning these with repertoire suggestions to underpin the overall progression. This is an excellent resource, not just for piano teachers, and much can be adapted for other instruments. The materials are presented professionally and attractively, and are currently available free. Do sign up to Barbara’s piano TRACKS mailing list as the resource continues to grow.