Over the years, we’ve tended, as teachers, to pigeonhole books into certain categories. There are books of pieces (the ‘repertoire’), books of exercises (studies or etudes), and tutor books (which combine all these). There is some strength in this approach, but it doesn’t necessarily support the holistic approach many of us now seek to use. Piano Grades are Go! is currently published by EVC Music in two volumes covering Initial to Grade 1, and Grade 2 to Grade 3. They contain ‘characterful solos at the standards of the major exam boards…with an emphasis on the performance directions and musical techniques’. It is refreshing to be sent books which have a very clear aim, and are honest and upfront about the way in which they are benchmarked. To reiterate what it says on the back of the book, the pieces are:
- Carefully graded
- Arranged in order of difficulty
- Complete with dynamics, articulation, fingering and phrasing
- Mostly pattern-based
- Straightforward to learn
- Full of character
- In a range of enjoyable styles with catchy tunes and chord progressions
Composer, Victoria Proudler, is a pianist, piano educator, and music examiner. As an examiner, she says she ‘can always tell in the exam room when a candidate really enjoys the piece they’re playing!’ This philosophy is clearly at the forefront of Piano Grades are Go!, because if you’re looking for catchy, memorable tunes, across both books, all 41 pieces certainly fit the bill. A huge range of styles are represented and I wouldn’t seek to pigeonhole each piece into a particular one, but suffice to say, I was relieved that these weren’t books crammed purely with jazz pieces (there are so many of those already).
Starting with book one of Piano Grades are Go! 20 pieces are included, taking pianists from Initial to Grade 1 level. As I said above, they are arranged in order of difficulty, and it is easy to see the clear progression through the book. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Lonely Penguin’ with it’s slightly mournful minor melody, but the one I know will be a hit with my own students is ‘Silver Lining’, an example of a piece we need more off, that is, neither ‘classical’ (however we define that) nor jazz. The ‘Toccatina’ was also fun, and a good introduction to the baroque style, probably before most students have encountered it.
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Book two of Piano Grades are Go! continues the progression with 21 pieces covering Grades 2 and 3. Once again, I love the huge range of styles represented here, and in many ways, that’s what enables students to really build and convey a sense of character in their playing. I liked ‘The Ice Castle’, but I think the beautiful and flowing ‘Rainbow’s End’ will prove popular. I talk a lot in my reviews about music which is labelled as either for children or adults, or in many cases, labelled as neither, but clearly aimed at children; however, the music here will suit all ages. In fact, I think these books will be a hit with some of my adult students!
The crucial feature of these book, and the one which absolutely clinches the deal for me, is that each piece is designed to build a particular technical or musical skill, and there are short notes for each piece in which this is introduced. For example, in book one, ‘Sunshine Stroll’ introduces a walking bass, whilst ‘Undercover Blues’ covers accents. Similarly in book two, for example, ‘Tarantella Twist’ introduces legato between the hands, whilst ‘Rainbow’s End’ encourages arm movements.
I opened this review by talking about the way we tend to pigeonhole certain books. Piano Grades are Go! offer a true holistic approach to playing and teaching the piano. Each piece is, of course, repertoire in itself, but both technical and musical skills, along with theoretical knowledge, are integral to them all. Even for teachers who don’t want to use them purely for the technical highlights, these will serve as a useful reminder.
Overall, I was very impressed with these books. They are clearly written by someone who has their finger on the pulse when it comes to piano teaching in the 21st century. They are very clearly presented and at around 50p per piece, excellent value. I hope we can encourage Victoria to produce more books to take us all the way up to diploma level. These would be hugely valuable, and there is a big gap in the market for short pieces, like those included so far, at the higher grades.
Piano Grades are Go! are an absolute winner. Bravo!
[This post contains affiliate links]
Piano Grades are Go! Initial to Grade 1 by Victoria Proudler, is published by EVC Music, ISBN 9781911359395, RRP £10.00.
Piano Grades are Go! Grades 2-3 by Victoria Proudler, is published by EVC Music, ISBN 9781911359487, RRP £10.00.
I was sent a review copy of these books free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.
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