As some of you will have seen, I have previously reviewed a number of ABRSM’s Piano Star series, including Piano Star Theory. The latest addition to the series is a brand new book, Piano Star Skills Builder, which focusses on scales, aural and reading.
Written by Karen Marshall and David Blackwell, the book seeks to develop:
‘musicianship skills for young pianists who are working towards Initial Grade level and beyond.’
Some of you will remember that I reviewed ABRSM’s new Initial Grade back in the autumn. This new book in the Piano Star series supports that, and includes, amongst other things:
- Fun pieces to play;
- Songs to sing;
- Written and listening activities;
- Composition games.
The material is divided into 10 units offering a ‘comprehensive scheme of study, creatively presented in an engaging and fun way’.
The inside front cover gives the current requirements for ABRSM Initial Grade for piano, and the 10 units in the book reflect these requirements.
Some of you will remember that I previously reviewed Karen Marshall’s Get Set Piano! – My First Piano Book where the emphasis, unlike many other early-stage piano tutor books, was on musicianship. This new book in the Piano Star series is no exception.
Rather than simply providing an explanation of what, for example, a C major scale is, the book seeks to connect sound and symbol, with an emphasis on putting these into practice. The section also covers fingering and any particular techniques such as ‘thumb under’. A teacher accompaniment is also provided so that the scale can be played as a duet.
Theory is also covered, for example, marking tones and semitones and understanding the patterns of these within different types of scale. As well as scales, all other ABRSM Initial Grade requirements are incorporated including: time signatures of 4/4 and 2/4; pulse; note values; key signatures of C major and D minor; legato and staccato; and dynamics of f and p. These are all included as to make clear connections between pieces, technical work, sight-reading and aural.
This book is very well thought out, and even if students are not working towards ABRSM Initial Grade, the material could easily be applied as a template to other areas and stages of learning. As I say, the emphasis is firmly on musicianship, something which is so often lacking in piano teaching.
As ever, the books are clearly presented and beautifully illustrated. Some of the pages are, perhaps, a little ‘busy’ visually, but more than anything else, that represents the volume of material included in just 48 pages.
As with other books in the Piano Star series, they are aimed at a certain age group, and the general design most likely precludes their use with teenagers or adults. Overall though, it is an impressive volume which will sit very nicely alongside both ABRSM Initial Grade itself and as a resource to be used more generally. The authors have put a lot of thought into the material and drawn on their many years of expertise. This is reflected in a clear way in which connections are made and reinforced throughout the book.
Piano Star Skills Builder by Karen Marshall and David Blackwell, is published by ABRSM Publishing, ISBN 9781786013385, priced £6.95.
I was sent a review copy of this book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.