Review: The Joy of Graded Piano, Grades 1-5

If you’ve had any experience of learning, playing or teaching the piano, you can’t failed to have missed the extensive series of books, ‘The Joy of…’. Some 50 volumes have appeared since 1955, and this brand new set of five books, The Joy of Graded Piano, edited by Andrew Eales, brings the series right up to date. Andrew writes:

‘This new series of graded piano anthologies builds on that remarkable legacy with care, drawing together new titles to reflect developments in piano education and musical preferences that have occurred within the intervening decades.’

Andrew Eales, 2024
The Joy of Graded Piano, Grade 1, edited by Andrew Eales
Cover artwork for The Joy of Graded Piano

I don’t know about you, but as a teacher, I’ve found myself moving away from single-composer collections and towards anthologies. Favourite anthologies of recent years have included Encore, Piano Mix, Pop Performer, and the LCM Piano Anthology series. As I’ve written in previous reviews, single-composer collections have to offer something special to a find a place on my bookshelves. This new series of anthologies, The Joy of Graded Piano, offers 120 pieces across the five books covering Grades 1-5. There is a huge cross-section of material, from old favourites, to many contemporary works, some published in only the last few years. What a joy, just as is the books intention, to be presented with such a wide range of exciting repertoire choices.

The Wind from The Joy of Graded Piano

Benchmarking against the UK graded exam system is not always easy, but Andrew has done a fantastic job in selecting a range of pieces for each book which, in my view, will cover a broad range of learners, including those:

  • Working towards that grade
  • Working at that grade
  • Working slightly beyond that grade

Though of course, it’s important to note that the use of these books is not in any way restricted to those actually working towards exams at all. The books, which are beautifully presented, clearly laid-out, free of clutter, and with a real attention to detail, will appeal to all age groups. I know that some of my adult students are going to love these!

As part of the selection process, Andrew has edited the pieces where necessary, adding fingering where applicable. This is always appropriate and is never over-used. Each piece also comes with background notes and practice tips, both of which are hugely valuable, and something which I mentioned in my review of Victoria Proudler’s series, Piano Grades Are Go! Andrew writes that these are ‘premium collections’, and I agree entirely with this. With so much new music coming to the market, many of which is self-published, publishers have to work hard to ensure their books stand out. It’s definitely paid off here, and like some other publications I’ve reviewed recently, such as The Harry Potter Piano Anthology, these are books to treasure over a lifetime: they are, quite literally, a treasure trove of music. You can read more about Andrew’s approach to the selection and edition process over on the Pianodao website here.

Flaming Sapphire by Alison Mathews

So, what about the music itself? Well, prepared to be amazed and delighted. As I mentioned above, each book presents a really broad cross-section of repertoire: there really is something for everyone. There are plenty of familiar composers, the ‘old favourites’ such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Grieg and Bartok, and with these, come some of their most celebrated pieces. Although I recognised many pieces in these books, much was new to me. There were many new composers too whose names I’d not previously encountered. In fact, perhaps one of the greatest bonuses of anthologies such as these is that they lead you to other books: there are lots of books I’ll now be exploring! I also thought it was important to note that each book includes pieces of varying lengths, so not all the ‘easier’ pieces are short, and not all the ‘harder’ pieces are long. Sometimes, it can be so good to do a short piece well, and overall, there’s a really good balance here. Contemporary works include those of the more popular variety, such as those by Ludovico Einaudi, Alexis Ffrench, Debbie Wiseman and Rachel Portman.

Walter Carroll

With 120 pieces across the five volumes, it’s impossible for me to cover everything in this review, but here are my five favourite, stand-out pieces, from each book:

The Joy of Graded Piano: Grade 1

  • Neefe: Allegretto in C major
  • Perry: Orrin and Echo
  • Armstrong: Coral Reef
  • Lynch: North West of Inverness
  • Proudler: Jive O’Clock Jazz

The Joy of Graded Piano: Grade 2

  • Hassler: Ecossaise in G major
  • Maykapar: Quiet Morning
  • Mathews: Flaming Sapphire
  • Nakada: A Short Story
  • Tanka: Blue Planet

The Joy of Graded Piano: Grade 3

  • Kabalevsky: The Clown
  • Nakada: The Song of Twilight
  • Keveren: Dawn
  • Ikeda: Soft Rain
  • Tanka: Northern Lights

The Joy of Graded Piano: Grade 4

  • Handel: ‘Aria’ from Suite in G major, HWV 441
  • Rocherolle: Longings
  • Yared: Song for Rani
  • Crosland: Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow
  • Ackroyd: Rain

The Joy of Graded Piano: Grade 5

  • Tchaikovsky: Douce reverie
  • Burleigh: Through MoaninPines
  • Cobb: Lavender Haze
  • Portman: Apple Tree
  • Einaudi: Luminous

None of these pieces are listed in a way which suggests they are better than others, but these are, by personal preference, my favourites.

Idylle by Chaminade from The Joy of Graded Piano, Grade 4
Fur Elise by Beethoven

Overall, The Joy of Graded Piano is an exceptional series of books, of the utmost quality, and excellent value for money. There is such a hugely varied selection of pieces which will both delight, and maybe even challenge, teachers and students alike. So much to explore here, and hopefully, these books will lead to much greater exploration of the composers included. These books may be your new go-to series of anthologies, and justifiably so too.

[This post contains affiliate links]

The Joy of Graded Piano is edited by Andrew Eales, and published in five books by Yorktown Music Press, Inc. (distributed by Hal Leonard):

Grade 1: ISBN 9781705162774, RRP £14.99
Grade 2: ISBN 9781705163344, RRP £14.99
Grade 3: ISBN 9781705163368, RRP £16.99
Grade 4: ISBN 9781705164983, RRP £16.99
Grade 5: ISBN 9781705165010, RRP £19.99

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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