Cool Late Beginner Music Part 2 [RR#5] - Creative Music Education
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Cool Late Beginner Music Part 2 [RR#5]

By Tim Topham | Piano Teaching

Apr 19
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Good morning everyone, or good evening if you’re over in the states or Europe. Tim Topham here again for my fortnightly Repertoire Rap-Up. So, what I do in these sessions if you haven’t seen one of these before is, just go through a whole lot of cool music I’ve found recently, that kids are really loving. Particularly music that you may not have heard of before or been so familiar with. One thing I really like to keep in mind with these sessions is to try and find books for you that you and your students can find many pieces in, that are really appealing. Because one of the biggest things we have, one of the biggest hassles I think we have is when we have to ask parents to buy books and really we only use one or two pieces from them.

My goal today is to show you a whole lot of new books. Not too many because I don’t want to overwhelm, and I want to give you actionable things that you can use with your students. So, we’ll go through a few different late beginner style pieces that really, really appeal. This is actually following on from my last Repertoire Rap, where we took a look at late beginner music part one. In that, we had a look at a number of pieces by Pamela Wedgwood, and in fact, I got so much great feedback about her music, that I’m going to feature one more of her books today, which is actually a brilliant summary of all of her best pieces, like the ones I was talking about last week. Stay tuned for that.

We talked about Daniel McFallen’s Supersonics Music, a book series by Robert Vandel, and another one by Kevin Olsen. So, if you’re interested in any of those links, or you missed last fortnights video, then very easily, you can go to two places. One is to just have a look at my Facebook page and you’ll see, there’s a video section. You can just have a look at all my previous videos there. Alternatively, you can head to timtopham.com/rap and on there, you’ll get links to all the different ones that we’ve had before. In fact, you can just search for Repertoire on my blog, and you’ll be able to find them.

All right. Now, as you come on the call, it would be awesome to hear if you’re watching live. I’ve got a few people watching live, so just say, “Hi.” Great to know that people can hear me and are on the call. All right so, first up today is a composer that I know you’ll all know, but you may not be familiar with a few of his latest works. The composer I’m talking about is Christopher Norton. He’s been on my podcast, we’ve met up at conferences, we’ve played duets together, we get along really, really well, and I really like his music because, it is just so appealing, number one. Two, it’s also quite pedagogically sound. So, he does have a lot in there that students need to focus on, in regard to hand movement, and balance, and phrasing, and all that kind of stuff. It’s not just kind of, “Bam, into the music, just for the hell of it.” It actually does have a lot of really great teaching points in it.

The series that I want to talk to you about today is the Micro Series. Now, you will already know about Micro Jazz but, do you know that he’s actually got a whole series? Micro Latin, Micro Rock, Micro Ballads, they are very, very cool and they are perfect for this late beginner stage so, let me show you a few pieces. The first one I’m going to show you is called Micro Rock. Actually no, I’ll do the ballads first. Micro Ballads. So, this is a book full of, as you might expect, ballads style pieces. So, they tend to be a little bit slower, a little bit more open, wistful kind of sound. Here’s an example of what they’re like. So, as you hear them played, if you’re enjoying them, give me a little bit of a heart or a thumbs up. Always very cool to know that people are enjoying the music.

Okay so, that’s the first piece in the book. It’s called Marida and, nice kind of open sound. Lots of fifths and seconds, and ninths, and those sorts of things. Here’s one called Lonesome. See what you think about this one. You get those little [achockaturas [00:04:54], which really give that open sound. This one’s called Lonesome, it’s got that kind of lonely cowboy kind of feel to it. I really like that one, I thought. The other thing I do like is, Chris always includes pieces in alternate time signatures. Often in five, sometimes in seven. So, this is his ballad in five, from Micro Ballads. Sorry.

And, you get the idea of that one. So, they’re all kind of flowing, just ticking along. Great pieces, their quite intervallic and often have some chordal aspects in them so, great teaching points for students on those areas as well. If you’re just joining the call, please feel free to say, “Hi.” Always great to know who’s watching from wherever you are in the world. Okay, the next one I’ll show is Micro Rock. Again, this is the same series of Micro Jazz but, he’s now expanded. I really love this one. This has got a lot of appeal … will have a lot of appeal for a lot of students. Let me play you a few of these ones as well.

Now, this isn’t going to do your students any huge favours with learning left hand, or anything like that. Right? It’s not about that. This is about, remember, what I’ve said in regard to all of my Repertoire Raps in the series so far. It’s about appealing music that’s going to hook your students and those kinds of pieces that are really gonna help retain students, and keep them engaged. I would never recommend a student only plays Christopher Norton Micro Rock, just as I would say, “They should never play only Short Band.” Or, any one composer, or any one style. They should have a huge variety. But, for a student that’s maybe a teenage beginner, been learning for a few years, can read this kind of level of music but, isn’t getting excited by the classics or any of the other repertoire that you’ve been using with them, this is the kind of thing that I used to go, “Ah ha. Here’s my hook for you, this student. Now let’s see what other things we can do now that you’re back into your practice and enjoying music again.”

So, that was called In the Groove, from Micro Rock. Kind of cool. Here’s one called Power Band. Now for me, I mean, this kind of music I love. As a boy, I would have totally loved this kind of a piece. There’s something about the way he uses the chords, that is really appealing because it’s based on the ideas of the pop music that students are listening to now. Anyways, this kind of …

That kind of sound is the sound of today’s pop music. Right? In fact, it’s the sound of the last 50 years of pop music. But, it will naturally have an appeal. You can use this kind of music to discuss ideas around, “Why does that sound cool? Or how is that being constructed? What are those chords in the key of this piece and why do they sound so cool?”, right? So, that’s another reason I like this style of music and the way that Chris has written these pieces. I’ll just give you one more, a little bit of one more. This is number five in the book called The Gig.

Right so, the thing I like about this approach, is that you’ve got this … Which again, is gonna capture your students because it’s something that we hear in music all the time, right? Think about … Right? That’s got to be something that every piano teacher knows the sound of, Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. Or, what is it? What’s that? Yeah, Michael Jackson, Billie Jean, right? So, if students get that kind of thing in a piece of music, again, it’s gonna make sense to them. They’re gonna enjoy it because they get it. This is how music is composed these days, and it’s the sound of “now”.

So again, another reason I really like this approach, and like, these books have got a lot of music in them. I think there’s about 20 pieces each book. While it starts at the late beginner stage, like I’ve just shown you, it goes right through up another couple of years worth at least of work. So, each book has quite a variety of levels in it. So, that’s Christoper Norton’s Micro Series.

Next, I want to move onto an Australian composer, who lives relatively near me, and that’s Elissa Milne. Many of you will know her, wherever you are in the world. A very well-known composer and music educator over here in Australia. She’s got a number of books. I’m gonna show you music from a couple of them. One of them is this series here called Little Peppers. You may be familiar with this, it’s a series of about six books. The one that I really love and want to show you today, is just a couple pieces from Very Easy Little Peppers. It’s a sequence series of books that she’s got so, this is the simplest level. It’s great. You can buy it on Amazon, so you can get this anywhere in the world. Let me play you just a few pieces. The first one I’ll play you is called Square-O.

Right. The great thing about Elissa’s writing, and the thing I really love about this series in particular, is that the music is like a technical exercise, but really cool and fun to play, and sounds awesome. Right? So, this one is all about … two ninth slurs, the movement of the arm, the articulation. At this level for a student, this is fantastic learning, right? We want them to be able to start moving their arms, and wrists, and be able to make these sounds and gestures as early on as possible. So, if you can do that with a cool sounding piece like this, then I think you’ve got an absolute winner.

Smooth and Crunchy, here’s another one. So, this is practising different articulations in different hands. Sorry. She also loves doing two other things that I think are very cool, using odd time signatures really early on in a students development, and using lots of black keys. Lots of sharps and flats. Things which, you know, some students might get freaked out about but, in reality, is really, really straight forward.

Good to see Anthony and David too. G’day, nice to have you on the call. So, Salt and Pepper is one of those ones that uses both, a whole lot of black keys and also 5/8 time signature. I should have added, of course in that one, you’ve also got pedal but, limited use so really great for introducing students to the pedal. You’ve also got hands crossing, and you’ve got huge dynamic range. I might not have actually done justice to the dynamics in that piece.

But, you get the idea. This is the kind of music that is so pedagogically, developmentally appropriate for late beginner students, and that’s why I’m really, really happy to promote it. Then you’ve got something completely different. “Drowsy, Warm and Peaceful”, she says, is the tempo indication for this piece. It’s called Slumber Song. Great. Really straight forward, relatively easy, but again, for a student that’s kind of new to playing piano, there’s gonna be some great technical challenges in there.

She’s got a really fun Jazz Waltz, which is a duet as well in there. Another piece, Three Legged Race, I don’t have time to go through them all but, rest assured, this is a fantastic book. This is Very Easy Little Peppers, the covers look like this. Again, if you want to grab links to any of the books that I’m talking about in these Repertoire Raps, just head to timtopham.com/rap.

The next one I want to talk about is by the same composer. Actually, Elissa didn’t compose all of the pieces in these books but, she put them together. They’re called P Plate Piano. These are a series of three books that were designed by the Amy B, to take students from the complete beginner … Sorry, out of a method book to developing the skills for their first preliminary level exam here in Australia. So, it was kind of bridging course but, they’ve ended up being just fantastic stand alone books in their own right.

I just want to play you a couple from book number one. It’s a series of three books. Book number one, again, great fun pieces that take students out of their comfort zone a little and try some new things. So, one I want to play and one I’ve used heaps of times with my students is called The Wild Rest. As you can imagine, it’s got a whole lot of rests in it. It goes like this. Right? So the great thing about this piece, and that’s only half of it by the way, is that you can do fun things like … Like, clapping in the rests so you can say, “Rest, rest”, “Rest, rest”, “Rest, rest”. There’s also words and lyrics you can sing along, all that kind of stuff. Sorry, I’ve just noticed a few of the comments coming through. David also loves the P Plate Piano Series. Yeah, totally cool.

So, that one’s called Wild Rest. Great thing of course, with a lot of the pieces in this book, is that they come with accompaniments for the teacher so, you can stay really engaged with the student, keep them in time. That’s one teaching piece I’ve used a lot. Really, really great piece for students. Another one called Sea Grotto. Really great piece for getting students moving around the piano, and it’s effectively an improvisation because, you only have notated two bars and then there’s two bars worth of play with the instruction, that you play “A” notes, notes “A”, anywhere on the piano while you hold down the pedal. You hold the pedal down throughout the whole piece. So, I’ll just play the very start.

It sounds a bit like this. Here’s where you play the “A’s”. And the student gets back in the middle … until you get this huge great sound effect. It’s very atmospheric and it’s incredibly simple but, the reality is that students have to remember to play staccato, they’ve got to get the dynamic contrast right, they need to remember to use the pedal, they need to stay in time. So, there’s still challenges in it but the outcome of it, is that students who haven’t played that much yet really, can make a really great sound.

There’s lot of great pieces in this. Including one of the other ones I really love, it’s called Quick as a Flash. It’s split up into five different sections. They’re labeled, “A, B, C, D”, and the sections are only about two bars long. The goal of this piece is that … So this is section A, right? I’ll play B, would go … so, we’ve got a change of time signature between 4:4 and 3:4, that’s pretty cool. Once a student can play through A, B, C, D, E, they can start mixing it up. They can play a whole lot of A’s, a B, back to A, and then maybe some … and then the other sections so, they can actually make up their own piece. It’s a really great way of introducing an improvisation form to students too.

The changing time signatures are great, there’s dynamics, there’s phrasing, articulation, slurring, it’s all there. Great piece of music for students. There’s a version of, Old MacDonald Had A Farm, it’s called Sad Farmer … and the teacher plays along with that. It’s really great fun, it’s a great one for having discussions around major and minor, and the effect that, that has on music too. I’ll play one more from this book. Again, this is P Plate Piano Book One, one of my all time favourites for students of this level, it’s called Night Ride. Kids totally love it. If you’ve got boys in your studio, they will totally love it, I know. The student part goes like this … et cetera. It’s got a teacher duet part, really great fun to play and great teaching points in there, as well.

So, that’s the P Plate Piano Series, really recommend you check that out when you get a chance. Great fun to play. Actually, while I’m here, I’ll just talk to you about this series by William Gillock. Now, this is a little bit an older series, right? But, it’s actually got some total winning pieces in it and, this will just go to show, I’m not all about the latest composers necessarily. There’s some great stuff from composers from … I think William only passed away in the last 10-20 years I think so, he’s a relatively new composer, but I know these have been around for a little while. So, teachers may be aware of it. I couldn’t believe it. This is a series of three books, this is one of the three. You can get the complete set of three for $3.50 on Amazon. I’ll put a link on the Repertoire Rap page for you. It’s ridiculous if you don’t just go and buy it, just to have on your shelf, you’ll be kicking yourself.

The favourite for me in this series is book three. So, it is sequential in the earlier ones that are much simpler than the later ones but, I think there’s some great music here. This is just moving along a little bit so, you’re bordering on a preliminary level kind of student but, I guess that’s the gap we’re talking about here. So, I’ve got things like, The Queen’s Minuet, so this is Accent on Solos Book Three by William Gillock.

Again, the reason I have chosen these fantastic strong teaching points regarding phrasing, balance, you’ve got formatta, you’ve got changes of tempo and time, and you’ve got something that’s stylistic as well. That’s a minuet, you can teach students about minuets and how they sound. This one’s a bit of a funny one. It’s called At The Circus. You’ll get the idea very quickly. Get the idea? I feel kind of like I’m on a carousel getting sick as I listen to that. Not to say it’s bad, that’s just kind of the imagery I conjure up in my mind.

Richard says, “Can we get links to all of these songs?” Yes, Richard just head to my website. It’s timtopham.com/rap. All the links for what I’m talking about today are here. I’ll just play you one more from book three, totally love it, it’s called The Swinging Sue. It goes like this. Sorry. And you get the idea, it comes back to the main thing. Great fun piece. Has never failed to engage students. Really great.

Okay, and so for the last piece today, last book today, I want to go back to a composer that I featured last week, and that’s Pam Wedgwood. Superstar of engaging piano music. She’s based in the UK, and in fact, she’s coming on my podcast really, really soon to talk about her music and some ideas for teaching. I can’t wait to speak with her. It’s gonna be great fun. So, last fortnight, I talked to you about a number of the upgrade books so, upgrade and more upgrade. Again, links on that page that I just mentioned. While they’re all in separate volumes, of course, she has come out with this book, which is called Piano For Fun. This, I just think, is one of those books that every late beginner should get. Let me just show you just a couple of the pieces.

I played a few of them last week. I think I played this one last week. Sorry, two weeks ago. It’s called Make Way For The King. The appeal for me for teaching her music is that it’s just got that hook in it. So, she uses a lot of fifths and a lot of strong kind of chord sounds in pieces like this. But, she balances that with much more lyrical flowing pieces, again with those chord progressions, that kids these days just love. They get it because it sounds like their music of today.

It’s quite based around obviously keys that students are able to use at this age, but also, a lot of it’s quite five finger position based. So, we don’t have to worry, students jumping around, they can focus on one, even though it’s two, getting the dynamics, the articulation, the musical sense into it. Let me know if you’re enjoying this music by the way. I’d love to get a little heart. Press the heart button or a big thumbs up if you’re enjoying some of the music that you’ve heard today. Would be fantastic to see from you.

I think I did play, The Brave Knight last session. Goes like this. Almost like, kinda trumpet calls and it’s almost a bit, “Game of Thrones” like in some ways. What else have we got? Mission impossible I played last week. It’s a bit of a winner. I’ve never had a student not enjoy playing that piece. Not too hard. They can learn them relatively quickly too, which is great. She’s got a piece with apologies to Mr. Grigg, In the Hall of the Mountain Bear. You can check that one out yourself when you grab the book. David, what you say? “Brave Knight is another one in getting to preliminary.” Yeah, it absolutely is and so is that, Swinging Sue, someone might have mentioned too. It’s easier than other books.

So, yeah look. I mean, it’s just fun. The pieces, the titles alone are great. Minnie Mouse Hits Town, It’s Cool Man, The Mad Hatter’s Funeral March, I played, UFO last time, that’s another one. Heavily based of fifths, great one to learn really quickly, and add to … particularly if you’re doing something like the 30 or 40 piece challenge, you know, a book like this, students can get so much enjoyment from and, can get so much value from too because, there’s so much in it, which is of relevance.

Okay so, I haven’t gone through all of it but, hopefully that’s enough to give you a little taste. This is just such a great wrap up of Pamela’s upgrade books. You know, zero to one, one maybe bordering on two at the back. Let’s have a look. Yeah, it probably, by the time the back of this book comes along, you’re playing at a grade one, probably grade one in Australia level? Maybe grade two even, at the back. So, this would last a student for quite some time, and would be a great addition to any collection that they’ve got.

All right. So, that is my rap up for this week. Just to go over it, the Norton series, you know the Jazz Micro Ballads but, did you know about the Micro … Sorry. You know about the Micro Jazz. Did you know about the Micro Ballads and Micro Rock. There’s also Micro Latin, which I haven’t shown you today because, it’s a little bit harder. I’ll probably show you that in a future session. We also had two different series by Elissa Milne, Australian composer. Thanks for the hearts by the way. I can see them coming across the screen. I really appreciate that. Milne’s Very Easy Little Peppers is just a fantastic book at this level, and that’s on Amazon so, available everywhere.

The P Plate Piano books, which I had … Where were they? The ones that look like this, unfortunately only available in Australia. I don’t know why. It would be fantastic if they were available internationally. Who knows, it might be that you can buy them and get them shipped overseas, I’m not sure. But, I popped a link on the Repertoire Rap page to the P Plate Book Three, available on Hal Leonard Australia’s website. So, whether they do international shipping, I’m not sure. Hopefully they’ll be able to bring it out internationally one of these days. Who knows? The more I learn about royalties and copyrights, it might just be something that’s not possible. I’ve got no idea. But anyway, we can hope, right?

We also went through Gillocks Accent on Solos. As I say, “I cannot believe that’s being sold on Amazon for less than $5. The complete series of three books in one.” So, grab that. There’s a link on the Repertoire Rap page. We finished today with the Piano For Fun book by Pamela Wedgwood. So, I do hope that’s been useful for you. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask them now. I can only see two lines at a time so, I’ll do my best to answer anything that comes through. If you’ve got any questions about teaching this age level or this level of ability, or anything to do with teaching, I’m happy to answer a few questions now. Totally fine.

While I do that, I did want to mention that my next live session … I’m gonna move these probably to a Wednesday, from starting two weeks time, which will be the start of term two over here in Australia. So, if you are catching up on these live at the time, I just wanted you to be aware. Just check my Facebook page for information. I’ll give you an update as to which day it’s going to change to in two weeks time. The other thing I wanted to mention was that, the next session, I’m gonna show you a little bit about this groovy thing. Does anyone know what this is? Chuck it in the comments if you’ve seen one of these before. I’ll see if I can fire it up quickly while we’re talking.

I might need to charge it actually. So, this is a very groovy device, that I’m going to be showing you guys next session. Maybe even in a separate video. I’m still waiting on working out exactly how to do it. So this for those of you who haven’t heard about it is called a Soundbrenner. This is actually, hold it right up to the camera here, this is a wearable silent metronome. I’m gonna tell you all about it, and give you some of the tips about what I’ve experienced with it, in a couple of weeks time. It’s quite new, quite an interesting device, and I’ve been trying it on some of my students. It’s been very interesting getting their feedback too, about it.

So, more details about that in two weeks time. As I say, if you’re finding this interesting, it would be fantastic if you could press the share button. There’s a share button down there. I would love for you to share this with your friends. It’s only like a two click process. Share with friends, let them know about these sessions, and please, if your interested in the links to anything I’ve been talking about today, or in fact in the last six … what’s it been? Six to eight weeks, or thereabouts, the last four session we’ve had, head to tiptopham.com/rap. Be fantastic to have you there.

Links to where you can buy all the books that I talk about, and where you can read more about them too, are all there. Each week after these go live, I tend to add them to my regular blog process so, we put a full transcript in and also insert the video. It also goes on YouTube too so, lots of places where you can find more about this, and watch replays if you’re interested. All right guys. I can’t see any questions come through so, I think I will log off at this stage. Again, I hope you’re finding these helpful and I look forward to continuing to help you in our next Repertoire Rap in two weeks time. Look out for my information about which day and what time it will be.

Thanks guys. Catch you later.

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About the Author

Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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