Product Reviews

 

 

Mosaic: decorative art involving many different small pieces.

This is also the name appropriately given to a new collection of 26 easy educational pieces for solo piano, currently available in two volumes. What makes these sheet music books unique is that they draw on the works of thirteen different contemporary composers from diverse nationalities and compositional backgrounds. The result is exciting! There is something for everyone, from beautiful soaring melodies to evocative storytelling; A treasure trove of inspiring pieces to capture the imagination of the developing pianist.

Mosaic Vol. 1

The publisher has put together a playlist of all the pieces so you can see the songs for yourself. Just click on the link to get a flavour of the diversity.

Mosaic Vol. 2

Again, the publisher has provided a YouTube playlist to help preview the pieces in the second collection. Just click on the link.

Notes on the Works

A helpful feature is the comments at the beginning of the books which give hints about the pieces as well as some teaching directions which I am sure many students and teachers will find useful and inspiring.

Presentation

As a composer and editor of sheet music myself, I am very fussy about the quality of the presentation and editing of the scores but it is commendable to see a high standard of notation, printed on expensive cream paper making for a quality product.

Grumbles

To be honest, it is hard to find any. The only thing I can say is that, as the collections are so diverse, there may be one or two pieces that might not be to everyone’s taste but if pupils and teachers are open-minded, I think there are lots of great discoveries here to be made. The addition of high-quality videos to support the book makes for a great online resource for choosing and learning the pieces in the books.

Conclusion

As a piano teacher, I am always looking for new material to inspire my students. In Mosaic, I think there is much to capture the imagination of young piano players, to help develop technique and most importantly, to nurture musicality through these diverse and exciting pieces. Bring on Vol. 3!

To buy Mosaic Vol 1 click here

To buy Mosaic Vol 2 click here

If you would like more information on helping to manage your business, Music Teachers Helper is the way to do it.

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So you want to explain a music theory concept simply and then give your student an exercise to help reenforce the point. Enter the website musictheory.net. This is a fabulous resource for teachers and students alike. Best of all it’s free!

Lessons

Here are a series of diagrams laid out logically with little animations to explain various topics of music theory. Although there is accompanying text for self-study, these resources are flexible enough for a music teacher to give their own customised commentary. Using the forward and back arrows, it is easy to navigate through the presentations.

Exercises

This has definitely been a very useful area of the website for my students over the years. There are a great many exercises to test theory concepts. What I’ve appreciated about the design of these tests is that there is no time pressure, which is helpful for allowing some thinking time to the student grappling with a new concept. The best thing about this area is, right towards the bottom of the list, under the heading “FOR TEACHERS” is a page called “Exercise Customizer.” Here you can go to town very easily perfecting the test for the individual needs of your student and then you can copy and paste the unique link to share with them via email or another messaging service. Some of the tests are generic to all instruments and others are specific to keyboards and guitars.

Tools

There are some handy utilities under this section like “Tempo Tapper” which very quickly analyses the speed of your tapping and generates a metronome figure in beats per minute. This is useful for discreetly working out how fast or slow a student is playing their piece compared with what tempo it should be. “Staff Paper Generator” quickly produces manuscript paper you can print for free. “Pop-up Piano” is useful to play or mark notes on a virtual piano keyboard.

Products

The man who has provided this wonderful website for free, helps fund the project from the sales of his two apps for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. One is called “Theory Lessons” and the other “Tenuto” which are basically enhanced and offline versions of his website materials. The quality of these two apps is outstanding and make a nice progression if you wish to support his work.

This website is a gem of a find and infinitely useful. If you haven’t already done so, I would strongly recommend you take a look at musictheory.net

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  • How can I get my piano students to play musically?
  • Will they ever learn to truly perform rather than just play?
  • How can I help them to become more confident music readers?

These are some of the challenges that Alison Mathews has addressed in her new book “Doodles” published by Editions Musica Ferrum.

Aimed at beginners to around grade 3 (ABRSM), this chunky book contains 128 little pieces of 4-8 bars (measures) arranged in four difficulty levels.

Now the interesting part! Rather than name each piece, Mathews has provided a small picture, often an emoji, hence the title “Doodles,” which is meant to inspire a mood in the music student. She has also given lots of interesting directions like, “playfully – fish are chasing in the coral” or “fast and furious – what else could you do to make it sound stormy?” I love how at the centre of these short activities the emphasis is on performance. The pupil just simply can’t resist but will soon be inspired to create their own pieces. Watch out John Williams, we will all be writing shark music at this rate!

An interesting feature is the use of the same pieces at each level but with increased difficulty and technique. This a great way to help a student see how to develop a composition. I can see my pupils having lots of fun improvising with these pieces and using them as the basis of their own compositions. Young pupils love engaging their imagination, so this book will inspire them not only to be better readers of music but more importantly, to play with feeling and understanding.

Lots of different playing techniques are explored through the pieces and are an intrinsic part of each song. Legato, staccato, dynamics, tremolandi and glissandi are all represented. I’ve even picked up a tip for helping young pupils to play a glissando without hurting their fingers by using a roll of sellotape!

My only criticism is that there are no key signatures used. I’m very keen on introducing a sense of key very early in development but this is a “minor” grumble compared with the fantastic way that musicality is being taught here. Maybe this is an issue that could be addressed in later editions or subsequent volumes.

For its ability to inspire musicality in such a fun and engaging way, this book gets a big thumbs up from me.

To purchase the book, click here.

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