New Release Review: Alfred Pop and Movie Hits Level 5 and Level 6
This series is part of Alfred’s Premier Piano Course, designed to provide students familiar music from Disney cartoons, movie hits, jazz and popular songs, while reinforcing concepts introduced in the lesson books. Each piece correlates page-by-page with the materials in the lesson books; teachers may assign them according to the specific instructions, use them as review material, or to supplement another method.
Although I am familiar with the lesson books of Premier Piano Course, I have not tried the Pop and Movie Hits in my studio, so I decided that I will play through the entire Level 5 and Level 6 books and see. My verdict? Worth every penny! Here are some of the reasons why I think this series is superior in the field of popular music arranged for piano students.
1. Great value
Each book contains 14 pieces totaling 40 pages, retail price $7.99. That is pretty “beefy”!
2. Great selection
In the past I have avoided buying method books with popular music, because although there may be one or two really good arrangements, the rest is “filler” – less popular songs that no one wants to play! The Pop and Movie Hits series contains such a nice selection of Disney classics, jazz standards, popular songs and familiar movie themes, that it was hard to put down!
Here are the song tiles contained in each volume:
Book 5 * And All That Jazz * Anything Goes * At Last * Can You Feel the Love Tonight * Dancing Queen * Don’t Stop Believin’ * How High the Moon * Maple Leaf Rag * Moondance * Rhapsody in Blue™ * Summertime * Take the “A” Train * Under the Sea * The Wind Beneath My Wings
Book 6 * Beauty and the Beast * Hero * I Got Rhythm * Love Story (Where Do I Begin?) * Theme from “New York, New York” * The Notebook (Main Title) * The Prayer * Sealed with a Kiss * Swinging on a Star * The Syncopated Clock * Take Five * Tiger Rag (Hold That Tiger) * What a Wonderful World * You Raise Me Up
Ever had a beginner student enthusiastically bring a new book s/he got as a gift from a well-meaning parent/relative to the lesson? The title usually goes something like “Best Loved Songs” or “Easy Classics”. These thick anthologies, although great value, are usually way too difficult for the average beginner student, involving awkward leaps, frequent (and often unnecessary) changes of chord positions, crude harmonic progressions, and overly complicated rhythm. They are often unpianistically arranged, and a real torture to teach! Every piece in the Pop and Movie Hits has been carefully arranged for piano. They provide enough challenges for each level, without superfluous rhythmic and accompaniment complexities. They really “fit under the fingers” and kind of play themselves! (Click to see sample pages of Book 5 and Book 6)
4. Great layout
Most popular music books are designed for not just pianists, but also vocalists and guitarists; they contain too much information on the page, including chord symbols and guitar tabs, making it way too cluttered and difficult to read for students. Another common problem is page turning – multiple repeat signs, D.C., D.S., multiple verses, Coda, etc, it can be really confusing. The songs in Pop and Movie Hits are very cleanly laid out, and usually involve no more than one page turn; occasionally there is D.C. or D.S., but they are easy to spot, and there are no multiple back-and-forth flips.
5. Great pedagogy
I love music that does “double duty”. The pieces in Pop and Movie Hits actually teach many pianistic and musical concepts, so students learn something useful while playing something they (and their parents) will recognize and enjoy.
6. Great markings
I like the use of very meaningful tempo and expression marks at the top of each piece, often in English (for example: “Slowly, with expression”, “Slowly, with tenderness”, “Moderately, with spirit”, “Moderate Rock Beat”). This ensures that students approach each piece in the correct tempo and mood, without having to guess the meaning of an unfamiliar Italian word (of course, students should know the common Italian terms when playing classical repertoire, but I find the employment of English words highly appropriate for these Pop and Movie Hits). Fingering is well indicated throughout, and many of the pieces also have suggested pedal markings.
As the holiday season approaches, it is a great time to incorporate some of these Pop and Movie Hits in your studio teaching. The students will love to practice these familiar tunes to show off to their friends and family!