Encouraging Young Pianists to Accompany

Most piano pupils live a lonely musical life compared to their friends who play other instruments. Many of the latter play with bands and orchestras from an early stage, Nowadays, instrumental teaching in schools is predominantly group-based, so there are many opportunities to play in parts. However, when it comes to solo repertoire for the early grades, the piano accompaniment  frequently demands a more experienced performer than the solo part. This leaves elementary pianists hopelessly out of their depth. When opportunities do arise, however, they provide a whole new dimension to piano-playing and are very motivating for the young student.

It is often said that ‘many accompanists are fine pianists, while few pianists are fine accompanists’. This is, no doubt, due to the isolationist way in which we educate pianists, often not exposing them to accompanying until they reach an advanced level. By that time, many amateurs will have discontinued tuition, having attained a level of skill sufficient to play the music in which they are interested.

Happily, today’s composers of music for young players are more alert to the need for manageable piano accompaniments, if we check out other sections of the music shop while browsing for new repertoire, we will find pieces to suggest to piano pupils for sharing with their friends. In my own pieces for beginners, the “Stars from the Start” books and the, downloadable, “Flutes (Recorders, Violins) Start Here” series, I have endeavoured to provide piano scores which can be played and enjoyed by elementary pianists, thus encouraging friends and families to make music together from an early stage. A little more demanding (but still fairly easy) are the accompaniments for other pieces. like those in the “Creative Flute Pack“.

There are few activities more absorbing and satisfying than playing music with one’s friends!

Christmas Carols – Creative Exploration and Flexible Ensembles

Christmas carols are some of the tunes most readily played by ear, so giving the performer a sense of comfortable familiarity and ‘ownership’ which paves the way for improvisation and creative arrangement. In the early stages, improvisation doesn’t need to wander far, if at all, from familiar melodies. The carols in my personal CD collection, for example,¬† take on subtle changes of character when performed, in turn, by a cathedral choir, a Celtic band, a pop singer and a flute soloist. Rhythmic ‘feel’, dynamics, changes of register, timbre and articulation all enable us to hear a tune anew.

It can be daunting for a teacher or music-leader to be presented with an ad-hoc mixed ability group but, at Christmas time, players of many different persuasions and skill-levels are united in a desire to share traditional music with their communities. This is a wonderful opportunity for creativity and cooperation, taking simple melodies and harmony parts and fashioning them into a group’s unique arrangement.

The Full Pitcher’s “Simply Carols” download series provides flexible arrangements of familiar carols for mixed ability groups of mixed instruments. The full score for each shows just one way in which the song can be performed by a group of instruments, with different parts combining in each verse. Groups can use this version, if they wish, or experiment with the timbres and characteristics of the group’s specific instrumentation to arrive at their own version. Silent Night (below) is one example. You can listen and download this score and a refreshing range of other seasonal music at http://fullpitcher.co.uk/christmas_music.htm.