As Reviewed By You – Newest and Easiest!

This month we asked Christine Mulhall to look at some new releases from Willis Music. We have some of the every popular John Thompson Easiest Piano Course supplementary materials as well as the Composer Showcase series from favourites including Eric Baumgartner and Glenda Austin. To see the full Willis collection, download that catalogue HERE.


Christine Mulhall has had a look at these for us. Christine is a piano teacher from Noosa Heads in Queensland and has been teaching the piano for approximately fifteen years. She holds an “Associate Teacher of Music” and has taught many students in this time from 4 year olds to 80 year olds. In the last eighteen months, teaching online has become her specialty due to the pandemic. Christine is a passionate teacher and loves to learn new and innovative ideas and methods of teaching. In her spare time, she can be found out in the garden or surfing the beautiful beaches in her area.


Many teachers would be familiar with the John Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course. It is wonderful to see that they are continuing to add to their huge collection of books. The following three books that I have been asked to review are all well set out with appealing  bright and colourful covers. The books contain many pieces that as a teacher I have been asked for by students to play many times. All books come without audio.

FIRST CLASSICAL DUETS
John Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course

This book is an absolute must-have for teachers and their students to add to their collection. 11 well-known classical pieces are contained in this book that students of all ages love to play. The pieces are well set out and easy to read, and include such classics as “Spring”, “Ode to Joy”, “Minuet in G Major”, “The Swan”, “Symphony Number 5” and “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”. They are designed as supplementary material for advancing young pianists in the John Thompson “Easiest Piano Course” (or other similar teaching methods) after completion of Part 2 for the easier pieces and through to Part 4 for pieces of greater difficulty. This would approximately equate to AMEB pre-Preliminary through to Grade 1 to 2. The pieces are listed in order of study, which is very helpful for students and teachers. This book would suit young to old pianists and is a great book to encourage the joy of duet playing with a great collection of well-known classical duets.


FIRST SMASH HITS
John Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course

You will find a great selection of modern pop songs in this collection. The pieces are arranged for early beginners to approximately AMEB Preliminary Grade. All are only two pages long and clearly set out with lyrics to help encourage the performer to sing along while playing. I’m sure all teachers have at some point been asked by their student for the music to a current pop song. This is where this book comes to the rescue! “Havanna” by Camila Cabello, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman, “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran and “Firework” by Katy Perry are some of the popular titles. This book would appeal to young and teenage students who are beginning their musical journey.


FIRST MUSICALS
John Thompson’s Easiest Piano Course

This is a good book for beginners with 15 showtunes from well-known musicals. Each piece has lyrics clearly marked so that the performer can play and sing along with their music. The level of difficulty ranges from an early beginner to approximately AMEB Preliminary Grade. The pieces are arranged in order of difficulty with the first few pieces arranged in a five-finger position. “City of Stars” from La La Land, “Memory” from Cats, “Hakuna Matata” from Lion King and “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman are some of the titles featured in this collection. This book is a great introduction to showtunes from popular musicals. More advanced students could also use this book as an exercise in adding a chordal accompaniment to an existing melody.


This wonderful series called Composer’s Choice showcases piano works from different composers in the ‘Willis Music family’. Each book contains performance notes that are very useful for teachers and students. The three “Composer’s Choice” books that I have been asked to review all include six of the composer’s favourite pieces plus two new pieces composed for the series. Each book is well set out and presented. Audio is not included.

ERIC BAUMGARTNER
Composer’s Choice

This collection contains six of Eric’s favourite original pieces along with two new compositions. They represent a variety of styles and are fun to play. The pieces are engaging and would suit early to mid-intermediate students, or approximately AMEB Preliminary grade through to Grade 4. “The Cuckoo” and “Goblin Dance” are quirky and fun to play while “New Orleans Nocturne” is more lyrical and explores shifting tonalities with chords. There is “Arietta’s Rhumba” in a great dance style as well as “Jackrabbit Rumble” with a fun swing rhythm. The book finishes with “Beale Street Boogie”, which has a great ostinato left hand bass. This book would suit the slightly older student, teenager or adult looking for a variety of styles that are different and fun to play. Some of the chords in the more difficult pieces would be hard for young student with small hands. The pieces in this book would make great own choice music for AMEB Piano for Leisure exams.


GLENDA AUSTIN
Composer’s Choice

This book contains a selection of great original pieces that covers a wide range of styles and techniques including driving rhythms, tango rhythms, chords, cross-over hands, bass work, chromatic runs, waltzes and dreamy sounds. There is something for everyone here and certainly a great variety of pieces. The pieces would appeal to all age groups from early to mid-intermediate level, or approximately AMEB Grade 2 to 3. They would also make great AMEB Piano for Leisure own choice pieces or recital pieces. I particularly like Glenda’s new piece titled “Midnight Caravan”. This is an excellent book for students to learn a variety of repertoire and techniques, and it would make a great addition to any piano teacher or student’s library.


NAOKO IKEDA
Composer’s Choice

This delightful book contains eight original, beautiful musical stories influenced by traditional Japanese sounds and emotions. These pieces would help develop an expressive playing style and are a pleasure to play. Each piece has a story behind it that is described by the composer under “performance notes”. This helps to paint the picture for the performer and hence encourage an expressive style of performance. The music would suit early to mid-intermediate level, or approximately AMEB Grade 2 to 3. The beautiful harmonies and rhythms would appeal to all ages and would make great AMEB Piano for Leisure own choice pieces or recital pieces. This book would also suit teenagers looking for flowing and lyrical music. I particularly loved “Soft Rain” with it’s lilting rhythm and lyrical lines.


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