Whilst it is hard to miss the Hamilton craze sweeping the globe with performances currently in Sydney, Australia and opening in Melbourne, Australia in March 2022, you may have missed some of the great releases for Hamilton. Helen Perris has had a look at them and given us an insight into some of the differences in books and levels from Piano Solos through to Easy Piano.
It should be no surprise to anyone that the musical, Hamilton has taken the world by storm. Its release on Disney+ and the live production currently playing in Sydney means that many of our students will be not just familiar, but possibly also obsessed with the show and songs. Happily, the release of several Hamilton piano books will give these Hamilfans another opportunity to indulge in their passion. We are very much looking forward to the release of the duets book this July! There is also a Vocal Selections book available for those who love to accompany themselves or friends singing, with arrangements by Alex Lacamoire and Lin Manuel Miranda.
Beginner Piano Solo
Don’t be fooled by the word “beginner” and the large print layout of this book. These ten arrangements contain elements of difficulty best handled by students approaching or at AMEB Preliminary grade or equivalent. The slightly abridged arrangements mostly have melody in the right hand with a simple left hand accompaniment in keys with no more than one sharp or flat. However there are frequent leaps of the right hand, some 7th stretches in the left, and occasional splitting of the melody between the hands. The tricky rhythms (semiquavers, syncopation, triplets) may require some breaking down or rote teaching. The book would benefit from the inclusion of lyrics to assist with this. The arrangements vary in effectiveness – some are very repetitive – but Dear Theodosia is an absolute delight.
Easy Piano Selections
This book contains nine selections arranged for an early intermediate level (approximately AMEB Grades 1-3). The most pianistic of these is Burn, which sat very easily under my 8-year-old’s small hands. Students who love singing along will relish that the lyrics are accurately printed in the scores, and that the rap in Alexander Hamilton and My Shot is notated with cross heads, designed specifically to be spoken with the piano as accompaniment. The songs are unabridged, except for Wait For It, which is disappointingly – and ironically – missing the bridge. The majority of the syncopated rhythms remain in the arrangements, so they sound quite true to the originals, and seven songs are in the show keys. Chord symbols are included, providing an opportunity to add more texture to the accompaniment as students advance in skill.
These advanced arrangements are suitable for students at a minimum of AMEB Grade 7 or equivalent. The ten songs included are presented in their entirety, and even the rap sections are quite pianistic. With lots of octaves and big chords in both hands, small handed pianists may need to omit some notes. The heavily syncopated rhythms can be difficult for pianists unused to these grooves, but they are rather faithful to the recordings, so a listen while following the score will be essential during the learning process. All of the songs except for Wait For It are in the original show keys, which makes playing along with the recordings possible. The layout of the pages is dense but clean and easily followed. I found The Schuyler Sisters the most enjoyable arrangement to play due to the awesome bass line!
Overall, these three books will enthral a range of piano students and teachers alike. If you have Hamilfans in your studio, I recommend their addition to your library! Just choose which one best suits the abilities of your biggest musical theatre buffs and do not throw away your shot!
Helen Perris is a prolific and critically acclaimed songwriter, recording artist, composer, and piano and voice teacher. In a previous life, she was a musical theatre performer and children’s entertainer. She now runs a very busy, multi award-winning, three-teacher studio in Western Sydney. She holds a Master of Teaching (Secondary Music and Drama), Bachelor of Music and AMusA (piano). Helen, her husband and their two boys are all obsessed with Hamilton.