Written by Fiona Lau.
I first came across A Dozen A Day when my children were having piano lessons. Their teacher used Book One and the exercises were taught by a mixture of reading and rote. It helped to make their fingers stronger and to teach them some basic techniques. My children loved the stick figure illustrations, the imaginative descriptive titles, and the brevity of the exercises.
I have since used them as well; mainly the pink Mini Book and blue Book One. I’ve used specific exercises matched to pieces when a particular technique was demanded (there are excellent staccato exercises for the early stages); as short sight reading exercises; in different keys to reinforce key signatures; and as part of my 30 or 40 piece challenges where 3 exercises = one piece.
I suspect that most users do not venture beyond the first two or three books. There are in fact five books ranging from beginner to intermediate (grade 5/6 level). This new edition has, for the first time, the complete series in one volume. No more searching out the relevant book for individual pupils or carrying them all into schools – they are all in one comprehensive volume. In addition, six specially written performance pieces conclude each of the six books; making a staggering total of 366 pieces.
From a teacher’s point of view, the best new feature is the thematic index grouping of the 366 exercises at the back of the book. Before this edition existed, we would have had to work these out ourselves. And when time is a constraint, this was not always easy.
This new publication lists many specific areas of technique including: legato, staccato, scales, hand crossing, triplets, changing fingers on one note etc. It gives the book each exercise is in, its group, the exercise number and the page. When a technical challenge is presented, it’s so much easier to find the relevant exercise at the correct level quickly. So when a pupil is approaching Grade 1 contrary motion scale, they can prepare with The Splits on page 15 or 30; a new grade 5 pupil transferred from another teacher appears with gaps in their part playing technique, the Hanging By The Knees exercises at all levels could help; when a piece slows down because of insecure ornament, playing Jumping Like a Frog and Twirling On Toe exercises could isolate and improve their technique; when a warm-up in a particular key is needed, you transpose one of the scalic exercises at a suitable level. The pedagogical opportunities are endless!
This comprehensive and progressive anthology is a tremendous tool for piano teachers to have. It saves time while making us look good – always a great plus.
A Dozen A Day All Year Round, by Edna Mae Burnam
This new anthology presents the complete series in a single volume for the first time. Together the exercises form a rich resource for Piano teachers and students to draw upon, and with the addition of this book’s special thematic index, it’s easy to focus on specific areas of technique. The possibilities for how the studies might be used as part of your practice routine are almost limitless, and with six specially-written performance pieces added to conclude each book, A Dozen A Day now has an exercise for every day of the year.