As most teachers will know, there is a plethora of beginners’ piano methods on the market today. I recently counted over 100, many of which were examined on my piano teachers’ course at Chetham’s International Piano Summer School last year. Somewhat conversely, there is relatively scant repertoire available for this important demographic of students. Therefore, I wanted to create a series for the beginner, and specifically the very young beginner, so that they are able to play other pieces alongside those in their method books.
First Repertoire for Little Pianists is a two-book series featuring 50 very elementary piano pieces. Written during lockdown last year, each book consists of 25 original pieces. The books are intended to go hand-in-hand with beginners’ methods, and I believe it’s possible to start using them from the first term of lessons.
Many pieces contain a piano teacher accompaniment, so that young students can enjoy performing securely in the knowledge that they won’t be alone at the piano. There is also a selection of solo pieces, too. Each piece has a page of practice tips complete with fun games and ideas; these might be useful for the student or the parent and teacher.
Two aspects of learning to play the piano which often cause issues for young students are reading notation and feeling the rhythmic pulse. These elements have been addressed quite specifically in both books. Plenty of rhythmic focus exercises run through the books, involving tapping and clapping for the student, as well as for the teacher or parent. Note focuses feature throughout, too, often inviting students to write notes and note patterns, as a means to assimilating them efficiently.
Each piece is accompanied by an annotated piano keyboard diagram, providing a useful geographical reference point for the student of the notes they are about to play.
Book 1 showcases very short pieces, often just eight bars in length, and the journey begins hands separately, gradually incorporating hands playing together. As this music is intended for young children, hands generally stay in five-finger positions in this book, with no wide intervals or stretches. The time signatures 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 are used, as are C major/A minor, G major, and F major as well as some pentatonic pieces. Dynamics, phrase markings, tempo markings, pedalling, and fingering have been added, and there are also a few rote pieces, to encourage students to move around the instrument. I’ve also ensured that black keys are used from the outset.
This series is progressive and, therefore, Book 2 is a little more difficult than Book 1. However, every piece is still very short from 8—17 bars in length, and the music starts to move out of the five-finger position. I’ve also ensured that all five fingers are called into play in both volumes. Tonally, there are more adventurous pieces in Book 2, as well as the use of C, G, and F major, and A, E, and D minor.
Many of the pieces contain illustrations, which I hope children will enjoy and colour in, and there are imaginative titles that relate programmatically to the music, paving the way for lots of discussion.
I’ve recorded a selection of pieces from each book, and you can hear them by clicking on the links below. The duets are played here with my student, Becky Flisher.
First Repertoire for Little Pianists by Melanie Spanswick
First Repertoire for Little Pianists is a series of delightful, original piano works for children from beginner to preparatory level. Comprising 25 performance pieces that may also be used to supplement a method, each of the two First Repertoire for Little Pianists books provides a treasure trove of meticulously graded music, bursting with imagination and inventiveness. Focused on simplistic five-finger hand positions and with useful performance notes for each piece, Book 1 features piano solos, solos with teacher accompaniment, and pupil duets that will motivate further study and foster a love for music-making. Widening the range of note values, key signatures, and hand positions from Book 1, Book 2 provides slightly more challenging material to motivate further study and foster a love for music-making.