Samantha Coates, professional pianist and author of the BlitzBooks! series has had nearly 30 years’ experience in both private and group tuition. Her music education series has captured the imagination of students; transforming the teaching of music theory, sight reading and general knowledge.
She sat down with us to talk all things music, tuition and books.
Describing her inspiration behind creating the BlitzBooks series, Samantha talks about how her books are different from existing theory, sight-reading, sight-singing and musicianship books. Their style is a fresh approach and can make a real difference to students taking exams. Originally published in her home country, Australia, Samantha describes what she has done to apply them to the UK market and, in particular, mapping the Theory books to the ABRSM Theory syllabus.
Additional materials to compliment the books can also be found on www.blitzbooks.com.
We discussed her publication ‘How to Blitz Beginner Theory’; a gender and age neutral, fun and engaging book for those wanting to learn about Music Theory. It includes a popular activities such as ‘Beat Bingo’, which is all about rhythm; as well as exercises where the child or adult has to be the teacher and mark the exercise. The uncompleted version is available on www.blitzbooks.com so they can have a go themselves. The rest of the book contains lots of quirky, interesting exercises introducing pitch and rhythm delivered in nice friendly way.
Samantha describes her new Theory books, which contain everything you need to ‘blitz’ your ABRSM Theory Exams. Allied with the ABRSM syllabuses, they include exercises, friendly explanations, and revision. The books each end with a test paper but, contrary to other publications, the student has to be the teacher and mark it with the uncompleted version available on www.blitzbooks.com so they can have a go themselves. Particularly important is the recap for each book because many students jump in at Grade 5. The first page gives a good grounding for tackling the rest of the grade.
We discussed her publication ‘How to Blitz Sight Singing’ and how it differs to her other sight reading books. In particular the important tweaks needed to help singers, such as the way in which they learn rhythm – starting with shorter notes and introducing semi-quavers early on. And then vocal range – rather than starting with middle C, F is where she starts as it fits better in the vocal range of a student.
Samantha talks about her publication ‘How to Blitz Sight Reading’. She emphasises the important distinction between playing activities and reading activities, and how sight-reading is a skill in itself and needs to be practised separately. She describes the elements of the book, which include the way it breaks down the elements of sight reading – patterns, note reading, rhythms, melodies, dynamics etc. Other books on the market tend to have lots of melodies and short pieces to play as sight reading exercises. This book is different – students actually learn the skill first.
Her publication, ‘How to Blitz Musical Knowledge’, is what some might call a ‘music teacher’s bible’ and a one-stop-shop of everything you need to know for the musical knowledge element of a practical music exam. It includes elements such as the form of the pieces, and historical facts about the composer. Its succinct and easy to understand – definitions, pages on periods of music, terminology and more. This book is for all grades, all syllabuses and all instruments.