As we are discussing functional keyboard skills this week, I am excited to share my review of some new books featuring jazz, blues, funk and contemporary pieces for piano students!
Blue and Red are part of the new Color series by New York City pianist Dror Perl. Blue contains "contemporary music with a harmonic twist" and Red contains jazz, blues and funk. Mr. Perl's intent in writing these books was to help teach his students chords and harmony, improve their sight reading skills and refine their technique, as well as to help keep them excited about playing the piano. There is also another volume in the series, Purple, which contains jazz and blues compositions.
As a classical pianist and teacher, I do not believe that any books such as these will ever replace the classics of piano literature. However, in light of our current topic and the great need for keyboard literacy among our students, I think that Mr. Perl has truly created some excellent resources to use as supplementary material in our lessons, and that these books have great merit and purpose. (They also make me look back fondly on the good old days of junior high and high school jazz band...)
What I Like About This Series
- I love the fact that each piece includes chord symbols. I think this is a great way to help our students know and understand what they are playing, and will give opportunity for lots of great discussions about chords, including about augmented and diminished chords, seventh chords, and chord inversions.
- I appreciate the sophisticated harmonies used in these books. This is a great way to expose our students to some new sounds and musical ideas.
- The music in these books are written simply enough to be played by students of most ages. Blue is written for "all level pianists" and is simple enough for some of the youngest students to play (but is great for higher-level pianists as well!)
- I think that these books are also excellent for working on technique and sound, and are an awesome sight reading resource.
- You can also purchase duet parts for many of these pieces for a variety of instruments - how fun to create your own little jazz combo! Visit www.sheerpiano.com for more details!
I really enjoyed playing through Red. Here are some highlights:
My favorite piece in Red is Lullaby for the Sun. Mr. Perl calls this piece a "wistful ballad," and I just love its contemporary harmonies and bluesy feel. It is the perfect piece for working on sound production and learning to bring out the right hand melody.
I would not normally think of teaching my students funk. But I loved Medium Rare Funk and think that it is an awesome exercise in playing syncopated rhythms. If your students can play this piece with an accurate, tight rhythm, then they are in pretty good shape. Here, take a look:
(And yes, all of the pieces in this book are printed in red!) Another great piece for working on rhythm, this time focusing on triplets and swung eighth notes, is Wrong answer!!
I enjoyed Out of ketchup blues and think that this could be a really great piece for doing a little improvisation in the right hand. The student could play through this bluesy piece as written, and then play it again, adding their own flair to the melody.
Sunburn is fun and fast and is perfect for introducing a walking bass line.
Blue is chock-full of great contemporary pieces with a bluesy feel.
One of my favorites in this book is Bluebird. I love that it sounds like a jazz ballad, and that the left hand rhythm almost lulls you to sleep (in a good way!). This piece is perfect for working on sound production. Waves has a similar lulling quality.
Burn with a low blue flame is a piece that I really enjoyed. I love that the left hand is comprised of single whole notes for the entire piece. I think this piece would be an excellent one for improvising a bit with the left hand and practicing filling out chords to improve a student's harmonization skills.
I enjoyed what Mr. Perl described as a "mildly twisted Waltz" - Once in a blue moon is, like most of these pieces, perfect for improving technique and sound production and for practicing making the melody louder than the accompaniment.
My other favorite in this book (besides Bluebird) is The blue city. One thing that somewhat bothers me about some of these pieces is that they have a very small range, and tend to stay in the lower register a lot (8va markings are very common in this series, which can be somewhat confusing for a more advanced pianist but may make the pieces more accessible for all ages). But in The blue city, there is a great range of notes! The piece begins on a high treble B, then changes mid-song to the middle register of the piano. It then goes down to the lower register, and ends back in the middle. I think students would love this piece, which Mr. Perl describes as "slow" and "meditative." I think this piece is perfect for sight reading, as it contains a lot of accidentals.
This series is well-written and, I believe, has a wonderful purpose and place in our piano lessons. Whether you use it for fun recital pieces, for instruction on chords and harmony, or simply for occasional sight reading, it will be a great asset to the musical training of our students.
Now, for the GIVEAWAY!! One lucky reader will win a copy of Red, which features jazz, blues and funk. I really enjoyed the fun variety of pieces in this book, and I think you will too!
Visit Mr. Perl's website, www.sheerpiano.com
, look around a bit, and then come back and leave a comment telling us what book you would like to try out
if you had your pick!
- One extra entry: become a follower or email subscriber of our blog, and leave a comment letting us know you did!
- One extra entry: Like us on Facebook, then leave a comment letting us know you did!
Giveaway goes until next Monday, November 22, at 11:59 pm central time. Winner will be announced on Tuesday the 23rd!
U.S. and Canadian residents only, please :)
Labels: Black Hole of Piano Study, book reviews, Functional Keyboard Skills, giveaways, jazz, Repertoire