On this week, I will talk about several easy piano etudes and exercises for piano. I won’t be talking about the too well known pieces by Czerny or Berens but about more modern books on piano exercises that contain easy piano etudes that students can easily practise and learn during one week.
For the next year I’m going to implement for my students the challenge set by the teacher Elissa Milne consisting on working on 40 pieces during one year, the 40 piece challenge. The aim is getting students to play a number of pieces on varius styles, with diverse piano patterns and different structures so that they know and master the largest possible amount of resources. What would be better to achieve this goal than combining their repertoire practice with piano exercises or short etudes?
With this in mind I have inmersed myself in the search of new material, some of which I have already used with excellent results, and I have also used some methods I already had. I hope you like my recommendations as much as I do
Piano Adventures Technique and Artistry Book
On a previous post I explained what Piano Adventures method deals with. For each level, there’s a book with small technical exercises and short pieces or etudes where these techniques are implemented. Each of the books start with the explanation of four techniques, gestures or movements that will be worked on during each of them with the exercises and small pieces I’ve already mentioned. Everything is perfectly sorted and explained on a way that is clear and attractive for students.
There are seven levels: First, 1, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B and 4, all of them I highly recommend. They can be used with other Piano Adventures books or independently working great in both ways.
Many of the piano exercises are conceived to be easily transposed to other keys. As an example, here are a couple of youtube videos: one with an exercise and another with an etude of Level 3B:
175 Exertudes by Donald Waxman
Donald Waxman’s 175 exertudes are divided into 5 books of increasing difficulty . They are short etudes, at least those in the first three books, dedicated to an specific technic complication. On these etudes we’ll find etudes with more complex and modern sounds that children will find more attractive than the traditional etudes, including pentatonical scales,perfect fourths or whole tone scale.. I love these etudes! I’m using them more every day.
On sheetmusicplus website you can see some examples clicking on each book.
As I haven’t been able to find videos of them I’ve recorded some on my cell phone. They’re not high quality but you can get an idea of what Exertudes are like.
Many of the pieces compilations by Paul Shefftel, of whom I’ll write a post shortly, are composed based on just one idea, so by playing it, students can assimilate some theorical or practical concept.
They are fun, on accasions showing very funny titles, as in his book “I haven’t practiced…” in which every compositions gives an excuse following the book title such as: ” But my nails are short “, “With much enthusiasm”, or “Can you still love me?
On his book Modules he focused on scales, intervals or chords where every theoretical concept is followed by a piece applying what has been learned. He also has a book In perfect accord in which al the pieces are designed with chords with the aimed to learn them on their different positions.
Paul Shefftel’s Pattern for fun two volumes are my favourite. These develop just one pattern through all the piece.
In all these books each piece is accompanied by a page where the aim of the composition is aexpalind along with notes for study.
Below I include a video with an example of one piece to study perfect fifths:
A Dozen a Day
I guess you must already know these collection of piano exercises but I also like them very much. Although they’re not as contemporary or display sounds as modern as Donald Waxman’s or Paul Sheftel’s they’re very useful too.
They’re five book of increasing difficulty. On each of them we’ll find five groups with a dozen exercises each. The child is supposed to learn one, two or three exercises each week and use them as a warm-up before he starts with the rest of the pieces. When the twelve exercises of the group are completed he can move along to the next group. I’ve never got my students to work like this, the twelve exercises as a warm-up, but they’ve done fine with four or five. The good thing about them is that, besides of using them as a warm-up and helping to develop strong fingers and flexible hands, as Edna Mae Burnam points in her prologue, they can be transposed to several keys because they’re so easy to understant, usually based on tonic, subdominant and dominant degrees.
Below, an example of a group of these twelve exercises:
Piano Train Trips
As I´m a great fun of easy piano etudes I´ve published my own book available in this blog. Piano Train Trips is a collection of 18 piano etudes plus a series of supplementary exercises. The etudes are designed to practise just one specific musical aspect in each piece with a style appealing to students. Being focused on a determined feature will enable students to assimilate easily the proposed aspect by means of listening, memory, reading and practice. For instance, in the etudes based on intervals they will learn to identify them clearly in the score, to perceive them aurally and they will relate them with one position of the hand to play them. There are etudes focused on scales, intervals, positions of five fingers, chords in different positions, etc.
Here I include some videos so you can have an idea about the pieces:
In the exercises, the students will work the different technical aspects practised in the etudes with the teacher’s accompaniment, so that their assimilation will be reinforced.
Piano Safari Technique Books
As I´ve mentioned many times before, I love Piano Safari Method! And the Technique Books are not an exception. In the Level 1 there is not an specific book for technique but there are a lot of technical exercises. In this method the authors associated the basics motions and articulations that have to master young pianists with animals. This way students assimilate the movements very easily and with great enthusiasm. As an example the arm weight is called the lion paw technique and the non-legato articulation with an arm bounce on each note is the tall giraffe motion. There are seven different animal techniques. Here is a video as an example of the non-legato touch (tall giraffe technique). Level 2 and Level 3 have their own Technique Books, and they are great and very useful. In the books you can find exercises about: five-finger patterns, triads, special exercises for fluency and keyboard orientation, scales, chords inversions and much more.
All their technical exercises are explained in their excellent videos:
For more information visit pianosafari.com
Technique Trainer de Jackie Sharp
To conclude, I’m including a book, about which I’ve alredy talked in another post (in the Spanish version of my blog, it´ll be available in English soon), which I’ve found works very well. Technique Trainer consists exclusevely on exercises but it´s has proven terribly useful. With these exercises students work the joint stability, the position of the hand, downward and upward movements of the wrist, circular movements of the wrist, forearm rotation and much more , that are the foundations upon which a solid technical base can be built. Everything is explained to children on a clear and entertaining way.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found it interesting. I would love to know your opinions and recommendations on other books and methods