I have been meaning to write down a post about the American composer Robert D. Vandall for a while. He has composed more than 400 pieces for piano, specially aimed for the first few years of piano learning. Today, 9th of February 2018 is his death anniversary, so this article will serve as a small tribute.
His pieces have a clear pedagogical side, very adaptable to the pupils’ hands with easy to understand musical elements. His pieces have a big variety of rhythms, time signatures and styles, using a big portion of the keyboard register. All his pieces are based in easy to recognize patterns. This allows to develops different activities in the class, such as improvisation based in said patterns, transposition or analysis. Also this allows his pieces to be taught either by rote or by reading.
Following, there is a list of the Vandall’s pieces books that I use the most in my lessons:
The 24 Preludes in all major and minor keys are a clear example of his style. They are pieces developed from a single pattern, easily understandable. However, the patterns his pieces are based on, are very different whether between. This makes this book perfect to practice all the major and minor keys in a very simple way. It is also a perfect collection to use for the 40 Piece Challenge. Preludes can be purchased as a solo book that includes the 24 preludes, or in three different volumes. I have the complete 24 Preludes edition, but I can make my pupils just to buy the first volume, containing the first 7 preludes. Here there is an example of the C major Prelude that opens the series, based exclusively in root position arpegios.
Modes and Moods
This book includes 7 pieces, each one composed in a different mode and all in white keys. It is actually impressive the variety in this book, thinking that none alteration is used in any of the pieces, 21 complete pages without a single black key. In this link you can read the analysis made by the composer of one of the pieces of the book in lidian mode, Lydian Nocturne. It also includes the whole score with his own notes. More examples on this book can be Energized, written in mixolidian, or Turbulence in locrian mode. In the following example you can see my own recording of the Nocturne.
Celebrated Virtuosic Solos, Book 3
Vandall has different series of pieces divided in levels, from level 1 to 5 according with UK and USA levels. Some examples are: Celebrated Lyrical Solos, Celebrated Piano Solos or Celebrated Virtuosic Solos. Of all of them, the ones I find to be the most complete ones are: Celebrated Lyrical Solos Book 2, Celebrated Virtuosic Solos Book 3 and Celebrated Virtuosic Solos Book 4. Of my chosen book, I am including as an example the piece: Triad Toccatina, based in root position chords for the right hand:
To finish with, these are just some pieces that I often use, that are included in other books:
Toccata in f
I just want to thank Vandall for all the pieces I already know and all the ones I have still to discover. I hope this post has been useful for you.
I also want to thank Marta Maroto Ruiz for translating this post into English.
Translation: Marta Maroto Ruiz