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Review: Encore (Your favourite ABRSM piano exam pieces)

Encore: when performers return to the stage to give an additional performance!

“Encore” is also a great title for a new series of four music books bursting with favourite exam pieces for piano (and violin). Hold on! Did you just say exam pieces? Boring!

Not so. Over the Christmas holidays, I’ve had great pleasure in playing through these books for not only myself but also with the purpose of testing them out as possible material for my pupils. I have to say that the choices of repertoire are excellent. There is a real mix of styles and although not ever song “floated my boat,” the vast majority were very usable, a handful getting me really excited!

Here’s a quick overview of the piano editions:

Book 1: grades 1 & 2 (21 pieces)

Book 2: grades 3 & 4 (20 pieces)

Book 3: grades 5 & 6 (19 pieces)

Book 4: grades 7 & 8 (14 pieces)

A whole spectrum of styles is covered here from early music to some really vibrant modern pieces. And because these books are collections of favourites, hopefully, less inspired music has already been filtered out. Think of it like a “greatest hits” compilation!

A nice feature of the books are the footnotes under the notation which gives the player “background information on the composer, genre or piece,” guidance as to “key skills developed in learning the piece” and “ideas for activities to explore the music.”

Uses f or these books

If you’ve been collecting the exam pieces over the years, then you’ll already have all these pieces spread out through your books. On the other hand, I think these books will be really useful to students for improving their sight-reading, for building a repertoire and in building skills between exams. These books contain “must learns” like Edward MacDowell’s exquisite “To a Wild Rose” and the evergreen that is Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1” to great new songs like Dave Stapleton’s “Blue Sky Blues” and the one that I’m sure that your pupils can’t wait to “get their teeth into”… “Vampire Blues!” by Kevin Wooding. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one!)

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