Recommended Readings for Students

All books shown below are available for loan at the teacher’s studio

My First Book of Great Composers by Emily Woo

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Learn About the Great Composers!
Did you know that….
Bach became famous 100 years after his death.
Haydn, the young and mischievous composer, later known as the “Papa of the Symphony”
Mozart, the incredible Child genius who started composing music at the age of five.
Beethoven became deaf but continued composing wonderful pieces of music as he could “hear the music in his head.”
Chopin is known as the “Poet of the Piano” because of the wonderful and expressive music he wrote just for the piano.
Tchaikovsky wrote some of the most famous ballet music which are still widely played today.
Find out more in “My First Book of Great Composers“!

My Second Book of Great Composers by Emily Woo

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My Second Book of Great Composers gives you a chance to get to know some of the world’s best loved composers. Explore the exciting world of these great musicians and read about:

Schubert, a famous songwriter who wrote over 600 songs!
Schumann, a brilliant composer who went mad.
Debussy, who is known as the ‘Father of Impression’
Bartok, who is well known for writing Hungarian Folk songs.
Ravel, a composer who is most well known for his Concerto written specially for the left hand.

Lives of the Musicians by Kathleen Krull

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The Life Stories of famous musicians – Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Woody Guthrie – are familiar to many. But what were they like really?
What kind of children were they? How did they die? And what went on in between? What did they eat? What did they wear? How did they spend their money? What were their phobias, quirks, and bad habits? Who were their “significant others”? And what did the neighbours think? (Music is not a quiet career.)

Most interesting of all, what is it like to live a truly creative life? The musicians in this book, representing different countries, historical periods, and musical styles, do have things in common. About their music, they had a perseverance and single-mindedness that led not only to success, but also to eccentricities, sometimes amusing, sometimes sad.

Of all of them it could be said that their work shook up the times they lived in: It provoked riots (Stravinsky and Satie), led to death threats (Prokofiev), required police to control the crowds (Schumann), shaped entire generations of students (Boulanger), created wealthy superstars (Gilbert and Sullivan), was condemned as “addictive” and “immoral” (Joplin), and left blood on the piano keys (Gershwin). Music that we think of today as acceptable, “classic”, or even staid often caused passion and controversy during its time. “Beethoven thought that through his music he could change the world,” points out cellist Yo-Yo Ma. “Today, rock musicians are virtually the only ones who think that.”

This music can still arouse emotion – and claim listeners. It’s estimated that if Mozart were alive today, he’d be earning $20 million a year from sales of his records. The music, above all, is the reason people remember these musicians today.

Here, escorted by the patron saint of music, Saint Cecilia, are twenty lives, colourful and mysterious. These untold stories, never before collected in one volume, are offered now as a way of getting closer to the musicians – and the music.

Not Until You’ve Done Your Practice!

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Now in its third edition, Not Until You’ve Done Your Practice! has been acclaimed as the first book on the planet to help young music students with the one thing none of them can escape – praticing.
The first part of the book shows how to make practicing more productive, so that your child can do in fifteen minutes what might otherwise take hours. The second part of the book is devoted to making the whole experience not only bearable but fun.
So if your child suddenly asks for a pack of cards because they want to go and “give the hard bits a hard time”, you know they have been reading this book.
As a concert pianist with a recording contract with a major international label, and as someone who learned violin for ten years and hated every second of it, Philip Johnston is uniquely placed to write a book on practicing, because he understands what it is like to avoid it. (Reliable sources say he did thirty-five minutes of violin practice altogether in those ten years, and used to over-tighten the strings until they broke to avoid lessons…)
Philip runs one of Australia’s largest music teaching studios, and is heavily book both as a presenter for seminars for teachers, students and institutions, and as performer in his own right.

An Illustrated History of Music for Young Musicians
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Over the years, music in the Western world has been changing constantly and the music of today is very different from the music people made 300 years ago.
To help you understand how this music has developed, each of the book in this series will describe a different musical period. For each era, we will show you the way the people of the time lived, and the kinds of art and architecture that were typical of the period. We will discuss the important musical characteristics and describes the lives and contributions of the major composers.

The history of Western music is usually divided into six board time period:
Middle Ages (before 1450), Renaissance (1450-1600), Baroque (1600-1750), Classical (1750-1825), Romantic (1825-1900), Contemporary (after 1900)

All books in this series include
The Middle Ages and The Renaissance
The Baroque Period
The Classical Period
The Romantic Period
The Twentieth Century

Recommended Readings for Parents

All books shown below are available for loan at the teacher’s studio

Nurtured by Love – by Shinichi Suzuki

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In this trailblazing book, world-renowned violinist and teacher Shinichi Suzuki presents the philosophy and principles of his teaching methods for developing the natural abilities of every child. He illustrates by examples the amazing success of his work with young pupils at his music school in Japan, which has attracted the attention of educators from every major nation.
Professor Suzuki presents convincing evidence to substantiate his view, basic to his method called Talent Education, that every child is born with ability. Accordingly, a child’s slowness in any subject indicates a deficiency in his environment, educational or otherwise.
The author writes, “If Einstein, Goethe and Beethoven had been born during the Stone Age, wouldn’t they likewise have had only the cultural ability and education of men of the Stone Age? The converse is also true; if I were to receive a suckling babe of the Stone Age and educate him, before long he would be able to play a violin sonata by Beethoven as well as any young person of today.”
According to Professor Suzuki, the greatest joy an adult can know comes from developing a child’s potential so that he can express all that is harmonious and best in human beings. In Nurtured by Love, the author relates many meaningful experiences in his career and the circumstances which bought about his discovery of the Talent Education method.
Professor Suzuki has achieved worldwide acclaim, and his students, under his direction, have performed internationally, including appearances at the UN, the Julliard School of Music, and numerous places throughout the United States.

How to Grow a Young Music Lover – by Cheri Fuller

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From playtime to bedtime, music builds children’s cognitive, motor, and creative development and adds joy and beauty to their lives. Experts believe that children’s exposure to music in the early years determine both their musical ability and their capacity to enjoy music. Regardless of a child’s age or your own musical background, you can learn How to Grow a Young Music Lover who will have a passion for music that lasts a lifetime. In this book you will discover:

  • The musical activities a child needs at each age
  • The best rhymes and recordings for children
  • The link between musical enjoyment and school achievement
  • and many more practical, insightful, and fun ways to teach children about music!

*Includes a “Classics Month-by-Month” chapter offering a full year of music curriculum for the parent or teacher.

Raising An Amazing Musician

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This self-help guide is essential reading for any parent or carer wishing to know more about bringing music into the life of their child. 20 short chapters, which assume no musical knowledge, are packed with expert advise on how to support your child through every stage of musical development, from birth through early childhood.

Helpful advise is included on:

  • music-making with the very young
  • recognising and encouraging musicality
  • choosing the right instrument
  • getting the most out of music lessons
  • encouraging practice
  • public performance
  • music exams

Whatever stage of learning your child has reached, Raising an Amazing Musician will empower you to make the right decisions for your young musician, and enrich their experience of music as an enjoyable life-enhancing activity.

The Practice Revloution

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This book is actually for teachers, but for parents who are ambitious and keen to help more in your child’s practice, you might want to read this book. Otherwise you can also consider a shorter version of this book meant for students – Not Until You’ve Done Your Practice!

Music students have to be taught how to work by themselves… because for six days in every seven, they have to work alone.
Instead of the traditional obsession with how much practice students do, The Practice Revolution looks at how students practice in the first place. With over 320 pages of what works, what doesn’t and why, it’s the most ambitious, comprehensive and approachable guide to practicing ever undertaken, aiming to turn professional music teachers into nothing short of practicing experts….
…so that they can then help their students become practicing experts too…
And for today’s students, who are busier than ever before, making sure that the time they do spend practicing actually produces results is one of the best lessons they’ll ever learn.

When will my child be ready for the Grade 1 exam?

When will my child be ready for the grade 1 exam? This is the most common question that I get from parents. Here is a detailed description of the skills that one needs to attain before attempting the grade 1 exam. Hope that it clears all your doubts.

Early Beginner
Pieces Able to play a single-line melody using both   hands alternatively
Technique Able to play with legato (smoothly), staccato   (detached) and two-note slurs
Sight-reading Able to read notes from C to G in treble clef and   C to F in the bass clef in middle C position
Rhythm able to clap and play(after hearing or reading)   simple rhythms including crotchets, minims and semibreves
Aural (pitch) able to differentiate between high and low   sounds, loud and soft, going up and going down
Mid-Late Beginner
Pieces Able to play both hands with a RH melody with a 2   or 3-note block chord in the LH
Able to play both hands with a non-chord harmony   in the LH
Able to play in at least 2 different fixed   positions C, F, G position
Technique Able to do simple finger turns, finger stretches   and finger substitutions in exercises
Able to play a melody with RH legato and chord   changes in the LH
Scales Able to play at least 2 scales in one octave,   separate hands
Sight-reading Able to read notes from one octave below middle C   to one octave able middle C or in both C and G positions and able to   sight-read in these positions
Rhythm Able to clap and play rhythms including quavers   and dotted rhythms
Aural (pitch) Able to differentiate between steps and skips in   sound
Grade 1 (before   registering for exams)
Pieces Able to play a melody both hands with a broken   chord accompaniment in a fixed position (at least 2 different types of broken   chords)
Able to play a piece with the melody both in the   LH and RH
Able to play a melody both hands with a   combination of 2 or more different positions using finger turns, stretches   and finger substitutions
Technique Able to play both hands with one hand legato (usually RH) and one hand staccato (usually LH)
Scales Able to play at least 2 scales in two octaves, separate hands
Sight-reading Able to read notes in all lines and spaces of the   treble and bass clef
Able to sight-read intervals (must be able to tell interval at first sight, not count)
Rhythm Able to clap and play simple syncopated rhythms
Aural (pitch) Able to differentiate between the first 3 tones of each major scale (Do, Re, Mi)

*LH = left hand, RH = right hand, BH = both hands, SH = separate hands

*For grade 1, it is not necessary to have all the skills listed as some will be taught while learning the exam pieces, but student should have at least most of the skills. For each level, student should be able to play at least 3 pieces from that level fluently (performance standard) – that means accurate notes and rhythm, even speed and tone, and confident playing.

*Note that the requirements stated above are only requirements for a secure pass in the Grade 1 exam, not a distinction.

You would have noticed that I did not state down the amount of time required for a beginner to be ready for the grade 1 exam. This is because the amount of time varies greatly between different children. This is not only due to how fast each child learns and how much he/she practices, but also how much parental involvement the child receives from the parent, especially for young beginners. I personally have six year olds who took less than a year to be ready for grade 1 exam and older children who took years to be ready for the exam. ABRSM suggests 1.5 years to be ready for the exam, but this is only for an average child starting at around primary school age who has sufficient practice and parental involvement.

ABRSM Marking Criteria

The following tables illustrates the basis of marking within the board result bands. Each piece will be assessed independently using the principle of marking from the required pass mark negatively or positively, rather than awarding marks by deduction from the maximum or addition from zero. In awarding marks, examiners will balance the extent to which the cumulative qualities and abilities listed below are demonstrated and contribute towards the overall result.

Marking Criteria Pieces2

Marking Criteria Supporting