My piano students play a wide variety of music. Some learn classical, some learn jazz, boogie and blues, others prefer to learn pop music. I have very specific tastes in the music that I choose to play, but I really do not mind what my students play. Anything that encourages them to play the piano is fine by me. I am happy to transcribe pieces for students that have asked to learn some really awful pop and R&B songs. I have found myself sat infront of MuseScore listening to a song on Youtube and then notating it in the software to produce sheet music. A particularly low point in my teaching career was the request for an easy piano version of ‘Baby, Baby’ by Justin Bieber which caused me some distress and bleeding of the ears having to watch that on Youtube.
However, I must admit that I am lying about being open to students playing any piece they like. There is one composer that fills me with dread and horror. When a student walks in clutching a hefty volume of “The Best of Einaudi“, I feel a dark cloud descend over the room and my mood inexplicably blackens. The thing about this Einaudi chap is that he has written probably about 100 pieces, all around 15 pages and 6 minutes long, and THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME. They are just in different keys – usually minor, with a brief escape to the major for a short thrill, and then back to the minor for an interminably long period of time. They don’t even seem to have any structure – it’s just like one long A section over and over again. At first the piece might start with chords in the left hand, then pretty soon it moves to arpeggiated chords. It’s a standard formula that he’s been bashing out for far too long. Despite my fear of Einaudi, he is absolutely loved and adored by many of my students, particularly teenage girls and adult students.
To counteract his popularity amongst my students and try to keep him out of my piano room, I have waged a Silent War Against Einaudi. By silent, I mean that whenever a student expresses interest in Einaudi, I slip them some other music that sounds a little bit similar, but absolutely nothing as mind-numbingly awful as him. I lure them away from the dark side to somewhere that I find more tolerable.
I know that there are many piano teachers that cannot stand Einaudi, so I invite you to join the silent war and here are my suggestions for pieces to substitute whenever Einaudi rears his ugly head. For those of you who are wondering what my beef with Einaudi is all about, I include one of his videos at the end of this blog.
Craig Armstrong is one of my piano heros. He writes many film soundtracks as well as music for Massive Attack. ‘Morning Breaks’ from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet is quite easy, around Grade 2-3. The entire collection of pieces can be downloaded here.
I will list a few more pieces from Piano Works as I love this book. ‘Leaving Paris’ is another easy piece, Grade 2-3:
Laura’s Theme from Piano Works is also the same level of difficulty:
Morning Breaks is another easy piece from the same collection:
Not written for the piano, but do investigate his film soundtracks. ‘Ball’ from Plunkett and Macleane is fantastic! This clip has some dainty baroque dancing in it:
Mark Fowler‘s piano arrangements are incredible – pretty difficult. Pedro is currently learning this piece by ear as the sheet music isn’t available for ‘I Am The Doctor’. Quite tricky, around Grade 7:
Where is My Mind? has been incredibly popular with students over this last year. One of my adult students brought this along to his lesson. I had never heard of Maxence Cyrin before – he is a French composer and pianist who reworks pop songs into piano pieces. Where is My Mind? is a song by The Pixies. I never would have imagined that this rock song would work on the piano but it does so beautifully. Here is my student Ana performing it. She won a Light Music class at The Beckenham Festival in 2011 with this piece.
Also worth checking out is Cyrin’s version of Felix’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’.
Michael Andrew’s ‘The Artifact and Living’ from the movie Donnie Darko is a quirky little piece, with changing time signatures and a moody, dark sound to it. It’s quite simple to play, around Grade 3.
Also from Donnie Darko, and the big hit of the movie was the arrangement of Mad World, originally a Tears for Fears song reworked by Gary Jules.
C’est le Vent, Betty by Gabriel Yared is taken from the film Betty Blue and is a beautiful piece, around Grade 4-5 in difficulty. The sheet music is here.
Michael Nyman’s soundtrack for The Piano was very popular with my students when it came out in 1993. Nowadays it is not played so much – I have one student learning ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure First’. This is the most popular piece from the collection but another lovely one is “The Attraction of the Pedalling Ankle” which is less played. I can’t really find a very good version of it on Youtube but here is an OK version:
Philip Glass‘s Truman Sleeps from the movie The Truman Show is a mellow, pretty piece. Here it is played by Phoebe:
Another popular Philip Glass piece is the very eerie Metamorphosis no.1 which is on the alternative syllabus for Trinity Grade 6 piano 2012-2014:
Close Cover by Wim Mertens was heard on many an Ibiza chillout album in the 90s.
Comptine d’un autre été – by Yann Tiersen is taken from the movie Amelie.
Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence works at any time of the year, not just Christmas!