If you’re looking for new music for your students and especially pieces that will instantly appeal to boys, check this guy out!
Daniel McFarlane is a young composer from Brisbane who has been quietly writing some fantastic piano music that will suit all styles and tastes. If you and your students have enjoyed the work of Chris Norton and his Microjazz, Microstyles and Preludes Collections (who hasn’t?!), you’ll love McFarlane’s work, much of it hinting at the great work done Norton to make jazz, rock and funk piano available to all levels. McFarlane has the same great ability to write rhythms, progressions and melodies with instant appeal, and in many cases, write music that sounds harder than it actually is – just what kids want these days!
I spent about an hour yesterday playing through a number of his books which are all available from his website: supersonicspiano.com. Go and check it out. He has recordings of all his pieces online and includes sample PDFs for many. All his pieces are available for either instant download or you can have the books posted. Best thing is they’re only about $22 and they all have imaginative and exciting names; boys will love it when you tell them that you’ve got a piece for them called “The Dominator”, “Truckin'” and “Nitro”!
To get an idea of his style, have a look at these two contrasting YouTube clips of him performing his own music. This is “In the Groove” from Soundscapes Book 2:
See what I mean about the funky rhythms and progressions? And for something totally different:
Soundscapes Book One (<click for full list of pieces and links to audio, samples, downloads):
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- This has a very wide mix of music of differing difficulty. It’s specified as up to about Grade 2 level, but I felt that some were pretty tricky even for that level. Still, the quality of all was fantatsic.
- The first two are in a straightforward C minor 5-finger position and so readily achievable for most students. “Keep In Time” is also in C minor and is a study in rhythms really – it’s a simple motif repeated six times in slightly different ways. I loved “Fortress” which is a great intro to triplets. “Jack and the Beanstalk” was heaps of fun. “Hard Rock” would be quite tricky for a lot of students at first, but like Norton, he repeats the same idea over and over so students get lots of practice! For the boys particularly: “Truckin'”, “Nitro” and “Cool as a Cucumber” although the last one will take some work. “Urban Beat” introduces the idea of breaking 8 quavers into 3+3+2 which is always fun.
- Specified as Grade 2 – 6, but I feel only a couple of these pieces could be considered Grade 2 level; much of it is Grade 4+. Like the first book, there are lots of really enjoyable pieces for your more advanced students – I certainly had fun playing through them!
- “Dreaming” uses an ostinato in the LH under a beautiful simple melody in the right hand. Similarly, “A Perfect day” is about Grade 3 level and very playable although it does introduce holding notes with the little finger of the LH while playing an alberti-style accompaniment in the same hand. “Predator” and “Jive Turkey” near the beginning are both quite hard, but still appealing when you get the feel of the rhythms. Boys will love “Drivin’ Along” and “The Dominator”. “Down in the Willow Garden” is in 6/8 and introduces 2 v. 3 polyrhythms with duplets in the RH. I really enjoyed “Night Flyer”, however it needs great independence between the fingers, a good LH and a decent hand stretch. “Prelude” is a beautiful piece written in more of a classical style with simple held semibreves in the LH and alberti-style quavers in the RH. “Steppin Out” has the coolest rhythms – I couldn’t stop playing it!!
- These pieces are of a much simpler standard than those in Sounscapes and will be playable by students in their first year. McFarlane continues to make much use of C minor; about half the pieces stick to a 5-finger position (with slight extensions) which makes them very accessible.
- Boys will love “At the Track”, “Drive” and “Finger Twister”. “Off the Beat” reminded me of Norton’s “Sprightly” from Microjazz Collection 1. “Over the Top” uses a simple blues progression in C but needs quick moves in the LH into each new position to flow. “Going Undercover” is another cool piece in 5-finger C minor position and was reminiscent of “Danger” from another great Aussie composer Geri Rea’s “Surfing, Sailing Sprinting”. “Tarantula” in 6/8 is a great introduction to Tarantellas while “Run” is more great practice for 3+3+2 feel in 4/4 time. “Coconutty” is aply titled – it has changes between 3/4 and 2/4, somehow giving it an Island feel. “Winter’s Day” was a standout – about Grade 1 level, simple but really meaningful and one that I’ll be using with many of my students.
All-in-all, McFarlane has put together a brilliant collection of music in these books with wide appeal and accessible at many levels. Please take the time to check out his website and purchase some of his music so that we can continue to support Aussie composers.