Drastic Measures, Chased to the Edge, and You Don’t Scare Me Now!
It’s Week 2 of the fall semester, and I’m having a blast learning all the new music that I purchased for my piano students! Yes, even we piano teachers have to practice so that we know what we’re getting our students into when we hand them a (legal!) copy of a studio licensed piece.
Last night I poured over Drastic Measures and Chased to the Edge after my final student left the studio. This morning I thought I’d write a quick review of 3 Wendy Steven’s piano pieces from ComposeCreate.com…
First, here’s a little taste of Drastic Measures that I recorded last night during my piano teacher rehearsal:
Oh, where to start! Full disclosure: I actually dreamed about this piece last night. The themes in Drastic Measures themes are super catchy, so teachers and students better prepare themselves — you will be humming this piece hours after you finish practicing. Aside from the catchy themes, here are a few things I love about this piece:
- Quick dynamic changes
- The shift from minor to major in the B section
- It’s all about that bass!
Dynamic shading is such an important skill to develop, and this piece is full of crescendos from p to f that take place within the span of only two measures. Octaves and fifths in the bass line provide a great opportunity to talk about chord progressions: I like to challenge my intermediate students to identify when the shift from minor to major occurs in the middle section of the piece. You can check out more about this piece here: Drastic Measures.
Chased to the Edge
If you have a student who loves a fast-paced piece, but isn’t quite ready for Drastic Measures, Chased to the Edge is sure to fit the bill. There are lots of challenges in this piece, but it leaves out the octaves that might only be accessible for students with large enough hands. Here are a few features that I find fun about this piece:
- Driving rhythms that alternate between the hands
- “Chasing” 5ths and motives that go Up and Down the keys
- An accelerando at the end of the piece!
The key signature says that it’s in D minor, but the G#’s throughout can provide a great conversation prompt about Lydian mode. (You know, because conversations about theory are “great” to piano teachers!) It’s very easy to see where the title of this piece came from — my students love “chase moments” where hands get to scurry up and down the keys. Moments like that look and sound super impressive, but are actually quite easy since they’re pattern-based! Check out the music and video here: Chased to the Edge.
You Don’t Scare Me Now!
I’ve been working on this piece with several young piano students for the past two weeks. You Don’t Scare Me Now! gives teachers the opportunity to reinforce many musical concepts. Here’s a run-down of what we’ve been focusing on:
- 15ma, 8va, and “as written” or “loco”
- Syncopation in the main melody
- Staccato notes at various dynamics
- … and the big finish: A GLISSANDO!
There are lots of fun non-piano sounds incorporated into this piece: students have to knock, stomp, tap, and snap their way through the score. This can pose a challenge for some students at first, and if a student struggles with this I suggest limiting them to a single sound — try just knocking at all the prompts, and then once they feel more confident they can experiment with the other sounds.
The big finish of this piece is a fun glissando… which students just LOVE to do. Wendy gives a great tip about how to make glissandi accessible (and safe) for young fingers. Check out the score and tips here: You Don’t Scare Me Now!
I hope you found these reviews insightful! Wendy Stevens has this music available for single-user purchase and studio-licensing for teachers who want to use this music with multiple students. There’s another Halloween-themed piece called Something in My Piano available for Elementary level students. Check out all of her music available on ComposeCreate.com!
Have you used any of these pieces in your studio yet? Let’s talk shop about how we approach these pieces with our students! Leave a comment below to chime in…
Side note: This review was totally unsolicited. I purchased these pieces a couple of weeks ago, and since I can’t seem to get them out of my head… I knew it was time for a review! Thank you for sharing your love and music and composition with us, Wendy!
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