ABRSM Pop Performer! Review

Motivation in the preliminary stages of learning to play an instrument can often be given more than an initial kick-start or impetus if the repertoire is chosen that the pupil loves and is really keen to play. If a student is a great fan of ABBA, then it makes sense that he/she would be really thrilled to be able to play one of their top hits by themselves.


Pop Performer!

Twenty graded arrangements (Initial – Gr 3)
ABRSM, distributed Hal Leonard
ISBN 978 178605112 (£12.95)


Certainly, the likes of Wet Wet Wet’s ‘Love is all around’ or ‘Be My baby’ from ‘The Ronettes’ makes more than a slight change from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook or Schumann’s ‘Album for the Young’ (not to mention Bartók’s Mikrokosmos!). And that is the point: Piano Lessons can encompass all kinds of approaches, and repertoire building can be made all the more varied, inclusive, and inspirational if pieces (‘songs’) are included that pupils love and want to make their own.

Within these pop anthologies there is a wide variety. ABRSM has done teachers a great service by dividing material into two stages (elementary and early intermediate). In the elementary collection the range of characterisation, colours and tonality is impressive. Justin Bieber rubs shoulders with Leonard Cohen and Billie Eilish. ‘We are the champions’ from Queen will surely be extremely popular, as indeed will ‘Imagine’ from John Lennon. The material could be rote learnt, or used as the springboard for further elaboration, with added pedal, extra low bass notes, repetitions at different ranges of the keyboard, or as a sketch for further improvisation and elaboration, with more confident and experienced players adding their own decorative flourishes


Pop Performer!

Sixteen Graded arrangements (Gr 4-5)
ABRSM, distributed Hal Leonard
ISBM 978 178601529 (£13.95)


The Grade 4-5 collection also lends itself to flexible learning and use. Pupils can add their own dynamics, articulation, and vary the speed at which they can play. Nothing to prevent them singing along with the music or contracting it to take out any difficulties that may prove awkward in performance. This is music to be used, enjoyed, and experimented with.

We will all have our own favorites- for me in book two it was ABBA’s ‘Dancing ‘Queen’- an excellent arrangement, though I missed the ‘signature’ descending piano glissando from the original 1970s hit: This is something I would unquestionably add if I every wanted to play the piece in a concert or to friends informally. Lots of fun and a great motivational resource for all kinds of students.

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