Useful Music's Compositions for... series by Graham Lyons covers all the main woodwind instruments and a few others. Two volumes will be devoted to each instrument in the series:
Volume 1, beginners to intermediate, which starts almost at lesson 1 and continues through to Grade V standard; and
Volume 2, intermediate to advanced, which slightly overlaps volume 1 and progresses to grade VIII.
Graham Lyons's well-established existing albums provide much of the material for the 'Compositions for...' series, but whereas, for example, New Clarinet Solos Books 1 & 2, together, contained 19 titles together, volume 1, alone, of Compositions for Clarinet contains 30 titles (and a picture of an 18-year-old Doris Day!). The first volumes for alto and tenor saxophones each contains an astonishing 43 titles. This new series provides the customer with better value and so the old 'New Solos' series for each instrument is gradually being made redundant, although kept in print while still listed on the various examination syllabuses.
Useful Music has been justly criticised for failing to update its backing tracks from cassette to CD. The 'Compositions for...' series will all have an integral CD - but with a difference.
Separate printed piano accompaniments containing selected pieces (e.g. examination selected tunes) are available to compliment each book. The CDs also include backing tracks and the notation for the piano accompaniments. How is this done? By producing a 'mixed-mode' CD with audio tracks playable on computer or CD player and data files (with the piano accompaniments) in the form of PDFs. PDF files can be opened on any computer that has the free program Adobe Acrobat Reader. Most computers have this already but, if not, it can be downloaded over the internet. This is not a complicated process and even if some buyers of the series are not computer savvy, they are bound to know someone who can download Acrobat Reader for them.
Cost. For every page of the solo part there are three pages printed for the accompaniment. Consider volume 1 of Compostions for Alto Saxophone. The printed alto sax part takes up 24 pages. The piano part would therefore take up 72 pages. Each volume in the series costs the customer £9.99; with a printed piano part the price would rise to £18+.
Other reasons for including the accompaniment notation on the CD:
- The solo instrumental part is played 100 times more often than the piano part. It is wasteful to spend more on something that used 100 times less when there is an alternative. It is rare for most of the items from any one album to be played with accompaniment. In practice, customers would spend minimal time printing the accompaniments.
- Less postage.
- No page turn problems for the pianist.
- Less bulk for the teacher or player to carry
.... and if the series took off, thousands of trees would vote for Useful Music as their corporate patron saint!
The CD with the 'Compositions for...' series is even more special. There are duets, trios and quartets for the featured instrument besides mixed instrumental ensembles. The customer can also print out and play them, giving greater value to the album at no extra cost.
Instrumental teachers often find themselves having to accompany their pupils on the piano. The instrumental stave on the piano score is usually in transposed pitch, making it difficult for second (or fifth study!) pianists to play the pupil's part on the piano. But if the part is in concert pitch then the teacher has to mentally transpose when talking about particular notes to the pupil. All the volumes in the 'Compositions for..' series overcome this quandary by having four staves in the accompaniment: the 2 piano staves plus the concert AND transposed staves of the instrumental part.. (Incidentally, this would have increased the saxophone piano parts to over 100 printed pages.)
Compositions for Violin and Trumpet will follow the release of the Oboe and Bassoon books.