"At The Movies, Book 1" Review

Updated on July 8, 2019
Doniell Cushman profile image

Doniell is a musician/composer and runs her own Piano Studio and Sheet Music Publishing company from home. She has a B.A. in humanities.

My personal copy of At the Movies
My personal copy of At the Movies | Source

At the Movies, Book 1

All piano students wish for material that they can enjoy, and actually want to play. At the Movies, Book 1 is a great supplemental collection of some more recent, and beloved music that falls into the genre of Popular Repertoire.

Dan Coates, an established and brilliant arranger for Alfred Music Publishing, puts together pieces from the following movies:

  • The Lion King (Disney)
  • The Corpse Bride
  • Harry Potter
  • Star Wars
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Polar Express
  • James Bond
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Superman (Original Movies)
  • The Little Mermaid (Disney)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (Disney live action)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Interior cover of my copy.
Interior cover of my copy. | Source

General Review

Overall, this is rated for Late Elementary to Early Intermediate students. I couldn't agree more. Some concepts that are overarching include easy to moderate syncopation, chord progressions with both block and broken,half pedalling, time signature changes, a tempo markings, endings and D.S./D.C. al fine, sforzando, dotted eighth to sixteenth note patterns and triplets followed by eighth notes.

According to my studio clientele (which is a broad range of 5-60+ years old at a variety of levels) this is not only a hit book that students enjoy playing from, it offers challenges that they are willing to work on and diligently endure. Most of them spend anywhere from 1 to 3 months on a piece depending on its complexity, and their learning style. Favorites of theirs usually include The Imperial March and James Bond Theme.

Each work is conveniently cut to include all pertinent sections of the work that is memorable. There are short transitions, and a lack of instrumental solo, making the meat of the peace clear and exciting. Most pieces that have lyrics begin right in the verse or chorus, without an introduction which supplies instant gratification to the player.

There are no songs over three pages. This makes the inevitable breakdown and isolation during practice extremely digestible to young and old minds alike. Endurance can be an issue when picking out a song for a student, and thankfully this collection doesn't disappoint. There are adequate repeats and D.S./D.C. areas that do require a focused student, but overall there is no piece that is over the 4 minute mark at tempo, including all signs and symbols.

Table of Works

(click column header to sort results)
Key Signature  
F Major
The Circle of Life
C Major
Corpse Bride (Main Theme)
A Minor
Double Trouble
D Minor
The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)
A Minor
In Dreams
C Major
James Bond Theme
E Minor
Over the Rainbow
C Major
Theme from "Superman"
C Major
Under the Sea
C Major
Wonka's Welcome Song
C Major
Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)
F Major
A clear organization of the pieces, their difficulty level 1 to 10 (10 being the most difficult) and their key signature.

If I weren't a director, I would want to be a film composer.

— Steven Spielberg

In Depth on James Bond Theme

Every James Bond movie has great music. It's catchy, it's dramatic and it's sneaky. The "Theme" is the well known tune that sounds like creeping around in a tuxedo, gathering secrets and information. The original music is by Monty Norman, someone you may have not heard of before. But this man has over 80 film credits for his composition work in film and television.

Kids and grown-ups alike love this cunning tune. It's simple and repetitive; a great combination for any budding musician. It even has an open-ended Mysteriously as the tempo marking. This can be up to the player! There is only one repeat in the song, and it's on the first page. This makes it easy if for some reason shortening the work is necessary (for example, recital length). However, Coates returns to the initial rhythm on page 3 (17).

Everything is pretty much a quarter or eighth note in the song. This makes speeding up the tempo easier over time. Students often get turned off and nervous in "easy piano" books when sixteenth notes appear. I like the clear breakdown of the counts lining up and down the page, so speed isn't an issue. It also makes swinging the notes somewhat easier for students. There is space between 1/2 counts that give the impression that you are in control and are not cramped. This tricks the mind into believing that their swing is natural - which is exactly what a teacher wants to hear.

Finally, the original score is much, much longer than this abbreviated version. I thoroughly enjoy that it has been reduced neatly while still retaining some of the variations within the original tune. There aren't too many, and there aren't too few.

My overall preference for this piece is to use with students who enjoy swing, jazz, blues, and popular music. If helps the developing artiste with swing and syncopation in the forum of a work worthy of performance. These are tough skills to develop when an insatiable interest in pop arises within a pianist. Dan Coates balances this nicely without encumbering the music, or the student's skill set/knowledge.

Rating of the Quality and Likeability

4 stars for At The Movies, Book 1

© 2019 Doniell Cushman


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