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Book Review: Radiohead Piano Songbook by Radiohead

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Pianists rejoice, the Radiohead Piano Songbook (plus lyrics and guitar tabs) is here. The complete sheet music for 28 of Radiohead’s musical masterpieces, faithfully transcribed (not arranged) for piano.

Lead singer and main songwriter, Thom Yorke, has always made liberal use of the piano and keyboard in his compositions. The acoustic addition of the old ivories — both as a complement to, and sometimes, a replacement for guitar parts — may be part of what makes Radiohead so immediately recognizable, and so different in sound from the typical four-piece rock band.

It was a joy to find all my favourites on paper, and slowly, painstakingly, draw some aural semblance of them out of my own instrument. The 28 songs included in this book were well-chosen. As soon as the book was in my hands, songs started popping into my head, and I immediately had to open the book and see if they had it.

In every case, when a song came to mind that would be good on piano, I found it there in the book. For me, at least, there were no instances of “how could they leave that out?” — which would be the easiest way to screw a project like this up. Check the Amazon page for the full list.

It bears mentioning, I think, that Radiohead does not generally write simple songs. For one thing, every single song in this collection has two piano parts. The melody is one hand, and the more complicated secondary part is two-handed. I spent some time with “Karma Police,” “High and Dry,” “The Pyramid Song” (quickly given up), and “Creep.”

Some songs have a very challenging rhythm, but in most cases, I could produce a reasonable facsimile of the main melody within two or three attempts. But by itself, this is a bit sparse. It would be better to sing the melody and play the fuller, secondary piano part in accompaniment, and I found that these were much tougher. But the greater the challenge, the sweeter the reward, no?

The addition of guitar tabs to the piano, not to mention the lyrics, make this book a great resource for garage bands. I might suggest making photocopies of the relevant songs, as a few sheets are easier to deal with on a stand than a bound book. Even if you do this, however, there’s no reason each member of the band can’t purchase their own copy of the book itself. The price is more than reasonable.

Rock on fellow Radioheads, rock on.

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About J.J.S. Boyce