10 More Easy Piano Songs For Kids

10 MORE Easy Piano Songs for Kids [Video Tutorials]

10 More Easy Piano Songs For Kids

We’ve already shown you easy piano songs for your child to learn, but why stop there? Piano teacher Liz T. adds to the excitement with her recommendations for 10 more of the best piano songs for kids…

 

The keyboard or piano is perhaps the easiest instrument for kids to learn how to play. Within a few weeks of practice, most kids are already playing the melodies to some of their favorite tunes! Between the ages of four through 10 is ideal for students to start learning how to play the piano.

Your child will most likely already be familiar with some of these traditional songs, therefore making it fun and easy for your child to pick them up on the piano. Here are some of the best piano songs for kids to learn.

1. “The Wheels on the Bus”

The wheels on the bus go round and round
C F F F F A C A F
Round and round, round and round
G E C C A F
The wheels on the bus go round and round
C F F F F A C A F
All through the town
G C F

2. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream
C C C D E E D E F G
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
C C C G G G E E E C C C
Life is but a dream
G F E D C

3. “Pop Goes the Weasel”

All around the mulberry bush
C C D D E G E C
The monkey chased the weasel
G C C D D E C
The monkey thought twas all in fun
G C C D E G E C
Pop goes the weasel
A D F E D

4. “Ode to Joy”

E E F G G F E D C C D E E D D
E E F G G F E D C C D E D C C
D D E C D F E C D F E D C D G
E E F G G F E D C C D E D C C

5.”You Are My Sunshine”

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
G C D E E E D# E C C
You make me happy when skies are grey
C D E F A A G F E
You’ll never know, Dear, how much I love you
C D E F A A G F E C
So please don’t take my sunshine away
C D E F D D E C

6. “Yankee Doodle”

Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony
C C D E C E D C C D E C B
Stuck a feather in his hat and called it Macaroni
C C D E F E D C B G A B C C
Yankee Doodle went to town, Yankee Doodle dandy
A B A G A B C G A G F E G
Mind the music and the step and with the girls be handy
A B A G A B C A G C B D C C

7. Barney’s “I Love You” Song

I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family
G E G G E G A G F E D E F
With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you
E F G C C C C C D E F G
Won’t you say you love me too
G D D F E D C

8. “When the Saints Go Marching In”

Oh when the saints
C E F G
Oh when the saints
C E F G
Oh when the saints go marching in
C E F G E C E D
Oh how I want to be in that number
E E D C C E G G G F
When the saints go marching in
E F G E D E C

9. “Amazing Grace”

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
D G B G B, A G E D
That saved a wretch like me
D G B G B A D
I once was lost, but now am found
B D B D B G D E G G E D
Twas blind but now I see
D G B G B A G

10. “Jingle Bells”

Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh
G E D C G G G G E D C A
Over the fields we go, laughing all the way
A A F E D B G G F D E
Bells on bobtail ring, making spirits bright
G E D C G G E D C A
What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight
A A F E D G G G G A G F D C G
Jingle bells, jingle bells
E E E E E E
Jingle all the way
E G C D E
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, hey
F F F F F E E E E D D E D G
Jingle bells, jingle bells
E E E E E E
Jingle all the way
E G C D E
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, hey
F F F F F E E E E G G F D C C

Following along with these video tutorials can be helpful, but I also recommend checking out this guide to piano notes, so your child can learn more about the relationships between the keys.

I also encourage you and your child to sing along while you play these songs! This is a great way for children to become familiar with these classic and traditional songs, while improving their reading and aural skills.

Finally, if you or your child needs some guidance working on these songs, I highly recommend working with a piano instructor! A private piano teacher can show your child the proper fingering placement on the piano, the appropriate speed and pace for the song, and the joy of playing these fun songs. Happy playing!

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Photo by C.K. Koay

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100 ways to be the perfect piano parents

25 Tips for Supporting Your Young Musician [Infographic]

100 ways to be the perfect piano parents

Parents, wondering how to best show your support as your child starts music lessons? Read on for a round-up of the best tips from piano teacher Rhonda B., plus a few other prominent piano bloggers…

 

So you’ve enrolled your child in piano lessons. End of story, right? No. Learning this challenging instrument — or any instrument, at that — will require a long-term commitment of at least a few years. It takes teamwork to make it happen.

My student Mallory’s mother, Christy, understands this. A couple of months ago, she asked for a consultation during lesson time, and explained her concerns that her 13-year-old daughter seemed to be losing interest in lessons. The three of us agreed to concentrate on making practice times consistent and holding Mallory more accountable. Mom, student, and teacher cooperated toward a mutual goal.

Since the consultation, Mallory’s practicing has improved 100%. This helps her to enjoy lessons and to progress more quickly. She recently nailed her assignment piece, a rendition of “Maple Leaf Rag.” Sweet success! And it happened because a concerned mom walked the extra mile to lend a hand to her struggling daughter.

Kids need their parents’ assistance, encouragement, understanding, and occasional firmness to help them master their music assignments and progress. This is especially true of young beginners — ages 5 to 7 — but also for students of all ages. Mom and Dad can help even if their knowledge of music is practically zero.

You, too, can achieve the status of a perfect piano parent. Here are 25 suggestions for helping kids learn piano and showing your support.

Piano Parents Tips: Show Your Support in Lessons

Is your child nervous about taking lessons? That’s normal! Ensure a smooth start with these tips…

Start at the right time. Consider if your child is really ready for piano lessons. Although some teachers will take students at very early ages, there are general guidelines for the best age to start piano lessons.

Don’t choose a teacher they don’t relate to. If your child doesn’t like his or her music teacher, this may reflect negatively on the experience. If your child is complaining about their teacher, ask them to share what they don’t like about them. Listen without trying to convince them differently. (via The Child Whisperer)

Stay in close touch with teachers. Keep your instructors informed of what’s happening at home. They can adjust their expectations, change the music, revise the lesson format, switch to better times or days, and more.

See if you can get involved. Check with your teacher to see if he or she suggests sitting in on the lessons — this works for some kids, but not for all.

Consider taking piano lessons at the same time. Be a terrific role model by practicing what you preach, and show your children that you are as human as they are when it comes to making mistakes. Bonus: Playing duets together can be a great way to bond!

Piano Parents Tips: Show Your Support at Home

Helping kids learn piano begins with a supportive home environment! Here are some tips…

Ask questions about what your child is working on. Listen to some of the assigned composers’ music on YouTube together. My student Aiden’s mom helped him find a ragtime version of “Everything Is Awesome”… which got her son really excited about the song.

Make sure your child has the right resources & books. Talk to your child’s teacher and ask about getting a theory book to accompany the lesson book. There’s a good chance that your teacher will suggest one to begin with. If not, ask for one. (via KeytarHQ)

Encourage other family members to applaud your child’s efforts. Positive attention is a great motivator. (via FamilyEducation)

Listen to music at home and in the car. It really doesn’t matter what you listen to – rock, country, classical, pop, or indie – what matters is that you let your kids see you bebopping along to it. Encourage singing and dancing as much as possible!

Head off burn-out. Kids may need to push through a tough stage, but at other times, a reward can help. For my student Matthew’s outstanding lesson last week, for example, his mother treated him to Dunkin’ Donuts.

Realize that it’s a process. There usually isn’t fast progress, but if students consistently practice, they will see wonderful results over time. This really is a case where slow and steady wins the race. (via Laura, Laura’s Music Studio)

Be especially supportive when they have a bad day. Music lessons are hard and get harder every week. While your child may be picking up their lessons at a fast pace, they won’t always. There will come days when your child has a tough time learning something and gets frustrated. Explain everyone has a tough day or two from time to time and to be patient. Help them through it. (via Piano Wizard Academy)

If there’s a growing attitude problem, try to identify the heart of the issue.
Does Kaitlyn really hate the piano, or is she frustrated because she can’t seem to master the B section of “Musette”? What’s the real issue?

Be wary of unrealistic expectations. People often vastly underestimate how difficult music can be. It’s best to have as few expectations as possible, and take every development as a gift when it comes. (via The Wise Serpent)

Don’t ‘help’ in ways the teacher hasn’t asked you to. For example, don’t write the names of the notes in the music for your child. (via Elissa Milne – from her article 15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano)

Encourage your kids to compose their own songs! Being creative in this way is not only fun, it instills deeper music intelligence, fosters general life skills, and increase self-confidence.

Piano Parents Tips: Handling Practice Time

Not sure how to motivate your child to practice? Here’s what you need to know…

Set up the right environment for practice. Make sure your kids are practicing in a comfortable place, with all the supplies they need. Here’s a great resource from AMP (the National Association of Music Parents).

Establish a practice routine. Explain that practicing is non-negotiable… like completing math homework or eating vegetables or tackling chores. Make it doable by insisting on regular practice times when students are rested and alert.

Consider using the phrase “playing time” rather than “practice time.” (via FamilyEducation)

Establish daily musical goals. For example, instead of saying that 30 minutes of practice is enough regardless of what is achieved, you might say, “Today the goal of practicing is to play the first eight measures of your piece without any mistakes.” (via PBS Parents)

Game-ify your child’s practice, such as with the ideas in this article from NPR.

Piano Parents Tips: Show Your Support at Recitals

Piano recitals are the perfect opportunity for your child to show off what he or she has learned! Increase your child’s confidence with these tips…

Take advantage of performances. Nothing motivates student practicing like preparing to play publicly, whether it’s a formal studio recital, sharing a piece in music class at school, or jamming with the church’s youth band.

Encourage the whole family to attend! Fill the crowd with friendly faces to fend off nerves and make your child feel especially excited about performing.

Prepare your child for mistakes before the recital. Tell a funny story about a time when you flubbed something or suffered a pratfall. Make light in advance of any looming catastrophe. Make it clear that a mistake is “no big deal.” (via The Happy Piano Professor)

Verbalize your support. All students wonder sometimes: is all their practicing worthwhile? Does anybody care about it? Are they sounding better than they did a year ago? A thoughtful, positive comment from a parent can help them persevere.

20+ Tips for Parents How to Support Your Young Musician

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Learning to play a musical instrument, especially one as difficult as piano, requires teamwork. Students learn and practice. Instructors teach, guide, and gently prod toward excellence. Moms and dads enforce practicing, support the instruction, and stay attuned to their children’s struggles and victories. Together they form a win/win/win team, thanks in part to the perfect piano parent’s involvement.

Want more tips? Check out Anthony Mazzocchi’s book, The Music Parents’ Guide: A Survival Kit for the New Music Parent.

Teachers and parents, what other tips would you recommend for helping kids learn piano? Let us know in the comments!

 

Rhonda Barfield has taught piano for 20+ years in two piano schools and now at her home studio. She has a B.A. in Music Education from Culver-Stockton College, and studied post-graduate piano with instructors at Truman State University. Rhonda operates Listening House Studios in St. Charles, Missouri with her son and business partner Eric. Book lessons here!

Photo by Michael Cisneros

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40+ Fun (and Easy!) Music Crafts & Activities for Kids

40+ Fun (and Easy!) Music Crafts & Activities for Kids

40+ Fun (and Easy!) Music Crafts & Activities for Kids

Looking for easy crafts for kids? If your child loves music, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve complied a list of our favorite music activities and easy, DIY musical crafts your family will love to create.

You’ll find a link to the original post with instructions, as well as the level of difficultly, ranging from music activities your preschooler can do to more advanced, adults-only projects to decorate your home. Enjoy!

Musical Crafts for Kids

These crafts are perfect for kids, from DIY music-makers to fun decorations!

1. Recycled Outdoor Music Station via My Nearest and Dearest
Recycle cans and mason jars for fun outdoor play!
Level: Moderate

2. Homemade Kids Drums via A School of Fish
Let the kids make and decorate their own drums for a marching band.
Level: Very Easy

3. Fancy Shaker Eggs via Mama Smiles
Plastic eggs filled with various items create noisemakers for little hands.
Level: Very Easy

4. Cardboard Guitar via Makedo
Channel your favorite rockstar with this DIY guitar!
Level: Moderate

5. PVC Pipe Xylophone via Frugal Fun for Boys
This large-scaled xylophone requires some space, but is a super fun instrument to play around with!
Level: Skilled

musical crafts - pvc instrument

6. Cardboard Castanets via Whimsy Love
Cardboard and buttons make a child-sized castanet.
Level: Easy

7. Tin Can Howler via Housing a Forest
All you need is a string and a tin can for this fun howler.
Level: Easy

8. Easy Trumpet Craft via Preschool Crafts for Kids
Practice your best marching band steps with this easy DIY trumpet!
Level: Easy

9. African Drums via DLTK Crafts for Kids
Practice rhythm with these easy to make and fun to design African drums.
Level: Easy

10. DIY Masquerade Mask via Circle City Creations
Stretch your artistic side with these decorated masks.
Level: Skilled

musical crafts - masquerade mask

11. Rainbow Xylophone via And Next Comes L
Wood, window casings, and paint create a giant rainbow xylophone.
Level: Skilled

12. Do Re Mi Bottle via Life with Moore Babies
Discover different pitches with this colored water craft.
Level: Easy

13. Painted Stick Instrument via Twodaloo
Natural materials and craft supplies combine to make a unique instrument from ancient times.
Level: Easy

14. Rain Stick via Frogs Snails and Puppy Dog Tails
A mailing tube combined with a few other items create the sound of rain.
Level: Moderate

15. Shaker Toys via The Educators’ Spin On It
Use a variety of containers and ingredients to explore different sounds.
Level: Easy

musical crafts - music shakers

16. Homemade Kazoo via Buggy and Buddy
Common kitchen items come together to create a DIY kazoo.
Level: Easy

17. Corn Shakers via Sow Sprout Play
This is a great project for sensory play and teaching rhythm.
Level: Easy

18. Popsicle Stick and Paper Plate Kalimba via Kodaly and Orff Music Teacher’s blog
This is a fun, unique instrument your kids have probably never heard before.
Level: Easy

19. Pin Strummers via Pi’ikea Street
Use bobby pins to create boings, pops, and other sounds!
Level: Easy

20. Homemade Trumpet via All Done Monkey
All you need is cardboard tubes, poster board, and decorating materials for this easy craft.
Level: Easy

musical crafts - DIY trumpet

21. Jingle Bells via Chasing Cheerios
Tiny bells and a cardboard tube create a fun shake stick – perfect for around the holidays!
Level: Easy

22. Homemade French Horn via Savvy Homemade
Everyday items come together to make a fun French horn.
Level: Easy

23. Noisemaker via Ganz World
Easy-to-make noisemakers perfect for New Years.
Level: Easy

24. Wind Pipe Instrument via Laughing Kids Learn
This is a simple wind pipe that children can make in just a few minutes.
Level: Easy

25. Paper Plate Tambourine via SheKnows
Simple items make fun tambourines!
Level: Easy

musical crafts - paper plate tambourine

26. Homemade Harmonica via Mess for Less
Popsicle sticks, paper, and rubber bands create a DIY harmonica.
Level: Easy

27. Homemade Wind Chimes via Hands On As We Grow
Tin can that are decorated then assembled into custom wind chimes.
Level: Moderate

Crafts for Music-Loving Families

Want to spruce up your home with some more advanced crafts and DIY projects? Here are our favorite Pinterest-worthy ideas: 

1. Sheet Music Candles via Can’t Stop Making Things
Learn how to make Pottery Barn lookalike candles with sheet music.
Level: Moderate

2. Guitar Shelf via Budget Girl
Make unique shelves for trinkets from an old or broken guitar.
Level: Skilled

3. Custom Envelopes via (Never) Homemaker
Create your own crafty envelopes from sheet music.
Level: Easy

4. Broken Record Ombre Wall Art via Tattooed Martha
Turn old vinyl records into amazing décor your guests will love!
Level: Moderate

musical crafts - broken record wall art

5. Vinyl Record Bookends via Treetrunkwise
Keep your bookshelf organized with these DIY bookends made from old records.
Level: Easy

6. Vintage Record Dessert Stand via Bubby & Bean
Showcase your cupcakes or desserts with this adorable stand.
Level: Easy

7. Music Box Ornament via Craft Snob, guest post from SaltTree
Surprise! This cool glitter ornament is actually a wind-up musical box!
Level: Moderate

8. Sheet Music Coffee Table via A Diamond In the Stuff
Spruce up your coffee table with sheet music!
Level: Easy

9. PVC Flute via the Widget Forge
Break out your toolbox and create your very own DIY flute.
Level: Skilled

10. Sheet Music Coasters via An Oregon Cottage
Use old sheet music to create unique drink coasters!
Level: Moderate

musical crafts - sheet music coasters

11. Record Album Cover Box Tutorial via Zombies Wearing Helmets
Stash items and keep your space organized with this retro-looking storage box made from old record covers.
Level: Moderate

12. Sheet Music Dresser via Miss Mustard Seed
Learn how to decoupage a dresser with sheet music here.
Level: Easy

13. Sheet Music Gift Bags via Eclectically Vintage
Make gift bags from sheet music for a special gift!
Level: Moderate

14. DIY Vinyl Record Table via The Flourishing Abode
Save money by making your own accent table made out of old vinyl records.
Level: Easy

musical crafts - record side table

15. Sheet Music Monograms via The Country Chic Cottage
Yet another sheet music craft idea to spruce up any room.
Level: Easy

16. Paper Roses via Capitol Romance
Transform sheet music into paper roses with a vintage look.
Level: Moderate

17. Lined Jewelry Box via Crafting a Green World
Spruce up an old jewelry box by lining it with sheet music.
Level: Easy

18. Sheet Music Shoe via Tales of a Trophy Wife
Cover your shoes in sheet music for a unique look.
Level: Easy

19. Sheet Music Star Decorations via Sweet Something Designs
These make great decorations for the holidays!
Level: Easy

musical crafts - sheet music ornament

20. Music Themed Door Wreath via Reloved Rubbish
Use old sheet music to make a stunning wreath.
Level: Moderate

21. Mosaic Bird Bath made from CDs via Me and My DIY
Repurpose old CDs to give your bird bath a cool mosaic look!
Level: Moderate

22. DIY Candle Holder via Lots of DIY
Grab some old CDs and marbles to make stunning candle holders.
Level: Easy

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Visual Tour of How to Read Sheet Music

How to Read Sheet Music for Piano: A Visual Tour

Visual Tour of How to Read Sheet Music

As you learn how to read piano sheet music, a whole new world opens up! Instead of just black dots on a page, you’ll see beautiful melody and chords right before you. Here, piano teacher Nadia B. takes you on a helpful visual tour… 

 

One of the most interesting things about learning piano is that it’s truly like learning a new language – just as you learn how to decode words on a page to read them aloud, you are learning to unlock the symbols on the page to play music. It’s a whole different world, and this article will help you to more easily understand what all the symbols mean. That way, when you look at a piece of sheet music, you won’t think it’s Greek; you’ll see music!

First, let’s take a look a piece of sheet music; then, read on to learn more about each element:

how to read piano sheet music

1) The grand staff

The first thing to recognize is the grand staff. It is composed of two staffs (or groups of five parallel lines) joined together. The top staff uses the treble clef, while the bottom staff uses the bass clef. In general, the treble clef is where right hand notes are placed, while the bass clef is where left hand notes are placed. Once you know the piano note names, you will be able to read from the two staffs to play the correct notes with the correct hand.

In piano music, you can use different fingers to play a single note. The finger you use will depend on the location of the note within the phrase, as well as the hand position you are using. For this reason, you will often see finger numbers marked in the music to indicate which finger you should use. Finger numbers are an essential aid to playing well, as they will ensure that you maintain a good hand position and move naturally around the keyboard without awkward finger tucks.

2) Key signature

Directly after the treble and bass clef, you will see the key signature: a collection of sharps or flats that indicate which notes to alter within the music, as well as what key you are playing in.

3) Time signature

After the key signature comes the time signature: usually two numbers, one above the other, that tell you how many beats are in each measure and what type of note (quarter, eighth, half, etc.) is equal to one beat.

4) Tempo marking

You will also see a marking indicating what tempo the piece should be played (for example, allegro, indicating lively, or largo, indicating very slow). As you progress on the piano, you’ll get to know these common sheet music terms very well. Sometimes this also includes a specific metronome marking, which is a guideline to understand the range of tempi that are possible.

Then, you will see several things that occur throughout the music:

5) Dynamic markings

These markings tell you how loudly or softly to play the music, and when to gradually increase or decrease the sound. The letter ‘p’ indicates to play piano, or softly, while the letter ‘f’ stands for forte, or to play loudly.

You will see a marking similar to a hairpin for a crescendo, or gradual increase in sound, and a reverse hairpin for a decrescendo, or gradual decrease in sound. The location and length of the crescendo and decrescendo markings show you how long they should last and where to begin and end them.

6) Articulation markings

Another category of markings you will see is for articulation, or the way in which notes begin and end. In the written music, you will see symbols like accents (similar to a forward arrow), indicating to play the note with emphasis, or staccato (a dot above the note), indicating to play the note with space before the next note (slightly shorter than full value). You will also see slurs, lines that slope above or below a group of notes, which signify to connect the notes smoothly together as you play them.

7) Mood markings

Another marking you may see will indicate the mood of a particular passage. So you may see espressivo (play with great emotion) or appassionato (play passionately) marked in the music, among many others.

8) Pedal markings

One of the most important markings specific to piano is pedal markings. These illustrate where to depress the pedal and, often, how long to sustain it for. You will see this in the music as the abbreviation ‘Ped.; or sometimes as a bracket underneath the line of music.

 

So, the next time you pull out your piano sheet music, don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead, try going on a treasure hunt for these markings and symbols, and see what you discover about the music itself as a result!

Still struggling with understanding how the notes translate to the keys? Check out my visual intro to the piano keys!

Nadia BPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

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3 Summer Activities And How They Help Your Child Grow (Piano)

3 (Fun!) Summer Activities That Help Your Child Grow [Infographic]

fun summer activities for kids

Summer is here! With school out and the temperatures rising, no doubt your kids are excited to play. But beyond the summer camps, sleepovers, bike rides, and water balloon fights, stealthy parents know how to encourage activities that can actually help kids grow and learn!

Don’t worry — that doesn’t mean workbooks or summer homework. We’ve got three fun summer activities in mind that kids will be excited to participate in, and ones that will build confidence at the same time.

  • First up? Music lessons! If your son or daughter loves to sing along to songs when you turn on the radio, music lessons are a natural fit. And there are so many different lesson types to consider, from piano to guitar to saxophone.
  • For the more introverted or bookworm types, learning a language — like Spanish or French — might be a great choice. Of course, your child won’t become fluent over the course of one summer… but it can be a fun introduction to new cultures! Plus, it’s easy to find fun games and apps that support language learning.
  • Finally, if your child can’t stop moving, sports like soccer and softball are a great way to keep him or her busy. They’ll never know they’re actually improving their teamwork and goal-setting skills!

Here’s a recap of all the surprising stats you need to know about these fun summer activities for kids.

3 Fun Summer Activities That Help Your Child Grow [Infographic]

Whether your child is athletic, musically inclined, or interested in learning another language, summer is the perfect time to enroll them in classes and nurture a new hobby. And knowing your son or daughter is also growing and learning, you can sit back and relax this summer — just as the season was intended for.

Ready to get started? Search for fun summer activities, classes, and lessons near you!

Photos by Philippe PutDark Dwarf, and l. c.

 

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Introduction to Ragtime Piano - 5 Iconic Pieces to Learn Today

Introduction to Ragtime Piano: 5 Iconic Pieces to Know

Introduction to Ragtime Piano - 5 Iconic Pieces to Learn Today

Curious about ragtime piano music? Read on as music teacher James W. shares a quick introduction to the genre, and the 5 iconic pieces you should know! 

Ragtime piano music is characterized by its syncopated rhythm, which simply means that the accent is unexpectedly placed on the off beat, like the 2nd beat and the 4th beat in a 4/4 time rhythm. This “offbeat” style became famous at the turn of the 20th century with songs written by Scott Joplin like “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag”, which influenced many ragtime composers with its harmonic patterns and melody lines. Ragtime is considered to be “the American equivalent of the minuets of Mozart, the mazurkas of Chopin, or the waltzes of Brahms.”

For aspiring young piano players interested in ragtime piano music, here are five iconic pieces to learn today that are a wonderful introduction to the genre.

1. “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin

We are lucky this even exists. It is from a “pianola” roll played by Scott Joplin himself, found by chance years ago in the wrong box! With this song everyone stopped what they were doing and a craze for the piano style was born. The emotional impact is unstoppable, and was strong enough that leisure time activities after that often included ragtime piano. If you played this style in the 1970s revival, you were the “rock star of the day.” Its melody and rhythm are infectious and timeless.

2. “The Entertainer” – Complete Works of Scott Joplin as played by Richard Zimmerman

A treasure trove of Joplin goodies. If you listen only to the first three bars of this song, I bet you’ll be hooked for life on the style. It is so inviting…

Bonus: Learn how to play “The Entertainer” here!

3. “Top Liner Rag” by Joseph Lamb

This delightful little ditty from 1916 should charm anyone young or old. The 2/4 timing draws the listener in. It makes us want to play it faster and move around the room. A surefire hit.

4. “A Ragtime Song Medley” by Max Morath, a.k.a. “Mr. Ragtime”

Check out the video below to see Max performing his favorite tunes. Here we send ragtime uptown and make the storytelling more important and accessible to the New York society folk.

5. “Charleston Rag”/”Wild About Harry”/”Memories of You” by Eubie Blake

This is a rare treat featuring this piano master playing live in Berlin, Germany in 1972. “Wild about Harry” in particular is notable (forgive the pun) as it became a standard, meaning everyone played it everywhere. Eubie himself reaped the rewards of royalties after joining a performing rights organization. His style adds a “cool” flavor and aims to please.

6. Bonus Track: “The Sting Soundtrack Suite” by Marvin Hamlisch

An accomplished piano virtuoso, Marvin Hamlisch was top of his game back in the 1980s and 1990s, playing all over the world, wearing white gloves to protect his hands. He played the Scott Joplin tunes for the movie The Sting, which helped to create the ragtime revival of the 1970s. Hamlisch’s touch on piano was rivaled only by Billy Joel and Elton John. Worth every bit of your attention, he was a modern master — so listen carefully and you will learn a lot.

How to Play Ragtime Piano

Feeling inspired? If you want to learn how to play ragtime, let your piano teacher know! The syncopated rhythms can be tricky to master, so your teacher can help you with specific exercises to improve your skills.

You can also find additional information about ragtime here:

Readers, what ragtime piano pieces are your favorites? Let us know in the comments! 

Sources:
H. Wiley Hitchcock, “Stereo Review”, 1971, page 84, cited in Scott Joplin: Black-American Classicist, p. xiv.
Scott Joplin: Black-American Classicist
Scott Joplin: Black-American Classicist

james-walsh-150x150Post Author: James W.
James W. teaches guitar, singing, and acting lessons in Jacksonville, FL. He specializes in teaching pop, rock, and modern country styles. James has been teaching for 10 years and joined the TakeLessons in 2010. Learn more about James here!

Photo by Professor Bop

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Learning Piano

5 Bad Habits Holding You Back as You Learn Piano

Learning Piano

Are you not making the progress you were hoping for in your piano lessons? Read on as piano teacher Nadia B. explains some of the common bad habits that may be holding you back…

 

When you’re learning piano, you’re busy mastering a variety of skill sets — note reading, rhythmic competency, independence of the hands, musicality, and so much more. It’s easy to focus so much on these things that you might be developing bad habits… without noticing. Read on to learn more about the five worst habits for piano players, so that you can make sure you avoid them!

1. Practicing scales mindlessly or with bad technique

You should definitely pat yourself on the back for practicing your scales, one of the most important components of learning piano. But once you see the value of practicing scales, it’s important to make sure that your scale practice is helping you improve and not reinforcing bad habits. It you find yourself slogging through scales, not really paying attention to what you’re doing, or if your hand position is awkward and not well-coordinated, then you might want to re-evaluate your scales practice routine. Try for precision, correct fingering, ease of hand position, and fingers flowing onto the keys, even if it takes a little longer and means you do fewer scales. With scale practice, it’s definitely quality over quantity.

Tip: Bored with scales? Try these four fun ways to practice scales!

2. Memorizing music completely with muscle memory

Pianists have a long tradition of performing music from memory, and the pressure can be on when it’s almost recital time and your piece still isn’t memorized. Pianists often resort to playing the piece they’re trying to memorize over and over until they can play it in their sleep. The only problem? That type of rote memorization can go terribly wrong if there’s a moment of distraction, or if the pianist messes up and tries to restart where he or she left off.

The way to avoid this bad habit is to leave plenty of time to memorize piano music by analyzing the score, listening to and playing along with recordings, and practicing intelligently and consciously, instead of relying on muscle memory to commit the song to memory.

Tip: Here are some additional strategies for memorizing piano music from music teacher Joy Morin.

3. Not breathing well, combined with bad posture

Breathing and posture go hand in hand, since our ribs attach to the spine, and excessive compression in the torso can severely limit breathing. If you find yourself hunched over the piano, with your head pulled forward to see the music better and your breathing is shallow, your posture is compromised. Believe it or not, this will affect your music-making.

To solve this bad habit, take a few moments in between practicing sections of a piece to notice your sitting bones releasing into the piano bench, allow your spine to uncurl from any compression, and send your head away from your spine, allowing it to balance easily right on top of your spine. You should feel more spacious and have more flexibility for ease of breathing.

Tip: Here’s a wonderful infographic explaining piano posture, from Hoffman Academy.

4. Unruly hand position

Perhaps one of your fingers sticks up in the air, or your thumb hangs low, below the keyboard. Whatever your habitual hand position, finding a comfortable, flexible and coordinated hand position can change your entire relationship with the piano. You will make better contact with the keys, have more control over dynamics and coloring, and play technical passages more easily and smoothly. Having an uncoordinated hand position can hold you back in a variety of ways as you’re learning piano, so make sure this bad habit isn’t one of yours!

Tip: Check out this infographic for an easy exercise to improve your hand shape for playing the piano.

5. Not learning to read music correctly

Do you find yourself struggling to read piano music correctly, over and over? Or perhaps you struggle with playing in time and with correct rhythm. It’s important to learn to read and interpret all aspects of the music correctly, so that you can play with correct notes, rhythms, dynamics, articulation, and phrasing. If you’re struggling to recognize all the various symbols and positions of the notes on the staff, try going through a music theory book and/or note speller.

If you work to avoid these five worst habits for piano players, you will be a more coordinated and skilled pianist who can confidently learn new music, practice efficiently, and perform well. It’s worth the little bit of extra effort it takes to incorporate the strategies to combat these bad habits, as you’ll see a great improvement in your musicality, technique, and fundamental keyboard skills.

Tip: Here are some fun online games for learning piano notes!

Think you’re avoiding these bad habits? It’s always a good idea to check with your piano teacher, who can give you expert advice and help you continue to practice piano like a pro!

Nadia BPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

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Map the Music

Feeling Stuck? Try This Fun Piano Exercise [Printable]

Map the Music Piano Exercise

Struggling with a particular piano piece? Don’t stress. It may just be time to take a step back and get your bearings. Read on as Spring Lake, MI piano teacher Val L. shares a piano exercise to try…

 

So you’ve been trying to learn a challenging piece of music for an upcoming piano recital or event, but there are still some parts that just seem to fall apart. If you are following the typical routine of playing it over and over, and making the same mistakes over and over, why not try a new approach?

Think of your song as a map. You have to get from point A to point B without any wrong turns that could result in you getting hopelessly lost and giving up! It’s time to take a step away from the keys and get out your markers, colored pencils, and a nice big piece of paper. It’s time to map the music!

Let’s give your brain the clues it needs to make it through the dense, foggy areas and avoid the potholes and pitfalls. Every piano song has its challenges – that’s what makes it interesting! Creating a visual tool, like a map, will help you navigate your way through a challenging piece of music.

As an example, here’s what my student came up with when we mapped out “Wonka’s Welcome Song” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (sheet music here).

Wonka's Welcome piano exercise

Following the steps below, this piano exercise will bring out the most important elements of the piece, helping you remember the details and internalize the melody and harmony. But the most fun part of the exercise is that you have the freedom to get creative! Your drawing may be similar to my student’s example above, or it may not — it’s up to you!

Now Let’s “Map the Music”!

First, you’ll want to make a copy of your music. This is legal if you bought it and are using it only for your own study. Next, answer the following questions before you begin:

  1. Is there an intro? A bridge? Transitional measures? A coda preceded by a cadenza?
  2. Have you identified the main theme? The secondary theme?
  3. Are there sections that repeat?

This will give you a basic understanding of how the music is laid out and an outline to follow as you work through the piece.

Map the Music – Draw the Melody & Harmony

For each section you will want to identify the important details. Use different colors to draw the melody, the harmony, and the chord progression.

Draw a treble clef to show where the right hand plays. Use a different color to draw a bass clef that shows where the left hand plays. Think of these symbols as road signs in your sheet music to alert you to a change or a new pattern. This is especially helpful when the hands switch clefs.

Drawing the melody is as simple as doing a “dot-to-dot.” Draw a line that follows the same pattern as the melody – just connect the dots! Use your finger to trace the notes before drawing it on your map. Pay close attention to the following:

  1. Are there skips?
  2. Is there a sudden change in the direction of the pattern?
  3. Does the pattern repeat anywhere else in the song?

Start by writing the letter name of the first note (keynote) and then draw the line going up if the notes step up, down if the notes step down. Use an X to represent skips and draw longer lines for bigger leaps. If there are groups of notes that repeat, draw a line with a number above it showing how many notes repeat. Using different colors for melody and harmony will show parallel and contrary patterns.

Map the Music – Mark the Details

The next step in this piano exercise is to hunt for the obscure details that are easily overlooked

  • Time Signature – Is it cut time? Does it change anywhere in the piece?
  • Key Signature – How many sharps/flats? Does it change anywhere in the piece?
  • Accidentals – Don’t forget to mark the most common culprits for tripping you up!
  • Rhythm – Where are the rests? Don’t ignore them!
  • Note Values – What is the shortest note value? (Eighth notes? Sixteenth notes?) Use them to establish your steady rhythm! Take the time to write and clap the rhythm.

Map the Music – Extra Tips

  • Focus on the tricky measures – Make note of the measures that have been the most difficult.
  • Color code – Use different colors to circle or highlight the details. Maybe it’s the rhythm, or an accidental, or a fingering that has been giving you trouble.
  • Illustrate – Use your imagination to draw the melody or use a simple picture to sort out the fingering.

Ready to try it with your own piano music? Here’s an even-simpler breakdown:

Map the Music Piano Printable Worksheet

Want to download the printable version of the worksheet? Get it here: Map the Music Printable PDF

 

By simplifying the music and creating a visual that makes sense to you, the process of learning and/or memorizing will be much more manageable. The goal of this piano exercise is to give your brain a “snapshot” of the piece so you can easily recall where you are at if you get lost. Be creative, use your own ideas, and consult your piano teacher to make stronger connections with the music. Good luck!

Val LPost Author: Val L.
Val L. teaches piano lessons in Spring Lake, MI. She earned her Associate of Arts degree from William Tyndale College and has been teaching piano for more than 10 years. Learn more about Val here!

Photo by m kasahara

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The 10 Minute Music Practice Challenge for the Busy Student

A 10-Minute Piano Practice Challenge for Busy Students

The 10 Minute Music Practice Challenge for the Busy Student

We’ve discussed how to practice the piano before… but what if you don’t have 30 minutes or an hour to commit to practicing every day? Answer: Condense it into a 10-minute quick-practice! Read on as Austin, TX piano teacher Aimee B. shows how to make this piano exercise work for you…

 

No doubt you are busy. On top of a full day, you have an inkling to learn the piano.  But how do you fit it into your day? You know the importance of regular practice, but if you find the idea of sitting and studying for 30 minutes entirely too daunting, you’re not alone.

In fact, many adults use being busy as an excuse to put off taking piano lessons. But the truth is, even if you don’t have 30 minutes to commit to practicing every single day, you can still make some progress. There is a powerful and productive way to think about practice in small, incremental steps. Visiting the piano for as little as 10 minutes a day can reinforce new material and create a ritual that becomes an integral part of your life.

Before I break it down, I’d like to offer two important piano practice tips:

1) Create a Unique Practice Space

Choose and prepare a specific, music-friendly practice space in your home. Whether it’s a certain corner in the living room or an entire music room, see that the area is clean and free of distraction. Make it your creative space and decorate it as such by hanging a picture of your music idol to inspire your practice or lighting candles to encourage calmness.

Leave your practice space ready with your books and metronome, and keep your keyboard lid open! Do not let the articles of your everyday life, like papers, backpacks, or groceries intrude on this space. Maintaining a clean and ready piano practice space invites you to sit and make music.

2) Practice With a Side Salad… Or Set an Alert

The key to practice is first designating a set time. Instead of leaving your piano practice time floating ambiguously in the ether of “later,” try coupling it next to an activity you already do daily, like eating or brushing your teeth. Ten minutes directly before or after dinner is an easy target practice zone.

Also, use your calendar and alert systems on your computer and smartphone to their full capacity. Set an alert to remind you. Let technology support your practice. With time, you’ll develop your practice habit as a daily ritual instead of a chore that gets pushed to tomorrow.

Now, on to the piano exercise!

10-Minute Piano Practice Challenge – Overview

10-Minute Piano Practice Exercise

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10-Minute Piano Practice Challenge – A Closer Look

1 min: Breathing and Visualization

Before you begin this piano exercise, approach the keys with a calm and positive mind. Take a minute to breathe deeply and visualize yourself actualizing your musical goal. Feel your feet touching the ground and your body lengthening from the bench. Place your hands in a middle C position and, if possible, visualize their movement while reviewing your music with your eyes. Try to maintain a “can-do” attitude and dismiss any harsh criticism of yourself. Remember, learning how to play the piano is a process!

2 min: Review Notes

Take a moment to recall your last lesson. Read any notes from your piano teacher and identify the specific points you need to focus on for this practice, like counting and dynamics. Limit your focus to one or two items to improve upon. Don’t try to tackle everything at once.

5 min: Work on Targeted Assignment

With these one or two items in mind, approach your current assignment. Write down any questions that arise during your practice to ask your teacher at the next lesson.

2 min: Review Previously Completed Song/Exercise

Reward your focus by reviewing a previously completed assignment that you feel confident in. Have fun playing and realize you are slowly building a repertoire.

NOTE: You can also practice your piano theory away from the keyboard. Try downloading a popular tablet or smartphone app like Music Tutor and visiting notation exercises away from your instrument, while standing in line, waiting at an appointment, or on a lunch break. Apps are also good attention diversions if you need a challenge or feel like your practices are getting mundane.

[Editor’s Note: Here are some other piano apps we love!]

How to Really Improve Your Piano Skills

Decide that you are willing to give this method an earnest try for one week, running through the piano exercise each day. Remember, it’s only 10 minutes! Reward yourself at the end of that week for meeting your goal. Then, reflect on your experience. Is your daily practice coupled with the appropriate daily event or do you need to move it to a different event? Did 10 minutes feel too short, too long, or just right? How did you feel before, during, and after your practice? Do you feel more or less inspired? Look at your experience and evaluate.

By the end of one week you will have achieved 70 minutes of intentional and structured practice. Any music teacher will be thrilled by your report and excited by your commitment to steady progress. Of course, if a burst of inspiration hits you and 10 minutes turns into 20, then great, go with it. The 10-minute piano challenge is a starting point. Good luck!

Aimee B.Post Author: Aimee B.
Aimee B. teaches piano, guitar and music theory in Austin, TX. She earned her B.A. in philosophy and art from St. Edward’s University, has worked as a professional musician for over ten years, and has taught over 100 students as a private music instructor. Learn more about Aimee here!

Photo by Tuan Hoang Nguyen

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Visual Intro to the Keyboard

How to Read Piano Music Faster: Intro to the Keys

Visual Intro to the Keyboard

When you’re new to playing piano, you might feel overwhelmed by all the keys! But here’s a secret: those 88 keys can be reduced to just seven piano notes, and a few essential patterns. Easy, right? Here, teacher Nadia B. shares a super-easy visual introduction…

 

Did you know the keyboard of a piano is full of tricks and secrets? Music is full of different patterns, and as you become more familiar with them, you’ll learn how to read piano music faster, while playing confidently and correctly. If you want to learn how to read piano notes quickly (and improve your sight-reading skills), knowledge of these basics is essential. Following along with a YouTube piano tutorial might be fun, but it’s not going to help you progress as a pianist.

So where do you start? Some of the main building blocks of music that come in handy with piano are half steps and whole steps, the chromatic scale, enharmonics, and flats (noted as ‘b‘) and sharps (notated as ‘#’). Here’s what you need to know…

Half Steps

Just like the structures of chromosomes make up the whole of a DNA strand, half steps make up the whole of the keyboard. A half step on the keyboard is going from one key to the next one directly above or below it, without skipping any keys. A half step could go from a white key to a black key (for example, G to G#), a black key to a white key (e.g. G# to A), or a white key to a white key (e.g. E to F). See the image below for an illustration of these examples.

Half Steps

You will find half steps in both major and minor scales. For example, in the C major scale, E to F and B to C are both half steps.

C Major Scale Half Steps

Familiarizing yourself with half steps and being able to rapidly recognize them will allow you to decode music more easily, as you’ll be able to see the same patterns of half steps in written music.

Whole Steps

Whole steps are the big sibling to half steps. Two half steps make a whole step, and whole steps are what make up major and minor scales, in addition to half steps. An example of a whole step is from F to G on the keyboard; in between F and G we have two half steps — F to F# and F# to G.

Whole Steps

An example of a whole step in a major scale is from F to G in the F major scale. Similarly to half steps, recognizing whole steps and understanding their function allows you to read piano music faster and also learn how to create major and minor scales using a set pattern of whole and half steps.

Chromatic Scale

Now that we’ve covered the building blocks of any piano scale, we can cover a scale that relates directly to half steps: the chromatic scale. Composed entirely of consecutive half steps (that is, not skipping any keys from the beginning to the end of the scale), the chromatic scale is most often practiced by starting on any note, reaching the same note one octave higher, and then descending back to the original note. For example, we can start from F in one octave, play up to F in the next octave, and return back to the original F.

F Chromatic Scale

A sequence of notes may start on one note and end on a different note — it’s the pattern of consecutive half steps that distinguishes it as chromatic.

Enharmonics

Another fundamental concept of the keyboard is that one key can have multiple names. This can cause a great deal of confusion, but once you understand how it works, you’ll find it pretty simple. ‘Enharmonic’ is the name for this concept. For example, F sharp, which we find by identifying F on the keyboard and then moving up a half step, can also be called G flat, which we find by identifying G on the keyboard and then moving down a half step. We arrive at the same note, F sharp/G flat (F#/Gb).

Enharmonic Notes

It’s good to recognize the dual names of enharmonics because you will sometimes see both names within one piece as the key modulates. Enharmonics allow us to travel to different keys seamlessly and logically.

Sharps and Flats on the Piano

Going right along with harmonics is an understanding of how sharps and flats work. Sharps always indicate a movement up in pitch and direction on the keyboard (i.e. to the right), while flats always indicate a movement down in pitch and direction on the keyboard (i.e. to the left). It’s important to understand them because you will see flats and sharps in the key signature and as accidentals throughout the music, and you’ll need to apply them correctly throughout the music.

The key to applying sharps and flats correctly is knowing that you are always moving in half steps. A flat indicates a half step down, while a sharp indicates a half step up. Knowing this, you can also apply double flats and double sharps properly. If you see a double flat, that means you should move downward two half steps from the original note, while a double sharp indicates that you should move upward two half steps from the original note. An example of this would be D double flat: by moving from D to D flat and then again from D flat to C, we arrive at D double flat (which is the same key as C).

Double Flat

Using half steps as a means of applying flats and sharps is an infallible method, and you’ll be moving around the keyboard easily once you learn this method.

To recap, here are the four building blocks on one handy infographic:

How to Read Piano Music Faster - Visual Intro the Piano

How to Read Music Faster & Improve Your Sight Reading

Understanding these basic structures at the piano will help you to read piano music faster, especially when you’re sight reading. Viewing a phrase, you will no longer see each note as a separate entity — rather, you’ll see the relationships between them (whole steps, half steps and larger intervals), as well as patterns that make up scales like the chromatic scale or the major scale. Knowing how sharps, flats, and enharmonics work means that you won’t be stymied by an unusual flat, like C flat. Instead, you’ll easily translate it to B natural in your mind. With these tips, you should be sight reading more fluently and accurately than ever before.

Now that you understand the patterns of the keyboard, don’t hesitate to try to find examples of these in your piano music! You will discover a unique language that is logical, organized, and creative all at once, and decoding it will result in many hours of delight making music at the piano.

Next up? Check out my other visual tour, and learn how to read piano sheet music!

Need some extra help? A private piano teacher can lead the way! Search for a teacher near you here.

Nadia BPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

Photo by mararie

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