Play Me, I'm Yours, Day 7 - Jul 01, 2010 - 17

Piano Resources: 7 Piano Blogs We Love

As a student, teacher, or even professional musician, sometimes you need to have an outlet that whisks you away from lessons and routine practicing. After all, it doesn’t need to be all scales and etudes!

The Internet can be a useful tool for this, as it’s a great way to connect with others who share our passions. Whether you simply need a break, some inspiration, or advice on a technique you’re struggling to master—others are out there ready to share, guide, and help. Here are some of our favorite piano resources and blogs to check out:

Color In My Piano

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Attention, teachers: this one’s for you! Color In My Piano is hosted by blogger Joy Marin, who is based in Ohio and has been teaching group and private lessons since 2005. The majority of her posts are geared toward helping fellow instructors, offering teaching tips, ways to inspire students, and advice on how to set your studio policies. You’ll also find various piano resources, including printable worksheets, piano app reviews, and repertoire lists.

Piano Addict

Piano Addict

Piano Addict is all about breathing, living, and discovering everything piano! Here, students, teachers, professional musicians, composers, and music fanatics can stay up to date with the variety of articles, news, artist profiles, and more. It doesn’t matter if you are a classical or contemporary fan, this site is for piano addicts of all types!

The Collaborative Piano Blog

Collaborate Piano Blog

The Collaborative Piano Blog is exactly what it sounds like—a blog about accompanying and working with others. As a musician, you won’t always be a soloist—you may be a part of a band, ensemble, or group. Your role may vary, and each atmosphere demands a different skill set. In this blog, piano teacher Scott Foley dives into the world of piano, providing a comprehensive guide to collaborative piano (a potential career for pianists), news, event listings, and more. You can also get access to his free e-book, 31 Days to Better Practicing, which is a great resource if you want to make your piano practice more effective!

Frances Wilson’s Piano Studio

Frances Wilson's Piano Studio

Frances Wilson’s blog is a fantastic resource for students, teachers, and piano enthusiasts. It’s packed full of excellent information, including lesson plans for teachers, song recordings for your listening pleasure, infographics, guest posts and interviews with other piano teachers, and much more! And as if this blogger isn’t busy enough, check out The Cross-Eyed Pianist, her companion blog that covers music, pianism, and culture.

Kids & Keys

Kids & Keys

Dana Rice created the blog Kids & Keys with the hope of reaching teachers and parents of kids learning to play piano. Not only is her blog super-cool and easy to navigate, it’s also chock-full of information to help with motivating, inspiring, and teaching young musical minds, which is not always an easy task! Alongside advice on songwriting, practicing, and performing, you can also find printables to get your creative juices flowing.

The Blue Note Classical Piano Blog

The Blue Note

While Kids & Keys is lighthearted and fun, The Blue Note Classical Piano Blog takes a more cerebral look into classical music. But don’t let that scare you or your student off—you’ll find incredibly valuable content about technique, composers, and issues that arise as we teach and learn the piano. One of the best entries, Opus 10, no.1, talks about the necessity of why you do what you do when you are learning. What do scales help you accomplish? Why should you think small? Sometimes a dissected look into the components of learning the piano can give you an “Aha!” moment as to how it all comes together in the big picture. It’s easy to complain about practicing the “boring” stuff, but just look what that boring stuff will help you accomplish in the future!

Music Matters

Music Matters

Natalie Wickham may have a piano studio in Kansas, but her blog Music Matters reaches a much bigger audience! It’s full of helpful articles, ideas for parents, and piano resources for students. There’s also a huge list of links in pretty much any category you might want to explore, from finding local teachers to finding free piano sheet music.

The Internet has expanded our global connections. It doesn’t matter where you live—you have access to amazing experts and professionals in the music world, whether you’re looking for local piano teachers or simply resources and videos to supplement your learning. These blogs are only a small glimpse into what is available to you. Have fun exploring what’s out there!

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Celebrating National Piano Month: 6 Easy Art Projects for Kids

Happy National Piano Month! To celebrate this September, why not spend some time making some easy art projects for kids that will add some pizazz to your music room? Crafting together is a great way to bond with your kids and get them interested in learning more about making music on the piano. It’s a win-win!

Origami Piano

For even more fun, try using decorative folding paper with interesting patterns and colors!

Finger Puppets

Fun Piano Crafts Finger Puppets

Kids love making fun finger puppets, and these kid-tested favorites from Spoonful pack a hidden piano lesson. Just like the ninja and the ballerina move on the tips of their toes, your little one will slip these puppets on and learn to play piano using just the tips of their fingers.

Sheet Music Candles

Sheet Music Candles

These simple candles would look lovely on top of your piano or on a shelf in your music room. Plus, they’re super easy to make! Check out the tutorial on Can’t Stop Making Things.

Kit Kat Piano Cake

Kit Kat Piano Cake

If  you’re celebrating a September birthday, a piano recital, or just back-to-school, this Kit Kat piano cake is adorable, delicious, and fun to make! Learn how it’s done on Posed Perfection.

Recycled Card

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Use old sheet music to make a recycled paper card! The example above is a Father’s Day card idea from Crafting a Green World, but you can use this concept to make a card for anyone. If your child has a piano teacher, have them make this card for their teacher to celebrate National Piano Month.

Cereal Box Grand Piano

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If you have an empty cereal box laying around, you’re halfway to having your own mini grand piano. Check out this tutorial from Hobbies on a Budget to learn more about this easy art project, and then get crafting!

What do you think? Which of these easy art projects for kids are you going to try? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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Piano Tabs vs. Lead Sheets | Beginner Basics

Old Piano

You may have heard of guitar tabs, but what about tabs for pianists? Learn about how to read piano tabs, the difference between tabs and lead sheets, and more in the guest post by Stillwater, OK teacher Chris F

When learning songs on piano, you’ll find that there are a few ways the music can be notated. Often if an artist is popular enough, a music publishing company will notate their music and sell it, often by the album. This notated version of the music is generally referred to as a lead sheet. Lead sheets often include a notated melody, notated accompaniment, and chord symbols.

There are some pros and cons to using a lead sheet:

Pros-

  • If you can read music well, lead sheets are a quick, easy way to play some of your favorite piano songs.
  • Figuring out the music by ear can take forever. A lead sheet takes out the guesswork and allows you to be certain you’re playing the correct notes.

Cons-

  • The piano part provided in lead sheets is an arranged part, meaning that the publisher made it up to sound like the song and added the singer’s melody on top of the part. This is great if you want to perform a solo version of the song on piano. It doesn’t help, however, if you’d like to provide your own vocals or want to know exactly what the pianist is playing on the recording.
  • Lead sheets are rarely edited by actual, gigging musicians, which means that the chord diagrams given are copied and pasted and almost always unrealistic.
  • Lead sheets take time and money to publish. This means that they are almost never free and sometimes not available at all for less popular songs.

The alternative to lead sheets are piano tabs, otherwise known as chord charts. Chord charts are simply the lyrics of a song with the chords listed above the words. There is never any sheet music provided for chord charts. Instead, the player must know most basic chord types (major and minor) and play the right chord over the right word. Exactly how the chord is played on the piano is up to the player.

Learning how to read piano tabs or chord charts has many advantages over lead sheets:

Pros-

  • Chord charts are widely available for free on the Internet. Ultimate-guitar.com has the largest chord chart library, with thousands of user-submitted charts. Despite the name, this site is a valuable resource for pianists, as well as any other musician who uses chord charts.
  • Chord charts force pianists to figure out the specific notes, rhythms, and licks on their own. At first this can be tricky, but this skill comes steadily with time. This kind of self-reliance is what is needed to play piano chords well.
  • Sheet music is a valuable tool, but it’s more valuable to be a musician who can play piano tabs, considering their easy availability online.
  • Because chord charts are easy to read and write, they are the standard for learning popular music. If you join a band on piano and have to learn all their songs, you’ll usually be a given a binder full of chord charts, not lead sheets.

Cons-

  • Chord charts don’t have all the little details that lead sheets have. Usually these details are easy to figure out in a standard pop song. For more difficult songs with hard-to-remember rhythms or licks, a lead sheet might be more easier to read.
  • You have to know chords well to play chord charts well. Luckily, most popular songs only have 3-5 chords in them. But for songs with 10 or more chords, a lead sheet might be easier until all those chords are memorized and easy to play.
  • For certain types of music, such as classical, jazz, or musical numbers, lead sheets are standard. These types of music employ many types of chords and feature specialized piano parts that are easier to read than to memorize.

Here are some tips for learning chord charts:

  • Learn the basic kinds of chords – major and minor. There is no symbol for a major chord – C major is shown as simply C. Minor chords are indicated by a lower case m. C minor is shown as Cm.
  • Start learning songs with only these four chords: C, F, G, and A minor. These four chords use only white keys and are easy to play. These chords also go well together. There are many songs that use just these chords, such as Bill Withers’ “Stand by Me” or The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey”.
  • If you don’t know a complex chord, such as Cadd9 or D/F#, just look at the first note and play that chord. For example,  Am11 can be read as Am, and C7 as C.
  • Sometimes the people who put together piano tabs do a great job, and sometimes they miss the mark. Try to choose well-reviewed charts. Let your ear decide if something sounds correct.
  • Always remember to try and play to the beat of a song. Often, chords are held for two, four, or eight beats. Use the words as a loose guide, but remember that some chords change when there are no words being sung.

Learning how to read piano tabs and lead sheets are both useful. Practice reading both and you’ll be ready to jam along to any type of song. Happy practicing!

ChrisFChris F. teaches guitar, piano, music theory, and more in Stillwater, OK. He has been active in collegiate percussion ensembles, marching and concert bands, various choirs, chamber music groups, jazz combos, an award winning jazz big band, bluegrass combos, drum and bugle corps, and private lessons on several instruments, as both a section leader and as a teacher. Learn more about Chris here! 

 

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4 Tips for Learning Jazz Piano Chords

5858866114_719df8d4e8_bReady to spice up your piano practice? Learning jazz piano chords is a great way to explore new genres and styles on the keys. Here, Stillwater, OK teacher Chris F. shares a few tips to get started…

 

Jazz piano can be a fun but difficult thing to learn. The trick to becoming a great jazz pianist is mastering jazz piano chords. Here are four tips to get you playing jazz chords with ease:

1. Know your theory: In order to even think about jazz piano, your music theory has to be strong:

  • Practice playing major seventh, dominant seventh, minor seventh, half and fully diminished seventh chords in root position across the keyboard.
  • Practice major ii V I chord progressions (ii minor 7th, V dominant 7th, and I major 7th) and minor ii V i chord progressions (ii half diminished, V dominant 7th, and i minor 7th) in all 12 keys.
  • Be aware of all the possible chord symbols: Major 7ths (Cmaj7, C△, CM7), Minor 7ths (Cmin7, C-7, Cm7), and half-diminished 7ths (Cmin7♭5, C∅). Luckily, dominant 7ths and fully diminished 7ths only are notated one way (G7 and G° respectively).

2. Know your voicings: The root position chords above are great to familiarize yourself with the notes, but don’t smoothly connect the harmonies.

In C:
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To make these chord progressions smoother, move the least distance to the next chord.

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Often with smooth voice leading, 7ths in one chord resolve to the 3rd of the next chord. There are many unique sounding jazz voicings to experiment with. Use your ear to be the judge. To experiment, here are some possible voicings to try out with both major and minor ii-V-I progressions.

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3. Know your extensions: Chordal extensions are harmonies added to 7th chords that add texture, color, and a characteristic jazz sound. In fact, 7th chords are rarely played plain, but with one or more of these added notes.

As a general rule:

  • Major 7ths, minor 7ths, and dominant 7ths often come with added 6ths and/or 9ths. A 9th is just a 2nd an octave up. The 7th is almost always included in any chord, regardless of what extension is being added. When a 6th is added to a dominant chord, it’s always added above the 7th, creating a “13th” interval. Thus, a 13 chord is a dominant 7th with a sixth added above the 7th (see below). Also note that a plain 9 chord indicates a dominant 7th with a 9th added.

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  • Dominant chords (plain 7th chords that often function as the V in a ii  V  I chord progression) sound great with many different extensions. In fact, the 5ths and 9ths of dominant chords can be raised or lowered, leading to many unique harmonic possibilities, including 7♭9, 7#9, 7♭5, 7#5, 7♭9#5, 7♭9♭5, 7#9♭5, and 7#9#5.

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  • Often, in jazz lead sheets and chord progressions, the dominant extensions above aren’t specified, but can be added to taste.  This goes for the 6ths and 9ths in major and minor 7th chords. There are almost always extensions added to 7th chords. Many times the 5th is excluded from the voicing, especially if extensions are added. If it sounds appropriate in the progression and leads smoothly to the next chord, it’s probably a great choice.

4. Know how to practice: The easiest way to become familiar with these jazz piano chords is to practice ii-V-I progressions in every key.  Another great resource is playing pre-written arrangements found in books such as Piano Stylings of the Great Standards (Vol. 1-6) by Edward Shanaphy or The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine. These books provide you with many great voicings that are clearly labeled.  And of course, having a quality hard copy or digital “fake book” full of jazz standards, such as The Real Book by Hal Leonard, is a must for practicing your jazz voicings. Happy practicing!

ChrisFChris F. teaches guitar, piano, music theory, and more in Stillwater, OK. He has been active in collegiate percussion ensembles, marching and concert bands, various choirs, chamber music groups, jazz combos, an award winning jazz big band, bluegrass combos, drum and bugle corps, and private lessons on several instruments, as both a section leader and as a teacher. Learn more about Chris here! 

 

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The 10 Best Piano Practice Tips to Remember

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Not sure where to start when you sit down at the piano? Just remember these 10 piano practice tips from Austin, TX teacher Tosin A

 

All right, students. Relax your shoulders, keep your back straight, and let’s begin our scales. Just kidding. Practicing is the most important part of becoming a piano player. Here are a few things to take your practice time to its highest potential.

1. Set a Clear Goal

If you sit down at the piano and say, “I’m going to play for a bit,” you aren’t going to to learn anything. Instead, set a goal: “I’m going to learn how to play the opening song in Frozen.” Since you set a goal, you are going to keep at it until you reach it. You also have to make sure that your goal is achievable in your practice time frame. If you have only two hours, you probably shouldn’t try to learn the entire “Planets Suite” by Holst, maybe just the pretty part in “Jupiter”.

2. Warm up

Seriously, I know it’s boring, but I’ve had carpal tunnel and tendonitis because of not warming up. I’d rather spend 10 minutes warming up than be in pain for six months. This is one of the most important piano practice tips because it also gives you the opportunity to get into the right mindset.

3. Set Aside Time for Fundamentals

Make sure at least 15 minutes of your practice time is set aside for things like scales, runs, accuracy, and timing. You only gain technical skills by repetition – uncomfortable, annoying, boring, focused repetition. Just build in 15 minutes of fundamentals to every one of your practices and you will be able to play insanely technical pieces.

4. Slow Down

The trick to learning hard songs is learning them at half-speed and then slowly speeding up. Slow down to whatever speed you can play it perfectly. Then, when you can play it perfectly at that speed three times, speed it up a little bit. A LITTLE BIT. “What’s a little bit?” I’m glad you asked…

5. Use A Metronome and Slow Down Again

If you can’t play a song in time, then you can’t play the song. “Flight of the Bumblebee” is played, depending on how you count it, at about 500bpm.

But do not start trying to learn the song at 500bpm. You start at 50bpm. When you can play it at 50, speed it up to 60, and so forth until you can play at the correct speed.

6. In Case You Didn’t Hear it, Slow Down

I cannot stress this piano practice tip enough. I truly believe the difference between average musicians and great ones are people who know how to practice a fast song at a tenth of its speed and slowly start to speed it up.

7. Listen

Name your top 10 favorite pianists. If you don’t have the list, you haven’t listened to enough pianists. You have to know what great sounds like to sound great yourself. Since it’s 2014, it’s a lot easier to discover great pianists and great music – try just a simple search on YouTube!

8. Imitate, then Innovate

After you listen, try to copy great solos you love, and then try to make them better. This is where you find out who you are and what is special about your piano playing. This is the opportunity to go from being great to being unique.

9. Take A Break

You’ve warmed up, spent 15 minutes on fundamentals, learned how to play “Jupiter”, and now you are on to “Mars”. You spent 20 minutes listening and copying Fats Waller solos. What do you do next?

You stop.

… and breathe. Then get back into it.

10. Start and End With Fun

Make sure you play something you love when you start to practice and something you love when you are done, preferably something you are great at playing. This will keep your confidence up!

The most important thing to remember is that all this hard work gives you the ability to entertain, uplift, and touch people with your talent. It’s also way more fun playing piano when you are great at it. Now go make some beautiful music.

TosinATosin A. teaches piano, music theory, music composition, public speaking, and various academic subjects in Austin, TX, as well as through online lessons. He has been playing piano for 14 years, and currently plays for his church and 3 bands (La Vida Buena, Savannah Red and The Blueberries, Jackie Venson), and for Improv Comedy Shows around town. Learn more about Tosin here!

 

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3 Handy Websites for Finding Piano Notes for Songs | Piano Sheet Music

Where To Look For Piano Song Notes Playing piano doesn’t have to be limited to practicing scales and chords. You can have a lot of fun if you find the piano notes for songs on the radio or classic pop and rock tunes you’ve always liked, and go from there! This is a great way to break up the monotony of rigorous practice, and keep yourself motivated and having fun as you learn how to play.

Finding piano notes for songs isn’t usually that hard, either – you just have to know the right places to look. Here are a few of our favorite resources:

Musicnotes.com

This website has a great selection of piano sheet music available. In addition to the top pop hits you hear on the radio today, you can also find piano notes for songs recorded a few decades ago. In fact, many of their top downloaded songs are from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. You can also find pieces based on playing level, ranging from beginner to expert. Be sure to check back often, as there are always new songs being added.

The cost to download the piano sheet music available on Musicnotes varies. Some songs are available for free, while others cost up to $10. Keep in mind that these songs cost money as they are technically property of the songwriter, and for each copy of the music there is a royalty associated with it. You can probably consider it a “get what you pay for” situation, as the sheet music is edited and proofread before it’s posted on the Musicnotes website.

Piano Street

With Piano Street, you have the world of piano sheet music at your fingertips! A membership costs $7 per month or $47 per year, but with that you get access to nearly 3,000 different pieces of sheet music, as well as recordings for most of the popular pieces. Their selection is mostly focused on classical and jazz compositions, so this might come in handy when you’re discussing which classical piece you want to play next with your piano teacher.

Not to worry though – if you need a break from practicing classical tunes, you can also head to their pop music section and search for piano notes for songs with a more contemporary feel. And with the professional members that frequent Piano Street, you can count on every submission being top quality.

8notes.com

Drawing its name from the number of notes in an octave, the 8notes.com website offers tons of sheet music, from classical to contemporary at beginner to expert levels. Best of all, a lot of the music available on the website is free to use!

The “Piano Licks & Riffs” section is also worth checking out, featuring contemporary songs and artists such as Adele, John Legend, and Coldplay. This is an easy way to get started with popular songs, since the majority of pop and rock tunes are based on a few simple chord patterns that are repeated throughout the entire chorus and verse. And once you have the basic chord progression figured out, it’s pretty easy to continue playing it and even sing along if you want!

There is a $20 per year fee to subscribe to the 8notes website, which gives you access to a large variety of full sheet music transcriptions, in addition to the free sheet music and chord progressions. There are also a few other benefits, such as higher-quality PDFs and transposition available.

Of course, before going out on your own to find piano notes for songs, you can also try asking your private instructor for their recommendations. Since he or she has been playing piano for much longer than you have, there may be websites or other sources of music that he or she is familiar with that can provide you with exactly the songs you’re looking for! It’s also a good idea to keep your teacher in the loop if you’re itching to practice different types of music. After all – music lessons are much more effective (and fun!) when they’re catered to your musical interests. Enjoy!

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5 Things to Try Once You’ve Mastered Scales on the Piano

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So you’ve mastered and memorized all the different scales on the piano – what now? Here are some awesome musical ideas to try next, courtesy of Corona, CA teacher Milton J...

 

You’ve likely come a long way from your very first piano lesson, a nerve-racking beginning to what is sure to be a lifelong love for these 88 keys of joy and wonder. Maybe it’s been a few lessons and you’ve finally completed a goal – you’ve mastered major and minor scales! From C major to Eb minor, you’ve got the fingerings, crosses, and two-hand synchronization down. So, what’s next? Here are five new steps you can take after your scales on the piano are committed to memory.

Interval Training For Your Ear with Familiar Tunes

Everyone has that favorite song they are dying to learn how to play on the piano. And there’s no time like the present to use that favorite song to start teaching your ear to listen for intervals and recreate them on the piano. This skill is fundamental to understanding how harmony functions within melodic and chordal procedures and is essential to your piano-playing development. And all of this can be achieved with Here Comes the Bride and The Simpsons theme song.

This video from Home Studio Essentials shows some popular songs and rhymes that are utilized for interval ear training:

Reading Sheet Music Using Favorite Songs

Have you ever passed through you favorite music store and seen the books of music featuring your favorite artists? Well, now’s the time to pick out one of those books and bring it with you to your lessons! You can also ask your teacher if they possess the songbooks in question, which may save you a step and some cash. These songs will provide a fun way to further introduce you to reading musical notation, and you will most likely start to make parallels between the intervals and scales on the piano you’ve learned and the melodies used in your favorite song.

Writing Musical Stories

The creative process is a wonderful thing to behold. It begets the great art we’ve enjoyed for centuries, and it allows us to create even more for ourselves and for others. Why not utilize that creative spirit in creating something of your own? One of the most liberating ways is to set original stories and/or poems to music. Whether this is set to scales or music you have already learned or original melodies altogether, this could be a great way to get those creative juices flowing. Ask your teacher about making this a project for you, and maybe you can collaborate with them or even your musical friends!

While fully orchestrated instead of merely on the piano, this example of “Pickles and the Bully” from Pickles’ Adventures can give you an idea of creating musical ideas set to a story:

Need For Speed

Now that you have all these scales memory-banked, what else can you do with them? Well, you can turn them into speed drills! One way is to target a specific note and try to get to that note as fast as possible. For example, take the five-finger scale and try only going one direction and see just how fast you can reach your target note. Pay no mind to initial mistakes for now, as long as you play that target note strong. With even more practice, those mistakes in the middle will disappear! From there, change it to playing as light as you can. The lighter you play, the faster you can play. So, try not to push at the notes. Instead, grab at the notes and let your fingers produce a full tone, not your arms. In no time, you’ll turn those scales into speed racers!

Nate Bosch of PianoLessons.com shows an example of this and other exercises here:

Back to the Blues

Did you know that some of our favorite classic songs are built around a blues scale? Take “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream. That introduction scale is a blues scale. “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin? Sure enough, a blues scale. How about on the piano? Blues scales are in some of the most beloved and popular jazz standards in America. Learning blues scales across all the keys you learned in your major and minor scales will open up more improvisational possibilities, enabling you to become an even better pianist!

Steve Nixon from freejazzlessons.com gives a great video tutorial with an accompanying sheet of blues scales here:

There you have it, budding pianists – five things to try out after you’ve mastered your first scales on the piano. Remember, with great talent comes great responsibility – the responsibility to have fun!

MiltonJ Milton K. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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In the Pits: How to Succeed as an Orchestral Pianist

Successful Piano Training Being a piano player may seem like a very solitary way to go about learning an instrument. As a piano student, you may yearn to make music with others, and if you’re naturally drawn toward group music making, it may be that you already study an orchestral instrument, or sing with a choir. You may also have extended your piano training to accompany some of your friends for concerts or exams, or explored the wide variety of chamber music repertoire available involving the piano. However, had you considered the sheer quantity of orchestral music that requires a piano, aside from the obvious concerto repertoire?

Orchestral Works with Piano

Your piano training to date has no doubt included not just standard scales and finger exercises, but solo piano repertoire as well, ranging from stand-alone pieces to complete sonatas. For more advanced students, your teacher may have introduced transcriptions of famous symphonic works for you to play together as duet material. However, many late romantic and twentieth century orchestral works employ the piano as an instrument in its own right.

A famous example is the last movement of Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 (also known as the “Organ Symphony”), where the piano adds color to the string statement of the main motif.  In the clip below, you can clearly see the positioning of the piano in the orchestra.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with other orchestral keyboard instruments, too; celeste parts are very common, for example. Many Prokofiev symphonies have a prominent piano part, and the increasingly popular symphonies of Bohuslav Martinu all require an orchestral pianist.

Operatic Works with Piano

The life of the orchestral pianist isn’t limited to the concert platform; many operatic works incorporate a piano into the pit orchestra, or even require a pianist to be onstage as part of the action – an excellent opportunity for the more outgoing performer, but not so much fun for the player used to hiding behind the keyboard. Britten’s village comedy Albert Herring requires a pianist for the recitatives, and Ariadne auf Naxos (Richard Strauss) and Dialogues des Carmelites (Francis Poulenc) make use of the piano not just for orchestral color, but as an important instrument on its own. Celeste, harpsichord, and even glass harmonica parts are very common, and all demand an experienced and accomplished orchestral keyboard player.

What to Study to Become an Orchestral Pianist

The skills you need to become an orchestral pianist are slightly different from those you’ll need to play as a solo pianist, or even to accompany one or two musicians or take part in chamber music. If a career as an orchestral pianist and keyboard player interests you, your piano training will need to incorporate some very specific disciplines.

You will need to be able to:

  • Follow a beat – As a soloist, you can set your own tempo. An orchestral player, on the other hand, will need to accurately follow someone else’s speed.
  • Learn to watch rather than listen – You are likely to be 20 feet or more away from the conductor, perhaps even buried in or behind the percussion section. If you make the mistake of listening to the orchestra to know when to come in, you may end up behind the beat.
  • Accurately count many bars rest – This may seem like a simple skill, and wind and brass players almost seem to be born with it. However, it’s not as simple as it seems. You may be resting for most of a movement, yet have to play a brilliant and exposed solo toward the end. Don’t get distracted when you’re counting!
  • Interpret dynamics in relation to texture – You will need to identify whether you are providing orchestral color (and therefore you shouldn’t actually be “heard” as an individual instrument), or if you are providing a specific piano effect.
  • Read an orchestral score – Your piano training will benefit strongly from learning how to read full scores, as you will learn how your part fits in with the rest of the music.

The Life of an Orchestral Pianist

Although the life of the orchestral pianist isn’t quite as lonely as that of the soloist can be, you will still find yourself with a lot more time off than your colleagues, and you may not feel that you are “part of things” in the same way the string or woodwind players are. As with all musical disciplines and career paths, it’s important to build interests and relationships outside of work. Many musicians find that an active teaching practice, for example, helps them to refocus.

Music isn’t always easy or necessarily financially rewarding – however, that’s not why we do it! Have fun exploring the different avenue of piano training, and see what interests you the most!

 

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4 Songs That Every Classical Pianist Should Learn

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Which classical piano songs should you have in your repertoire? Check out four of the most well-known pieces here, as complied by Greeley, CO teacher Andy W...

 

This is simply a list of four of the most time-tested and beautiful classical piano songs of all time. If you don’t know how to play these yet, you should learn them right away!

1. Moonlight Sonata

This has withstood the test of time, considering that it was composed by Beethoven in 1801. The part of this sonata that everybody knows is the first of the three movements, Adagio sostenuto. The full name for the entire work is The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# minor, “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27, No. 2. “Quasi una fantasia” translates as “sonata in the manner of a fantasy.” So, how did the name “Moonlight Sonata” stick with this composition? A German critic named Ludwig Rellstab commented that the first movement gave the imagery of moonlight on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. By the late 19th century, “Moonlight Sonata” became the universally accepted title. Here’s Wilhelm Kempff, one of the greatest piano players of all time playing it:

Free sheet music can be found here.

2. Fur Elise

It seems Beethoven was good enough to make it onto this list twice! The full name for this piano piece is Bagatelle 25 in A minor, Op. 59. Fur Elise was composed in 1810 and was finally published in 1867, which was long after Beethoven’s death in 1827. Music scholar Ludwig Nohl discovered and published the composition. The title in English is “For Elise”. But, as to who Elise was, no one is really certain. There is even a chance that Nohl could have mistaken Elise for Therese, who was a close friend and student of Beethoven’s. Here is the great Ivo Pogorelic playing this classic:

Free sheet music can be found here.

3. Ave Maria

Ave Maria has been performed extensively with many different lyrics and arrangements. You might have seen it in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia. The full name for the work is Ellens Gesung III, D. 839, Op. 52, No. 6. It was composed by Franz Schubert in 1825 as the sixth of seven songs that were based on the epic poem The Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott. A little over 10 years later, Franz Liszt wrote three arrangements of the piece for piano. The incredible pianist Lang Lang can be seen giving a very moving performance of it here:

Free sheet music can be found here.

4. Clair de lune

The French title translates to “moonlight.” This is the third of four movements from The Suite Bergamasque by Claude Debussy. Debussy actually started composing the suite in 1890 and later finished and published it in 1905. The work was inspired by the poem of the same name by the French poet Paul Verlaine. Here is a clip of Angela Hewitt performing the piece:

Free sheet music can be found here.

It’s easy to see how these classical piano songs are still popular today. If you haven’t yet worked on them in your piano lessons, you’ll probably run into them at some point! I hope you enjoy learning and playing these wonderfully composed classics!

AndyWAndy W. teaches guitar, singing, piano, and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!

 

 

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5 Famous Piano Songs You’ll Instantly Recognize

Classic Piano Songs The piano is a beautiful instrument, capable of playing a wide array of sounds, from soft or staccato to broadly lyrical and even grandiose and rhapsodic. The ability of a composer to create such a huge range of emotions and portray a large variety of settings and ideas on the piano goes a long way in explaining why certain famous piano songs have stood the test of time and are still instantly recognizable to listeners. This also explains why these famous piano songs are often used to accompany scenes in movies, commercials, and television shows, or are often performed at recitals and weddings. These five pieces below are just some of the most beloved songs that form the soundtrack to our lives.

1. Ludwig van Beethoven, “Moonlight Sonata”

There is no classical music composer whose music better exemplifies emotion and heart than Beethoven. As one of the earliest great Romantic Era musicians, Beethoven bore his emotions openly, and his music is expressive, brooding, and full of feeling. And, as many know, his music is made even more amazing when we know that he lost his hearing in early adulthood and was completely deaf by the time he wrote many of his masterpieces! His expressive spirit is exemplified in the famous “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, No. 2″ (nicknamed the “Moonlight Sonata”). The first movement, marked Adagio sostenuto, is the most recognizable, with its smoothly moving triplet motive in the right hand and the heavy, pedantic melody in the low bass line. True to the adopted name of the piece, the tune offers a beautiful mental image of a melancholy moonlit night.

2. Claude Debussy, “Clair de lune”

French composer Debussy is the epitome of the Impressionist style of music. His pieces are soft, light, and dreamy, suggesting seascapes and tranquil natural settings. The famous “Clair de lune” (which translates to “light of the moon”) is actually the third movement from his larger piano composition “Suite bergamasque”. “Clair de lune” has been used in countless movies and television shows to depict a soft and dreamlike state and is loved by classical music fans for its gentle beauty. The pianist is able to use the higher end of the keyboard and use a certain lightness of the fingers to musically imitate twinkling and soft moonlight.

3. Frederic Chopin, “March Funèbre”

Whenever movies and television shows need music that instantly makes people think of morbid settings and ideas of death, they often turn to the second movement of Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2″, aptly marked “Marche Funèbre” (“funeral march”). This instantly recognizable melody is slow, heavy, and oppressive, mimicking the feeling of marching slowly through a street while carrying a casket.

4. Ludwig van Beethoven, ”Für Elise”

Beethoven’s piano music is so universally well-known and beloved that he deserves a second mention in this list! The full name of this piece is “Bagatelle in A Minor” but most people will recognize it more under the name “Für Elise”. This music is famous both because of its beautiful lyrical melody and because it is a standard repertoire piece for young or beginning piano students who are starting to learn more substantial piano music. The right and left hands play constant eighth note lines that weave in and out of each other to create a beautiful and smooth texture.

5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Rondo alla turca”

Everybody knows the name Mozart and recognize him as one of the greatest composers and pianists in all of music history. However, not as many know that he was a child prodigy – composing music and touring all of Europe as a performer at the age of five! – and also quite an impish and mischievous jokester throughout his short life. He also lived during a time when Eastern influence, especially from Turkey, was incredibly trendy in Western Europe. All of these elements combine beautifully in the third movement of his “Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331″, marked Rondo all turca (“Rondo in the Turkish style”). The music is fast, energetic, playful, and rhythmic. The ornamentations that emphasize the half-step interval that is indicative of Eastern music and the quick flourishes mimic the flash of cymbals and bells.

These five famous piano songs are just the beginning when it comes to the wonderfully expansive world of gorgeous piano music that is out there just waiting for you to explore. The first step in learning how to play these beautiful pieces is signing up for private piano lessons. Your teacher will help guide you through the process of learning this music and developing the skills you need in order to perform these famous piano songs with mastery. Good luck!

 

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