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4 Surefire Signs You’ve Chosen the Right Piano Teacher

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Want to learn how to play the piano? Not all piano teachers are equal — and different students need different things when it comes to guidance. So how do you know if you’ve found the right teacher? Find out in this guest post by San Antonio, TX teacher Andrew F… 

 

When you go about your search for a piano teacher, what things do you consider? A few important things to consider could be location, experience, and affordability. I could not and would not argue against their certainties, but I think you should also consider something else, if you are not already doing so: connection!

Success at learning to play the piano is not entirely reliant on how good a piano teacher you have. Aside from providing guidance for you while you learn to play the piano, your teacher is also there to help you maintain a desire to keep on practicing.

Knowing whether you have a good connection with your piano teacher only requires self-awareness. The following are some questions I suggest you ask yourself when searching for a piano teacher:

  • Do you look forward to each meeting? Unless it is your chosen reason (for whatever… reason) to receive piano lessons, you should not be feeling reluctance about your next meeting with the teacher. The experience should be inspiring and worthwhile. If you are not looking forward to your meetings you will likely not keep up with assignments given to you, jeopardizing the whole experience! Not looking forward to your meetings with your piano teacher could affect the next important concern I will mention.
  • How has your desire to play piano changed since prior to your first meeting with your piano teacher? As I have mentioned, your piano teacher should help you maintain a desire to play the piano. I believe we piano teachers play various roles, including motivator, coach, inspirer, etc. Playing these roles, we help provide nourishment toward completing your goals as a piano player. It is likely that if you are seeing a negative shift in your desire to play, it is (likely) at least partly due to a lack of a good connection with your piano teacher.
  • Do you feel your teacher is giving you enough insight? Part of what you should look for in a piano teacher is insight. You will want to know such things as how to shape your hands while playing, correct fingering when playing scales, and what pieces best suit you.
  • What is your overall contentment with the experience? If you decide there is no connection, it is nothing to feel bad about nor is it something your teacher should take personally. Just like any other person-centered situation, the alliance between student and teacher is so important to improving your piano playing.

You want to get the most out of each meeting with your teacher. You will know if you have a connection with your piano teacher if the above concerns are really not concerns at all for you. Just remember to be invariably mindful of your experience, because it will benefit both you and your piano teacher. As with every situation in which two-plus entities are working together, communication is important. Ask yourself questions such as the ones mentioned above and get connected!

AndrewFAndrew F. teaches piano, guitar, singing, songwriting, and more in San Antonio, TX. He also tutors in a variety of subjects, with experience working with individuals individually and in groups. Learn more about Andrew here!

 

 

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JV

Piano Inspiration: 7-Year-Old Piano Prodigy Set to Release His First Album

Piano Prodigy Jacob Velazques

Photo credit https://www.jacobvelazquez.com/

When seven-year-old Jacob Velazquez sits at the piano bench his feet barely touch the floor, but he doesn’t let that stop him. Jacob has been taking piano lessons since he was just four years old and has been called by many a “child prodigy” and “baby Beethoven.” But how did Jacob become such a skilled pianist at such a young age? It all started with a natural talent and a lot of practice.

Who is Jacob Velazquez?

Jacob is a classical pianist from Pembroke Pines, Florida. After hearing his father play a song on the piano once, Jacob began playing the song himself. His parents were astounded and knew that their child had a special talent that needed to be nurtured, so they began searching for a teacher to give him professional piano lessons. His parents knew that learning piano for kids is best with professional guidance, no matter how impressive Jacob’s natural skills were.

Little did they know that finding a teacher willing to work with Jacob would be so difficult. Many of the instructors they contacted did not want to work with Jacob because he was so young. The instructors usually taught piano for kids much older than Jacob.  Fortunately, his parents did not give up. They finally found an instructor, and after just one lesson, Jacob and his family knew the one-on-one guidance would be worth it.

Shortly after Jacob began playing piano, he was diagnosed with a form of high-functioning autism. He also has a photographic memory, which allows him to memorize the sheet music for any song after viewing it only once. He even learned to play Beethoven’s Sonata in only three weeks!

Jacob’s Accomplishments and Recognition

Jacob has been featured in news media around the world, including “Good Morning America”, “Telemundo”, CNN, and The Huffington Post. Jacob was also admitted into the National Musician’s Guild in 2013. The audition process is quite difficult, requiring applicants to memorize and play 10 classical pieces. Jacob not only passed, he exceeded his parents’ expectations.

His New Album

Jacob has already released two singles online, “Fur Elise” and “Rondo Alla Turca”. He is currently working with producer and songwriter Hal S. Batt on an album that is set to release in early 2015. Jacob’s official website explains that his debut album will blend “popular classical piano pieces with an uplifting electronic dance groove, to timeless piano solos with the accompaniment of a string quartet.” The upbeat musical stylings paired with Jacob’s extraordinary talent promise to produce an amazing album, and a portion of the proceeds will go toward autism research.

Take a look at his first music video, for “Fur Elise”, here:

What Can You Learn From Jacob?

Even though Jacob was blessed with an exceptional ability to memorize and learn piano, his parents knew that was not enough. Becoming a successful pianist takes more than raw talent. When you take private lessons from a professional instructor, you will learn the basics, like music theory and how to read music. Your instructor will also help you determine how much you need to practice and what you need to work on. Your instructor will offer you a valuable perspective from someone who is experienced in learning and teaching piano.

If you are interested in learning piano or are searching for an instructor to teach piano for kids, our instructors can help guide you or your child down the path to becoming an accomplished pianist. Find one near you and encourage your child to explore his or her talents!

Sources:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2414971/Baby-Beethoven-Jacob-Velasquez-5-child-piano-playing-prodigy.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/09/jacob-velasquez_n_3894108.html<
https://www.jacobvelazquez.com/about.html

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Is it Possible to Have an Eco-Friendly, Sustainably Built Piano?

Tips On Purchasing A PianoWhen you’re looking to buy a piano, your primary concerns are likely to be whether it is playable and suitable for your needs, and if it will fit comfortably into your home. However, if you also tailor your purchasing habits to looking after the environment and keeping your ecological footprint as small as possible, buying a new piano may be something that gives you serious pause for thought.

Digital or Acoustic

If you’re short on space and funds, your first thought might be to get a good digital piano. However, digital pianos don’t last forever, and replacing all those electronic components and plastics every decade or so isn’t very eco-friendly.

A conventional acoustic piano will last a lifetime. Or will it? Keys, strings, and other parts of the instrument may need replacing over its (or your) lifetime, and the energy expended for another frame casting is considerable, not to mention the ecological cost of timber and the at-best-dubious ethics of fitting ivory keys.

So it’s harder to make the decision to buy a piano based on the digital or acoustic argument than you might think. Instead, your best bet is to research how to limit the impact most effectively rather than hope to find a truly eco-friendly and sustainably built piano.

Ivory or Plastic Keys

We’ve discussed the ethics of ivory keys on pianos, and how it may help to bring the demand for poached ivory to an end if more materials were recycled. If you buy a piano now, you’re far more likely to have plastic keys than ivory, and many makers simply will not manufacture them at all, as modern plastics are just as responsive and touch-sensitive as ivory. However, if we’re really talking about using recycled materials to take our planet-saving principles one step further, ivory keys dating from the early years of the twentieth century are worth considering.

Sustainable Wood Sourcing

Another thing to consider is how the rest of your piano is manufactured. Few instrument manufacturers make a point of using wood from sustainable forests when making piano casings, so it’s worth asking plenty of questions about where the timber was sourced from, and doing your research with regard to responsible forestry. It’s up to you, as a buyer, to make an impact here — look for a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label, which indicates that the wood used has been harvested sustainably. Many musicians have shown their support for the Lacey Act, which bans the import and trade of illegally logged wood and the illegal trade in wildlife.

Is It Just One Big Headache?

The key to being truly eco-friendly comes down to personal responsibility; if we’re using common sense when choosing to reduce packaging on what we buy and how diligently we recycle, we’re already reducing our consumer footprint. In addition, the mantra of “make do and mend” is worth keeping in mind. It’s not unusual for sale rooms to occasionally “give away” stock, and although these instruments are — in their current state — fit for nothing better than a bonfire, there’s a fair chance that some of the piano will be useful for spare parts. For example, an iron frame is costly both financially and ecologically, but a reclaimed frame from a piano at the end of its life is a project perfect for someone who enjoys building things.

When looking to buy a piano, consider going secondhand — there’s a beauty in older instruments that you are unlikely to find within a reasonable price range, and you are reducing the need of the ecological footprint required to make a new instrument. If you go acoustic, and repair and recycle rather than replace, you’re well on the way to doing your part — and looked after properly, your piano will last you a lifetime.

 

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Why Are Piano Keys Arranged That Way?

Piano KeysWhen you look at the keys on a piano, a few things pop out right away. First, there are both white and black keys, and second, there is a distinct pattern that the keys on piano repeat. While most modern pianos contain 88 keys, you can find pianos with a shortened range, and even some that increase the number! But why, exactly, are the keys set up like that? We’ll explore that in this article.

Black and White Keys on Piano

Pianos are arranged with white keys for the musical tones of A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The black keys fill in the gaps for the remaining half-steps, which are notated as sharps or flats as a key signature or accidentals within the piano music.

You’ll get to know the keys on piano as you practice scales, to begin with. The C scale, for example, is played without any sharps or flats. That means that all of the notes are played only on the white keys. Other scales include some of the black keys, depending on how many sharps or flats are in the key. For instance, the key of D has two sharps in it, F sharp and C sharp, which are played on the black keys.

Octaves on the Piano

Pianos were first designed based off a harpsichord layout, which had five octaves. Then piano makers increased to six octaves and later to seven full octaves, at the request of composers who wanted to use a larger range when writing piano music. The standard 88-key piano was created in the late 1800s, adding four keys to the layout that you can recognize on any full piano today.

The pattern of black and white keys on piano is repeated every 12 notes. This includes seven white keys and five black keys. This pattern is called an octave. On a standard 88-key piano, there are seven octaves plus a few more keys at either end. If you consider an octave to begin at C, then there are three keys in the “zero” octave at the very low end, and one key in the last octave at the high end.

While most pianos have 88 keys, there are many practice keyboards with fewer than seven full octaves. A shortened keyboard may only contain five or six octaves. There are also piano makers that have extended the range to over 100 keys! In either case, the middle C note sounds exactly the same; the octaves are simply shortened at the low or high end.

Why would you want to have fewer or more keys than standard? If you want to have a keyboard to practice on between your piano lessons, but space is limited, a shortened model gives you the opportunity to practice without taking up quite as much space. Conversely, some piano pieces are written for a greater range than the standard layout, which requires a piano with more than 88 keys.

There is some speculation that pianos could have even more than the current limit, but that comes at a cost — both a monetary cost, as well as a limitation on the range of human hearing. With 88 keys, a piano already hits close to the extent of the human ear. More keys can increase the range of the composition, but may test the limit of what the audience can actually hear.

If you’re still curious about the way the keys on piano are laid out, feel free to ask your piano teacher at your next lesson. He or she will likely have a lot of knowledge about how a piano works — and the more you know about your instrument, the better musician you’ll become!

 

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How to Write a Song on Piano | 6 Tips for Writing Lyrics

lyrics for piano music

Sara Bareilles, Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan, and Elton John — all amazing musicians who are known for playing the piano and writing heartfelt lyrics. Want to try your hand at it? Read on as Helendale, CA teacher Sylvia S. shares her tips for how to write a song on piano…

 

So you’ve learned to play piano and you’ve created some original sounds. Maybe you’d like to learn how to write a song on piano along with great lyrics, and you’re stumped. You’re not alone. Before one of the most famous songwriters of the 20th century came up with lyrics, one of his beautiful love songs was stuck with the abysmal rhyme “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs.”

Here are some tips to help you get started:

1) Don’t worry if your song doesn’t come together quickly, or even if some inane phrase is stuck in your head. See what you have to begin with. Is it a few chords? Perhaps a melody line? Or is there a nice rhythm you’d like to build upon? Maybe you have a story to tell about love or dancing or something you just want to sing about.

2) Take a good listen to what you like the most about your starting point, and what needs a little help. Notice those parts where words and music come together easily, even if it’s only a short phrase and melody. Jot it down on a piece of paper so you will remember later, and keep a pen and paper where you can reach it quickly at night. Often the perfect rhyme is in your subconscious dreams, so don’t be surprised if you wake up with the answer.

3) What if you have music and no ideas at all for words? Many successful songs are the result of two-person collaborations, where one person writes the music and the other writes the lyrics. Consider taking on a partner for this task, particularly if you know someone who’s good at writing poetry.

4) How about if you don’t have the music for a song yet, and you’re looking for poetry or other songs for inspiration to get things started? Unless the lyrics are in the public domain, it’s a good idea to get permission from the writer, even if you don’t plan to “go public” with your song.

5) On the other hand, public domain poetry is a marvelous and largely untapped resource to use for lyrics, usually with no permission required. I like Public Domain Poems, where I found this great potential song lyric from the poem “Love’s Philosophy” by Percy Shelley: The fountains mingle with the rivers, and the rivers with the oceans. The winds of heaven mix forever with a sweet emotion.

6) Decide what you want the style and speed of your song to be, and also the message you wish to deliver. Is it a love song played slowly atop beautiful harmonies? Or is it a fast-paced dance song, with punchy chords in the right and a deft riff in the left hand? Is your preference a simple country ballad combined with a surprising or humorous observation of life? Maybe you like hip-hop and strong rhythmic motifs shared between the bass and treble?

Whichever style and message you choose, create a diagram for your song. A typical diagram is A-B-A-B. This type of song has two parts:

  • The A part, or the story line, is known as the verse. The words of the verse change each time the A-B pattern is repeated, usually as a rhyme that tells a story. The story continues and progresses throughout the song.
  • The B part, or the message, is known as the chorus. The words of the chorus are usually easy to remember and stay the same with each A-B repetition. A “hook” is a combination of words and melody that gets stuck in your mind. In some songs, a chorus rhymes, and in other songs it will repeat a strong non-rhyming statement like “I Love You,” or a call to action (like “Celebrate” or “Dance”). Deciding whether or not to rhyme is called “poetic license.”
  • In addition to parts A and B, some songs are more complicated, with a C part, or bridge, tossed in the song’s midst for interest.

Now that you have a few parts of your song working well, and you have a diagram to map out the road, it’s time to start writing the rest of the lyrics. Love songs and country ballads can generally have simpler rhymes and more complicated story lines or flowery descriptions. In contrast, dance songs and hip-hop often have complicated rhymes with a simple message. Whether you want to tell a story or show off poetic prowess, a rhyming dictionary is very helpful. I like RhymeZone.

Great songs are not always about interesting story lines or amazing rhymes. Sometimes the rhythm of the words, a simple message and melody, along with very basic rhymes can create a winning combination.

As for that unknown love song about breakfast food, it was magically transformed from mundane to memorable by these everyday words: “yesterday, faraway, here to stay, yesterday.”

SylviaSSylvia S. teaches singing, piano, theater acting, and more in Helendale, CA. She comes from a musical family of several generations, and her experience includes playing an electric keyboard and singing vocals in a professional, working band. Learn more about Sylvia here! 

 

 

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6 Piano Songs to Help You Learn Major and Minor Scales

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Need to work on your major or minor scales? Piano songs abound by both classical and contemporary pianists that can help you improve your skills. Here, St. Augustine, FL Heather L. shares her recommendations… 

 

Even as a piano teacher, I can be sympathetic to students who find themselves practicing major and minor scales over and over without any variation. Scales are often cited as the least favorite part of taking piano lessons. Sometimes, well, a lot of the time, the best way to learn anything musical is to play real songs, real literature in which the sought-after technique or element is found throughout. Major and minor scales can be so much fun when you hear them in action. This list has six of the most fun piano songs to help improve your major and minor scales.

• “As Time Goes By” (Hupfeld)


This classic song from the cinematic gem “Casablanca” has beautiful descending and ascending scalar passages throughout. On an interesting note, “Casablanca” was originally a made-for-television movie, a kind of “movie of the week,” which makes the creation of such a lyrical and lasting tune so remarkable.

• Minuet in G (Bach)


Bach’s Minuet in G might be the most recognizable beginner piano piece of all time. A minuet is in three-quarter time, by its very nature, so playing the G major scale section by section in a minuet can be just challenging enough to keep you on your toes.

• “Your Song” (John)


Perhaps Elton John’s best-loved song, “Your Song”, is no bubble gum pop tune. Classically trained John has no problem showing off stellar keyboard skills, and in this hit, he incorporates scalar passages in a great way.

• March in D Major (Bach)


Bach’s March in D not only showcases scalar passages, but also rolling triads. Triads, in many ways, are tremendously important in helping you to learn and understand scales and their structure. They are the root, third, and fifth of a chord, and therefore, the scale where that chord exists.

• “Rhapsody in Blue” (Gershwin)


This piece delivers what the title suggests. It’s rhapsodic. Before the very first line is through, the right hand races to play every key from the F below middle C to the Bb above the treble staff. This idea is repeated throughout, contributing to a dizzying, dreamy, and romantic mood.

• Sonata in D Minor (Bach)


As you begin to learn Bach’s D minor sonata, you might feel as though you’re just practicing scales, only in a little more challenging and a lot more fun way. Bach put in just enough thirds, fourths, and other intervals to keep you from going into autopilot as you sight read.

A lot of Western music (music that comes out of the culture and history of Europe, some of Eurasia, and the Americas) is based on major and minor scales. As you grow as a pianist, you’ll start to see more and more how important they are in making up the framework of your music. Remember, though, that songs like the ones above are no substitute for daily practice of the major and minor scales on their own. You’ll find that being able to play them is a requirement for many of the top auditions and pianist gigs. But nothing says that you can’t have fun playing scales in piano songs, too!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

 

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Learn to Play Piano Online | How Do Online Lessons Work?

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Curious about how online piano lessons work, and if they’re right for you? Here, Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T. shares what to expect as you learn to play piano online…

 

Thanks to technology today, you can learn to play piano online, right from your own living room, with some of the best music teachers anywhere in the US! You may be apprehensive about starting at first, and wondering if learning to play piano online is as effective as taking lessons in person. The answer is yes!

What You Need to Learn Piano Online

To ensure successful online piano lessons, make sure you have a working camera with your computer, a strong internet connection, and good speakers. Place the camera either in front of you or to the side of the piano, so your teacher can see you playing the piano clearly, to make sure you are using correct fingering and posture. Same goes for the speakers — make sure they are positioned so that your teacher can hear you playing!

It’s also important to have a working email you check regularly. I send music and recordings through email often, as well as notify my students about schedule changes. Along with that it’s a good idea to have a working printer for sheet music.

What to Do Before Your Lesson

You’ll want to exchange contact info with your teacher well before the lesson, so you’re not wasting time trying to find each other on Skype. I also suggest doing a trial run a day or two before your first lesson, to make sure Skype and your video camera and sound are all correctly working on your computer.  Then, sign into Skype or the online platform you are using at least 10 minutes before your lesson starts to make sure the program is working then, as well. Same as an in-person lesson, you want to be on time!

If it’s your very first lesson, I tell all my students to have one piece prepared, so I can get a feel for their playing. Of course, your teacher might ask for something else — so that’s why it’s important to chat beforehand!

What to Expect During Your Lessons

I treat my online piano lessons the same as if the student is physically in the room with me. Specific learning schedules and teaching methods may be used by different instructors, but for the most part, the basics of piano are the same.

For beginning piano students, I teach piano playing technique and basic music theory (how to read music, note names, key signatures, rhythms, scales, etc). I start my students off with simple exercises and songs, and incorporate technique and theory into this, so they are ready to tackle pieces in any style!

For my intermediate/advanced players, there is still a heavy emphasis on music theory. I teach my students how to incorporate music theory into their playing, and how to perfect their pieces so that they are performance-ready! I love to challenge my students in learning all styles, such as Classical, Jazz, and Broadway.

What If I Experience Technical Difficulties?

Sometimes there are delays or Skype freezes — just be patient if this happens. Try closing all other programs running on your computer, as this will make it run faster. If for some reason Skype doesn’t work for you, there are other programs you and your teacher can try, like Google Hangouts or Vidyo.

Online piano lessons may not be for everyone, just the same as in-person lessons may not work for everyone. With online lessons, however, you’ll feel comfortable in your own home, have more control over your schedule (since you don’t have to worry about rushing around town to get to a lesson), and have more options for teachers. You can study with professionals anywhere in the US, not just in a 10-mile radius. It’s perfect for students who do not live in a big city, but want to be exposed to top-notch teachers. Pretty cool, huh? As a teacher in NYC, I have online students in California, Ohio, Texas, and Canada!

In the end, the only way you will know which type of lesson is right for you is to give it a try. Browse piano teachers and start your online piano lessons today!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. 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!

 

 

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Taming the Piece Beast: An Easy Tip to Memorize Piano Music

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No matter how many times you practice a piano piece, committing it to memory is a totally different beast! Luckily, there is actually an easy trick for how to memorize piano music. Read on as Hampton, VA teacher Rachel G. explains her method… 

 

All pianists have heard it at one point or another — the dreaded onus for every student:

“This piece needs to be memorized.”

You know what that means –playing it over and over and over until every drop of joy has been squeezed from the music… and then playing it some more! And sometimes even when you do that, when you go to play it, the beginning is fine but it falls apart by the end.

Ugh. I shudder just thinking about it.

What if there were a way to memorize piano music that was more reliable than that, and took only a fraction of the time? What if there were a fail-safe method for memorizing that didn’t involve plodding through it ad nauseam (and still not having it down!)?

Good news, my friends! There is a two-fold method proven for me and my students. It works for long pieces, short pieces, and even that nasty long poem you have to memorize for your English teacher by tomorrow!

The method is simple: Memorize it forwards, then backwards.

Wait. Don’t freak out — it’s easier than it sounds. Forwards, you memorize in small, bite-size pieces, then you put the pieces together BACKWARDS.

For example, with a short piece, start with measures and lines. You can memorize one measure, right? Memorize each individual measure of a line, then add them together starting with the last one — like making building blocks one at a time, then putting them together. To the last measure, you add the measure before (memorize the last two measures together). When you have that down (and accurate!), you add the one before that (last three), then the one before that (last four), until you are back to the beginning.

You now have the entire line memorized, and it only took you FIVE MINUTES. The best part for people like me who compulsively have to play to the end, you get to play to the end every time! Cool, right?

You can build the entire song by building small to big, like this:

  • Measures into lines
  • Lines into pages
  • Pages into the whole piece

You can memorize an entire page of music in 30-60 minutes using this method, and an entire five-page piece within a week.

The best part is, IT’S NOT BORING. You are always working on a different part of the piece, and the results show up quickly enough that it is actually EXCITING.

Also, recalling your piece when you have performance jitters isn’t as much of a problem — you have literally memorized it from every single measure, so picking the music back up after a brain blank will be much easier.

So, the next time your piano teacher says those two horrible words — “Memorize this!” — you can work with confidence knowing you will be the master of the piece, and not the other way around. Go get ‘em, Tiger!

RachelG

Rachel G. teaches piano, violin, singing, and more in Hampton, VA. She earned her violin performance degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she also studied piano and vocal pedagogy. Learn more about Rachel here!

 

 

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5 Easy Pop Songs to Play On Piano

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Looking for some fun and easy pop songs to play on the piano? Take a look at these suggestions from Greeley, CO teacher Andy W...

 

Playing your favorite songs on the piano doesn’t have to be difficult. Start out with songs you enjoy and build from there. To get you started, here are five easy pop songs to play on piano today!

“All About That Bass” – Meghan Trainor

This is a fun, chart-topping song. The chords to this are A – Bmin – E – A. Each of these chords is played for two bars and the entire progression is eight bars. The good news for you is that this progression is repeated nonstop throughout the whole song. Practice playing the bassline in the left hand first and then add the melody in the right hand. Listen for how the melody in the verse is different from the chorus. Later in the song, the chords are played with constant eighth notes. Check out the video below for a play-along tutorial:

“Someone Like You” – Adele

This hit from Adele’s album, 21, managed to top the charts in almost 10 countries. You can play most of this song, including the verse and chorus, by playing four repeated chords: A, E, F#min, D. While you play constant arepeggios in the left hand, add the melody in the right. Here is a play-along video to help you learn it:

“Clocks” – Coldplay

This is one of Coldplay’s biggest hits, dating back to 2002 — since it’s so recognizable, this makes it one of the most fun pop songs to play on the piano. It has a few different sections to learn, but let’s just look at the most famous part for now. The right hand plays the signature arpeggio pattern, while the left hand plays chords and rhythmically lines up with the arpeggios. The chords to the verse and chorus are Eb – Bbmin – Fmin. The Eb is played for one bar, Bmin for two, and the Fmin for one. Looking at the bridge, the chords are Gb – Db – Ab. The bridge chords are played with constant eighth notes. This video breaks the song down well:

“Stay With Me” – Sam Smith

Fortunately for you, Sam Smith decided to repeat only three chords with the same rhythm for this entire song. So, here are the chords: Amin, F, C. After you get the chords in the left hand down, add the melody in your right hand. The video below shows how to add some cool fills to make it interesting:

“Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson

Just for fun, let’s look at “Billie Jean” from the album Thriller, which dates back to 1982. We’ll focus on the synth parts in this song. In the right hand, play these three chords: F#min – G#min – A – G#min. For these chords, there is a four-note bassline for the left hand to play. When the chords change to Bbmin, there is a second bassline. Using these two basslines and two chord sections, you can play the verses and choruses. Play along with the video below:

I hope you have fun learning these easy pop songs to play on piano. Keep practicing them and then make your own list of new pop songs to learn!

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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piano moving

How to Safely Store or Move a Piano | Caring For Your Piano

piano moving

When you own a piano, moving takes a bit more planning. Should you hire a professional, or do it yourself? Here, Helendale, CA teacher Sylvia S. shares what to keep in mind to make sure your instrument stays safe and sound…

 

Many years ago, when my family relocated, the expertise for moving our household grand piano was delegated to professional furniture movers. Three piano legs and the pedals console were removed and wrapped in blankets. The moving parts for the body, including the music stand, the keyboard cover, and the hinged top of the grand piano were secured. All this was wrapped in thick blankets and put into a piano case.

We thought all was well, until the piano arrived in our new home… with a huge bolt driven through the piano case. When the case was opened, we discovered the bolt was driven through both the piano and the soundboard. If you have ever considered hiring professionals for your piano moving, this is probably your worst nightmare.

How to Safely Move Your Piano

For cross-town relocations, a professional piano mover is usually your best bet for a grand piano. In long-distance relocations, it’s best to have a professional who deals exclusively with pianos to disassemble your piano and pack it carefully before involving furniture movers. Some piano companies will also move the piano for you. This may mean that two separate companies are involved in packing, and it’s a good idea to check the paperwork to be sure who will be responsible for delivering the piano in the same condition it left.

Although upright pianos have fewer moving parts than grands, and don’t require disassembly, it’s still a good idea to find a piano mover. Many pianos are much heavier than they appear and, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you may appreciate having help loading it into a rental truck.

Considerations for Storing Your Piano

If you need to store your piano during your move, there are extra things to consider. Since many important parts of the piano are made of wood, which is subject to expansion, the temperature extremes can ruin the instrument. Store your piano in a conditioned space, away from damp places. Don’t even think about putting your piano into a metal storage shed! It may be better to sell a piano in excellent condition, and just put that money away to buy another piano in the future.

Before your piano comes out of storage, think about where you will want to practice and play music. Look at the windows, walls, doors, and floor. Despite having insulation, an exterior wall is not the best choice for a piano. Look for an interior wall, with conditioned rooms on both sides. And, although it’s nice to have light from a window, take care that the piano will be protected from excessive heat, drafts, and rain.

Pianos in basements and garages may seem like a good idea to parents who are tired of hearing their kids practice. However, consider whether this is a good choice for an investment that can range in value from a few hundred dollars for a used spinet to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new top-of-the-line grand piano. Consider placing a rug under the piano, particularly if the piano will be on a cold surface like tile, and definitely avoid putting your piano on a bare concrete floor.

Getting Back to Playing

Now that you know where your piano will be placed, it’s time to call in the piano moving professionals! Grand pianos will need to be reassembled, and your piano will need to be tuned; pianos can’t be expected to hold their pitch during relocation. It’s a nice idea to pencil in an annual appointment with a good piano tuner to keep things sounding good.

So, now that you know about storing and moving pianos, what happened to that piano I mentioned in the beginning of the article? Well, fortunately my great-grandfather was a piano tuner, and my dad was pretty handy with tools. My dad took a good look at the crack left in the soundboard by the bolt, bought several bottles of wood glue, and borrowed an amazingly huge wood clamp and a book from the library about piano rebuilding.

Watching as my dad glued the piano together and tightened the clamp, our family prayed for the resurrection of our beloved grand piano. The piano stayed clamped together for about a week while we refinished the exposed, cosmetic woodwork to a painted, antiqued look. My dad took apart and reassembled that piano piece by piece, learning how a grand piano is put together and tuned. Finally, in a suspenseful moment which seemed like an eternity, with our family as his audience, he carefully unscrewed the clamp. It held!

Although this is very unlikely to happen to you, it’s an example a worst-case scenario during piano moving. Don’t worry too much — make sure you hire a professional piano mover, and good luck with your piano adventures!

SylviaSSylvia S. teaches singing, piano, theater acting, and more in Helendale, CA. She comes from a musical family of several generations, and her experience includes playing an electric keyboard and singing vocals in a professional, working band. Learn more about Sylvia here! 

 

 

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