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3 Reasons Why Piano Players Should Also Learn the Organ

There are many reasons why a music student may find themselves learning to play piano on a keyboard rather than on a baby grand: cost, space, or simply lack of access, for example. Versatility on a range of keyboard instruments is also an extremely useful string for any pianist to have to their bow, and can lead to greater practice and public performance opportunities, and even excellent opportunities to earn a little money on the side.

The organ, although not the most prevalent or popular musical instrument, is a great option for pianists looking to expand their skills. Here are three reasons why you should consider learning this fascinating set of keys:

1) The Techniques are Different

Playing The Organ

Many piano players make the assumption that their skills on one keyboard will transfer directly to another, and that they will be able to play the organ with the same level of skill instantly. However, this is a dangerous assumption to make, especially if you are engaged to play the organ somewhere, and haven’t honed your skills already. Whereas the touch on the piano is all about the attack, the organ is all about the release, so using the same weight on the keys will not necessarily produce the desired outcome. This is where students who have been learning to play piano on a keyboard will have a small advantage — unless you’re using an expensive clavinova with weighted keys, an electronic keyboard will require a similar attack-and-release technique as an organ.

2) Pedals and Keyboards and Stops, Oh My!

organ pedals

If you’ve played the organ, you probably have vivid memories of the first time you were faced with a model with dual keyboards, pedals, and stops! It was probably pretty terrifying. Remember all those hours you spent making your hands properly independent and equally agile on the piano keyboard? You’ll have to develop an entirely new technique for the organ, where you will be negotiating stops and a dual keyboard at the same time. Also, your piano has a measly three pedals at most, so your footwork will have to become extra-fancy to negotiate the organ pedals.

It’s worth finding specific exercises to help coordinate your hands and feet to ensure that you can transfer your dexterity at the piano to the organ. Again, if you have been learning to play piano on a keyboard, you will find yourself at an advantage, as you may have had to manipulate buttons to get different effects. As for those stops, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the sound and function of each before you play, so that you can become fluent quickly.

3) There’s a Whole New World of Playing Opportunities Out There

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While you may have found the odd source of extra money playing the piano at a restaurant, or perhaps giving an occasional piano lesson to a beginner, even if you don’t plan on a career as a professional musician, being able to play the organ will open up a whole new sphere of music jobs to you. Many older churches have large manual organs, and although most will have a regular organist, it’s worth introducing yourself as someone that they can call on when needed. Even smaller churches typically need a keyboard player of some kind, so you may find occasional opportunities to perform.

Church organ music isn’t the only source of extra repertoire, however — just as there are significant orchestral piano opportunities, the organ is often required, too. This includes not just for works such as Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony (which also has a spectacular piano part!), but many choral works, including Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, and the most common favorite of choral societies worldwide, Handel’s Messiah.

 

While the organ does have some similarities to the piano, keep in mind there are several separate skills involved. If playing the organ interests you, it may be worth finding a private teacher who specializes in the instrument once you’ve learned the basics of the piano. Working with an expert who can guide you along and teach you the correct techniques is a big part of your success as a musician. Whatever instrument you choose to learn — have fun!

 

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Do You Have the Skills to Become a Piano Teacher?

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Did you know that teaching others is one of the best ways to learn piano — as well as continue learning, if you’re at an advanced level? Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares what it takes to teach…

 

Being a piano teacher can be tremendously rewarding and fulfilling. The art of guiding a student on a journey of learning is one that comes naturally to some, but can certainly be learned by others who have the right skills.

The phrase “piano teacher” brings to mind different images and memories for all of us. For some people, a piano teacher is a harsh, cruel, and ruthless authoritarian, determined to see results no matter what the means. For others, a piano teacher is a wise, gentle, and caring instructor who gave them some of the most beautiful and lasting memories of their youth.

Before asking yourself if you have the skills to become a piano teacher, and ultimately maintain a successful career, ask yourself what kind of piano teacher that you would like to have. What kind of characteristics would your ideal instructor possess? Do you possess them yourself?

As a child, I never took piano lessons. I had too many friends who’d taken them and had learned not only how to play the piano, but also how to despise it because of mean teachers. I loved the piano too much to see that happen to me. The shame is that if only I’d found the right teacher, I might not have had to spend years in intensive piano training to correct poor technique. Over the years, I was lucky to be instructed by some of the best teachers in America and take note of the skills that made them so effective. I’ve also taken note of the effectiveness of my own and my colleagues’ teaching skills over the last decade.

The following is a list of skills that are necessary for becoming a great piano teacher.

1. Compassion
Some may think of compassion as an emotion, but it can also be thought of as a skill to be learned and cultivated. It’s vitally important in the art of teaching, but most especially in the art of teaching on an individual level. Often, it’s what’s most lacking in the most disliked piano teachers. Students will not only fail in small and large ways, but they’ll also be defiant and mean-spirited at times, too. These are the moments when compassion is essential for the sake of the single lesson, a long-term relationship with the student, and the growth of the student as a pianist.

2. Organization
One of your goals as a piano teacher will probably be to acquire a busy schedule. That busy schedule, combined with having a limited amount of valuable time in each lesson, means it’s so important to be able to keep student information, sheet music, and future assignments straight. If you’re naturally methodical and organized, this will come much more easily. Organization skills are also integral to the process of “mapping out” a student’s short-term and long-term goals.

3. Sincerity
Most students, especially children, will pick up on any sugar-coating or false praise almost immediately, and sometimes not even on a conscious level. A student will usually just begin to distrust the teacher, not really knowing why. Pretending to be greatly interested in mundane elements of a student’s life or trying to create deep connections will soon have him looking for another piano teacher.

Being honest and forthright in your observations during lessons and assessments of performances not only establishes trust, but also prevents wasting time. It would be as if a plumber came to your house to fix a sink, but just stood there telling you how beautiful your bathroom is. Your job as a piano teacher is to observe, diagnose, and solve challenges in each student. You must be able to do this every day in a clear and straightforward manner.

4. Flexibility
Teaching lessons one-on-one can be very unpredictable and malleable in terms of scheduling. Students might cancel a lesson a few days, a few weeks, and sometimes a few hours before it. You’ll be in control of your own cancellation and rescheduling policies, and as long as you’re organized (see skill number two), you’ll have made them clear to all of your students and parents. But being flexible with students’ rescheduling and last-minute conflicts is essential to keeping your students, not to mention your own sanity.

5. Self-awareness
You must be aware of your own limitations as both a piano player and instructor. Students may come to you with challenges that you may be too inexperienced or ill-equipped to handle. Conversely, students will come to you, grow as pianists, and then get to be so good that you must know when it’s time to find the student another teacher capable of teaching at that student’s level.

6. Positivity
The best-liked and most successful piano teachers that I’ve met are utterly positive people. You don’t have to be as perky as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, but optimism is infectious. That optimism may be all that a student needs to get past some of her challenges. Besides, if you don’t feel positive about a student’s eager willingness to learn the piano, then teaching it is probably not the job for you.

The best piano instructors are individuals who relish both the learning journey and guiding others on journeys of their own. If you have the key skills to be that guide, you’ll find that teaching is one of the best ways to continue learning piano even at an advanced or professional level. Teaching the piano may be the perfect career for you.

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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How to Transition from Classical Pianist to Jazz Pianist

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Piano music doesn’t have to be all classical, all the time! Here’s what you need to know about getting started with jazz piano chord progressions, courtesy of St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L...

 

Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, and Duke Ellington are just a few of the great jazz piano players. What beautiful and fascinating sounds fill our ears when their names come to mind! The seemingly illusive progressions and spontaneous elements, like syncopation and improvisation, sound virtually like magic. To those of us who were trained in the classical tradition only, the journey from classical pianist to jazz pianist may seem like a long one. But it’s not be as difficult as it seems. By learning basic blues scales and jazz piano chord progressions, you’ll be taking the first important step in transitioning to jazz piano.

For those of us who’ve learned Hanon exercises, there’s an excellent resource called “Hanon to Jazz” (published by FJH Music Company Inc.). Specifically written for classically trained players, its fun and brilliant exercises and songs are a terrific introduction. They’ll have you playing the blues in no time. It’s a great map for your journey.

For those of you who’ve yet to learn Hanon exercises, Dariusz Terefenko’s created a great workbook, “Jazz Theory: From Basic to Advanced Study”, published by Routledge. I also recommend Tim Richards’ “Exploring Jazz Piano: Volume 1″, published by Schott.

One of the first stretches of road on your journey is learning jazz piano chord progressions.

The two, five, one, and six (ii-V-I-vi) chord progression, is one of the most famous and useful. An example is:

D minor-G major-C major-A minor

Here’s a video of how to play it:

The one, six, two, five, and one (I-VI-II-V-I) chord progression is another that could be tried with an improvised melody in the right hand. An example of the progression is:

C major-A minor-D minor-G major-C major

Here’s a video of how to play it:

Next, take a look at the chord chart below. It shows which keys to play together to create each chord. It’s fun to mix and match to make sounds that appeal to you.

chord chart

The second stretch of road is paved with learning jazz scales. Here’s a picture of several blues scales:

Blues Scale

As with the learning of any genre, listening is so utterly important. This is especially true for those of us who are adopting a new style. The best jazz musicians in the world listen to jazz all of the time. Think of yourself as a hungry traveler and that music is your sole nourishment. You won’t get very far without it.

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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How Pentatonic Scales Can Help With Piano Improvisation

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Curious about pentatonic scales? Learn the basics of how to incorporate them into your improvisation in this guest post by Austin, TX teacher Tosin A..

 

Have you ever heard a great solo? I mean a piano solo that practically hurts your feelings because it’s so good? You think things to yourself like: They can’t be that good. What kind of scales are they using? Are they a wizard?

The honest truth behind it is the brilliant use of pentatonic scales.

Pentatonic Scales 101

A pentatonic scale, as the name suggests, is five notes. There are major, minor, and dominant pentatonic scales that use the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th note of that scale.

For example, C minor pentatonic is:

• C
• Eb
• F
• G
• Bb

While C Major pentatonic would be:

• C
• E
• F
• G
• B

The beautiful thing about these types of scales is that these five notes will fit into any progression in most modes. You can put money on the fact that every blues solo you’ve ever heard used a heavy amount of relative minor pentatonic scales.

Using Pentatonic Scales in a Solo

So how do you use these five magic notes to create a solo people will love?

First, you have to know which scale to use. And that depends on what type of song it is. The general rule is to use the pentatonic scale that matches the key of the song. For example, “My Funny Valentine” is in C minor, so you would use the C minor pentatonic for solos.

There are exceptions, though.

In blues and country songs you can use the minor pentatonic scale even if the song is in a major key. You also don’t have to use its relative minor. Pistol Annie’s “I Feel A Sin Coming On” is part of the F minor pentatonic scale (F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb) with the occasional A, but the song is in F.

Then the question is which notes do I use when?

If the chord progression stays diatonic (no modulations or complicated passing chord changes), you can use any of them at any time. This is why they are so crucial to improvised solos–you have five notes that you know will work for 90% of the solo. That gives you time to think about other notes to play.

An advanced technique to try is matching the notes to the chord progression.

Sticking with F minor pentatonic scale: If the chord is F minor, then the Bb wouldn’t be the best choice. It would work, but any of the other notes work better. Same thing if the chord is C–you may want to stick with C or Eb.

The most important answer to the question above is whichever notes sounds the best. Never forget, all the rules can be broken if it sounds good.

Pentatonic scales are used everywhere. From the long vocal runs you hear your favorite pop stars sing, to the best jazz and blues solos of all time, they all heavily rely on the use of them. Of course, this article is just an introduction to playing pentatonic scales, but it gives you some of the secrets of great musical improvisation and soloing. Chat with your piano teacher if this is something you’d like to learn more about in your lessons!

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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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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6 Celebrities Who Play the Piano | Test Your Knowledge

Did you know there are an array of famous celebrities who know how to play a piano? We’re not talking chopsticks here, folks. From actors to politicians and beyond, there is a long history of pianists that have gone on to spectacular careers.

Are you familiar with these high-flying celebrities who know how to play a piano?

1.  Clint Eastwood

Clint EastwoodBefore he made it big as an actor, Clint Eastwood was an accomplished pianist who intended to pursue a career in music. He later utilized his composing skills in creating the film scores of several movies he directed, including Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Changeling, and Hereafter.

2.  Hugh Laurie

Hugh LaurieAn accomplished pianist who began learning how to play a piano at the age of six, Hugh Laurie not only has two solo albums, but was also a guest artist on Meatloaf’s 2010 album “Hello Cool Teddy Bear”.

3.  Jamie Foxx

jamie foxxJamie Foxx began learning how to play a piano at age five, eventually playing piano at local church services. He later attended United States International University on a music scholarship, where he studied study classical music and composition. In his Oscar-winning role as Ray Charles in Ray, it is actually Mr. Foxx’s fingers tickling the ivories.

4.  Richard Gere

Richard GereRichard Gere started early as a musician. He played a number of instruments in high school, including the piano, and wrote music for high school productions. In his infamous role in Pretty Woman, Gere in fact composed the piece of music he was seen playing in the film.

5.  Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza RiceCondoleezza Rice began learning how to play a piano as a teenager and dreamed of becoming a concert pianist before pursuing her degrees in International Relations and Economics. She had the opportunity to accompany renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma for the 2002 National Medal of Arts Awards and still plays the piano often today.

6.  Jeff Goldblum

Jeff-GoldblumBefore he was an actor, Jeff Goldblum made a name for himself playing piano in cocktail lounges around Pittsburgh. Nowadays, when he’s not acting, he plays regularly at home, in addition to nearly weekly jazz shows at the LA club Rockwell.

Want to Go Down in Infamy?

Do you or your children find yourself entranced in the presence of pianists and wish you too could learn how to play a piano? Whether you’re looking for a beautiful escape or a long-term career, private piano lessons are a great way to further your interests and improve your skills. Sharpen your life skills and open up new pathways to creativity with the help of music today!

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Photo credits: Heelow, jazztimes.com, Virgin Media, Daily Mail Online, USA Today, New York TimesReviewSTL

Additional Sources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/opinion/sunday/is-music-the-key-to-success.html?pagewanted=all
http://parade.condenast.com/211922/linzlowe/did-you-know-10-celebs-who-play-musical-instruments/#celeb-musicians-clint-eastwood
http://musictoyourhomeblog.com/2014/03/13/6-celebrities-you-didnt-know-could-rock-an-instrument/
http://www.playpiano.com/Articles/37-famouspeoplepiano.htm

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Essential Scales for Jazz and Blues Piano Players

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Curious about playing jazz or blues on the piano? Learn about some of the essential scales to learn in this guest post by Augustine, FL piano teacher Heather L...

 

Jazz music has been called the only truly American art form, born and raised on this very soil. A combination of the historical music forms of both African and Caribbean slaves and European immigrants, it may be the only way in which the “melting pot” objective was ever successful. To listen to jazz is to listen to America. For pianists, it can be a challenging and illusive genre. Many classically trained piano players never even attempt to learn it, while some would love to try, but just don’t know how. There are essential scales that jazz and blues players should know.

While jazz and blues (considered a sub-genre of jazz) may sometimes sound complex, it’s built very simply from the bottom up, so to speak. Major and minor scales and chords are most certainly used, but some things must be different in order for it not to sound like anything else. Here’s a list of essential scales for jazz and blues piano players. When you read “played over ______ chords,” it simply means to play the scales indicated in either hand while playing a chord in the other. Try different combinations, like playing a chord in the right hand, while playing a scale in the left.

The following scales are best played over major chords.

G blues scale
G Bb C Db D F G

C blues scale
C Eb F Gb G Bb C

Lydian mode scale
C D E F# G A B C

Mixolydian mode scale
C D E F G A Bb C

The following scales are best played over minor chords.

Aeolian mode scale
C D Eb F G Ab Bb A

Dorian mode scale
C D Eb F G A Bb C

The following scales are just fun!

Dominant Bebop Scale
C E G B C B Bb A G (then descend) F E D C

Major Bebop Scale
C E G B C B A Ab G (then descend) F E D C

Lydian Dominant Scale
C E G Bb C (then descend) Bb A G F# E D C

Get creative. The real idea here is not just to play the scales ascending and descending, but to improvise using the notes of the scales. The more that you practice these essential scales for jazz and blues piano players, the more comfortable that you’ll feel playing them and the more sounds that you’ll create. I’ve met plenty of people who’ve told me that they “can’t” improvise or play jazz, and while I know that some people have natural gifts, I also know that the best work hard. Oh, and have fun, too!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint 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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Your Best Piano Practice Routine: 4 Things to Focus On

4665461114_0619f13b86_bYou know practicing is important – but how should you design your ideal piano practice routine? Check out these helpful tips from Brooklyn, NY piano teacher Liz T...

 

In order to be prepared for your weekly piano lessons, you must spend your time wisely practicing on your own at home! In this article, I’ll review some tips to help you figure out what you should be spending your time practicing.

But first, how much practice? If you are taking a weekly 30-minute to an hour piano lesson, and are serious about sharpening your piano playing and theory, then I suggest sitting down at the piano 3-4 times a week, for an hour at a time. You’ve heard the phrase before, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice!” It’s true – the only way you can improve your sight reading, ear training, and performance is by practicing. Now here’s what to practice:

1. Scales and Finger Patterns

Pull out your favorite method book, and practice your scales. Practice them slowly, really fast, piano vs forte, and so on, making sure to get all of the fingering down correctly. Practice until you can play without looking at the sheet music, and you know which scales have which sharps and flats. Practicing scales and tricky finger patterns will help you pick up your finger dexterity and learn to read new pieces faster. (Do these exercises for about 10-15 minutes.)

2. Chords

Next, work out different chord progressions, which is great if you want to play jazz or accompany singers! Start out with your simple chords, and each time you practice, learn a new chord (major, minor, 7ths, 9ths, Sus4), different voice leadings, and inversions. While your scales will most likely be in the classical realm (major or minor), you can also try switching it up a bit and enhancing your knowledge with learning how to play some jazz chord progressions! Feel free to start improvising and practicing your soloing. You may have to do it live someday, and now is the time to get comfortable “soloing” on the piano. (Do this for about 10-15 minutes.)

3. Composition Analysis and Performance

Whether the piece you’re currently working on is Bach, Gershwin, or Menken, first go through the piece and analyze it slowly. Assuming you have previous piano knowledge, ask yourself: What key is the song in? What is the time signature? Is there a chorus, or reoccurring melodic motif? Are there suggested fingerings I should use? Then start to go over just the rhythms of the song, clapping them out. If it’s a tricky rhythm, go ahead and write it into your sheet music.

Then start playing – go through the melody from start to finish with just your right hand, then do the same with the left. It is important that you really get comfortable playing the right hand and left hand separately before putting the two hands together. (Work on this for about 20-30 minutes.)

4. Practice the Tricky Parts

Now that you have practiced both hands separately and then together, go over some of those parts that may have caught you up. Is there a really fast part of the song? Are there some tricky chords? Are the trills or accidentals messing you up? Practice the more challenging parts, and keep doing them constantly, until you get it right! Repetition is key for your fingers, ears, and brain. The more you do it, the more natural it will become. Don’t forget it’s okay to take a five-minute break at this point, too; just come back and play the whole piece through again after your break. (10 minutes)

This piano practice routine is a clear and concise way for you to now start practicing more efficiently. Now go forth, practice, and make some music!

LizTLiz 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!

 

 

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