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Top 9 Cities for Pianists

What makes a city a great destination for piano players?  It depends—are you looking for college, career, or performance opportunities? Maybe you are simply looking to take piano lessons with a fantastic teacher. Whatever your reason, there are nine cities that stand out when it comes to playing piano. Read on to find out what makes each unique.

Portland, Oregon

Portland, OR

The Northwest—a gray place that loves to pick itself up with music. Many incredible bands got their start in Portland, such as The Decemberists, The Dandy Warhols, and Everclear. Plus, there are tons of music festivals throughout the year, including one of the largest blues festivals in the country, and a lengthy list of amazing music venues and concert halls to check out. Whether you’re looking for an open mic night or other musicians to jam with, it’s easy to find musical groups and performers looking for keyboardists or piano players to join in.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, WA

Portland’s Northwest counterpart, Seattle, is well-known as the grunge capital of the U.S.—but it also boasts a bustling indie rock scene, home to record labels such as Sub Pop and Barsuk Records, as well as a growing underground hip-hop community. You can also find inspiration at one of the many jazz clubs, connect with other piano players via Meetup groups, and learn about music history at the iconic Experience Music Project museum. When you’re ready to take on the keys yourself, there are piano instructors waiting to teach you in just about every neighborhood!

San Francisco, California

Top Cities For Piano Players

San Francisco is known for its counterculture scene, particularly in regard to the rock music of the 60s and 70s—think Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Now, the music scene is eclectic as ever, hosting everything from metal shows to world-renowned DJs to classical music at the San Francisco Symphony. With such a strong music scene, there’s no shortage of opportunities for playing piano at gigs and events, or finding a qualified piano teacher to learn from.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati

You might be saying, “huh?” at this point. Ohio? Cincinnati? For those interested in a strong education in piano, the University of Cincinnati has several programs for playing piano professionally. It also offers a strong music preparatory program for budding classical fans. A favorite summer course is the Art of Piano, a nationally-known program that helps students work toward piano playing excellence.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans

New Orleans is steeped in music. Its deep roots include jazz, blues, soul, bluegrass, and ragtime. You’re hard-pressed to find any nook or cranny in the city that doesn’t celebrate music and musicians! You can find street musicians playing piano and other instruments, well-known performers gracing the stages at the many music venues, and professionals available to teach you how to play in practically every style you’re interested in.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville

If you’ve ever watched the TV show Nashville, you know about the heavy country influence in this city. However, Nashville also boasts a vibrant scene for jazz, Christian pop and rock, and gospel music. Nashville has over 300 recording studios within 25 miles of the city, approximately 130 music publishers, more than 120 live music venues, and around 80 record labels.  No wonder its official nickname is The Music City!

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, MA

Want to play piano professionally? Berklee College of Music is one of the best music schools in the country, and is an excellent place to connect with other like-minded performers and composers, as well as learn about the business side of the industry. The Boston Conservatory is another great option, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in music, dance, and theater. Younger students can also take advantage of the many summer intensive programs to improve their skills. Bottom line, Boston has options for any type of piano playing interest!

New York, New York

New York

It’s hard to find a city list involving music that doesn’t mention New York! The Big Apple pretty much has it all—Broadway, off-Broadway, Juilliard, performers looking for accompanists, and bands looking for new members all across town—it’s a world of music that operates 24/7. Artists, musicians, and actors flock to this land of inspiration and creativity.

The list of careers and opportunities to play piano is practically endless. There are concert pianists, accompanists for events, studio musicians, touring musicians, keyboardists, dueling piano players, teachers, professors, and many more possible paths to take. And that doesn’t even take into account those who are involved in degree programs, private lessons, or those who simply enjoy playing piano at home as a hobby. The chance to play piano presents itself everywhere—look around the next time you’re walking by a ballet class or attending church. Although these are some of the top cities for musicians, every town, city, and state is likely to have wonderful ways to play regularly if the piano is your calling.

 

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4 Signs You’re Ready for Longer Piano Lessons

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If you’ve been taking piano lessons for a while, you’re likely familiar with that feeling of excitement – learning the “language” of music, playing your first piece, and thinking about all the beautiful piano songs that you could learn next! Whether you’re on your way to Juilliard, hoping to perform something special at your next family gathering, or simply want to explore a new hobby, the piano is a fantastic instrument to master!

Most students, regardless of age, start out with 30-minute lessons. It’s a great starting point, and one of the best ways to gauge your interest level. Maybe you’ve committed to several lessons upfront, or perhaps you’re taking it one step at a time. Either way, you’re eventually going to reach a point in your lessons where you’re ready to take it up a notch. When you’re really enjoying yourself, that 30-minute lesson can really fly by!

So how do you know when it’s time to make the commitment and increase your lesson length to 45 minutes or even an hour? The simple answer is: whenever you feel like you’re ready! Your piano teacher will have a good sense for this, as well, and may suggest the idea before you ever think of it. If you’re unsure, consider the questions below and see where you stand:

  • Are you able to stay engaged and motivated during your current lessons?
  • Are you left itching to learn more at the end of each lesson?
  • Are you preparing for an upcoming recital or audition?
  • Are you interested in branching out and learning new things, like composition or music theory?

Your answers to these questions will be a good indicator that it’s time to upgrade!

Just remember: the most important thing is to allow yourself to stay motivated and excited about your lessons! Parents, if you’re pushing your child into longer lessons before they’re ready, you might be risking a meltdown in the future. Learning how to play an instrument can be an incredible journey, but it’s not always something you can force. Consider your son or daughter’s attention span – and discuss the idea with his or her teacher – before making any changes.

Ultimately, you’ll need to figure out what works for you or your child. Curious about taking longer lessons? Give it a try for a while, and see how it goes. Chat with your teacher about your goals, ask for his or her feedback, and do what you need to do to stay motivated – whether that’s exploring new material, or maybe even performing in front of friends and family or at an open mic night.

Good luck on your musical journey – we’re here for you!

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7 Powerful Life Lessons from Famous Piano Composers

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We talk a lot about the benefits of piano lessons (you know, making you smarter, teaching discipline, relieving stress, and so on and so on), but have you ever thought about the lessons to be gained from looking at the lives of famous piano composers? These seven celebrated composers have lots to teach about life, creativity, and how to make your mark on the world.

1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Competitors Can Be Your Friends

Like Mozart, you can achieve greatness by focusing on developing your own talents and treating your competitors as friends. Although popular culture paints Mozart and his contemporary Salieri as bitter rivals, the two actually supported each other’s performances and even composed a cantata together. Next time you’re tempted to feel  jealous and competitive, remember that the other person in the equation has the same goals as you and might be a great friend to have.

2. Frédéric Chopin – Friends Can Get You Everywhere

Chopin had lots of famous friends, and their influence on his career was tremendous. From the patronage of the Rothschild family to his friendship with Franz Liszt, Chopin’s connections helped him rise to great prominence as a composer, though he mainly performed his compositions at small, private parties. Cultivate many friendships in your profession or a field you are passionate about, and you will benefit immensely from their support and insights.

3. Ludwig van Beethoven – Trust Your Instincts

It’s common knowledge that Beethoven went almost completely deaf in the last years of his life. However, despite his hearing loss, he continued to compose and wrote some of his best known works during this time. Beethoven relied on tonal memory and his musical instincts to compose timeless music that he never actually heard. Like Beethoven, and most of these other famous piano composers, you can accomplish great things by trusting in your inner voice, even when outcomes appear uncertain.

4. Franz Liszt – Share Your Knowledge

Liszt is notorious for his emotionally charged performances and virtuoso talent. In addition to his intense performances, Liszt taught piano lessons free of charge. A unique player, Liszt encouraged his students to find their personal voice at the piano and freely shared his experience and wisdom with them. Many of his students went on to play piano professionally. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. If you have knowledge or experience to share that can help someone else, do it! You’ll be making the world a better place.

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5. Franz Schubert – Work Toward Your Goals Every Day

Though he only lived to be 31, Schubert composed seven complete symphonies and a large oeuvre of piano and vocal pieces. How did he become so prolific? Schubert has been quoted as saying, ”I compose every morning, and when one piece is done, I begin another.” He made composing a part of his daily habits, which is something you can apply easily in your own life. Each day, do one thing that will bring you closer to your dreams and you are sure to make great progress.

6. Clara Schumann – One Person Can Make A Difference

Over the course of her 61-year career, Schumann made big changes to the kind of repertoire concert pianists performed and guided the tastes of the listening public, even introducing the work of Brahms and other composers. Additionally, it was Schumann who made standard the practice of performing entirely from memory. Though she felt her contributions as a woman working in a male-dominated field were bound to be insignificant, Schumann’s legacy continues to live on in the world of classical music. Even if you don’t feel like you’re important enough to make a difference, chances are that you can.

7. Claude Debussy – Dare To Be Different

Throughout his musical education, Debussy was praised for his talent and ability to play difficult pieces, but criticized for his love of unusual intervals, experimental compositions, and dissonances. These very qualities would later set his compositions apart and earn his place as one of the best known piano composers. Debussy knew that a wrong-sounding note could be right, and he stuck to his individual vision despite a lack of encouragement. Dare to be different and you’ll make your mark.

Are there any famous piano composers or musicians who inspire you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Can I Afford to Buy a Piano? | Tips for Financing & Purchasing

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Thinking about buying a piano or keyboard, but worried about the costs involved? Here, Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares her tips for keeping the price – and your stress level – down…

 

As a piano instructor, I meet many potential students and parents who are very interested in lessons for their family, but won’t sign up because they don’t have a piano or keyboard, or are concerned about piano prices. Don’t let this keep you from investing in music education! There are plenty of ways to get a great keyboard in your home.

1. Ask a trusted real estate agent.
This may sound strange, but real estate agents know a lot of people, close to where you live, who are moving and may be in desperate need of getting rid of a keyboard or a piano. The desperate need also often means opportunities to find lower piano prices!

2. Join www.Ebates.com, then shop online.
When you join Ebates and then shop online, you get cash back sent to your address in a quarterly check. Let’s say you find a great keyboard at Best Buy on sale for $300. The best idea is to go home, sign into Ebates.com, go to Best Buy’s website, and find that same keyboard online. If Ebates is offering 8% cash back that day, that means you’ll get $24 back!

3. Shop flea markets and antique shops.
My very first piano was given to me by my parents 20 years ago. They had found one at an old, but reputable antique store in a nearby town for $500. My parents were not certain that I’d stick with piano or keep it forever, but now, 20 years later, not only does the same piano sit in my parlor, but I’m teaching my daughter to play it as well. It’s still in great shape, even through several moves along the East coast.

4. Finance through a piano dealer.
If only a piano will do, then you’ll most likely have to finance one. Luckily, it’s not unlike financing a car. Check out piano shops in your area, as there are often in-house finance deals with pretty decent terms. You can expect a credit check and a 10% to 20% down payment with the piano serving as the collateral.

5. Finance through your bank or credit union.
Banks often offer the best finance terms and conditions. You could take out a home equity line of credit or a small personal loan. Rates will be fairly low for existing customers and will typically be fixed, so you won’t get any surprises like you might with a consumer credit card.

6. Inquire at a local music school.
Visit the front desk of your local performing arts center or small music store. Often, they’re given contact information from teachers and students who are ready to be piano- or keyboard-free. You could even try asking your kids’ school band, orchestra, or choir teacher!

If you’re in the market for a piano, then be sure to inspect the instrument inside and out, just as you would a car. Make sure there are no cracks or splits on the interior and that every key is easily played and sounds clear, not wobbly.

Most families need only a full-sized keyboard, without any of the bells and whistles, for their needs. Pianos are a beautiful investment, but one that is also made of expanding and contracting wood. This means annual or bi-annual tuning and regular maintenance. For some, like semi-professionals and advanced students, there is no substitute for one. But for most, especially those of us who perform and need to carry our keys around town, a keyboard is key!

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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10 Wedding Processionals You Can Play on Piano

wedding processional

There are so many beautiful piano pieces that make the perfect choice for wedding processionals. Here, Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares a few to consider… 

 

Weddings are beautiful celebrations of a couple’s lifelong commitment to one another. They’re also a great performance opportunity for pianists out there. Though the organ, string quartets, and choirs are still used, piano is commonly the main instrument at a wedding ceremony for those who choose live music.

Music has always been a vastly important part of the wedding ceremony. “Processional” is a term that refers to the order in which the wedding party walks into the ceremony site, but it also refers to the piece that’s played as the bride walks in. Every wedding is unique in its style and mood, and the music that you play is a big part of that and should be matched to that. Here’s a list of 10 popular processional pieces that you can play on the piano for your wedding gigs.

1. Handel’s “Air” from the Water Music Suite
Calm, serene, and elegant, this is a quite traditional piece originally composed for an orchestra, but because of its popularity, it’s been long transcribed for piano.

2. Clarke’s “Trumpet Voluntary”
Also associated with formal and traditional ceremonies, this song’s bright, vibrant feeling is a big favorite. As the name suggests, it was originally performed with solo trumpet and orchestra, but it will sound just as triumphant on the ivory keys.

3. Vivaldi’s “Spring” from the Four Seasons
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a beautiful suite in which each section beautifully expresses the season that it’s named after. “Spring” is a vivacious, lively, bright piece with lovely movement that’s appropriate for a wedding in any season.

4. Gordon’s and Warren’s “At Last”
Most famously performed by Etta James and released in 1961, “At Last” is a perfect choice for those who’d like a less traditional sound. It’s deeply romantic and “bluesy,” the first words reading, “at last my love has come along/my lonely days are over and life is like a song.” Even if the ceremony doesn’t have a singer, the song is so well-written that it still evokes romance and devotion without having to hear any words.

5. Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me”
For a modern and contemporary ceremony, Jones’ song of romantic escape is intimate and elegant. Since it was composed originally for the piano, it will be quickly and utterly recognizable.

6. Neeman’s “Hana’ava Babanot”
Subtitled “A Love Song”, “Hana’ava Babanot” is an Israeli piece, perfect for a Jewish wedding. The translation follows:
most beautiful of maidens,
lift your face to me,
lift your face to me
come, beloved, for you are most fair,
and have delighted me.
give me your hand and embrace me –
strengthen me again and again

7. Charpentier’s “Prelude” from Te Deum
For a formal, Christian wedding ceremony, “Prelude” from Te Deum is beautifully grand and joyful.

8. Bach’s “Air on a G String”
Slow, subtle, and a little somber, “Air” was originally intended for strings to play, but it’s also lovely on the piano.

9. Pachebel’s “Canon in D”
Perhaps the most popular processional piano pieces of all time, Pachebel’s “Canon” has been arranged and rearranged by many, so you can find a level that’s easy for you to learn.

10. The Beatles’ “And I Love Her”
If your wedding client is a classic rock fan and plans a 60s themed or “flower child” wedding, then “And I Love Her” is just right. Being the quintessential rock-and-roll band of the era, the Beatles’ love songs are always be a hit.

As a wedding musician, get to know the brides and the planners that you work for in order to understand the stage that’s being set. A wedding is a sacred ceremony, but on another level, it’s a show. As a huge part of that show, it’s your job to help choose a processional that fits it!

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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Top 5 Piano Tutorial Videos on YouTube

Before the Internet, the library was the best resource when researching schoolwork, and tutorial books provided step-by-step instruction for budding instrumentalists. Now, you’re far more likely to switch on your computer and search for piano lessons online. With YouTube rapidly becoming the go-to place for tutorials in just about anything you can think of, these five short videos will form a useful starting point for piano lessons online.

Piano Lessons for Beginners – Lesson I

As this YouTuber says, this is a fun video taking the absolute beginner through the basics of piano; the beauty of this video is the assumption that the budding player has never even sat at a piano before, and therefore has no prior knowledge, so it’s a very simple introduction to the instrument.

Two Hands Together Practice – Part I

One thing that many beginners find very difficult is coordinating right and left hand together, and there are surprisingly few piano lessons online that address this. The simple exercises shown in the video below will give you some help. Your dominant hand – whether you are right- or left-handed – will always be a little in front of the other, and it’s worth incorporating exercises early on that help to even this out.

Finger Exercises For Piano That Really Helped Me

This video has the benefit of a clearly-written chart behind the keyboard, which is particularly useful if you’re still learning the notes on the piano. These exercises are aimed at finger strength as well as dexterity, which are essential elements in helping you to improve.

Music Theory – Bass Clef (Understanding and Identifying Notes)

Not strictly a piano tutorial as such, but it’s not uncommon for bass clef knowledge to lag far behind note recognition in the treble clef, which can hold you back as a beginner. Unless you have sung in a choir as a bass, you’re likely to be scrambling for unfamiliar notes in combination with your less-able hand (if you’re right-handed).

Tutorial: Sightreading at the Piano

Although this piano tutorial is aimed at slightly more advanced players, the principles addressed are extremely useful for beginner players, too. It’s helpful to learn how a more advanced and experienced pianist approaches music, as these are skills that you should develop early on. It’s interesting to note that he doesn’t advise learning the two hands separately, which he equates to learning to speak with only vowels first and adding consonants later. This video really addresses the importance of making your hands work together!

However informative and high-quality these videos might be, keep in mind that they shouldn’t replace working with a piano teacher in an interactive, one-on-one setting. These videos can’t check your posture, or hear any mistakes you make that you might not notice. Nor will they be able to recommend further exercises that might help you, or which piano pieces to work on next! Unlike band instruments or being a choral singer, being a pianist can be a slightly isolating experience, and another function a good teacher can fulfill is to give you someone simply to “talk piano” with. Ready to get started? Find a piano teacher near you here!

 

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Dueling Piano Bars 101: Popular Songs for Piano to Request

Fun Piano Songs If you haven’t heard of dueling piano bars yet, you will soon! As audiences demand a renaissance of live entertainment on large stages, this has also trickled down to bar scenes; the result is a rise in not just karaoke clubs and open mic nights, but also jazz clubs, indie band clubs, and piano bars of every kind. The “dueling pianos” style of entertainment in particular (which traces back as far as the 1890s in the form of speed battles with ragtime piano songs) has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity in most American cities.

What started with Pat O’Brien’s Bar in the 1930s in New Orleans, dueling piano bars are typically characterized by having two grand or baby grand pianos placed opposite each other, and two talented musicians performing and accepting audience requests for songs. Most dueling piano songs are in the rock and roll, country, classic rock, and contemporary rock music genres. Generally, the performers are operating with the goal of encouraging audience participation, rather than directly battling one another like a more organized talent competition.

Former or hobbyist piano players might want to take note of this kind of show’s rise in popularity; if you enjoy performing live, covering popular music, and improvising, this is a great time to brush up with a few lessons and pick up a new gig!

Whether you’d rather go to a dueling piano bar to play or to party, it’s a good move to get familiar with the most popular songs for piano. Here are 36 song ideas to request:

All-Time Favorites

Some of the most requested popular songs for piano

  • “Joy to the World” – Three Dog Night

  • “Rocket Man” – Elton John

  • “Barracuda” – Heart

  • “Carry On, Wayward Son” – Kansas

  • “Rock and Roll All Nite” – KISS

  • “Piano Man” – Billy Joel

Push the Envelope

Well-loved, complex tunes, to challenge your favorite performers

  • “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Charlie Daniels Band

  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

  • “Layla” – Eric Clapton

  • “Sultans of Swing” – Dire Straits

  • “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” – AC/DC

  • “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” – George Thorogood

Make it Modern

Contemporary pop tunes that the whole bar secretly wants to hear one more time

  • “That’s What You Get” – Paramore

  • “Firework” – Katy Perry

  • “Someone Like You” – Adele

  • “Crazy in Love” – Beyonce feat. Jay-Z

  • “Every Morning” – Sugar Ray

  • “The Way” – Fastball

Stage and Screen

Everyone loves hits from movies and musicals

  • “Singin’ in the Rain” – Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain)

  • “Stayin’ Alive” – the Bee Gees (Saturday Night Fever)

  • “Hakuna Matata” – Nathan Lane and Co. (the Lion King)

  • “Summer Nights” – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (Grease)

  • “All That Jazz” – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger (Chicago, film version)

  • “Footloose” – Kenny Loggins (Footloose)

Play That Funky Music

Take it back with jazz, funk, soul, and reggae

  • “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” – Wild Cherry

  • “Mack the Knife” – Louis Armstrong

  • “Superfreak” – Rick James

  • “Sophisticated Lady” – Duke Ellington

  • “Stand by Me” – Ben E. King

  • “No Woman, No Cry” – Bob Marley

Keepin’ it Classic

More rock and roll hits, to stay true to the traditions

  • “Old Time Rock & Roll” – Bob Seger

  • “Take it Easy” – the Eagles

  • “Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top

  • “Born to Be Wild” – Steppenwolf

  • “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor

  • “Great Balls of Fire” – Jerry Lee Lewis

Spending an evening at a dueling piano bar is a great way to get some sing-along therapy, make some new friends, and discover new music! Try searching the web or your music library for these recommendations to get more confident singing along with the crowd’s favorite hits. We hope you have a great time requesting these popular songs for piano the next time you go out!

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Piano Care | How to Clean a Piano

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Not sure how to clean your piano? Check out these tips from Olympia, WA teacher Tali H

 

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “A clean room gives way to a clear mind.” Although I’m not so sure this logic follows for the piano (“a clean piano gives ways to clear playing”), it’s still important to keep your playing area relatively clutter-free and your piano tidy. While caring for the piano is simple, there are a few things to watch out for and some easy steps you can take to make the maintenance minimal. Here are the do’s and don’ts of how to clean a piano:

1. The Do’s

There are two extremely easy ways to keep your piano clean. One, wash your hands before playing every time (just a good 30-second rub down with soap). Most of the dirt that gets on your piano comes from the fingers and hands of people who play it, so taking this preventative step is very important. Then, when you’re done playing, pull the piano lid down over the keys so they’re not exposed to dust, sunlight, or the occasional mishap with spilled drinks, food, etc.

Even with careful preventative care, it’s likely that grease, dirt, and dust will still build up on your piano from time to time. Remove the dust often (a quick once-over before you start playing) with a feather duster or a soft, slightly damp cloth (such as flannel or cheesecloth). I recommend white to avoid discoloration of the keys and using filtered water on the cloth. However, don’t get carried away with cleaning. Only wipe the outside of the piano – leave the inside (which can be more fragile) to the professionals.

2. The Don’ts

When dusting your piano, don’t use a rough or dry cloth (you want to avoid scratching the keys). No paper towels! Also, avoid using mineral water or any type of spray, perfume, polish or aerosol. These have the potential to alter the coloration of the piano or create unfavorable marks.

Avoid getting water in between the keys by wiping up and down one key at a time, rather than across the keys where water can seep into the cracks. Also, have a dry cloth on hand to quickly pat down the wet keys.

3. Whitening the Keys

After your piano is free of dust and dirt, there may still be discoloration. In this case, you’ll want to whiten the keys. The first step is determining what the piano keys are made of (generally plastic, ebony, or ivory). Ivory keys will have a fine split on each key, as they are molded together. Ebony keys have a matte texture and tend to feel more solid. For ivory keys, use milk and gently rub each key, taking caution that the milk doesn’t get inside the piano. This process can be time-consuming. For ebony keys, take a gentle toothpaste, and lightly polish the keys. Next, take a cloth dampened with milk and wash away the toothpaste residue. Pat dry immediately.

Remember the best action for a clean piano is preventative action. So wash your hands before you play and keep the keys hidden under the cover! Also, it helps to have your piano in a cool, dark place. Sun exposure leads to discoloration on the keys. These are some of the best strategies for how to clean a piano and will ensure years of quality music-making!

TaliHTali H. tutors and teaches piano in Olympia, WA, as well as through online lessons. Since 2010, she has worked with numerous students in elementary, middle, high school, and college in both group settings and one-on-one. Learn more about Tali here! 

 

 

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10 Most Popular Piano Pieces to Play

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When you’re learning how to play the piano, which songs are the go-to, must-learn pieces to add to your repertoire? Here, take a look at ten of the most popular piano pieces to play, as compiled by Brooklyn teacher Jennifer K

 

Most people begin to play the piano because of a song they have heard, that they want to play. Piano is the most popular instrument to study because it has the largest range and is one of the most accessible instruments. Many simply love the sound and movement of this beautiful instrument. So many of these beloved piano pieces are in our consciousness because they are also included in our popular culture, such as in cartoons, commercials, and our favorite movies.

Here is a list I have compiled of the top ten piano pieces worth adding to your repertoire:

10 – Moonlight Sonata – The opening theme of this piano sonata is a lovely, sad melody that is dramatic and emotional. Moonlight Sonata was actually written without a title. Beethoven’s publisher attached this programmatic title for marketing purposes! Talk about great advertising!

9 – Old MacDonald – From American folk music, this is a great piece to learn when you are just starting out because it is instantly recognizable. It’s great for sing-alongs as well.

8 – Clair de Lune – Ah, the French. Romance, rich food, and beautiful music. They are so good at it! Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” is one of the most popular piano pieces to play, evoking themes of peaceful reflection and natural settings. It will take some focused practice to get these chords right, but pianists are rewarded for their labor when they perform this piece. It is a joy to play and a pleasure to listen to. Take this song anywhere and you will have a captive audience.

7 – Row, Row, Row Your Boat – This piece is awesome to play because most arrangements have the hands cross while playing, so the beginning pianist can look like a pro! Also, this can be played with a partner in a round or “canon.”

6 – Prelude 1 in C Major – J. S. Bach was the master. I like to think of Bach as the power breakfast of a training musician. He is chock-full of musical nutrients. The preludes and fugues are a must for any pianist wanting to learn proper technique and knowledge of all keys. This prelude introduces a repetitive figure with a beautiful resultant melody. I love the way the notes only change one or two at a time. Playing Bach in the morning is like going for a morning jog to get the metabolism going!

5 – Yankee Doodle – A great American folksong, “Yankee Doodle” is a fabulous beginner piece because it incorporates a more complex melody, but is still easy to learn because we already know the tune. This is one of the first pieces you can learn with two hands, and the folk rhythm also serves as a great timing exercise.

4 – Fur Elise – This is an instantly recognizable Beethoven composition that is beautiful and has your hands flowing all over the piano. This piece will take a little time for beginners to learn, but it is worth the practice! Little known fact: “Fur Elise” is the piece that inspired Alicia Keys’ piano intro to her first hit single, “Fallin’”.

3 – Minuet in G – Now we’re into some truly great classical music. This Bach minuet introduces an open hand position and opportunities to practice both legato (smoothly connected) and staccato (detached) notes. This piece is also a great way to experiment with a different dynamics on the piano.

2 – Ode to Joy – Beethoven’s third appearance on this list. Beethoven and Mozart are so popular here because they built upon simple melodies. They wrote the kind of music that gets stuck in our heads!

1 – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – Everyone knows and loves pieces like this, because they are part of our common culture, and will link a sense a familiarity to a new instrument. It is also great tool for teachers as it provides students an instant bond to their instrument.
Mozart wrote variations on this theme, which is from a French lullaby. Beginner students can play this song after just a few lessons at the piano.

Little known fact: Did you know that “Twinkle, Twinkle” is the same as the “ABC” song? Don’t believe me? Have a friend sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” while you sing the alphabet song. Yes, this is a tune from hundreds of years ago, embedded into our brains from infanthood. So every toddler who can sing his or her ABCs is sort of a Little Mozart!

JennKennedyJennifer K. teaches piano, guitar, songwriting, and tutors in various subjects in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Masters in Music from Purchase College. Learn more about Jennifer here! 

 

 

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Learn How to Play Piano: How Often Should I Practice?

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“I’d love to learn how to play piano, but I just don’t have the time.” Does that sound familiar? If you say you’re too busy to learn, think again! Check out this advice from Hyde Park, MA teacher Marie-france M

Many people are under the impression that there is no point in learning how to play piano unless you are able to practice a minimum of one hour a day – but nothing could be further from the truth. When you learn how to play piano, even at a rudimentary level, it’s a multi-faceted undertaking best accomplished in small steps. I have watched a great many people grow into fine musicians simply by making a commitment to practice a total of 25 minutes a week, dividing that 25 minutes into five, five-minute practice session. So, what can you do with that five-minute session?

Here is a typical five-point, five-minute beginner level practice list:

  • Finger Clenches

Finger clenches can be performed either as “Tennis Singles” (squeeze a tennis ball five times with each hand) or “Double Dutch” (partner with someone facing you with outstretched arms and clenched hands, and squeeze their clenched fists five times, both hands simultaneously).

  • Two-Hands, Five-Finger Exercises (CDEFG)

Play the first five degrees of the C Scale in ascending order, using the following fingering:

Right hand is thumb (1) on C, index finger (2) on D, middle finger (3) on E, ring finger (4) on F, and Pinky (5) on G.
Left hand fingering is the reverse 5 Pinky, 4 Ring, 3 Middle, 2 index, and 1 thumb.

Master each hand separately, then put both hands together. When that is mastered, increase your speed.

  • C Scale, Right Hand

Play the C scale with your right hand only Ascending use this fingering: 123,12345. Make sure your tone is even.

  • C Scale Chords

Play the C scale chords in ascending order, speaking their names as you do so: C chord, D minor, E minor, F Chord, G Chord, A Minor, B Diminished, and C chord.

  • Michael Aaron Red Book Page 7, measures 1-4

For my students, I recommend this Michael Aaron Primer/Performance Book. The song is “Shoo Fly!” in 4/4 time, and it is a work in rhythm utilizing quarter and half notes in both treble and bass clef. The hands alternate in playing the melody and the lyrics are provided for singing along.

In these five minutes you’ll work on strengthening and stretching your hand muscles , fingering techniques, speed, dexterity, harmony, ear- training, sight reading, and more. And because the session only lasts five minutes, you will be ready, willing, and able to come back for a repeat session tomorrow.

Repetition is key for developing the fine motor control required for our five fingers to land on exactly the right notes at exactly the right time. The best way to ensure your success is to return to the keyboard and mindfully practice the same thing over and over again. And the easiest way to do that is to think of your practice in five-minute increments.

What if I want to keep practicing past the five-minute mark?

With the understanding that five-minute practice sessions require full concentration, when you feel ready, try increasing your practice time by additional five-minute intervals. Some students are fully capable of concentrated practice of an hour or more, but it is a thing best worked up to, like running a 10K.

While practice makes (almost) perfect, it is during free time at the keyboard where the magic happens, where the true musicians and composers emerge. To do this, make sure to balance your practice time with copious amounts of free time to explore your musical inclinations. Have fun!

Marie-franceMarie-france M. teaches piano, singing, acting, and songwriting in Hyde Park, MA. She draws on a wide range of materials in The Holistic Piano (and voice) method, which is especially effective with Autism-spectrum students. Learn more about Marie-france here!

 
 
 

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