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jazz piano

5 Jazz Piano Exercises for Beginners

jazz piano

Do you want to sharpen your jazz piano skills? Below, piano teacher Jason B. shares five jazz piano exercises you can do to bring out your inner jazz pianist…

Jazz is one of the few piano styles that allows total creative freedom. Expert jazz pianists reshape not only the rhythms and melody of a song, but they are also given a solo section that allows them to create new melodies on the spot.

While this creative freedom is liberating, it also can be overwhelming when you’re just starting out as a jazz pianist. Below are five jazz piano exercises to start shaping your skills as a beginning jazz pianist.

Note: These jazz piano exercises assume you have basic music theory knowledge (such as scales and being able to read music) along with some basic piano experience as well.

1. Practice your 2­5­1’s

A 2­5­1 is a short chord progression that happens very often in jazz piano. Some jazz standards, such as Giant Steps by John Coltrane, are entirely 2­5­1 chord progressions changing from key to key during the song.

For example in the key of C Major, a 2­5­1 progression would be Dm7 ­ G7 ­ Cmaj7. This is because D is the second note of the scale, G is the fifth and C is the first, thus 2­5­1.

Building chords off of those scale degrees gives us those chords and chord quality (such a minor 7th, dominant 7th, and major 7th).

While advanced or intermediate jazz pianists might be playing 4 note voicings of the chords, since we are just beginning we are going to learn using 2 note voicings.

We build these chords using the 3rd of the chord, and the 7th of the chord. If you do not know what this means, this lesson might be a little advanced for you. Included below is a link with musical notation showing this concept.

If you follow along on the practice guide sheet, you can see in a Dm7 the 3rd is an F, and the 7th is a C. When you move to the G7 chord the F becomes the 7th of the G chord, but you must change the other note from C to B to become the third.

Finally, the B stays this time becoming the 7th of the Cmaj7 chord, while the F must turn into a E which is the third.

This might sound complicated, but print out the sheet and try to follow along with it. What you’ll find out is that you simply start the chord and then move one finger, and then the other to complete the other two chords.

The other good news is that since we will be using the thumb and the middle finger of the hand to the play the chords, we are setting ourselves up to be easily prepared for 3 note and 4 note voicings in the future.

Your left hand should be playing the root of the chord to give a foundation to the harmony. The hardest part is just knowing where to start, and that is why running this 2­5­1 practice chart will make you a better jazz pianist!

Click here for link to exercise.

2. Scales as part of a 2­5­1 progression

To become a good jazz piano improviser you need to know your scales, as they dictate which notes sound good to a given chord. While you could play a major scale to every major chord, a minor scale to every minor chord, and a mixolydian scale to every dominant chord, this can be very difficult.

Thankfully, there’s a trick to this madness. You can play the major scale of the 1 chord over the entire 2­5­1 progression. That means if you are playing a 2­5­1 in the key of G (Am7, D7, Gmaj7), you can just play G Major the entire time.

The reason this works is because the scales needed for the minor chord (which is called Dorian) and the dominant chord (Mixolydian) are actually called modes. These modes relate to the major scale by containing the same notes, they just start on a different scale degree.

Click here for link to exercise.

3. Practice soloing

Now that you’ve been practicing your scales and chord progressions so vigilantly, you’re ready to start some improvising.

You simply will pick a 2­5­1 progression and play either the root of the chord in the left hand, or the two note voicing you learned earlier if you have a backing track or software (refer to exercise 5).

Explore the different combinations of notes you can make within the scale. Explore leaving the scale through passing tones between two scalar notes.

This is your time to be an explorer and figure out what you personally like. Remember there are no wrong notes in jazz, there are just better choices. Don’t be afraid to experiment and fail, this is where you become better.

4. Real Book

The Real Book plays a vital role to any jazz pianist. It contains the sheet music for songs that we refer to as standards. There are many different versions of the Real Book, however, the one I personally use  is Hal Leonard’s “The Real Book 6th Edition.”

The book has around 400 songs with proper chord changes and melodic lines notated. The format of the songs in notation is what we call a Lead Sheet. A Lead Sheet has the chord structure and melody of the form of the songs. In jazz, we call the first time through a song while playing it’s melody the head.

After you play the head, you still repeat the chord changes of the song but you improvise a new melody of your own over the changes. This is called the solo section.

Finally, you replay the head one more time after you play however many times through the song you felt like soloing. This is the standard format of a jazz song and the Real Book will give you the proper information needed to play these songs.

5. Backing tracks or software

Backing tracks, or backing track software, are two options when nobody else is around to play with. Backing tracks sound great, and are recorded by amazing musicians. For example, Jamey Aebersold sells books with cds included that you can play along with.

The upside is they sound great because of the talented musicians. The downside is they are usually only in one key and tempo. If the song is difficult, you might have to work up to the speed on the track, making it useless.

The other option is backing track software, such as iReal Pro (for phones, tablets, and computers). iReal Pro for is a great piece of software, which you can edit chords, tempo, time signature, and even keys!

You can set the song to be as slow as you need it to be, which is great when you’re first learning a song. You can individually change the volume of every instrument in the backing track it makes.

You don’t even have to manually enter in the standard you’re working on because it connects to a special forum where you can download 2000 jazz songs off the bat. Using this software makes practicing a whole lot more fun, because it is the next best thing to jamming with a band.

It’s your turn!

If you practice these jazz piano exercises for even five minutes each a day, within weeks you will be astounded with how much you have grown.

The secret to good practice is consistency not duration. You might even surprise yourself. There have been many times where I have sat down to practice soloing and had so much fun I noticed hours have passed.

Good luck to you on your journey through this wonderful genre of music we call jazz!

Photo by Geert Schneider

Post Author: Jason B.
Jason B. teaches piano and music theory lessons in Vista, CA. He is currently finishing up his Jazz Performance BA at Mira Costa College and his BA in Music Education at San Diego State University. Learn more about Jason here!

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a woman playing the piano with proper piano hand position

3 Piano Hand Position Exercises for Beginners

a woman playing the piano with proper piano hand position

One of the keys to successful piano playing is proper hand placement. Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares three fun exercises beginners can do to improve their piano hand position…

When trying to teach beginner students the proper piano hand position, I’ve often found that telling them to “move this finger in such and such a way” is a fairly challenging task.

This is especially true if they haven’t developed finger independence through other means. It very quickly becomes necessary to relate finger and hand shape to things that everyone can do.

The following exercises are just that – things that everyone, even new pianists or musicians, can easily do.

In fact, the knowledge of what proper piano hand position should look like is something that even non-pianists can master in a very short amount of time.

However, mastering the actual physicality of automatically having your hand take a certain shape can take some time.

Below are a few exercises that beginning piano students can use to establish great piano hand position.

When doing these exercises, always be aware of any tension in your hand, and remember that the first knuckle of each finger (closest to the finger tip) should be firm yet bent, not collapsed and straight.

1. Play Catch

Depending on the age of the student and his or her respective hand-sizes, this exercise will work best with a ping-pong ball or a tennis ball.

  • Have a friend lob the ball at you in an arch or simply bounce the ball off a wall yourself and then catch it.
  • Notice what your fingers do when you catch the ball – they should curve around the top portion of the ball, but not all the way around it.
  • Emulate this hand position when you play piano.

 2. Meet Someone New

This is a great exercise for a student of any age, but will work best with a partner.

  • Stick out your hand as though you were going to give someone a hand-shake (or give a real hand-shake if possible).
  • After grasping your partner’s hand and holding it for about a second, let go of it while maintaining the position held in your hand.
  • Flip your hand so your palm is down.
  • Voila! – The result should be a fairly solid hand position that features curved fingers, firm knuckles, and a “C” shape between the thumb and index finger.

3. Take A Drink of Water 

This exercise is very, very simple, as there is no partner necessary. Please note that glasses should be sized according to student’s age / hand size.

  • Simply have your student grab a glass of their favorite beverage.
  • Ask your student about the shape of their hand while they hold the glass. (Some students may lift their pinkies or other fingers, but ask them to experiment around with what feels most comfortable for their hand.)
  • Hold the glass from the opposite side, and instruct your student to let go of it but keep their hand in the same shape it was in.
  • Then have your student flip his or her hand so his or her palm is down and place it on the piano keys.
  • Similar to the “Meet Someone New” exercise, this should result in a piano hand position that’s pretty close to a proper one. Pay close attention to the curvature of the fingers as well as the distance between the thumb and index finger on this exercise.

As always with piano hand position exercises, remember that the goal is two parts. First and foremost, a lack of tension. The hand should never feel tense when doing closed-hand position shapes like we are doing.

Secondly, the knuckles closest to the finger-tips should be firm and bent, not floppy.

Thank you so much for reading this article! I hope that this will give you some practical ways to get started on your journey toward piano hand position mastery.

Photo via Brian Richardson

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

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5 Ways to Sneak Piano Practice into Your Busy Schedule

 

Is your crazy schedule making it difficult for you to find time to practice piano? Below, piano teacher Julie P. shares five creative ways you can sneak piano practice into your busy schedule…

You want to improve your piano playing skills, but your busy schedule doesn’t allow time for you to practice as much as you should.

Between school, work, and extracurricular activities, your schedule fills up fast. Just because you have a busy schedule, however, doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in some piano practice.

If you get creative enough, you can find more time than you thought. Below are five ways to sneak piano practice into your busy schedule.

5 Ways to Sneak Piano Practice into Your Busy Schedule

You don’t need long blocks of time to practice the piano. Piano practice is actually more effective if you break it up into shorter sessions over a longer period of time.

In doing so, your brain has time to process what you’ve learned in between your piano sessions. Instead of practicing for an hour one or two times a week, find five or six 10-20 minute chunks of time throughout the week.

For example, it might work well for you to practice for 20 minutes every morning before school. Or maybe you can practice 10 minutes before work and another 10 minutes after work each day.

The key to shorter practice sessions is to set smaller achievable goals. Pick one thing on your practice assignment and only practice that one thing. You might even focus on just one section of a piece, rather than the whole piece.

Your time on the bus or in the car can be used to improve your piano skills. For example, flash cards are great for reinforcing note-reading and other musical terms and symbols.

You can find hundreds of free, printable flash cards at Pianimation. Another great option for the car or train is a silent keyboard. It’s very useful for practicing scales or other simple songs and exercises.

For those days when your busy schedule has you exhausted and you don’t have the energy to sit down at the piano, there are a lot of great piano apps you can play.

Piano Maestro from JoyTunes, for example, is a fantastic iPad app that you can use in conjunction with your piano or keyboard. The app has a large library of songs for all playing levels and different genres.

For each song, the sheet music scrolls across the screen while the app plays accompaniment music. You play the notes as they go by, either using the keyboard provided on the screen of your iPad or your own piano.

At the end, you get points on how well you did and progress through the different score levels. This app requires a subscription fee, but teachers and their students can use it for free.

Another great iPad app for kids is SproutBeat. It has hundreds of music theory worksheets that kids can complete right on the screen by drawing with their fingers.

You can even print out worksheets to take in the car. The app comes with 20 free worksheet downloads and charges a flat fee for complete access to their library.

Any time your ears are free, you can work on your piano and musicality skills. The more quality piano music you listen to, the more you learn about what great piano playing is.

For instance, you can learn a lot about tone quality, the dynamic range of the piano, or what great rhythmic accuracy is, all from listening.

Try to find high quality recordings of the pieces you’re learning. If you can’t find recordings of your pieces, ask your piano teacher to make some quick recordings for you.

Even browsing through YouTube to hear more advanced pieces can be a great way to get a better sense of great piano playing, and get inspired to practice at the same time.

If your free time for practicing is too early in the morning or too late at night to be making noise at the piano, you can use mental practice.

For mental practice, you look at your music and visualize in your mind the arm and finger movements for playing it. This might be tricky at first, but you’ll get better at it the more you practice it.

If you try mental practice, you’ll be amazed at how much better you play your music the next time you sit down at the piano.

Your Turn!

Now that you know how to get more piano practicing into your busy schedule, go find 10 minutes that you can practice today.

Even better, make a plan for the next week to get in those smaller practice sessions and try one of the other practice methods that will fit into your schedule.

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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easy classical piano songs

15 Easy Classical Piano Songs for Beginners [Videos]

easy classical piano songs

Do you dream about becoming the next Mozart or Beethoven? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares 15 easy classical piano songs you can add to your existing repertoire… 

You’re never too young or too old to learn how to play the piano. While mastering the works of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven can be intimidating, there are a number of easy classical piano songs that you can learn.

If you’re interested in learning the classical piano style, start by practicing this list of easy classical piano songs for beginners. Learning these easy beginner piano songs will give you a solid foundation that you can build upon.

15 Easy Classical Piano Songs for Beginners

1. Bach’s “Prelude to the Well Tempered Clavichord”

This easy piano song uses two simple notes in the left hand, with arpeggio’s in the right hand. It’s not too long of a song, and it’s great to play around with dynamics too.

2. Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” 1st Movement


This orchestral piece can be easily transferred to solo piano. Check out this helpful tutorial, which breaks it down at a much slower pace.

3. Chopin “Prelude in E min, Opus 28, No 4”


This melancholy minor classical piece has a simple melody in the right hand, with basic chords on the left hand.

4. Edward MacDowell’s “To a Wild Rose”


This easy piano song is a very light, simplistic classical piece. It sounds easy and refreshing, with simple fingering.

5. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”

This is often the first classical piano song students learn how to play. That’s because the song has very simple rhythm, melody, and fingering.

6. Debussy’s “Claire du Lune”


Meaning “moonlight,” this easy piano song for beginners is pretty straightforward. You can find many simple arrangements to this classical song on the Internet.

7. Strauss’ “The Blue Danube”


This fun waltz might sound tricky, but it is actually not hard to play at all. Check out the slowed down version above.

8. Offenbach’s “Can-Can”


If you want a small challenge, this uptempo song is perfect. Try listening to the original orchestral version for some extra inspiration.

9. Schubert’s “Ave Maria”


This beautiful easy piano song is appropriate to play at many events, such as weddings and funerals. “Ave Maria” is a must for beginners learning how to play classical music.

10. Pachelbell’s “Cannon in D”


Originally performed with strings, this classical piano song can sound full on the piano with chords.

11. Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”


One of the most memorable melodies on the piano, beginners can easily pick up this melody in the right hand, and use simplified bass root notes in the left.

12. Bach’s “Minuet in G”


Another easy piece that sounds difficult, this minuet is a joy to play for all ages. Because it’s quite popular, it’s easy to find different arrangements.

13. Tchaikovsky’s Theme from “Swan Lake”


Everyone knows this romantic anthem, often played to accompany dancers. This legato piece has a strong melody, and a very easy rhythm.

14. Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairy”


This iconic song from “The Nutcracker” is fun to learn. You can take it as fast or as slow as you want. It’s also a great song for practicing stacattos.

15. Lizt and Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”


There are many great themes from this work to which you can learn the melody and rhythm.

Now go ahead and give it a try! Don’t feel intimated or overwhelmed by classical music – just start with these easy classical piano songs for beginners.

If you’re feeling stuck, you can find simplified arrangements to all of these songs in piano books, such as Hal Leonard and Alfred’s course books. Or you can simply ask a local piano teacher for help.

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

Photo by Carlos Gracia

piano practice

5 Piano Practice Resolutions to Keep Year Round

piano practice

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Below, piano teacher Alicia B. shares five piano practice resolutions you’ll want to keep year round…

Now that you’ve thrown away your noisemakers and brushed all of the confetti out of your hair, the real fun of the New Year begins: making (and keeping) resolutions!

While we all have goals like “lose weight” and “eat less sugar” on our list, why not add something that’s more enjoyable and actually attainable?

Below are some useful piano practice resolutions that will make you much happier than avoiding Oreos.

piano practice

We all have different plans and priorities when it comes to music. Now is the time to work with your piano teacher to take things to the next level.

One tried and true way to do this is by maintaining a piano practice chart or log, where you have clear week-to-week instructions from your teacher.

Not only is it a way to better structure your piano practice, but it also ensures that you’re honest about whether you’ve met your piano practice goals.

piano practice

There is a lot to be learned from your local music community. It’s comprised of talented music professionals, orchestra and jazz ensemble members, teachers, store and club owners, and the like.

These are typically the people who run local music competitions, festivals, and other events that could possibly open doors for you.

With that said, the New Year is a good chance to join a professional organization or music club and attend shows and festivals.

In doing so, you’ll  meet fellow musical minds and network with others who could potentially help you in the future.

piano practice

As a student, you’re going to have several piano recitals throughout the year. While these performances can be scary, there’s no need to be scared.

With a little preparation, you’ll be just fine. Just realize that no one is going to practice for you. It’s near-impossible to fake a great performance.

Therefore, make a good game plan that will give you enough time to have a great show, with a challenging piece you can be proud to perform.

piano practice

As a student, you’ve probably already realized that the pursuit of true musicianship is lifelong and never ending.

With the Internet, however, there is no limit to the options of what you can absorb beyond the walls of traditional higher education.

In addition to a slew of YouTube videos made by professionals, websites such as Coursera and iTunes U have entire courses and lectures created by well-known universities, such as Berklee School of Music, in subjects including music theory, music production, and business.

If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, you can search for either a non-degree seeking course at a local university or a master class or workshop with visiting musicians and professors.

As a young student, you can look for youth orchestras and clubs to join. If there aren’t any, find a teacher and start one!

piano practice

Music is a constant evolving art and you should be as well. Listening to new artists, attempting new genres, and challenging yourself with new techniques will make you a better overall piano player.

You can also push yourself to perform more, in different arenas and with different kinds of ensembles. Maybe you’ve never written a song, or entered a competition, or made a video of yourself.

The year 2016 is the year to take your piano skills to the next level. Use these piano practice resolutions as a guide to help you get you there.

Untitled design 66Post Author: Alicia B.
Alicia B. teaches piano, violin, music performance, and more. She is a graduate of Miami’s Public Arts Programs, including Coral Reef Senior High and the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. Alicia has over 15+ years of musical experience. Learn more about Alicia here!

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practice piano

5 Tips on How to Get Your Child to Practice Piano

practice piano

Are you having trouble getting your child to practice the piano in between lessons? Below, piano teacher Sally H. outlines five tips on how to encourage your child to practice piano more often…

You’ve signed your child up for piano lessons and her new instructor encourages you to have her practice piano every day at home.

Your child, however, is giving you a hard time whenever you ask her to practice piano.

Many parents face this same exact scenario. They pay for piano lessons, but can’t seem to get their child to practice the recommended amount of hours per week.

So, how can you increase the likelihood that your child will play daily and be prepared for his/her lesson every week?

Below are five tips for ensuring your child develops into a responsible piano student.

1. Use the Word Play

Rather than say “It’s time to practice piano,” change your wording and say “It’s time to play the piano.” The word “play” is a good word, as it activates all sorts of fun images in a child’s head.

Speaking of play, there are a ton of piano practice games you can play with your child; for example, musical jenga, lego chords, and bingo! For a complete list of 20+ piano practice games, click here.

2. Be Creative

Add creativity to your child’s assignments; for example, ask him or her to write you a short song. Even if it’s just a few notes of their own, your child will feel proud to express his or her personal creativity.

Join in on the fun and be an active and enthusiastic listener. Your child will learn that creating music generates good feelings, and practicing piano can actually be fun!

3. Find the Right Teacher

A concert pianist’s credentials may look good on paper, but he or she may not be the best teacher for your beginner student. The effectiveness of beginner piano lessons is all about a good match of personalities between child and instructor.

Watch your child leave the lesson. Is he or she smiling, skipping, laughing, dancing?  Or is he or she walking with his or her head down, looking bewildered,  frightened, or dare I say, crying?

Piano lessons should be an exercise in positive learning. Don’t settle for anything less.

4. Create a Pleasant Environment

Where is the piano located in your home? Is it in the cold, gloomy basement or in the family room near the television?

The piano should be placed in a room where there is a reasonable amount of privacy, but not in a place that makes the student feel secluded.

A piano in the dining room is a beautiful addition. A keyboard in a teenager’s bedroom creates some wonderful private moments.

Placement of the piano should be in a special area where the student is happy and comfortable.

5. There’s No Room for Criticism

Be an appreciative audience. Criticism is very difficult for a young artist to endure when they are learning.

As a parent, your responsibility is to notice the positive elements and reward learning efforts. For example, reward your child with a special treat every time he or she practices for 30 uninterrupted minutes.

Beginner piano lessons should be associated with the positive aspects of achievement. Happy memories create lifelong playing of a beloved instrument.

You play a big role in your child’s musical development and success. Help your child practice piano with the helpful tips and tricks above!

Post Author: Sally H.
Sally H. began her teaching career at Karnes Music in Schaumburg prior to opening her private All Age Piano Studio in Wauconda, which is located in Lake County, IL. Learn more about Sally here!

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piano solos

15 Easy Piano Solos That Sound Hard

piano solos

Do you want to impress your friends and family with your new piano skills? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares 15 piano solos that sound hard, but are actually fairly easy to learn.

If you’re a beginning pianist looking for some new and fun piano solos to learn, you’ve come to the right place.

Chances are you’re eager to show off your skills with some popular piano songs. The good news is there are tons of easy piano solos out there that sound hard, but are actually pretty easy to play.

From piano pop songs to old classics, here are 15 of the best piano solos you can play to impress an audience.

15 Easy Piano Solos That Sound Impressive

While these piano solos might not sound like beginner songs, they are fairly easy to master with some practice. Browse through these 15 best piano solos and choose a few that grab your attention.

1. All I Ask of You: Phantom of the Opera


This gorgeous theme song from the musical “Phantom of the Opera” composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber is a classic love song that will surely wow your audience. This great piano solo can be performed with or without vocalists.

2. Piano Man: Billy Joel


If you’re a pianist and a singer, this is a great song to practice both your piano skills and your vocals. Your audience will be impressed with how you can channel your inner Billy Joel with this classic piano pop song.

3. Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen


Looking for a rock solo to add to your repertoire? This piano solo is great if you want to practice slow and fast tempos, and the use of dynamics. You can make this song as easy or as hard as you want.

4. Heart and Soul: Hoagy Carmichael


Whether you decide to play this song solo or as a duet, you’re sure to have a blast! It has a very fun, simple piano rhythm in the left hand, with a fun melody in the right hand.

5. Fur Elise: Beethoven


If you’re looking for a classical hit to wow your audience, try this piano solo. It’s great for practicing arpeggios and showing off your classical technique.

6. The Entertainer: Scott Joplin


A classic ragtime piece, Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” is a great piano solo that will show off your fancy finger work. There are many modified piano versions out there, so find one that fits your skill set.

7. Cannon in D: Pachelbel


A beautiful classical piece, this piano solo is perfect for weddings or any other formal celebration. It’s also a great solo to practice easy chords, and a simple bass line.

8. Ave Maria: Schubert


This simple, but impressive ballad is great for practicing arpeggios and chords. Because the song pretty much keeps the same pattern throughout, you should be able to learn it in no time!

9. Prelude to the Well Tempered Clavichord: Bach


This is one of my personal favorites to play on the piano because it sounds difficult but is very easy to play. It’s also great for practicing dynamics.

10. All that Jazz: Chicago


This piano solo is a fun jazz piece that sounds fancy, but is easy to play. The bridge and ending will make your audience think that you can bring the house down.

11. Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Wizard of Oz


Audience members will surely shed a tear during your performance of this famous song. It’s the perfect piano solo to milk out long legato phrases, and sounds pretty in any key.

12. Tale as Old as Time: Beauty and the Beast


One of Disney’s most sensational piano pieces, this piano solo is an easy piece to embellish the melody, add trills, and chord inversions if you feel like making the song extra special.

13. My Heart Will Go On: Titanic


This Grammy award-winning song will captivate your audience’s heart. In this ballad, you can really capture emotion with just a few chords, and repeating melodic phrase.

14. New York, New York: Frank Sinatra


Frank Sinatra’s hit, New York, New York is a crowd favorite. You can really build up the chorus section, which the audience will go nuts over because they will want to sing along.

15. What a Wonderful World: Louis Armstrong


This piano solo will melt your audience to pieces. This is a great song if you want to work on conveying emotion through different peaks and climaxes, especially in the bridge section.

These are all great piano solos you can start practicing today. I highly recommend checking out the piano book, “More Popular Piano Solos – Levels 1-4: Hal Leonard Student Piano Library” to help prepare you.

If you need more guidance on performing piano solos, look for a piano teacher near you.

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons 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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8 Piano Finger Exercises for Beginners

piano finger exercises

Having the proper finger positioning is essential for beginners, as it helps prevent injury and improve technique. Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares some piano finger exercises beginners can do to help improve their skills… 

Sitting down at a piano and playing a few notes is a pretty easy task, right?

I mean, practically anyone can take a seat on the bench, place their fingers on the keys, and make some sort of sound come out.

However, the technique we use to control the muscles in our hands, fingers, arms, and shoulders plays a very important role in our ability to play the piano well.

Specifically, the muscles in our fingers play a very vital role in our ability to make, as well as control, our desired sound.

In this article, I will cover some piano basics about good hand position (which can be seen in greater brevity here).

I will also share some educational piano finger exercises that beginner piano students can use to give themselves a head start in their development.

What Does Good Piano Finger Technique Involve?

Great piano finger technique is based on the idea of playing “from the finger”–or using the fingers as our main driving source of power.

If you’re self-taught or new to piano, most of these ideas will be unfamiliar to you. If you’ve been playing for a long time and using different techniques, breaking bad habits may take a little time.

There’s no need to stress, as my finger technique was awful before I got into SDSU. Within a few months of being there, however, it improved substantially. 

If I can do it, I’m confident that you can too!

In essence, good finger technique utilizes the following four elements:

Fingers should not be flat or floppy–knuckles should generally not be straightened.

Typically, most fingers will be slightly bent at the knuckle closest to the fingertip. The exception is the pinky finger, which can be straightened at times.

The primary power source of most playing will actually come from the finger–specifically the knuckle at the top of the hand–rather than the wrist or arm.

Relaxation of the arm, elbow, and shoulder, and a very early preparation of the thumb and other fingers while playing.

If you’re a more visual learner, check out this helpful video from eHow below:

Playing “from the finger” is incredibly important. Just think of how objects move; if you’re holding a pencil in your hand and want to move it extremely quickly, is the motion large or small?

Likewise, in piano playing, if you wanted to play an extremely fast succession of notes, would you opt for large-scale muscles or small-scale ones?

In addition, you wouldn’t use your whole arm and upper-body to rapidly move the pencil back and forth, so why would we do that when playing the piano?

With this notion in mind, it’s easy to understand why using good piano finger technique is incredibly important.

Common Piano Finger Technique Mistakes

I’ve been teaching piano for several years now, which means I’ve seen my fair-share of interesting alternatives to using proper piano finger technique.

Of course, before I knew the right way to play, I had many of these same habits. Here are a few mistakes that I’ve seen some of my beginner piano students do that should be avoided:

  • Rather than adjusting their piano hand position, my students sometimes compensate with their wrists by moving them very high or very low. In either position, unnecessary tension is added which reduces speed and accuracy.
  • Oftentimes, beginner students will play from the arm, rather than the finger, which makes for a very overly-rhythmic sound that tends to create accents on beats in which there are none written.

8 Piano Finger Exercises for Beginners

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite piano finger exercises that I use with my beginner students.

The following finger exercises should be done with a consistent tempo, even if it’s very slow.

1. 5 note pentascales using one finger at a time. (C D E F G)–one finger per note.

In this piano finger exercise, the student will play down one finger at a time and listen to the result.

I often have my students change dynamic ranges only using their finger muscles rather than their whole arms or shoulders.

It’s such an easy exercise, but also surprisingly difficult for those who may not have strong finger muscles.

2. Ascending and descending pentascales

After the first finger exercise is mastered, play an ascending and descending pentascale from the lowest to highest finger with both hands.

For instance, the left-hand pinky will play with the right hand thumb, and so on. Use the proper finger techniques discussed earlier.

3. Play in thirds (skip notes) between each note

After the second exercise is mastered, using a pentascales, play in thirds (skip notes) between each note. Train your fingers to play every note legato– connected.

 4. Play with firm finger position

While having your hands at about playing level though not actually on the keys, prepare (bend) the knuckle closest to the finger-tip as though it were playing.

Lift your hand while keeping the finger position, then let it fall onto the key. If the knuckle collapses, try again from a lower height.

In essence, this finger exercise prepares you for the sensation of playing with a firm finger position without adding any arm weight or tension to the scenario.

By dropping your hands and arm on the keys, it allows you to focus fully on getting a solid finger position.

5. Over-Legato

Play the notes in such a way that each note overlaps with the subsequent note.

For example, if you were playing a C major pentascales, you would hold down your thumb until you played your index finger, after which, you would lift your thumb and play your middle finger, etc.

This piano finger exercise is great for developing a great awareness of your fingers and learning to control each one individually.

It’s actually surprisingly difficult for beginner students to do this exercise well!

6. Hanon & Czerny Technique Books

These books are fantastic for getting student’s fingers to cooperate! Go through these with the techniques mentioned previously for maximum results.

Czerny is quite a bit harder than the early Hanon books, so keep that in mind when deciding on a finger technique book.

7. Full (1 or 2 octave) scales

Practice full (1 or 2 octave) scales while preparing the thumb well before it’s actually played.

For instance, in a C major scale, after you have played the first D with your right hand index finger, immediately prepare the thumb so that it is ready on or near the note F. Practice all scales in this manner.

This exercise in particular is one that I continue to use within my professional studies as a pianist.

If done properly, it will eliminate bumps in your scales and passagework, and allow you to play with greater speed and accuracy.

8. Play two notes at a time in one hand at a time.

For instance, the right hand thumb and middle finger play simultaneously while the other fingers relax.

It’s important to verify that the other fingers are, in fact relaxing, as they will often try to interact when they don’t need to.

The pinky finger is especially notorious for wanting to be a part of everything the other fingers are doing, even when not necessary.

In conclusion, using these piano finger exercises on a consistent basis while using proper finger-technique will greatly enhance your ability to play the piano with great accuracy and speed.

Remember that consistency is the key to changing older habits! I hope you find these piano finger exercises helpful as you learn how to play the piano!

Photo by CristianAllendesPhotos

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

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piano practice

50 Best Pinterest Accounts for Inspiring Piano Practice Ideas

 

piano practice

Are you in a piano practice rut lately? There’s nothing worse than having to practice or teach the same piano songs and techniques over and over again. It’s enough to drive someone mad!

Luckily, there are many resources available online that can help spark inspiration. Pinterest, for example, is a great resource for both students and  piano teachers. There are hundreds of pages dedicated solely to piano playing.

Since we know you don’t have time to sift through all of these pages, we’ve rounded up the 50 best Pinterest accounts for piano practice ideas, games, sheet music, and more.

Whether you’re a student or a teacher, these Pinterest pages are great for finding ideas to spice up your piano practice routine. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Piano Practice Tips

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1. Hannah-Lee Ableson: “Teaching Piano” has a ton of piano practice tips both parents and teachers can easily implement. We particular love all the tips for parents, such as how to end piano practice wars and how to deal with never-ending excuses. Check it out here.

2. Chrissy Krahn: “Piano-Tips for Teachers” has a variety of how-to’s that are primarily geared toward teachers. However, there are some tips and exercises that parents can use to encourage their children to practice. Check it out here.

3. Laura Lowe: “Piano Studio” is another great board that boasts an array of piano practice tips students can use to improve. Everything from hand positioning to common music mistakes is featured on the board. Check it out here.

4. Beverly Cox: If you’re looking for a wide variety of piano practice tips, look no further than “Piano Stuff.” This board has kid-friendly tips about how to read notes, play scales, sight read, and more. Check it out here. 

5. Christy Young: From sight reading to proper posture, “Piano Practice Techniques” covers everything beginner piano players need to get started. It also has some great tips for teachers who are might be struggling to think of practice exercises. Check it out here.

6. Leila Viss: “Keys to Piano” features a ton of quality information for piano players, teachers, and parents. We particularly like all of the ideas for keeping kids motivated to practice. Check it out here.

7. Melody Payne: “Piano Teacher Articles” isn’t just great for teachers, but it’s also helpful for students and parents. The board has an array of information on how to make the most of one’s practice time. Check it out here.

8. Ashley Caldwell Brown: “Piano” features a variety of practical piano tips that will help kids stay motivated. We particularly like all of the advice for parents who want to help their child practice. Check it out here.

9. Gail Fischler: With four boards related to piano, Fischler has a wide scope of information related to piano. Browse through her “Piano Addict Tips & Resources” board to discover helpful tips you can apply to your next practice. Check it out here.

10. Emily Zook: Looking for some actionable practice tips? “Piano” has a bunch of helpful tips and activities that will help students improve their piano skills. Check it out here.

11. Carri Corbitt: From practice tips to sheet music, “Tickle Those Ivories Piano Studio” has over 200 useful pins for both piano students and teachers. We especially like all of the fun, free printables. Check it out here.

12. Rhonda Hunter: If you’re looking for piano sheet music, “Education/Piano Music” is the right board for you. This board has fun practice tips and sheet music every student will love. Check it out here.

13. Nichole Lookabaugh: Warming up is an important part of piano practice. “Piano Lessons” has some fun warm-up exercises as well as some technique tips to help assist students. Check it out here.

Piano Practice Games

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14. Susan Paradis: From rhythm bingo to memory match, “Music Games and Worksheets” has everything parents and teachers need to keep their budding musician entertained. Check it out here.

15. The Plucky Pianista: “The Plucky Pianista” has over 100 useful pins for students and teachers, including a ton of fun and educational games. We especially like the warm up games for building strength and dexterity. Check it out here.

16. Claire Westlake: “Music Education” is a wonderful board that features an array of engaging games and activities for students, many of which are easy and cost effective to replicate. Check it out here.

17. Andrea Dow: “Teach Piano Today” has over 27 boards full of inspiration geared toward piano teachers. We particularly love her piano teaching games board, which features dozens of fun and education piano practice games for students. Check it out here.

18. Wendy Stevens: With 17 boards dedicated to piano, Wendy Stevens has everything a piano teacher or parent is looking for. Browse through her “Piano Teaching Games” board for piano games to inspire your next practice session. Check it out here.

19. Joy Morin: “Color in My Piano” features a great roundup of piano practice games for students. Even better, the board has a number of printable PDFs that you can download and use during your next piano practice. Check it out here.

20. Carla Lowery: With over 6,000 pins, “Music Stuff” has an abundance of tips, activities, and resources for both students and teachers. We love all of the different games that come with printables. Check it out here.

21. Chantelle Thaler: With over 467 pins related to piano, “Piano Studio-Inspiration, Games, Printables,” has everything a budding piano player needs, including a number of unique and education piano practice games. Check it out here.

22. Kathy Williamson: If you’re looking to engage your child or student, “Teaching Piano” is a great resource. The board has a number of piano practice games that are simple for parents and teachers to play with their budding musician. Check it out here.

23. Micheline Roch: Learning the piano doesn’t have to be boring. “Piano Studio” has an abundance of fun piano games that students can play, many of which use simple household items. Check it out here.

24. Julie Williams: “Piano Lessons Teaching Aids” is another board that features tons of fun, and engaging piano games for beginner piano players. We particular like all of the free printouts she provides. Check it out here.

25. Alicia Dunlap: “My Keys” is a great resource filled with piano games geared toward young, beginner students. From sound match games to finger patterns, this board has a variety of fun games. Check it out here.

26. Lana Hughes: Learning complex musical concepts can be difficult for beginners.”Piano Teaching” features a number of fun games that make these concepts easy for students to understand. Check it out here.

27. Katrina Grabham: “Piano Teaching” has a ton of kid-friendly piano games for students who have a hard time sitting still on the bench. Check it out here.

Piano Practice Sheets

piano practice

28. Kacie Zajic: “Teaching Piano” is a great resource for young musicians, as the board features several themed piano practice sheets. For example, she has some fun holiday-themed piano practice sheets for kids. Check it out here.

29. Patti Kolk: “Piano Teaching Ideas” has a wide variety of piano practice sheets for beginners as well as general music exercises to help little ones understand how to read scales and rhythms. Check it out here.

30. Debbie Lumpkin:“Music Board” is a great general music board for youngsters. The board features an array of practice sheets to help students learn rhythms, notes, and more. Check it out here.

31. Music Teacher Resources: With over 69 boards, “Music Teacher Resources” has everything from free, printable piano practice sheets to music theory assignments. We especially love how the boards are organized by age-group. Check it out here.

32. Shirley Cadle: “Love Teaching the Piano” is a wonderful board with everything from helpful time signature worksheets to metronome tips. Check it out here.

33. Bethany Parnell: Running out of ideas for practice time? “Piano Studio” has a number of helpful piano practice sheets as well as tips for keeping kids engaged during practice. Check it out here.

34. Marilyn Herrett: Whether you’re looking to work on sight reading or rhythm, “For My Piano Studio” has everything you need. We particularly love all of the holiday-themed worksheets. Check it out here.

35. Anjuli Crocker: If you’re looking for piano sheet music and practice sheets then look no further than “Kids Piano.” This board is filled with helpful tips and exercises. Check it out here.

36. Jenny Boster: “Piano Teaching” is filled with sample exercises and practice sheets students can use  to practice various piano skills, such as chord inversions and note naming. Check it out here.

37. Mary Miller: With over 1,000 pins, “School Stuff” has everything you need to keep your child engaged and learning during their piano practice sessions. Check it out here.

38. Inge Borg: While this board is primarily geared toward teachers, it has a ton of great practice sheets and tips for students. We especially love the wide variety. Check it out here.

Piano Practice Charts

39. Diane Hidy: With over 10 boards dedicated to piano, Diana Hidy has an array of practice charts, inspiration, tools, and ideas for students, teachers, and parents. We especially love all the helpful tips for teachers. Check it out here.

40. Barnes Piano LLC: Are you looking for some piano practice charts? “Piano Teaching Games” has an array of sample sheets and tips for how to structure your child’s piano practice. The board also includes some fun, educational games. Check it out here.

41. Sara @ Let’s Play Music:“First Piano Lessons for Kids” is great for beginner piano players, as the site has a wide variety of exercises, games, and charts. We particular like how many of the piano practice charts can be download for convenience. Check it out here.

42. Heather Nanney: “Piano Lesson: Practicing” has a ton of free piano practice charts and worksheets both teachers and parents can use to keep track of their child’s progress. The board also features several resources on how to make practice fun. Check it out here.

43. Tim Topham: “Piano Practice” has an abundance of resources and tips for practicing piano. We suggest taking a look at the practice charts for kids. Tim also has a number of other helpful piano boards you can browse. Check it out here.

44. Tracy King: The self-proclaimed “Bulletin Board Lady,” Tracy King has ton of music practice charts that can be applied to several instruments, including the piano. Check it out here.

 45. Kelly Nelson: Besides having an abundance of tips for teachers, “Piano Students” has a wide variety useful piano practice charts that are super helpful for students. Check it out here.

46. Shana Elliot: “Music Class Printables” has an array of practice charts and worksheets that are great for kids. We especially love all of the holiday-themed charts for Halloween, Christmas, and more. Check it out here.

47. Larissa Coleman: If you’re looking for piano practice charts and beginner piano sheet music, than look no further “Piano Lessons.” The board has a ton of great resources for beginner students. Check it out here.

48. Patty Johnson: “Piano Lesson Ideas” is filled with a ton of piano practice charts. Whether you want to work on rhythm or melody, this board has everything you’re looking for. Check it out here.

49. Kim Smith: With over 1,000 pins, “Music Classroom/Piano Lessons” has an abundance of entertaining practice sheets and tips. We particularly like the fun worksheets! Check it out here.

50. Tiffiny Almond Allen: Head over to “Piano Teaching” and browse through all of the fun worksheets and practice charts. You’re sure to find something that will keep your little one engaged while practicing. Check it out here.

51. LadyD Piano: LadyD Piano has a variety of boards for those learning how to play piano. For example, she has a board dedicated to music apps, books, and practice printables. Check it out here.

52. Ashely Danyew: “Piano Teaching” has an abundance of wonderful tips and tricks for both piano players and students. We especially love all the resources that help teachers motivate students. Check it out here.

If you’re bored with your piano practice routine or you simply want to mix things up, browse through these Pinterest accounts to get some inspiration. Remember, practice makes perfect!

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how to teach piano

How to Teach Piano to Every Age Group (Preschoolers, Teens, and Adults)

how to teach piano

No two piano students are the same. As a teacher, it’s important to take a unique approach to teaching different age groups. Below, piano teacher Rhonda B. shares some helpful tips on how to teach piano to every age group…

Imagine a department store where every item of women’s clothing is labeled size small. The store’s designer has decided on a certain ideal, and that’s what’s offered. If you don’t like it, you’re obviously ignorant of good taste.

As silly as this seems, that’s the exact approach many piano teachers take to teaching piano—a one-size-fits-all method. Take it or leave it. I say, leave it. Instead, our pedagogy should be willing to address all sorts of variables.

That being said, here are some helpful tips on how to teach piano to different ages groups. Not only are these tips helpful for piano teachers, but they are also helpful for parents who are helping their young musicians practice.

How to Teach Piano to Preschoolers

how to teach piano

Preschoolers can be a rambunctious group of individuals who are difficult to teach. Below are some actionable tips on how to teach piano to preschoolers.

  • Use appealing, kid-oriented songs:  I’ve tried a number of books for young beginners, and keep coming back to “My First Piano Adventure” by Faber and Faber. Kids love the music featured in the book. For example, the book includes popular children’s songs, classical themes, and silly songs about “Dinosaur Music Night” at school.
  • Get them moving: Preschoolers were made to dance, sing, change positions, and play games. My student Grady and I stay at the piano just long enough to perform his pieces. Then we move down to the rug for workbook time. We jump up and down every time I play high notes. We march around the room with rhythm instruments.
  • Use a variety of approaches: Keep things interesting by using a variety of approaches. My student Zeke, for example, is a whiz at learning by ear, so we record some assignments on his mom’s mobile phone and he works them out by listening. Other students prefer to read the notes, and we sightread, instead.
  • Break down new music into manageable sections: My young student Laura has trouble with rhythm, so we always clap and count a piece aloud before we play it. With the note values firmly in mind, she’s ready to tackle note reading. Younger students tend to get overwhelmed by complex concepts, so be sure to break them down into more manageable sections.
  • Keep it light-hearted and fun: When it comes to teaching piano to preschoolers, you have to make learning fun and engaging. Edgar, who is autistic, loves race cars, so every week we start with an improvisation of a racing car crash. Edgar plays loud glissandos and shows me, on the piano, how the wrecked car turns over and over.

How to Teach Piano to Teens

how to teach piano

Because teenagers are involved in so many activities, they can easily get burnt out while learning to play the piano. Below are some helpful tips on how to teach kids piano.

  • Give them plenty of repertoire options: My teen students and I set goals at the beginning of each semester, and that includes the pieces they want to study. My student Olivia, for example, enjoys classical studies, while Ryan concentrates on the blues. Jairin plans to become a worship pastor, so his piano lessons center around contemporary Christian music and composition.
  • Overlap lessons so they share time with other teens: Adolescents love to socialize. I try to schedule two high schoolers back-to-back so they share 10 minutes together weekly. They enjoy playing piano duets, and ear-training with each other.
  • Work with their school and activities schedules: Several of my teens play in orchestra, band, or their church’s worship team. Therefore, make sure you work in tandem with their activities outside of lessons. When Phillip and Mackenzie are working up the required new pieces, for example, we focus mostly on those. Then, later in the year we return to other goals.
  • Encourage them to explore their creativity: Teens are bursting with creativity. My student Becca, for example, writes beautiful compositions. We work on getting ideas started during her lesson times, and she develops them during her weekly practice time.
  • Teach them how to get fast results: Few students know how to practice effectively, so I teach students like 17-year-old Tori how to play straight through music slowly with metronome, make note of mistakes, drill problem areas, and work up each piece quickly.

How to Teach Piano to Adults

how to teach piano

Results are important to adult piano students. To ensure that you deliver results, follow these tips on how to teach piano to adults below.

  • Offer them maximum choice: My senior citizen student Tom knows exactly what he wants to learn: Beatles music, jazz style, and note reading for popular songs. Therefore, I focus mostly on his choices, which makes us both happy. To keep adult piano students engaged, offer them several different choices.
  • Help them set attainable goals: Adults need to feel in control of their lessons. Amy, a middle-aged woman with a chronic illness, can only practice sometimes, so her goals are flexible. In each lesson I ask her, “What did you work on this week?” and we go from there. Help your student set attainable goals that are realistic to their situation.
  • Explain your goals as a teacher, and refer to them often: I take time to show students the benefits of, say, five-finger pattern drills: finger strength, but also a knowledge of major and minor chords. This helps adults understand that they can transfer their theory and technical studies to help with pieces they want to play.
  • Schedule them for performances: Many of my adult students play in LHS’s annual coffee house and classical recitals. We also encourage them to perform for family gatherings, parties, church groups, and more. In doing so, they are more motivated to perfect their pieces.
  • Make the lessons encouraging: Adults, in particular, need to know they’re making progress in lessons. I make it a point to (sincerely) praise their strong points and positively address their weaknesses so they can improve and gain confidence.

Many piano teaching principles are constants, non-negotiables we should continue to practice. However, we should also keep in mind individual needs, especially for different age groups.

While some of your students may fit perfectly into size small clothing, others need mediums and larges. In teaching piano, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach–and that’s good.

Photo by Woodleywonderworks

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

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