Some of my students who have been working through the ledger line worksheets are having trouble figuring out which octave in which to play the low bass ledger line notes. To help you get a handle on which bass note is where, I have created another set of worksheets 😆
The first page starts with a chart to show you that A3, which is two white keys below middle C, is written on the top line of the bass clef, A2 is an octave below A3 and is written on the bottom space of the bass staff, and A1 is an octave below A2 and is written three ledger lines below the bass staff. If you can learn the octaves for those three As, you can use them as touchstones to find the octaves for all of the notes in between. I have color coded the notes by octaves, so that you can refer back to the chart on page 1.
If locating the correct octave is an issue for you with bass notes, start by playing the bottom line on page 1 forwards and backwards for at least a week, until you feel confident that you know where each note is on the keyboard. Then slowly go through the first few lines on page 2, referring back to page 1 to make sure you are in the right place. As always, play the lines forwards and backwards to double your practice, and challenge your brain. Another great way to practice is to say either “A1,” “A2” or “A3” when you come across an A.
I hope you find these worksheets helpful! I’m always looking for ways to help students overcome their musical obstacles, so leave a comment if you have another issue you would like me to highlight.
If you are new to this blog, thanks for joining me! I have written a series of piano instruction books called Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul. My mission is to make learning how to play the piano easier and more fun for older adults by applying the latest innovations in learning science, along with using larger notes and fonts, brain games, videos and lots of encouragement. You can check out the books on my website, or on Amazon.com.
With love and music, Gaili
P.S. I just noticed that Amazon has put Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 2 on sale for about 25% off at $16.63 (regular $21.95). I have no idea how long it will be on sale, but if you’re nearing the end of BOOK 1, now might be a good time to purchase BOOK 2!
One of the most requested piano pieces is Scott Joplin’s, The Entertainer. Though Joplin wrote it in 1902, it was used in the film The Sting which was set in the 1930s, because it conveys an exuberant sense of humor and mischief. Ragtime is challenging to play because of its syncopated rhythm. Syncopation is when a weak beat (the eighth notes between beats 1, 2, 3 and 4, or the notes we count as “and” and call “upbeats”) is tied to a strong beat (beats 1, 2, 3, and 4, called “downbeats”). An upbeat is made strong when it is tied to a downbeat. In The Entertainer you will see a tie connecting the “and” (upbeat) of beat 2, to beat 3. The tie naturally accents and emphasizes the upbeat. Syncopation creates the jaunty rhythm characteristic of ragtime. Almost every measure of The Entertainer has a syncopated note.
Though I have simplified this arrangement of The Entertainer a bit, it is still quite a challenge to play. I would suggest that you approach the piece by writing the counts under the notes. [Never feel embarrassed to write counts in your music–even professional musicians write in counts for tricky musical passages.] After awhile you won’t have to worry about counting when your ear kicks in, but be meticulous about your counting to start. If you find the introduction too difficult to play with two hands, feel free to play it with just your right hand. And as always, you are welcome to change fingerings if you find something you like better.
Remember the free sheet music I post is only available for a year. If you are reading this and want a copy of The Entertainer after The Entertainer is no longer on the FREE SHEET MUSIC page, leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com to request a free copy.
I also wanted to point out a new (restored) RESOURCES page on my website. On that page I list books of music that you might like to play while playing through the Upper Hands Piano method (with BOOKS 2+), and after you have finished the series. I have included fake books with popular music and standards, as well as classical collections.
I hope you have been enjoying a lovely spring in your neck of the woods. If you are preparing for an upcoming performance you might find my posts on Performance Anxiety and Recital Season helpful. I’m currently working on worksheets for students who have a difficult time remembering which octave to play their bass notes. If you need help solving piano issues, feel free to make a request in the comments below. I’m always happy to find ways to help students remove their musical roadblocks. Chances are that many others are sharing your difficulties.
I have recently discovered that YouTube has an application with which one can create video captions. This is exciting news to me, as I am hearing-challenged and love the idea of adding captions to my Upper Hands Piano instructional videos for piano students who are similarly afflicted. It’s not a perfect app; I have to go through and add periods, capitalizations, and corrections to the captions –this morning I changed “sea cord” to “C chord” 🙂 –but the app makes editing captions easy.
Through this process it has been disconcerting for me to discover that I have lots of bad verbal habits. I say “um” quite a bit, but I say “okay” and “so,” all the time! I had no idea. It is great for me to know this because I am currently creating page-by-page instructional videos to accompany Upper Hands Piano BOOK 1. Now that I know that I am constantly yammering “um”, “so” and “okay,” I want to become more aware my language, and cut out a lot of my filler speech.
While I’m trying to break some of my bad habits, I’m also trying to institute some good routines. I exercise every day, but don’t do much core/abdominal work, so I am trying to do a plank exercise every morning at 6:30 am. I have an alert in my iPhone calendar so that it pops up each morning as I am waking up. I am also trying to become a better accordion player (I am learning Gypsy Jazz and Irish tunes), so I have another alert in my phone to “Practice Accordion” at 7 pm.
From my years of research on learning science and memory, I know that if you want to get good at something, you need to try to do it every day. I do my plank every day, but I practice accordion an average of about 5 days a week. There are so many things we need to do each day- it’s difficult to add another activity to an already overloaded day. But it’s important to me to be intentional about how I live my life, and what I want to accomplish, so I find that when I have taken at least 10 minutes a day to practice my accordion (and also the piano of course!), I feel an emotional lift.
In her book, Better Than Before, author Gretchen Rubin shows that we have much better success in doing something if we make it part of our daily routine, rather than trying to rely on self-discipline. So I try to pair my accordion practice with dinner (I practice right after dinner dishes are done), which is great except when we go out or I have a late lesson. It might be better to pair it with something else earlier in the day. I pair my morning plank with brushing my teeth so that is failsafe.
There are some emotional roadblocks involved in piano practice. Sometimes it takes feeling in a good mood to be able to face the difficulties of playing the piano. In his book The Now Habit, author Neil A. Fiore says, “People don’t procrastinate just to be ornery or because they’re irrational. They procrastinate because it makes sense, given how vulnerable they feel to criticism, failure, and their own perfectionism.”
Ouch. It’s so true. If we could just play the piano in the spirit of curiosity, just from an interest in learning, instead of judging our intelligence, ability, or self-worth by the speed of our progress, we might be more consistent.
If you have been following this blog for awhile, you know that I suggest that students play the piano for as little as 10 minutes per day. Over the years we have done several 30-day challenges to Pledge To Play 10 Minutes A Day. During those 30 days, piano students and teachers have reported amazing progress, simply because they have played every day. Scientific research bears this out- you will make better progress by playing daily for 10 minutes than from playing once a per week for 70 minutes. That is because the brain learns best through daily exposure than from one long session. Of course playing more than 10 minutes is even better, but if you practice for at least 10 minutes, you can go to sleep feeling proud that you got your daily dose of musical benefits. And you’ll see real progress by the end of the week.
In a previous post called Practice Small, I suggest ways to approach your short practice sessions. When I am practicing accordion, I let my mood dictate my focus. Sometimes I really want to get better at a particular piece, so I practice the difficult passages several times before playing the piece from the beginning. Other times I want to play several songs through just for the joy of playing them. You will practice best when you are doing what is calling to you in the moment. If you find that you are continuously avoiding a piece or exercise, it might be best to choose something else. As adults we can choose what we want to play, learn, and focus on, and we will practice more when we like what we are playing.
Don’t worry about how quickly you think you should be learning something. Every skill has its own timeline. Trust in your process; you’ll get there. Remember also to go back and enjoy playing pieces that have become easy and fun for you. Life shouldn’t always be so hard.
What are some routines you would like to fold into your life every day?
Tell me if you’re interested in doing another Pledge to Play: 10 Minutes A Day, 30-day challenge.
A thousand apologies for my tardiness in posting my April free sheet music. March is a busy month for me- I start the month practicing Irish tunes for upcoming St. Patrick’s Day gigs, then on March 18th I get serious about doing my taxes. Then my students and I have our spring Piano and Poetry Party (a friendly, informal recital). Along with all of that March madness I spent many hours arranging Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Swan for you, my beloved blog subscribers. It was a tough challenge to represent Saint-Saëns’ many gorgeous harmonies into an easy(-ish) arrangement for solo piano. By the morning of April 1st I had the 3-page arrangement all finished except for the fingering…..when my computer crashed. I had saved the score to a thumb drive, but when I loaded Sibelius (my music notation software) onto another computer, The Swan file popped up as “corrupt file.” I tried every known fix for my crashed computer but no luck, the computer is toast. Hopefully I will be able to extract The Swan from the internal hard drive in the future, but until then, I decided to switch to working on Amazing Grace instead. (we have to roll with the punches, right?)
Have you seen the documentary about Aretha Franklin called Amazing Grace? It was filmed in 1972, but is now finally being released nationwide. In honor of the amazing Aretha, and to celebrate Earth Day, I’ve arranged Amazing Grace three ways. You can play the first version (easy), the second (intermediate), the third (advanced jazz/gospel), or play all three as a progression from simplicity to the fully colorful. If a version feels too difficult for you this year, print it anyway, and you may be able to play it next year.
As with of my free sheet music on the UpperHandsPiano.com website, Amazing Grace will only be posted for a year, and then I need to make room for new pieces. Look at the other sheet music and print whatever you like now, before it’s gone! If you are reading this after it has disappeared from the website link above, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to send you a copy via email.
Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd, and is a time to actively protect our environment. Some people plant things, or clean up public spaces, or attend weekend festivals which educate and inspire. You can look here for ways to celebrate Earth Day 2019.
Thanks for hanging in there with me. I am learning the new version of Sibelius software with its steep learning curve, but as we all know, learning difficult things, like playing the piano, is the best way to keep our brains functioning optimally. So it’s all good 🙂
I hope you are enjoying the first flowers of spring, wherever you are! Please leave a comment and tell us which version of Amazing Grace you are playing! Any and all comments are gratefully received. With love and music, Gail
One of the greatest months for music (in my humble opinion) is March, when we celebrate Irish music for St. Patrick’s Day. I love Irish music and get to play lots of it on my accordion at St. Paddy’s Day gigs. One of my favorite traditional tunes is The Parting Glass as performed by Ed Sheeran, andThe Wailin’ Jennys. These artists interpret it with different rhythms and tempos-which do you like best?
The Parting Glass is the last song in BOOK 4 of my Upper Hands Piano method instructional series, and I also wanted to make it accessible to you for St. Patrick’s Day. Besides expressing the sorrow of goodbyes, it also celebrates the sweetness and joy of friendship.
Another fun St. Paddy’s Day favorite is The Irish Washerwoman which is easy to play and can even be used as an exercise. Start playing it now, increasing your tempo gradually, and work up to playing it fast by the end of March! CLICK TO PRINT:
I hope you are enjoying the final weeks of winter wherever you are. Here in LA it has been much colder and wetter than usual, which we love. My hyacinths are in full bloom, my tulip and daffodil bulbs are shooting up, and jack rabbits have reappeared in the hills near my house, evoking the first stirrings of spring. Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, and let me know how it’s going playing these Irish songs. I love to read your comments!
With love and music, Gaili
P.S. I’ve posted some of the method books and song books I’ve written for adults, below. Click on the links to view them on Amazon.com, if you’d like!
It’s the month of love, and to express my appreciation for my subscribers I wanted to give you some worksheets to help you practice reading ledger lines. Keep the originals and print copies so that you can keep practicing playing the notes, writing the notes, and reading the notes (out loud), forward and backward! Because beginner and intermediate pianists don’t see ledger line notes as often, we don’t get as much practice playing them, so that when they appear now and then, we get stuck. The more you practice the notes on these worksheets, the faster you’ll get at reading them in your songs and pieces. Keep them handy so that if you have 5 minutes here or there, you can play through a few lines.
Click on each worksheet below, then you will need to click a 2nd time to print each page. Hopefully everyone will be able to print these sheets, but if your computer won’t let you, email me at email@example.com and I will email them to you next week (I’m leaving town today for a few days!)
Many thanks for following, I hope you find these worksheets helpful. With lots of love, appreciation, and admiration for your courage in learning to play the piano! Gaili
If you are a beginner you can play just the right hand melody. More advanced students can either read the chords or use the chord symbols to play the chords. Learning about chords is really important for pianists, so it is a big part of what I teach in the Upper Hands Piano method books.
I hope you enjoy playing Waltzing Matilda, perhaps with a piece of toast and vegemite, some barbecued snags (sausages) and maybe a couple of stubbies (beer). It’s summer in Australia, and we can dream….
One of my favorite yearly rituals is to watch the film Groundhog Day on February 1st, the night before Groundhog Day. Bill Murray plays a rude, miserable television weatherman who is on location in Punxsutawney, PA to report on the annual Groundhog Day festivities with his producer, played by Andie McDowell. For some mysterious reason, Bill Murray’s character relives that day over and over, phasing through various attitudes as the days wear on. At first he is frightened, then hopeless, then finally decides to try to become a better person. One of the things he does to redeem himself is to learn to play the piano. We hear him practicing Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, Variation 18, and eventually the first few measures beautifully at the town’s Groundhog Day celebration, while the Andie MacDowell character watches him admiringly.
It’s a beautiful piece, so I thought you might like to learn to play it too! This arrangement is for intermediate pianists. If you would like an easier arrangement, send me (Gaili Schoen) an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also send you the free sheet music from Valentine’s Day 2018, the beautiful Irish tune, Red Is The Rose. Feel free to share my arrangements with other teachers and students.
If you have recently subscribed to my blog, thank you and welcome! Please check out my piano instruction books for adults over 50 on my website, UpperHandsPiano.com. These books teach both classical and popular styles with larger notes and fonts, and emphasize learning chords right away. I’ve done a great deal of scientific research into how the brain learns and retains musical information to help you learn to play the piano as quickly and enjoyably as possible. Learning to play the piano is not easy, but it’s great for your brain and a lot of fun to play, so give it a try! It’s never too late.
You might peruse the topics on the right to see if there’s anything you might like to read or reread. I recently posted 5 Exercises for more experienced pianists to be able to play softer with one hand than the other.
Many subscribers have not been receiving my blog posts for the last couple of months. WordPress is trying to help me resolve the issue, but so far none of their suggestions have worked. It would help me if you left a comment telling me you received this post by email. Or please leave a comment if you did not receive this post by email. Hopefully the issue will be fixed soon! Thanks for hanging in there with me.
I hope you are staying warm and cozy wherever you are. If we’re lucky, the groundhog will predict an early spring! With love and music, Gaili
As you progress in your piano studies an issue will eventually come up that we piano teachers call hand independence, particularly where dynamics (volume) are concerned (also called tone balance). What this means is that more experienced pianists are able to play more softly with one hand than the other. This is an important skill because you want to be able to bring out the melody of a song or piece while keeping the accompaniment softer.
first it feels impossible, like rubbing your stomach while patting your
head! But after some concentrated practice over time (it takes time for
the brain to grasp this skill!) you will be able to play with your
hands at different volumes, naturally.
Toward this end I’ve developed a set of five progressive exercises, each of which you play in all 12 keys (using the first 5 notes of each scale, called the pentascale). It’s important that you do practice each exercise in all 12 keys in order to fully learn the technique. If you haven’t pretty much mastered an exercise by the 12th key (not uncommon at all), play it again in all 12 keys until you’ve got it. I suggest you play the exercises in chromatic order as it is good for the brain to mix it up, with difficult keys following easier keys:
C, D-flat, D, E-flat, E, F, G-flat, G, A-flat, A, B-flat, B.
side benefit, these exercises teach (or review) major triad inversions!
Inversions are when we change the order of the notes of a chord, and are
important to learn. If you’re playing classical music styles you will come upon
inversions all the time, and if you are familiar with them, you will learn the
music more quickly and accurately. If you are playing popular music styles you
will also be playing lots of inverted chords, and it would be great to become
familiar with the chord symbols if you’re playing from “fake books”
or “lead sheets” (treble melodies written with chord symbols above
You might also like trying some ideas by another teacher which involve “ghost playing” with one hand (tapping the keys without depressing them) while the other hand depresses the keys. They are more difficult to learn than my exercises, but you might like using both. Start at 2:25 here.
If you are new to my blog, welcome! Thanks so much for subscribing. Please check out my fun, supportive piano instruction books for adults over 50 on my website, (where you will also find lots of free sheet music, which I give away each month). The Upper Hands Piano books teach both classical and popular styles with larger notes and fonts, and emphasize learning chords. They use the latest scientific data on how the brain learns and retains musical information, to help you learn as quickly and enjoyably as possible.
Speaking of free sheet music, in honor of Groundhog’s Day (Feb 2nd) I will soon be posting an easy-ish arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Variation 18 – Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini that was played by Bill Murray in the beloved movie Groundhog Day (I must admit that I watch it every year!) I can’t include his jazz solo, but there will be a full arrangement of the theme:
hope you are enjoying a beautiful winter wonderland, wherever you are. Here in
Los Angeles it has been raining (which is wonderful for us), but I do feel
envious of the snowscapes I see on Instagram and Facebook. If you are on those
social media platforms, please follow @UpperHandsPiano to get updates on free sheet music and piano
PLEASE feel free to ask questions or share your observations about these 5
exercises (or anything else piano related!) We love to hear from you, and
everyone learns when someone asks questions or shares their experience. Stay
cozy, and enjoy your piano practice!
P.S. Many people have reported that they are no longer receiving my blog posts. I am working on this issue- it’s a technical problem which is not my forte! But I am working with a support team, so hopefully the issue will be resolved soon. So sorry if you have missed some of my posts lately, or if you got this post twice! ;(
Though you might be busy practicing your Christmas carols such as I Saw Three Ships and Silent Night, it occurred to me that you might also like to start practicing Auld Lang Syne for New Year’s Eve, too! So I have posted an arrangement of Auld Lang Syne for the late beginner piano student that you will be able to learn in the next 11 days 🙂 If you have friends who sing or play violin, oboe, flute, recorder, bass or guitar, ask them to join you! They can all read from your music as I have included chord symbols and lyrics.
The song Auld Lang Syne was originally a poem written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788 and set to a traditional tune. “Auld Lang Syne” can be translated to mean “for old time’s sake,” and asks an interesting question: Should we forget about the past or cherish it? I am greatly sentimental and tend to come out on the side of cherishing the parts of my personal history that were meaningful to me, without dwelling too much on painful memories. New Year’s Eve is a great time to reflect upon the past year and set intentions for the coming year. Rather than making resolutions, intentions can help you to learn and grow without the pressure of an end point. If you are interested, read more about Goals vs. Intentions here.
Another reason for me to post a Scottish song is that I have been watching the Scottish series called Shetland on DVD (from the library) lately. It is a BBC murder mystery which isn’t my usual genre, at all. But the characters and story are engaging, the scenery is gorgeous and the music is beautiful. I am a great lover of Celtic music, especially Irish, Scottish and Cape Breton songs and pieces, and Shetland features lilting traditional Scottish background music throughout its episodes. It’s so wonderful when we get to see and hear traditional music played on traditional instruments on the screen.
I hope you are enjoying these last days of 2018. Though I am a pianist, I also enjoy playing Celtic music on a small student-sized accordion. My intention is to practice my accordion a little bit each day if possible, so that I can become a better player. By the time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, I hope to be able to play Irish songs more smoothly. What are your musical intentions for 2019?