One of my favorite pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach is his Cello Suite No. 1. It was popularized in the 2009 film, The Soloist, about a reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) who writes a story about a schizophrenic homeless cellist (Jamie Foxx) who had once been a music student at Juilliard.
The Cello Suite No. 1 is so beautiful and captivating, I wondered if I could arrange it for piano. Since it is in the cello’s range, I put both hands in bass staves. It will feel strange playing bass notes in both hands, but it is a great means to practicing reading bass notes, and because it is so different than what you are used to, it provides a particularly potent brain workout. I divided the melody line many ways, testing it over and over until I found which hand worked best for each note. The notes in the upper staff are played with the right hand, and the notes in the lower staff are played with the left. I provided a lot of fingering, but as always, if you find a fingering you like better, or prefer to switch notes to the other hand, feel free to make changes– just remember to stay consistent with fingering and hand assignments! You can also add dynamics as you feel them.
Here’s a demonstration of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, arranged for piano:
Please leave a comment and let our community know what your experience is playing this piece. Are you enjoying it? Does it feel extremely challenging, or are you finding it easy to play?
Remember I post free sheet music for only a year. If you are reading this after June 2020, the sheet music will be gone. You can email me at email@example.com to request a copy. You might also want some of the favorites I have had to take down recently- sheet music for The Water Is Wide, Clair de lune, or the July 4th favorite, Yankee Doodle Dandy! Just send me an email and I’ll send it to you asap.
How is your summer going so far? My little garden is extremely happy these days. We had a good rainy winter this year, so my hydrangeas are finally showing me what they can do! And I am finding new creative ways to use my abundant zucchini crop (don’t gardeners just love to brag?! Since my children live in NY and I don’t have any pets at the moment, I’m focusing my motherly attention on my plants 😆).
I recently came upon the song Tico Tico in a book of songs played by the French Gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, and fell in love with it. Tico Tico is a spicy Brazilian Samba in a minor key, with a dark, dramatic, sexy rhythmic feel.
My arrangement is not easy, but worth the effort if you are an intermediate student or beyond. I have included fingering for nearly every note, because as we piano teachers know, if you want to play fast, first learn your pieces slowly with good, consistent fingering! (Feel free to change the fingering if you would like, but play it slowly enough so that you can learn your fingering correctly right from the start.)
I love world music and think it is great for students to experience playing melodies and rhythms from non-western music.
On our Free Sheet Music page you will also see 11 other pieces from the last 12 months. Please print whatever appeals to you today, as each piece can only be posted for a year. If you are reading this and Tico Tico is no longer available, please contact me though my website: UpperHandsPiano.com, and I can send you a copy.
Here is a very old arrangement I found for Tico Tico- it has Russian writing on it, so I guess it has found popularity all over the world! This original music features a growly moving bass line that might fun to play for advanced students:
I hope you are enjoying a warm June weekend, wherever you are.
What’s one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.
If you plan on taking a vacation and don’t wish to lose ground on your piano progress, read my post called The Think System, about how you can maintain your piano skills whether you are in flight or enjoying a luxurious day on the beach
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com. 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