Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere! Though it feels like our cold, wet winter will never end here in California, my garden is abloom with the vibrant colors of spring. I love the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes with their equal measures of darkness and light, because it reminds me to think about balance: to balance work with play ⚖️ intensity with calm ⚖️ solitude with social activities ⚖️
For piano players, it is also a great time to learn or review Dynamic Balance exercises – drills that can help you to play louder with one hand than the other. This is an important skill for bringing out melodies and for playing ostinato (repeating) lines more gently. (Note: Dynamic Balance exercises are for more experienced piano students – intermediate and beyond.) I have made videos of my six exercises to help you increase dynamic balance and overall finger control. Read my post HERE; play the exercises in all 12 keys at least 3-4 days per week during the spring season, and by summer you will notice that your hands can move more independently! Stronger, more agile hands will enable you to play more expressively, and that is what we’re going for. These exercises are not all that fun or creative; but as one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert said,
“The difference between those who do and those who wish to do is often those who can bear the tedium.” 😅
So balance out these exercises by playing some or your favorite songs and pieces, while enjoying the increased agility and power they will bring to your fingers!
With love and music, Gaili
P.S. If you are ready for some new books, here are some of my favorites:
I have a remedy for your poor frozen fingers! Playing The Blues should give them a good thaw!
If you are a more experienced player, you might be curious about playing The Blues. One Blues style is Boogie-Woogie, and it is primarily a piano genre featuring a repeating percussive bass part. I wanted to give you a little lesson in Boogie-Woogie Blues because it sounds SO great. Though it’s difficult to learn, it is also a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. The structure is a 12 measure repeating pattern. Boogie is all about the bass, and I’ll show you that the way you play the bass eighth notes will determine whether it will sound like Rock and Roll, or a traditional Blues. You will notice this sign in the bass staff:
It simply means to repeat the (bass) notes from the previous measure.
NOTE: Less experienced piano players can play just the downbeats, which means beats 1, 2, 3 and 4. Leave off the upbeats, or the “ands” (the second eighth note of each eighth note couplet) for a simpler, but still Boogie Blues piano bass.
⇧This sheet music will only be available for a year, until February 2024, so print today!⇧
When you play the Boogie left hand eighth notes evenly, it sounds like Rock and Roll; think Jerry Lee Lewis or Chuck Berry. Here is a demonstration of Blues #1 in a Roll and Roll style, first slowly, then faster.
I’m going to play you Blues #1 again, this time in a “Swing” rhythm, in which the eighth notes are played long-short, long-short. All the eighth notes played ON the beat (beats 1, 2, 3, and 4 which are also called the downbeats) are long, and the second eighth note of each couplet (the “ands” which are also called the upbeats) are played short. This gives it the lazy, long-short sound we associate with traditional blues. Think Muddy Waters, Albert Ammons and Billie Holiday.
Here is Blues #2 in a medium tempo with the even eighth notes Rock and Roll style.
Now listen to Blues #2 with the traditional long-short Swing rhythm.
Which style of The Blues do you prefer? The driving even eighth notes of Rock and Roll? Or the slow, lazy sound of traditional blues? Both feature a boogie-woogie bass, but the rhythm you choose changes the “feel” dramatically!
I hope you are staying warm and dry wherever you are. In just a few weeks it will be the SPRING EQUINOX, a time for restoring balance in our lives and at the piano. This is a great month to review my Dynamic Balance Exercises. Dynamic Balance is the ability to play one hand softer or louder than the other. This exercise is also a skill for more experienced piano players.
Beginners: did you know that I am offering free video piano lessons to take you through Upper Hands Piano BOOK 1, on the Sixty and Me community platform? So far I have posted my Introduction and Lessons 1, 2, 3 and 4. To get started, visit the FREE LESSONS tab on my website, then subscribe to Sixty and Me to continue getting my lesson posts. These lessons are created especially for Adults over 50. You can join any time and go at your own pace. I hope you enjoy!
Stay warm and cozy, and start learning The Blues this month! Most everyone loves listening to The Blues – it is such an elemental African-American music form. I have many more Blues pages to offer you in the future (always free), so get started!
Our beloved Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on this day, January 27, in 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. To celebrate his birthday and to set the mood for February, the month of love 💌, I have arranged Mozart’s Romanze, the beautifully tender and tranquill 2nd Movement of his piece Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. I have arranged a Romanze movement for both beginners and intermediate pianists, and have also included the advanced sheet music below.
I hope you celebrate Mozart’s birthday by listening to and playing some of his exquisitely beautiful music! Have a great weekend wherever you are, and enjoy a Romanze-filled February! With love and music, Gaili
P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus worksheets, practice tips and information on music and the brain. I have written piano instruction books for older adults (UpperHandsPiano.com), younger adults and teens (PianoPowered.com), Songs of the Seasonspiano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books calledThe Music Remedy: sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view a few of them on Amazon.com.
As I have been hinting, I have started offering free video piano lessons through a wonderful online newsletter called Sixty and Me. Many of the posts on Sixty and Me are geared towards women, but my video piano lessons are for everyone. We will be making our way through my Upper Hands PianoBook 1 together, with a new lesson posting every two weeks. I think that many of you might be beyond the Book 1 level, but if you know anyone who might like to try free video piano lessons (all you need to buy is my book – scroll down), please forward this post to them. I hope to reach many people who might not otherwise try piano lessons, so please help me spread the word!
Of course learning one on one with a piano teacher is the very best way to learn to play, but if that isn’t possible right now, you might enjoy my free video piano lessons! All you have to do is subscribe to Sixty and Me (a daily newsletter of interest to adults over 50) and you will get my free video lessons every two weeks via the newsletter (every other Thursday is the plan).
Click here to watch my introductory video, and subscribe to the newsletter. Then you’re in!
Hope your year is off to a great start! With love and Music, Gaili
Canadian Friends can order Upper Hands Piano BOOK 1 here
UK Friends can order Upper Hands Piano BOOK 1 here.
Australian friends, Amazon is currently out of my books, but I am hoping they will get them back in stock soon!
January 1st is the most wonderful day for music arrangers; known as Public Domain Day, it’s the day that a whole year’s worth of songs and pieces (plus other media) come into the public domain. Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies (published in 1927) just came into the public domain today, so I am super excited to be able to offer a free piano/guitar/vocal arrangement of this popular song to you! Blue Skies has been recorded by many of the greats: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Willie Nelson to name just a few. And even though this is an “intermediate” arrangement, even a “late beginner” could play it by playing just the bottom notes in the bass, and just the top notes in the treble. My Blue Skies arrangement is just one page, with two repeated sections, so you will be able to learn it quickly!
This arrangement will only be available for free for one year, so be sure to print it now!
Do you have any resolutions for 2023? Or maybe, if you are like me, you write in your journal at the beginning of each new year about things (attributes, changes, improvements, etc.) you want to bring into your life in the coming year, and things (attitudes, fears, obstacles, etc.) you want to let go of. I also like to choose three primary areas to focus on over the course of the year, and I check my list every quarter to see how I am progressing in those areas. For example, in 2023 I might choose: 1) Practice piano and accordion every Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. 2) Cook vegetarian dishes 4 days per week. 3) Spend more time with friends. I think a lifetime of learning new things and growing as a musician and as a person keeps us interesting to others and interested and engaged in our own lives. And of course, self-examination and change is good for the brain, and the spirit.
Do you have any beginning of the year rituals or practices? I always enjoy hearing ideas about how people ring in their new years.
I hope 2023 brings you peace, joy and love, and that you find time to play your piano consistently. I have some big news about free video piano classes (which will follow my Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 1) I will be giving in 2023 via an online community called Sixty and Me. I’ll give you more information in a couple weeks, but if it sounds interesting for yourself or a loved one, you might like to check out: Sixty and Me. For now, I hope you will enjoy Blue Skies, wherever you are!
With love and music, Gaili
P.S. below you can click to view some of my books on Amazon, or click HERE to view my book descriptions, song lists and sample pages on my website.
The Music Remedy No. 3: 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Discouraged to Hopeful is on the shelves! My team and I have been working hard to get this book finished for the holidays. It’s available now on Amazon and can get to you or a loved one in 2 days.
I started writing The Music Remedy books during the pandemic, because as it says in the introduction, “…listening to and playing music is deeply therapeutic, and more often than not, we musicians have the power to take our emotions into our own hands and literally play our blues away.”
The Music Remedy: No. 3 was created for anyone who is feeling discouraged, and might benefit from some musical therapy (piano players, guitarists and singers can all use it). Here is a list of the songs and pieces in this book:
As you can see, The Music Remedy No. 3 is an eclectic mix of classical, jazz and popular music. I love the old jazz standard Everything Happens to Me, and I think Peter Gabriel’sDon’t Give Up is one of the best songs ever written. My arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is now 3 pages long (I’ve pared it down a bit from the 4-page arrangement I gave away a couple years ago, and it feels just like the right length now), highlighting the most beautiful themes. (I also shortened the Moonlight Sonata!🌙) I love all of the pieces in this book, and worked hard to curate the best music I could find, to help you move from feeling discouraged, to feeling hopeful.
I hope you might consider purchasing one of my Music Remedy books for yourself or a loved one this holiday season! They are art books as well as sheet music collections, which makes them great for gifts, or for treating yourself. Learn more on my website. By the way, Amazon has discounted all three books to $10.95 each, until the end of December.
You might also want to consider giving one of my Songs of the Seasons ⬇️ music books (Winter, Spring, Summer, or Autumn) which are arranged for beginners (years 1-3), or my ⬅️Upper Hands Piano books for older adults who might want to learn or re-learn how to play the piano.
OK, commercial over! Usually I offer free sheet music, worksheets and practice tips on this blog, but I hope you don’t mind if once in awhile I tell you about my books.
Soon I will tell you about a great new free offering for beginning piano students! But for now, I want to wish you all a wonderful week of holiday music and magic. We celebrate the return of the light 🌞on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year! Many thanks for your support, and Happy Holidays! With Love and Music, Gaili
I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving, filled with music, love and gratitude. Today I got out my holiday cookie recipes and am looking forward to baking for my piano students!
This month I wanted to offer you an arrangement of the Ukrainian Bell Carol which we call Carol of the Bells. It’s a beautiful carol with a mesmerizing ostinato (a musical phrase that repeats throughout a piece) and not too difficult to play:
Carol of the Bells will only be free for 1 year so print today!
I also have created an arrangement for the traditional Hanukkah song, Rock of Ages (A.K.A. Ma’oz Tsur) for early intermediate piano. If my arrangement is too difficult for you, leave off the top note of any bass chord, and the bottom note of any treble interval.
I hope that wherever and however you celebrate this holiday season, you will enjoy playing and giving the gift of music. And maybe send some love to the embattled Ukrainians as you play Carol of the Bells.
I have some BIG news coming soon about my new book, and about a new project I have begun to offer free video piano lessons to older adult beginners. More news about these projects in the coming weeks. Many thanks for your support, and I hope you enjoy playing Rock of Ages and Carol of the Bells this month! I LOVE your comments! Tell us what you are playing or what you would like to play on the piano?! Or just say “hi!” I love getting to know who is receiving and playing my free arrangements!
With love and music, Gaili
P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus worksheets, practice tips and information on music and the brain. I have written piano instruction books for older adults (UpperHandsPiano.com), younger adults and teens (PianoPowered.com), Songs of the Seasons piano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books called The Music Remedy – sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view a few of them on Amazon.com.
For my monthly free sheet music I wanted to give you a sneak preview from my forthcoming new piano songbook called The Music Remedy, No. 3: 12 Pieces to Move You from Discouraged to Hopeful. I am finishing my arrangements and am working with the graphic artist on the artwork for the book. I’m so excited to share it with you, that I want to give you one piece from the book now, even though it doesn’t include the artwork yet.
Gymnopedie No. 1 was composed by the French composer Erik Satie, as part of his set of pieces called Trois Gymnopedies. I have simplified it a bit to make it easier to read and play for the intermediate pianist. The piece might sound familiar to you, as it has been frequently featured in films and television shows. I love it for its tranquil, pensive quality, which feels appropriate to the season, and the end of Daylight Savings Time (in my state, this Sunday!) To shorten my video a little, I went straight to the CODA without taking the D.C. in my demonstration video:
Remember, my sheet music is only available free for 1 year, so print today if you think you might like to play this piece sometime in the future! You can print it from my website:
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving however you choose to celebrate. This month I plan to write in my Gratitude Journal every day, at least 2 or 3 things for which I am grateful. If you have never kept a gratitude journal you might consider it, as research shows that thinking about what you appreciate in your life can elevate mood and calm the spirit. Sometimes you might write a small simple thing such as gratitude for the light shining through your window in the morning, beautiful leaves on a tree, or the delicious taste of your morning coffee. Other times you might be grateful for finding time to practice, for the beauty of your piece, or your ability to play a difficult passage in your music a little bit better than the last time you played it. You might be grateful for help from a family member, for your good health (even if it’s not perfect, it could be worse!), your friends, your food, your opportunities, your home, your life. This is the journal I have, but there are many – look for them at your local bookstore, or create your own from a notebook!
Try keeping a gratitude journal this month with me, and see how you feel. Everyone I know that has taken the time to write a few grateful observations each night, reported feeling happier. When you are looking for things to be grateful for, you notice more beauty in the world, and more of what is good, and working well, instead of focusing on what is not working well. Anyway, just a thought! Leave a comment below and tell us what you are grateful for and what you might be playing on your piano for loved ones at your Thanksgiving celebration!
Today, I am especially grateful for my job as a piano teacher, for my love of music, and for you, my readers who follow my blog, play from my sheet music, and make me feel useful. I hope you enjoy playing Gymnopedie No. 1, and enjoy this month of Gratitude!
One of my favorite pieces of all times is The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. Autumn from The Four Seasons is particularly melodic and uplifting, and the first Allegromovement includes a lot of repetition which makes it easier to learn.
I hope you are enjoying the first fruits of fall in your part of the world. Here in Los Angeles we are still experiencing a long drought with hot, humid weather. Later this month my husband and I will be taking a trip to New York to visit our daughter and her fiancé, and to enjoy the fall foliage. I can’t wait to have soups and put on sweaters! Fall is my favorite season and I just love being on the east coast, seeing the pumpkins and the fall harvest at farm stands on Long Island. I took the photo at the top of this post several years ago when I was visiting my daughter for a Cornell University Parents Weekend event. Since then I try to visit the east coast every October. We got our Omicron BA.4 & 5 vaccine update which gives me extra confidence to fly. Have you taken any flights recently? I’m a little nervous about it, but am plunging forward nevertheless.
Leave us a comment below and tell us what you will be practicing this Autumn. I am learning some Django Reinhardt tunes on the accordion– they are very challenging for me, (I’m not a great accordion player) but fun!
With love and music, Gaili
P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus worksheets, practice tips and information on music and the brain. I have written piano instruction books for older adults (UpperHandsPiano.com), younger adults and teens (PianoPowered.com), Songs of the Seasons piano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books calledThe Music Remedy – sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. I am working on The Music Remedy No. 3: 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Discouraged to Hopeful, right now and hope to have it available soon! Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view a few of them on Amazon.com.
Happy September Piano Friends! Lately I have been posting a lot of classical sheet music, so today I thought I would offer something popular. I watched Sleepless in Seattle lately and was reminded of how much I like the song Bye Bye Blackbird. In the movie, the little boy Jonah’s mother used to sing it to him when he had nightmares, and the song is featured throughout the movie.
I have arranged Bye Bye Blackbird for Advanced, Intermediate and Easier-to-Play (not exactly for the earliest beginners, but will be a comfortable challenge for those who have been playing for 6 months or more.)
The Advanced arrangement is available for only a year, so print it now!
I have made a demonstration video of how an advanced player might approach my arrangement. Notice that I am keeping strict time with my left hand accompaniment, but I play the right hand melody with a rubato jazzy feel. With popular music, especially jazz, you don’t necessarily have to play the melody exactly as written, but you do want to keep a constant beat with your left hand.
For Intermediate players, both hands stay in time, and there are fewer notes and chords:
Beginners might like to try this arrangement I call “Easier to Play” because nothing is EASY when you are first learning to play the piano. There are so many notes to learn when you are a beginner! Just take it slowly, learning a few measures at a time.
I hope you or your students enjoy playing one (or all!) of these arrangements. Bye Bye Blackbird has been recorded by Joe Cocker [excerpt from Sleepless In Seattle], Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Miles Davis and so many other artists!
September has always been the time for new beginnings: new classes, new clothes, new school supplies, new projects, the bountiful Fall harvest, and the gradual drawing back within our homes and ourselves as the climate cools. Besides loving the stunning colors of Fall I enjoy the quiet time between the busy summer and holiday seasons because it can be an optimal time for focus and intention. If you are like me, “more piano” has always been at the top of my Autumn to-do list. Remember that cognitive science shows that short daily exposure to a challenging skill reaps better rewards than one long practice session per week. Try to play for at least 10 minutes per day, at least 5 days per week, to keep progressing.
What are you playing now? Leave us a comment below so that we can support your practice! Are there any pieces you plan to study this Fall? Hope you are staying safe and cool wherever you are. With love and Music, Gaili
P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus posts to motivate and inform. I have written piano instruction books specifically for adults 50+ (UpperHandsPiano.com), younger adults and teens (PianoPowered.com), Songs of the Seasons piano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books called The Music Remedy – sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view them on Amazon.com. Thanks for your support!