Goals, Intentions, Scheduling, Structure

We know that setting goals can be an effective way to focus our practice time. In the past I have held “Pledge to Play: 10 Minutes A Day” challenges, where everyone pledges to get themselves to their benches for at least 10 minutes every day for a month. During those 10 minute practice sessions we concentrated on short-term goals such as learning a difficult musical passage smoothly, memorizing a short piece, or learning the minor 7th chords in all 12 keys, etc. Challenging yourself to practice every day for 10 minutes is a great way to become a better musician, as research shows that daily exposure is the best way to improve.

Pledges can be a great motivational tool, but what about after the 30 days is over? Just as after a weight-loss program, we have to create an enduring plan for maintaining the good practices we cultivate while working towards our musical goals.

When in maintenance mode we might speak in terms of intentions rather than goals. Life coach Jennifer Louden writes that the word intention comes from the Latin “intendere” which means “to stretch toward something.” Louden suggests that while a goal drives you toward a future outcome, an intention helps keep you in the present. Louden writes:

 The goal feels positive, but closed, almost a should, and it doesn’t inspire the imagination nearly as much as the intention, which feels open-ended, expansive, encouraging….

Instead of, or in addition to setting a goal such as, “I will learn this piece in 60 days,” you might want to form an intention, such as, “I am folding piano practice into my life four days per week.” Or, “I am exploring improvisation in my piano studies this year,” etc.

Write down your intention. Then come up with a structure to support it. You can adjust your expectations and intentions as you go along, but a written intention and structure acts as a roadmap. For example, if your intention is to become a more skilled musician, schedule 4-6 piano practice sessions per week in your phone calendar using the repeat: weekly and the alerts functions. Schedule your practice at times that you believe you can consistently follow through. Some might be 10-minute sessions, some might be 30 minutes or more. If you miss a session, reschedule it, or just let it go and look forward to your next scheduled practice. If your intention is to explore improvising, the structure might be scheduling weekly improv, just noodling around on your instrument or trying my improvising exercises, watching jazz, rock, or folk YouTube videos, and planning monthly visits to jazz and folk concerts (when it is safe to attend concerts in your town!) Whatever your intention(s), find a structure that you can embrace. Setting unreasonable expectations is counter-productive.

When you have to leave town and won’t be able to practice, set an intention to put practice aside until you return, and name the date that you will resume your practice routine. That way, your travel becomes part of your intention, and not an aberration.

When days or weeks pass in which you didn’t fulfill your intention, let regrets go. Start fresh the following week doing your best to reinstate your structure. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about process. Keep it light and enjoyable. Intentions are about how you want to live your life. Your intentions are driven by your values. A little guilt is ok if it keeps you aligned with an intention, but don’t let yourself slide into shame and negative self-talk. 

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz

Be brave enough to live creatively…. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You…get there…by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: You will discover yourself.  

-Alan Alda

Please leave a comment below to share your goals or intentions with our piano community, and let us support you! While we are still battling Covid-19, community support is especially important for our emotional well being!

If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of almost 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus posts like this one to motivate and inform. I have written piano instruction books for adults over 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.

I hope you are enjoying a beautiful winter’s day wherever you are. With love and music, Gaili

January Free Sheet Music: Someone to Watch Over Me

Happy New Year Friends!

I always enjoy posting free sheet music for you at the beginning of each month, but on January 1st it’s especially exciting, because it is Public Domain Day! That means that an entire year’s worth of songs (today it is 1926) come into the public domain, and I get to pick one to arrange for you! This year my favorite song to become available is Someone to Watch Over Me by George and Ira Gershwin.

Someone to Watch Over Me has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, and Lady Gaga to name just a few! It’s one of the Gershwins’ most popular collaborations, and I hope you will enjoy playing their beautiful song.

⬇️ Click to print ⬇️

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME

Here’s a demonstration of this arrangement:

This is an arrangement for intermediate pianists. If you are a beginner, print it out now for the future, as it will only be free for 1 year, until December 2022. [After that time you can purchase it on Sheet Music Plus where you can find a lot of my arrangements for songs such as White Christmas, Autumn Leaves, Hallelujah and a lot more!]

🎶  I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood. I know I could, always be good, to one who'll watch over me....🎶

I think we have all been feeling a little lost this year, and we all need someone to watch over us, making sure we’re not getting too isolated during this painful Covid era. New cases are multiplying here in Los Angeles, and I hope that you manage to stay safe and find companionship, wherever you are.

Most of you know that I just released some new books called The Music Remedy last month. A thousand thank yous to those of you who purchased these therapeutic song books (No. 1 – 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Loss to Love, and No. 2 – 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Anxiety to Calm) for yourself or for loved ones! I am hard at work finishing up No. 3 – 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Discouraged to Hopeful! Amazon.com is keeping the price at $9.50 for one more week! Also, If there is an older adult in your life whose New Year’s Resolution is to start or restart playing the piano in 2022, please remember that my Upper Hands Piano books make great gifts!

Ok that’s enough advertising! 😆 It’s time for you to get playing! Please leave a comment below and tell me and our Upper Hands Piano community what you are playing now, and what you might like to play in 2022. Let us know if you are playing Someone to Watch Over Me, and tell us how it’s going! Now that we are locked down again, it’s a great opportunity to play your piano more! Try to sit down for at least 10 minutes each day; daily exposure to a new challenge is the very best and fastest way to learn. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while for you to learn a difficult passage in your piece. Honor your own pace and keep playing!

I’m looking forward to releasing some other pieces that have come into the public domain, throughout this year. I just love arranging songs and pieces for you, and I so appreciate that you have subscribed to my blog! Stay warm, safe and healthy. We can get through these difficult times, apart but together, sitting on our benches, playing music from the heart.

With love and music, Gaili

Announcing… New Books and Free Holiday Sheet Music!

Click to view on Amazon.com
Click to view on Amazon.com

My series called The Music Remedy launched today!

For the past year I have been hard at work researching, selecting, arranging and editing songs and pieces for a new series of sheet music books called, The Music Remedy. For many of us, playing music was the best medicine during the Covid-19 pandemic, getting us through the isolation, the anxiety, and our many losses. In The Music Remedy books we target some of life’s most problematic obstacles, offering songs and pieces to help the musician (pianist, guitarist, vocalist) move through distressing emotions to a more positive and balanced emotional state. Piano players and guitarists who have tested these books report that playing (and singing) these songs and pieces helped them to cope with painful feelings; they also reported that the pieces renewed their optimism, restoring a sense of well-being. Playing and singing the songs in The Music Remedy: No. 1: – 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Loss to Love, helped them to extend themselves to people and to open to the idea of bringing a new love into their lives. The Music Remedy: No. 2 – 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Anxiety to Calm helped musicians to relax and trust that they would be safe. It’s been so exciting creating music books that might help people feel better (while also boosting their brain power, of course!) But even if you aren’t experiencing these issues, the pieces within The Music Remedy books are beautiful, melodic, and fun to play!

You can click the images above to order on Amazon, or click here to view sample pages and song lists for each book.

This month only, The Music Remedy books are on sale for $9.50! On January 1st they go up to $12.95, so buy now!

On TheMusicRemedy.com you can find links to video demonstrations for every song in each book. I think you’ll find that watching the videos will help you to learn the pieces more quickly and accurately. All of these arrangements range from the early to late intermediate levels. I hope that you will consider giving these books as gifts, or buying them for yourself (as my student Joan says, playing the piano is the best therapy!)

As an added incentive, if you buy ANY of my books this month (Upper Hands Piano levels 1-4, Songs of the Seasons: Spring, Summer, Winter or Autumn, Piano Powered, or The Music Remedy) send a screen shot of your receipt to me at UpperHandsPiano@gmail.com, and I will send you some free holiday music- Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, Deck The Halls, Dona Nobis, I Saw Three Ships, Jingle Bells, Joyful Joyful, Little Drummer Boy, The Nutcracker Suite, O Christmas Tree, Oh Chanukah, Oh Holy Night, Sevivon, Silent Night, and Vivaldi’s Winter. Request one or request them all! That’s just this month, December 2021.

Selling my books helps me to support this blog so that I can continue to offer you free sheet music each month, so I hope you don’t mind my advertising today! Many thanks for your kind and generous support. Happy Holidays friends!

With love and music, Gaili

December Free Sheet Music (Bach’s Jesu) and Announcement!

Photo of an early piano with a book of Bach pieces

Happy Holidays!

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration and are enjoying the anticipation of the holiday season. Today I am posting a simplified arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, a popular holiday choral piece written by composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1723. Here is my favorite lyric from the piece:

Through the way where hope is guiding, Hark, what peaceful music rings!

I have simplified, shortened and transposed Jesu and I hope you or your students enjoy playing it this winter.:

Here’s a slow video demonstration of my simplified arrangement ⬆️

For more advanced piano students, click below for the original arrangement:




Today I am extremely excited to announced that my new sheet music book series will be published soon!

I have been working on these books during the pandemic, with the idea that playing music is the best medicine for getting through life’s most difficult times. Here’s how one of my editors described the series:

The Music Remedy is a unique series of songbooks presenting beautiful, inspiring, and passionate music to help balance and uplift your emotional state.

Just as we listen to playlists for inspiration, for de-stressing or for love songs on stations like Pandora or Apple Music, I have created piano-play-lists for times when we need to de-stress, get inspired, or find love again (with many more titles to come!)

The Music Remedy Series is written for the early to late intermediate pianist (and singers and guitarists), with melodic, easy-to-read classical and popular pieces. And there will be video demonstrations of every piece on my new website, which will launch the same day as the books! Here are a few of the upcoming titles:

  • The Music Remedy: No. 1 – 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Loss to Love (releasing Dec 2021)
  • The Music Remedy: No. 2 – 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Anxiety to Calm (releasing Dec 2021)
  • The Music Remedy: No. 3 – 12 Passionate Pieces to Move You from Discouraged to Hopeful (releasing Spring 2022)

Each book will cost $12.95 on Amazon or in bookstores, and I will purchase a few to sell also. I will tell you more about my books as soon as they are available for purchase, but I wanted to tell you a little about them just in case you’re looking for a holiday gift for that piano-lover in your life!

I hope you don’t mind my little self-promotion today. Most of the time I use my blog to give away free sheet music, worksheets and practice tips, but sometimes I also need to reach out and tell you what I am creating for sale. I will post again when Books 1 and 2 are available. Of course I also have my Upper Hands Piano instruction books for adults over 50, plus my Songs of the Seasons sheet music collections for beginners. I love books, so for me the combination of writing books and arranging music is pure magic.

Thanks so much for following my blog. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! With love and gratitude, Gaili

P.S. Email me upperhandspiano@gmail.com if you would like simplified arrangements of Sevivon or Oh Chanukah! Happy Chanukah friends!

November Free Sheet Music: We Have Much to Be Thankful For, by Irving Berlin

It is November at last, and having enjoyed a nearly normal Halloween, I think many of us are looking forward to gathering in-person with loved ones for Thanksgiving. I usually post one of the two Thanksgiving favorites in November — Over The River and Through the Wood, or We Gather Together — because the holiday seems to demand these festive traditional songs! But there is another (somewhat obscure) Thanksgiving song written by the great Irving Berlin in 1912 called We Have Much to Be Thankful For that you might enjoy playing for your Thanksgiving guests this year. I love this song it because it is about gratitude, and being thankful for being alive. Click to print my simplified arrangement:

We Have Much to Be Thankful For (simplified)

If you would like to play the original sheet music CLICK HERE (pages 3-5)

I also wanted to let you know that next month I will have some exciting news about a new songbook series I will be releasing before the holidays. My editors are taking their final look at all of the sheet music, making sure I have the lyrics, chord symbols, fingering and notes all as they should be. I can’t wait to tell you about my new books! But I will wait until they are completely ready, when I am sure that all of the songs and pieces are just right.

To celebrate a month of thanksgiving, I am going to keep a gratitude journal, and I want to invite you to join me! Some people find that when they keep a gratitude journal they feel happier and less stressed in their daily lives. If you’re interested in keeping a gratitude journal, just write down 3-5 things that you’re grateful for each day, for the month of November (or even just a week or two). It can be something as basic as being grateful for having a home or a piano, or for your eyesight or hearing, as in our Irving Berlin song. Or you might write a sentence about something someone said to you that made you feel good, or the color of the leaves on the trees you see on your morning walk…. Sometimes just noticing the beauty around us can evoke feelings of joy and deep appreciation. Leave a comment with any observations you would be willing to share about how keeping a gratitude journal is affecting you this month.

I want to wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving, and I hope you stay healthy and happy throughout the season. I am deeply grateful to all of you for following my blog, and for the kind comments and questions you put forth. It’s a wonderful feeling for me to see that so many of you are clicking on and printing my arrangements; it gives my life meaning and elevates my sense of purpose. Thanks so much for meeting me here each month.

With love, music and gratitude, Gaili

October Free Sheet Music: Chopin’s Prelude 20

📷 by Ehud Neuhaus

A thousand pardons for my late posting this month. I have been on a long working/vacation, and wasn’t able to post my music remotely. I hope that Chopin’s Prelude No. 20 was worth your wait! It’s the perfect spooky music for Halloween, and at only 🦇13🦇 measures you’ll have time to learn it before the zombies💀 rise!

You might remember this prelude as the opening to Barry Manilow’s Could It Be Magic, and it was Rachmaninoff’s inspiration for his Variations on a Theme of Chopin. It is beautiful and dark, and fun to play!

Chopin wrote his Prelude No. 20 in the key of C minor. I transposed it to A minor and deleted some of the less influential notes to help it fit under your fingers more easily. You can print my arrangement here:

Chopin’s Prelude No. 20 (simplified)

Demonstration of Chopin’s Prelude No. 20 simplified

You can print Chopin’s original sheet music for Prelude No. 20 in C minor here:

I hope you are enjoying Autumn wherever you are! I have been learning more about helping my students to overcome obstacles to joyful music making. I will be sharing more about that in future posts. For now, be sure to print the sheet music for We Gather Together on my FREE SHEET MUSIC page before it disappears on October 31st! We Gather Together is a classic Thanksgiving hymn about gratitude that you might want to play for your family celebration.

Hope your Halloween’s a scream! With love and music, Gaili

September Free Sheet Music: Maple Leaf Rag

As we inch closer to the turning of the seasons, I thought I would share my early -intermediate arrangement of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag with you! My Maple Leaf Rag arrangement is my #1 selling sheet music on Sheet Music Plus, so I thought you might like to play it too! Remember it will only be available for free through August 2022, so print it today! The arrangement is two pages long, and covers Joplin’s main theme:

PRINT Maple Leaf Rag

The arrangement is from my Songs of the Seasons: AUTUMN sheet music book series, available on Amazon. Here are demonstrations of this arrangement in two tempos:

Maple Leaf Rag- SLOW TEMPO (play at this tempo as you are learning the notes and rhythms)
Maple Leaf Rag- FAST TEMPO (reach for this tempo after you feel comfortable with the notes and rhythms)

For advanced pianists who would like to play the Maple Leaf Rag in its original form, download here:

Happy September piano friends! Autumn is my favorite season, and even though we don’t have a lot of deciduous trees in southern California, we do see some Japanese Maples on certain streets, and we just love them! I’m looking forward to cool evenings, fall holidays, wearing sweaters, making soups, reading books by our fireplace and getting cozy at the piano.

Have you been playing the Moonlight Sonata from my July and August blog posts? If you have been enjoying the slow, haunting beauty of Beethoven’s Adagio theme, I hope you are ready for some perky, uptempo Scott Joplin this month 🙂

This month I find myself with two openings for piano students! If you are looking for an online piano teacher for yourself or someone else, email me at upperhandspiano@gmail.com for details.

I hope you have a lovely September. Are there some pieces you like to revisit or books you like to reread in Autumn? Share your favorites with us or give us an update on your piano progress in the comments below. With love and music, Gaili

August Free Sheet Music: Moonlight Sonata pt. 2 (transposed to E minor)

As promised I have posted Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (transposed to E minor) pt. 2 on my website today. Have you been playing pt. 1 during the last month? How is it going for you? Do you feel ready to move on to the second half of the piece? If not, no problem, print it today and start it whenever you feel ready. Practicing pieces in small sections is the best way to gain deep learning.

PRINT Moonlight Sonata pt. 2

Remember, I post my free sheet music for just 1 year, so print today! After a year you can purchase this arrangement on Sheet Music Plus.

In case you missed it, you can visit my July post to print Moonlight Sonata pt. 1, watch a demonstration video for pt. 1 of this arrangement, or print the original sheet music. Here is a demonstration video for today’s pt. 2, pages 3-6 I count it off in case you would like to play with me:

In other news, this week I am presenting as well as attending seminars at the National Conference for Keyboard Pedagogy, an online conference for piano teachers. It is inspiring and stimulating to share techniques, ideas and stories with other piano teachers! At this morning’s session one presenter shared this gorgeous poem by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, an abolitionist, suffragist poet, born in 1825:

Let me make the songs for the people, Songs for the old and young; Songs to stir like a battle-cry  Wherever they are sung.

Not for the clashing of sabres, For carnage nor for strife; But songs to thrill the hearts of men  With more abundant life.

Let me make the songs for the weary, Amid life’s fever and fret, Till hearts shall relax their tension,  And careworn brows forget.

Let me sing for little children, Before their footsteps stray, Sweet anthems of love and duty,  To float o’er life’s highway.

I would sing for the poor and aged, When shadows dim their sight; Of the bright and restful mansions,  Where there shall be no night.

Our world, so worn and weary, Needs music, pure and strong, To hush the jangle and discords Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

Music to soothe all its sorrow, Till war and crime shall cease; And the hearts of men grown tender Girdle the world with peace.

With that I bid you a you a wonder-ful August, and enjoy tonight’s full moon! 🌝🌝🌝

With love and music, Gaili

Check out my website and my piano method and song books for adults over 50:

July Free Sheet Music: Moonlight Sonata (transposed to E minor!)

Many piano players bemoan the fact that they would love to play Beethoven’s gorgeous Moonlight Sonata, except for the fact that Beethoven wrote it in C# minor, which has 4 sharps 🤦🏽. That just seems like too much to take on for most of us. So I took up the challenge and transposed the entire first movement to E minor.

At first I tried transposing it to D minor, but then realized that if I moved it a bit higher, I could avoid moving the right hand into the bass clef here and there, which pianists find confusing. As a result, some of the notes are very low on the treble staff, so feel free to write the letter names next to (not above or below) the notes you haven’t yet learned. Note that this is not a simplified arrangement. All of the original notes are present, I just made it a bit easier to read and play.

(Click here if you would like to read about how Beethoven’s Sonata quasi una Fantasia – “Sonata in the manner of a fantasy” – became known as the Moonlight Sonata.)

You will also notice that I made the notes a bit bigger than the original; the result is that it is 6 pages instead of 4. Sorry about that! You can tape them together and fold them into a book. I like to spread out the first 4 pages on my music stand, then have only one page turn to the last 2 pages.

I have posted the first 3 pages today, and below I demonstrate the first 3 pages in a Youtube video. Remember that the fingering I wrote is just a suggestion, mostly taken from the original. If you find a fingering you like better, be sure to cross mine out and write yours in. I will post pages 4-6 (for free) next month; be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!

*Click to print: MOONLIGHT SONATA in E minor*

* My sheet music is only available for free for a year. So print it today! *

Click below to print: The ORIGINAL Moonlight Sonata (for the purist!)

How is your summer going so far? Have you been able to get yourself to the bench to play your piano? It’s not too late to start a mid-summer challenge to play the Moonlight Sonata in E minor. Remember, playing the piano is one of the best ways to boost your brain function, and doing something creative like playing a beautiful piece has also been shown to promote good health and a sense of well-being and to lower stress. Hope you enjoy playing the first half, and be sure to subscribe so that you get an email when the second half is available in August (for free of course– every month I give away free sheet music, and never charge or spam you). Leave a comment and let us know how you’re doing with this piece, or tell us what else you are playing. Are you struggling with a piece or not understanding something in your music? We invite piano-related comments and questions any time!

Thanks for subscribing! I hope you get a lot out valuable information from my blog! Check out my old posts on the right ➡️ to find more free sheet music to print, and lots of practice tips and music theory print-outs. With love and music, Gaili

Check out some of my music books! Piano instruction books for adults over 50, seasonal songbooks, and wide-ruled manuscript books:

June Free Sheet Music: Nocturne from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

📷 by David Holifield

Felix Mendelssohn wrote his Overture (Op. 21) for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1826 when he was just 17 years old, to great acclaim. Sixteen years later in 1842 he completed the score for the play (op. 61) to include his famous Wedding March and this gorgeous Nocturne which celebrates summer, marriage, fairies, nature and dreams.

CLICK TO PRINT A Midsummer Night’s Dream NOCTURNE

Demonstration of Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

If you have used my Upper Hands Piano method books for adults over 50, you played the first page of my Nocturne arrangement in Book 4. However I have now expanded that arrangement to include some extra harmonies and the 2nd section of theme.

This is an intermediate arrangement. Beginners can play the top note in the treble staff- that is the melody line.

For the original sheet music click below:

I hope you are enjoying the increased hours of daylight! The summer solstice (and longest day of the year) is June 20th this year, and Midsummer Night is traditionally celebrated on June 23rd. If you start practicing today, you can play this Nocturne then!

Are you becoming more social after being vaccinated? I am loving getting together with friends and family I haven’t seen since March. There is so much joy in the ordinary pleasures of life. I am continuing to do porch concerts with neighbors and can feel that I am getting better at playing my accordion. I just got my piano tuned and am enjoying playing through this Nocturne as well as some old jazz standards I’ve wanted to learn. What are you playing right now? What are you struggling with in your music? Please leave us a comment, question or observation?!!

Have you been playing the Exercises in Thirds I recently posted? I’ve heard from a few students and piano teachers that the exercises are really helping students play with increased skill and speed, so I hope you will check them out!

Happy June, and have a happy, healthy summer. With love and music, Gaili

Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul