Well this may be the least eventful Halloween we have ever experienced, but we can still have fun watching spooky movies and playing spooky music. I think Chopin’s Marche Funèbre (Funeral March) is one of the most ominous pieces ever written, and it is super fun to play. John Williams based his Darth Vader Theme (The Imperial March) on Chopin’s piece, so it will sound very familiar to Star Wars fans! I have simplified the piece for the late beginner/early intermediate player, and I am also posting the original sheet music for the more advanced pianist:
The simplified arrangement is from my Songs of the Seasons: Autumn book (I have a sheet music songbook for each season, all available on Amazon – see below!)
What are you doing on Halloween? Halloween is such a fun neighborhood activity, and we are so sad to not be giving out candy this year. But my husband and I host a singalong every Friday night from our front porch, and this Friday we and our neighbors will all be in costume, so we will still feel social, even though we will be distanced. This year wearing a scary mask will be de rigeur! On Halloween night (Saturday) there will be a full moon (aka a “blue moon”, because it is the 2nd full moon in October!), and the end of daylight savings time in California.
I hope you are doing ok in spite of all, and that you enjoy playing the Funeral March this week. Thanks for following my blog, friends, and please leave a comment or a spooky poem if you feel like it! With 👻ghostly 👻 love and 🎃creepy 🎃 music, Gaili
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise” – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.
For many of us, it has been difficult to focus on anything beyond the Coronavirus. On any given day we might feel the full spectrum of negative emotions, sometimes even concurrently. When our thoughts turn their darkest, it can be helpful to balance them with feelings of gratitude; gratitude for nature, for family and friendships, for good books and good music. Though this virus seems interminable, remember that as our mothers told us, this too shall pass. Here are some things that have helped me remain positive:
Comfort food. For me, there is nothing more comforting than eating pancakes. Since I am allergic to gluten I make my pancakes with almond flour, but they are delicious nonetheless. Chocolate is also helpful, and filled with antioxidents! What foods bring you joy when you feel scared or depressed?
Nature walks. Since I don’t feel like going to the gym these days, I have been taking walks up the foothills near my house. The wildflowers are beginning to reappear, and when I go out early enough I see the cutest jack rabbits scampering around. They fill my heart with joy.
Playing the piano. I’ve been playing some of my favorite pieces by candlelight in the evenings, letting myself fully appreciate the beauty of the music. Why punish ourselves by limiting our thoughts to pessimism? Appreciating beauty is allowed, and even essential, when dark thoughts are conspiring to dominate our minds.
Dancing. Another great way to exercise alone is to put on some music that makes you want to get up and dance. You can dance or sway any which way; as long as you are moving to the beat you are getting a great workout and releasing endorphins into your brain that will make you feel better. On Tuesday (St. Patrick’s Day!) you might try dancing to some Irish music on Youtube.com or other music sources. Irish music always gets me going!
Sensual pleasures. As long as I am washing my hands all of the time, I am using scented soaps that I love. If you are able to find a scented soap that tickles your fancy, washing your hands will become more enjoyable.
Maintaining a balanced view. I have found this video of a patient from the quarantined cruise ship helpful in giving me a balanced view of this virus:
“For me, the most inspirational people are the ones who put their shoulders up against the wheel of despair and PUSH back really hard — not just once, not just a few times in their lives, but every single day.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author Eat, Pray, Love
To help cheer you up, here is the sheet music for 🌹Red Is The Rose🌹 (the same tune as the Scottish Loch Lomond) which I posted a few years ago. It think it is one of the most beautiful Irish songs, with beautiful chords and a familiar melody. Even if you have played it before, now would be a good time to enjoy it again! Click to Print:
If you feel like sharing some of what is helping you to cope in these dark days, we would love to hear about it. I look forward to the warmth of spring and am holding onto positive thoughts of our lives returning to normalcy as this virus fades into history, as no doubt it will. Until then, join me in looking for ways to enjoy life within your music and beyond. With love, Gaili
Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul and Songs of the Seasons SPRING:
It’s a gray day here in LA, the best weather for getting cozy with a book (it’s stay home and read a book day!) or some new sheet music for the second page of Rhapsody In Blue. (Click here for pt. 1 if you haven’t yet printed it.)
How are you doing with the first part of the Rhapsody? Tell us where you are in your process so that we can support your progress. As with pt. 1, some passages of pt. 2 have been simplified a bit, but many are in their original state, so it is definitely not an “easy” arrangement. I hope you enjoy playing this gorgeous piece! Stay tuned for pt 3!
In case you’d forgotten, 🍀St. Patrick’s Day🍀 is just around the corner! I am practicing my accordion to get ready for upcoming Irish music gigs, and taking out all of my Irish sheet music for students who want to play their green on March 17th! Leave a comment below if you would like me to email some Irish tunes to you between March 1-17th 2020; I have Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, The Irish Washerwoman and others, ready to send to my blog subscribers! Let me know if you prefer simplified or intermediate (sometimes I have 2 versions of an arrangement.)
Also this month is the spring equinox, the day when there are an equal number of daylight and nighttime hours. CLICK HERE to read about spring piano goals and maintaining balance at the piano. This might also be a good time to reread my post called Practice Small about setting small goals for your practice sessions.
I hope you enjoy the warming renewal of spring in the coming weeks. In my walks around the neighborhood I am seeing blooming blue bulbs and purple magnolias, and it fills me with gratitude for all we have to enjoy and experience. With love and music, Gaili
It is SO EXCITING when a new year’s worth of songs come into the public domain! As of today, all American songs and pieces written in 1924 are now available, and there are some really great ones I can’t wait to arrange and give to you this year!
There is also a funny scene with Diane Keaton singing It Had To Be You in the 1977 film Annie Hall, and it has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and many others; so you might enjoying listening to some additional recordings on Youtube.com.
Friends, it has been such a pleasure writing this blog, and arranging pieces for you. I have also enjoyed addressing some of the issues that arise for adult piano students, finding short cuts or tools to help you advance your piano studies. We have another GIVEAWAY coming up soon (for 20 sheet music page holders) and I have lots of ideas about things to write about in the coming year; if you have an issue you are struggling with at the piano, please leave a comment below and I will try to help in whatever way I can.
If you don’t already know, 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. Click on the links below to view a few of them on Amazon.com.
I hope you have a wonderful new year, filled with music and magic, love and luck. Do you have any piano goals for 2020? Leave a comment below and let us know what your wishes and intentions are for the coming year. Let us support your musical dreams! With love and music, Gaili
One of the biggest issues piano students struggle with when their hands have to jump more than a few keys, is finding their location on the keyboard without losing their place in their sheet music. In Chopin’s Waltz in A minor, the left hand has to leap to get from the single note to the chord in each bass staff measure:
All but the most experienced pianists must constantly look down at their hands in order to hit the correct bass notes in passages like this, and that can cause the student to lose their tempo as well as their place on the page.
There are a few things we can do to improve our geographical sense on the keyboard. But before I talk about strategies, I would like you to consider that the spatial aspect of playing the piano provides one of its greatest brain benefits.
While all instrumentalists get a brain boost from the multi-sensory experience of playing their instruments — integrating the visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), and tactile (touching) senses with rhythmic awareness, pattern perception, memory and emotions — a piano player develops the broadest spatial intelligence, which means developing an instinct for how far to move one’s hand to play the intended keys. Brain scans reveal that because of this additional challenge, playing the piano activates the most widespread portions of the brain, improving brain structure and cognitive functioning, by increasing the number and health of brain cells and neural connections. So let’s view piano key leaps as a good thing! 😉💡👏
In a book I think of as my learning science bible called, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, the authors recount interesting scientific data they call the “Beanbag Study.” In the study, two groups of children practiced throwing beanbags into a bucket; one group tossing from three feet away, the other tossing from both two and four feet away. After twelve weeks, both groups were tested on tossing into a bucket three feet away. Surprisingly, “the kids who did the best by far were those who’d practiced on two- and four-foot buckets” even though they had never tried the three- foot buckets! (Make It Stick, p.46.) This is because varied practice (such as tossing beanbags from mixed distances) gives you a deeper understanding of how you need to move your body to learn a visual/spatial skill. You can adapt these findings when practicing piano key leaps by doing the following exercises :
Keep your eyes forward, then practice moving each of your hands in octaves (from one C to a higher or lower C) and other intervals (G up to E, D down to F; B up to A, C down to D, etc.) by taking just a quick glance at your hand as it approaches the second key.
Practice moving each of your hands in octaves and other intervals up and down, with your eyes closed, seeing how close you can get to your intended key. You can graze the tops of the black keys with your fingers to guide you; that’s how blind pianists learn to play.
In the same way, work up to finding intervals greater than an octave (nine keys or more) with just a quick glance down, and later with your eyes closed.
By developing an intuition for distances between keys, we reduce the need for constantly looking down from our music, or we reduce the length of time we need to look down, to a quick glance. If you do need to look down at your hands for a piece such as Chopin’s Waltz in A minor (above), you can do the following to help keep your place in the music:
Don’t let yourself look down until you make a mental note of where you are on the page, even though that will interrupt your tempo.
If you notice that you consistently get lost in a particular measure, get out some colored pencils and make a mark above that measure. If there is more than one, number each measure in which you get lost, so that when you need to look down, your brain quickly registers red 1, blue 2, green 3, etc. When you look back up you will quickly find the red 1 your eyes just left a moment ago.
Sometimes you lose your place because you have memorized part of your music, but not all of it. For that issue as well, use colored numbers above the measures in which you consistently lose your place. Once you stop losing your place, you can erase the markings, as well as other penciled markings on your page that you no longer need.
Give these practice strategies a try and leave us a comment to let us know how it went. As with all new skills, you will get better with time and practice, so don’t get discouraged if the exercises doesn’t work too well for you at the beginning.
FYI- You only have a few more days to print Auld Lang Syne from the FREE SHEET MUSIC page of my website, before last JANUARY’s arrangement disappears. Everyone loves to sing that song at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, even if they don’t know exactly what the lyrics mean 😆
I hope you find your way to the 🎹 bench amidst the holiday rush; playing the piano is a great way to relax and re-center yourself. Happy Holidays! Thanks so much for joining our community. With love and music, Gaili
For the past two months I have asked my subscribers what their favorite holiday songs are, and the winner is the Christmas carol, O Holy Night, written by French composer Adolph-Charles Adam in 1847. O Holy Night was recorded by Mariah Carey in 1994, Celine Dion in 2004, and Andrea Bocelli in 2009, amongst many others!
I have written an early intermediate arrangement in the key of C in hopes that you will be able to learn it by Christmas! You’ll find a lot of fingering in this arrangement, but as always, if you find a fingering you like better, feel free to cross mine out, and add your own. Whatever fingering you use, try to keep it consistent. The quickest way to learn a piece is to practice it slowly, being vigilant about the fingeringas you gradually increase your tempoover the days and weeks.
(O Holy Night will only be available on my website for year, so if you want a copy after November 2020 leave a comment below and I will send it to you)
✡️✡️✡️ If you would like a copy of the song Sevivon to play for Chanukah, leave a comment below this post and I will email it to you! ✡️✡️✡️
It’s time to announce the winners of the 12 copies of Upper Hands Piano: BOOK 1! If you are on Instagram, head over to my @UpperHandsPiano account (tonight or tomorrow) to watch the videos of me reaching into my hat and picking the 12 winners in my STORIES. My husband took the videos of me grabbing the 12 names, so you can see that I picked them randomly. I will be emailing the 12, but if they don’t write me back with their addresses within the week, I will choose additional names from the hat!!
Here are the winners: 1-Donna, 2-Ann, 3-Sarah (with @att.net email), 4-Linda, 5- Catherine, 6-Vicki M, 7-Amy, 8-Sandra, 9-Patricia, 10-Kathy B, 11-Mary K, 12-Joni
And remember, everyone that wasn’t chosen today is automatically entered to win one of the 20 the Kibcoh sheet music page holders I’m giving away in January!
Thanks so much for playing along with me! I just loved reading your comments- it gave me a better idea of who is reading my blog posts, and what their needs might be (teacher/student etc.) Happy Holidays and thanks so much for subscribing!
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!
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….
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?
One of my favorite Christmas songs is the traditional English carol, I Saw Three Ships. I like Sting’s recording, and lots of other singers and choirs have sung it with varying melodies and lyrics.
I have arranged I Saw Three Ships for easy piano; if you’re a beginner, listen to Sting’s performance to help you hear the rhythm. Intermediate students might also enjoy playing this fun and easy song (which doesn’t SOUND easy!) I have included 4 verses but there are many more; I hope you’ll play it for your loved ones and encourage them to sing along. Singing together is so fun!
Note: I can only keep each free sheet music arrangement on my website for a year. If this title is no longer available on the Free Sheet Music page of my website, please request it by email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email it to you! Don’t worry, I won’t spam or share your email.
As we near the end of 2018 I look back at the year with so much gratitude for being able to do my musical works. I love playing the piano and teaching my wonderful students. I also love writing this blog– gathering my thoughts about piano technique, musicality and motivation, and arranging songs and pieces that I hope are accessible to all. To say thanks for following my blog, I’d be happy to also send you an additional easy arrangement of Silent Night or Oh Chanukah, from my Songs of the Seasons: WINTER sheet music book. Just send your request to me at UpperHandsPiano@gmail.com and I’ll email the song back to you. (Don’t worry- I won’t use your email for any other purpose and will not even save your e-address)
Is anyone else reading Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming? I bought the hardcover book for my daughter at an independent bookstore on the east coast (I am a great lover of books and indie bookstores, and visit them wherever I can find them!) then bought myself the audio book on Audible to listen to as I take my daily hikes. Though I am loving it all, I especially enjoyed Michelle describing her early experiences taking piano lessons, and her first recital. Michelle had taken lessons on her great aunt’s piano and that was the only piano she had ever played. At the recital she was to play on a gorgeous baby grand, but without the marker of her aunt’s chipped key that marked middle C, she froze, until her aunt finally came to her rescue. “Maybe she knew that the disparities of the world had just quietly shown themselves to me for the first time,” writes Michelle.
I hope you enjoy your winter holidays wherever
you are. Please leave a comment and tell us about what you are practicing, what
your struggles are, what you enjoy about piano lessons, or anything you wish to
share with our piano community. With love and music, Gaili