It Had To Be You (January Free Sheet Music)

Happy New Year!

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!

One of my favorite 1924 songs is It Had To Be You, by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn. I was first made aware of the song in 1989 when it played under the romantic final scene of the film, When Harry Met Sally starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. In that scene it is New Year’s Eve, and Harry rushes to find and kiss Sally at midnight, while we hear Harry Connick, Jr. sing It Had To Be You in the background. What an iconic piece of film history!

Click below to print an intermediate arrangement of It Had To Be You (and other pieces!) on my Free Sheet Music Page on January 1st 2020:

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

When You Lose Your Place In Your Music

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 :

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Finding notes with your eyes closed is a great exercise!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Gaili Schoen

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

O Holy Night & Giveaway Winners!

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 fingering as you gradually increase your tempo over the days and weeks.

PRINT: O HOLY NIGHT

(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

🎇CONGRATULATIONS!!!🎇

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!

Runnin’ Wild! (Marilyn Monroe) Free Sheet Music

In Upper Hands Piano: BOOK 2 the song Runnin’ Wild (from the film, Some Like It Hot) appears on p. 10 as a “lead sheet” ( just a melody line with chord symbols). Some Like It Hot stars Marilyn Monroe, with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag playing in her all-women band. Here’s a video of Marilyn singing Runnin’ Wild from Some Like It Hot.

Besides loving the song and the movie, I also used Runnin’ Wild in BOOK 2 because it has a simple right hand melody, which gives the piano student the opportunity to focus on the numerous left hand major and minor triads. This sheet music helps the student to really learn the notes of the chords, and to get used to intuiting the distances between each chord. While later in BOOK 2 the student learns chord inversions which reduce some of that hand movement, students still need to practice the skill of finding chords quickly, until those distances becomes more instinctual. Here’s why: if you develop a strong sense of how far to move your hands between the keys, you won’t have to look down at your hands as much. That means you can play faster and more accurately, and you won’t lose your place as often. Here is the original sheet music for Runnin’ Wild from Upper Hands Piano: BOOK 2 which you can click to print:

As promised on p. 10, here is Runnin’ Wild in 6 additional keys, to give you even more practice playing chords on your keyboard.

Another great way to practice Runnin’ Wild is to find a key amongst these seven versions that works for your voice, and sing along as you play. Singing and playing is a great way to boost your brain power, increase your focus and improve your rhythm, and it’s also great for training your ear.

Have a Happy Halloween! If you are wanting to play some spooky music, click here to print the Toccata from Bach’s ominous Toccata and Fugue, or click here to print a simplified piano arrangement of Chopin’s Funeral March (from my October 2017 post!):

Thanks for following my blog! With love and music, Gaili

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

How to Build Chords at the Piano, Part 2 – Inversions

In my post How to Build Chords at the Piano, Part 1, I demonstrated how to build Triads (3-note chords) using formulas. Once you have learned your major and minor triads, you can start experimenting with “inverting” them, which means mixing up the order of the notes. A “C Major Triad” that is played C-E-G (left to right) is in “root position.”

If you move the C to the top of the chord, with E on the bottom and G in the middle (E-G-C left to right), you have built a C chord, 1st inversion. If you move the E to the top and now have G on the bottom and C in the middle (G-C-E left to right), you have built a C chord , 2nd inversion. No matter how you mix up the order of the notes, C-E-G played together is a C chord; but inversions sound a bit different than root position chords, and they sometimes make it easier to move from one chord to another.

There are lots of exercises and songs in which to practice inversions in Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 2, (currently on sale at Amazon for 24% off!) but if you would rather not buy the book, I demonstrate how to build Major and Minor inversions in this video:

The notation for inversions is in the form of slash chords. C Major Triad 1st inversion is written C/E. F# Major 2nd inversion is written F#/C#. Some people find this notation to be counter-intuitive. Just remember that the letter to the left of the slash is the chord name. The letter to the right of the slash tells you which note is on the bottom of the chord. Eb/G means it is an E-flat major chord with a G at the bottom, Bb in the middle and Eb on top (1st inversion). A/E means it is an A major chord with E on the bottom, A in the middle, C-sharp on top (2nd inversion). It takes awhile to get used to this notation, so review this paragraph and the above video until you have it.

In How to Build Chords on the Piano, Part 3 we will be building 6th chords, plus Major, Minor and Dominant 7ths. You will also be able to click to print flashcards for all of the the 7th chords. Please subscribe to get these blog posts plus free monthly sheet music delivered to your Email inbox. I never share or spam email addresses, ever.

With love and Music, Gaili

PS While writing this post I realized that Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 2 is available on Amazon.com for 24% off today! Not sure how long they will extend this sale:

Songs of the Seasons: AUTUMN’s Classical selections include Vivaldi’s Autumn, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Chopin’s Funeral March, Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1, and Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag. Popular standards include Shine On Harvest Moon, School Days, My Melancholy Baby, Over The River and Through The Woods, We Gather Together, Irving Berlin’s We Have Much to be Thankful For, and Jerome Kern’s Till the Clouds Roll By. This small inexpensive songbook will help you practice all of the chords we cover in my blog posts, How to Build Chords on the Piano, Parts 1-3

How to Build Chords on The Piano, Part 1 (and free Autumn sheet music)

© Agb Photo Library | Dreamstime.com

Music is made up of chords that blend with melody within a rhythm, to tell a story. As pianists we are called upon to play chords all of the time, broken (one or two notes at a time) or block (all of the notes played together) for all genres of music including classical, jazz, and all popular styles. The better we understand chords, the easier it will be to read music and chord symbols (letters above the lines of popular sheet music that tell you which chord to play). And the better we read, the faster we will learn. In three posts, I want to unpack chords, digging deep into what they are and how to build them. Here in Part 1 we will focus on the basic 3-note chords called triads; Part 2 moves on to inverted triads; and Part 3 explores 6th and 7th chords, and will include free flash cards to further help you learn your 7th chords.

I love chords, so I’m so glad that I play a chordal instrument. When I was a child, my parents played 1920s-1950s music on the record player while we were doing household chores. Then I would go pick out the melodies on our piano. When I found the chords to fit the melodies I was enthralled; I was playing songs! When I began studying jazz in high school (in addition to my long standing classical lessons), I expanded my knowledge of chords to include all kinds of exotic sounds. I love the way that different chords elicit different emotions. When I was a film composer, I used a variety of rich chords to make the audience feel whatever emotion the director wanted them to feel. Chords are magic!

If you are a beginner, you might just be starting to explore the world of chords. In Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 1, I teach Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented Triads (3-note chords) within a series of exercises. By the end of the book you are playing triads in songs. But even more experienced pianists might not know that chords are based on musical principles that are like mathematical formulas. I have made a video to show you how to build MAJOR, MINOR, DIMINISHED, AUGMENTED and SUSPENDED triads using these formulas:

Here is a recap of the triad formulas you just learned: MAJOR: 4 half steps | 3 half steps; MINOR: 3 | 4 ; DIMINISHED: 3 | 3 ; AUGMENTED 4 | 4 ; SUSPENDED: Root 4th 5th.

Stay tuned for How to Build Chords on the Piano, Parts 2 and 3 coming soon (videography is not my forte 😆so it takes me awhile) where we will build chords that will further enrich your music. I will also be posting my free October sheet music soon.

I hope you are enjoying the first tickle of autumn in your town or city. Here in Los Angeles it is still quite warm, and we are longing for cooler days when we can wear cozy sweaters, cook apple sauce and soups, and play songs like Autumn Leaves and Vivaldi’s Autumn. To help you feel the fall spirit, here is an easy (free) arrangement of Vivaldi’s Autumn, from my Upper Hands Piano: Songs of the Seasons, AUTUMN book for you to download and print:

By the way, I hope you don’t mind too much that to support this blog, I advertise my Upper Hands Piano and Songs of the Seasons books sometimes (you can find links at the bottom of this post). I also wanted to tell you that for arrangements of songs and pieces not in the public domain, I post arrangements on Sheet Music Plus. I recently arranged Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah for intermediate piano, and you can find Autumn Leaves- EASY here, and intermediate here. For those of you who are new to this blog, thanks for joining us! You can find free sheet music here, but remember that each piece is only posted for a year.

If you have any questions after watching the above video, PLEASE post your questions below. I love talking about chords and want to make this discussion as clear as possible for you. With love and music, Gaili

August Free Sheet Music: Für Elise (simplified) and Take Me Out To The Ball Game

© Louie Schoeman – Dreamstime.com

Last month Upper Hands Piano blog subscriber Colin commented on my blog post asking for a simplified arrangement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Für Elise (thanks for your comment Colin!) While I did simplify it, this is not an “EASY” piece; if I had to rank this arrangement I would place it at late beginner level. Für Elise is in the key of A minor, and it is full of drama 🎭 switching between a dark, pensive moodiness, and a light joyful frolic. Für Elise is translated from German as “For Elise,” and there is much mystery surrounding the identity of “Elise!” Though it is one of his most popular pieces Beethoven wasn’t quite satisfied with Für Elise in his lifetime, even after his later revisions; it was not published until almost 40 years after his death in 1827. When you are playing Für Elise try to connect to strong emotions you experience in your life to make the piece come alive.

CLICK to print FÜR ELISE

On the same web page you will also find other free sheet music from the past 11 months. Each piece will only be available for a year, so print whatever you might like to play, now.

If you have previously played Für Elise I want to offer you another free song for August. In celebration of how well my home team is performing this year– the Los Angeles Dodgers — I am including Take Me Out To The Ball Game, from Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 3. Click on the black box below to Download:

If you are new to this blog, you might want to check out some of the former posts you see listed on the right side of my blog. Subscribers tell me that they have found these posts to be particularly helpful:

Practice Small

The Best Ways To Practice Using The Latest Brain Research

When Should You Be Practicing?

If you are a teacher and are new to teaching adults over 50 with Upper Hands Piano Books, email me a for Tips for Teachers materials and I’ll be happy to send them to you: UpperHandsPiano@gmail.com. Here are some of the books on my website as well as Amazon.com (below) if you would like to learn more about them:

Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind Heart and Soul, BOOKs 1-4

Upper Hands Piano: Songs of the Seasons (Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring)

I hope you are finding this blog to be helpful in your piano playing and teaching. If you have an issue related to playing the piano that you would like me to address, please leave it in the comments below and I will try to address it. Thanks for subscribing, and have a happy August! With love and music, Gaili

Treble Staff Ledger Lines: Free Worksheets

©Alexey Arkhipov Dreamstime.com

A couple of month ago I posted worksheets for learning bass ledger lines, and this month I wanted to follow up with worksheets for learning treble staff ledger lines. In both sets of worksheets I use octaves to help the brain grasp where the notes fall on the keyboard. It really helps to orient yourself on the staff and keyboard when you play notes you know, alongside the notes you might just be guessing at. These treble staff worksheets will train your brain to recognize the notes from three ledger lines below the staff (F3), up to three ledger lines above the staff (E6). I didn’t use numbers such as A4 on the treble worksheets because there is so much confusion about octave numbers. Some editors call the lowest key on a standard piano A0 and others call it A1. In my Upper Hands Piano instruction books for Adults 50+, I call the lowest note on the piano A1, which makes middle C, C4, because that seems to be the system most agreed upon. If you find the key numbers confusing don’t worry about learning them. They are just a learning tool, and work better for some than for others. Practice these treble note worksheets a few lines at a time, eventually playing all the lines from 1-16 at one sitting.

CLICK HERE TO PRINT TREBLE STAFF LEDGER LINES WORKSHEETS

I hope you are still able to play your piano in these dog days of summer. It is hot and humid here in Southern California, but of course it has not been nearly as bad as in many cities around the world this week.

In a few days I will be posting the free sheet music for August- I have arranged a few classical favorites that my blog followers have requested in their comments. I love getting your requests! Keep in mind that I can only post songs and pieces written before 1924 (i.e. in the public domain), for free.

Have you set an intention to learn a certain song or piece this summer? Let us know what you are playing so that we can support your efforts! Stay cool, with love and music, Gaili

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

P.S. If you have a GMAIL account and would like for these posts to come to your Primary mailbox instead of your Promotions mailbox, just drag the (unopened) email up left into your Primary tab, and, and they will arrive in your Primary mailbox forevermore 😎

July Free Sheet Music: Cello Suite No. 1

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.

PRINT Bach’s SUITE NO. 1

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 upperhandspiano@gmail.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 😆).

If you are new to this blog, I hope you’ll check out our instructional books called Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to SPARK the Mind, Heart and Soul, on our website. Or click on the links below to view Upper Hands Piano method books and Songs of the Seasons: SUMMER, and AUTUMN, on Amazon.com. Thanks for your support, and enjoy the Cello Suite! With love and music, Gaili

June Free Sheet Music: Tico Tico

Tico Tico

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.

Here is a guitarist playing Tico Tico, and I love this version by the Andrews Sisters!

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.

CLICK HERE to print TICO TICO

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.

-Gertrude Jekyll

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

If you are new to this blog, welcome! And thanks for joining us. 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, as well as piano songbooks called Songs of the Seasons. You can check them out below or on my website.

Happy young summer, and let me know what you think of Tico Tico! With love and music, Gaili