Although we think of Chopsticks as a quirky beginner’s tune, it is actually not that easy to play! Chopsticks is most fun when we play it as a duet, but if you are sheltering in place, a duet partner might not be so easy to find.
This Chopsticks arrangement has a secondo part that is easy and repetitive enough so that even a non-musical but willing companion in your quarantined life should be able to pick it up with a little patience and practice after watching the video below.
The first page of the sheet music shows an easy secondo accompaniment you can teach your partner by rote. In the video below, my husband is playing the first pagesecondo part throughout, which is the best choice for a non-pianist. My husband felt most comfortable using his Right Hand 3-4 fingers for F-G, and 2-4 fingers for E-G, but your partner might prefer using just RH 2-3 fingers for both chords. (You can make it even easier by having your partner play just a RH G throughout, instead of RH F-G and E-G.)
The second and third pages add some notes in the secondo part which you can teach to someone who has some piano skills. The primo part changes on each page.
These were the variations I learned as a child, but I bet you know some others! Click Download below for some additional (more advanced) variations that include some fun glissandos:
Chopsticks was originally called The Celebrated Chop Waltz and was composed by a 16-year-old girl named Euphemia Allan, in 1877. Her brother was a music publisher and helped her get it published under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli. Allan gave this instruction for the primo: “Play both hands turned sideways, little fingers lowest, so that the movement of the hands imitates the chopping from which this waltz gets its name.”
I hope that you are coping as well as possible during this sad and difficult time. If you are sheltering in place, I hope you have a bit of fun learning the Chopsticks duet with a partner! 🎵 😊 🎵
With all of the extra time you now have, it is a great time for you to stick your toe into the pool of songwriting. Ok don’t scream, shudder or declare “absolutely not!” before you hear me out. Think about this: We improvise all of the time in our daily lives; when we speak, when we prepare a meal, when we exercise, etc. We are born improvisors, putting things together as we go along. So why not play around a bit on your keyboard just for the fun of it? Or just out of curiosity? Also, improvising is REALLY GREAT for your brain. If you don’t believe me, listen to Charles Limb’s 16 minute Ted Talk and you’ll be fully convinced. Then please read or reread my blog posts about improvising: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to get you started playing to some chord progressions.
If I have convinced you to try improvising, here are some ideas to take you to the next step. First, de-clutter your practice space. Move sheet music you aren’t currently playing away from your field of vision. An open space supports an open, creative mind. Keep your tools (blank manuscript paper, pencils, eraser, pens) neat, clean and visible, so that you’re reminded to practice whenever you pass by. Begin your practice with small steps and low expectations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every artist was first an amateur.” Start by setting an intention to just mingle with your keys for 10 minutes a day. Make it part of your healthful daily routines such as brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast. Don’t let your head hit the pillow at night until you’ve jammed on the keyboard for 10 minutes. Notice which musical phrases you liked, and which you didn’t like. Write down the phrases you liked either as notes on manuscript paper (blank sheet music lined paper) or as letters going up or down on the page. You might use the phrases you like in a song later.
If you would like to try to write a song with lyrics, scribble words—any words—on paper for 10 minutes. Write about your angst, your fear, your lethargy, your blank page—whatever the obstacle is feeling like at the moment. I have a piano student who one day realized that he wanted to become a songwriter. When I asked him what he’d like to write about first, he grimaced, “I can’t do it! I’m so uncomfortable!” “Great!” I replied. “That’s your first line.” And he wrote a great song called, Uncomfortable. Or you might write about what or who you love, about your gratitude, or about something fun (remember having fun? call upon those memories even if you aren’t having fun right now!) Just play around with your lyrics ’til you get a couple of lines down that you like. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is great advice. Forget about creating your masterpiece. Just flex the muscles of your imagination. Shake hands with it and take it out for a little spin. Taking those first tentative steps daily, saves us from the tyranny of procrastination. With time, try to become a little braver during your 10 minutes . Trust your creativity more than your fear. As author John A. Shedd said, “A ship in harbor is safe. But that’s not what ships are built for.” What are you built for? Begin to tap into your own style, voice, and perspective. Get curious and dabble. Then find a small focus towards your creative progress and work on it. For at least 10 minutes each day. Set your phone timer for 10 minutes then forget about time and focus on your art.
In my next post I will help you get started with putting a song (with lyrics) or instrumental piece (without lyrics) together.
How is your piano practice going? Do you find it relaxing to practice? I hope you are coping as well as can be during our quarantine. With love and music, Gaili
P.S. If you need a manuscript book for your compositions you can click on the yellow book below to purchase ours on Amazon. You can also check out our Upper Hands Piano instruction book and our Songs of the Seasons: Spring book!
Subscribe (top left) to receive new sheet music coming May 1st!
Since most of us are confined to our homes with more time to play the piano, I decided to post the complete Rhapsody in Blue today, rather than spreading it out over the next two months. Pages 3-4 present the final and most beloved theme, with a powerful, majestic finish. There are many octaves on the last two pages; if it feels too difficult to play all of the notes for these widespread chords, you can drop the bottom note of each of the right hand chords, and/or drop the top note of each left hand chord. *Note* I also changed the last chord on p. 2 to an arpeggio followed by a fermata, to adhere more closely to the original sheet music. After you play the arpeggio, the fermata signals a pause in the music before continuing on to page 3.
What are you playing right now? How is it going? Leave a comment below and tell us about your piano practice. If you are having any challenges with your playing or your students’ playing, please tell us about them! Perhaps I can offer some advice if you would like it. I am teaching online for about 4-5 hours per day instead of my usual 6-7 hours of in-person lessons, so I have more time too.
I hope you have enjoyed playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. It is a wonderful piece and I have done my best to maintain the integrity of the original sheet music in my intermediate arrangement. With any luck, our social isolation will be over by the time you master the piece! I look forward to the days ahead when we begin to emerge from our cocoons, transformed by the experience of confinement, feeling gratitude for our return to some of life’s simple pleasures.
By the way, this will be my last post on Blog.UpperHandsPiano.com. I will be refocusing on other musical projects that will preclude me creating piano arrangements and discussions. Thanks for joining me these past eight years!
Hahaha – Nope, just fooling. I love blogging and arranging music for you, and nothing can keep me away! If you want to receive notice of my free piano sheet music, musical worksheets, exercises and discussions via email, please subscribe! I never share or spam email addresses. Best Wishes for a happier, healthier April. With love and music, Gaili
Piano Friends, I am so excited to offer you a medley of Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin! One of the most beloved pieces by an American composer, Rhapsody In Blue just came into the public domain in 2020. I have created an intermediate arrangement which I will post in sections: each month you will receive a new part (if you are a subscriber!) until the piece is complete.
Here’s the Rhapsody In Blue video from Fantasia 2000:
And here is HyeJin Kim playing the full piano solo:
Rhapsody in Blue is a long piece, so I have included most of the main themes and have simplified some (but not all) of the chords. It is such a beautiful piece, and I have strived to maintain the integrity of the harmonies. I hope you enjoy playing it! Do you feel that Rhapsody in Blue is a jazz piece or a classical piece? Please leave your comments below as you are learning it. As with a book club, we can experience playing the piece together, and share our progress!
Another incentive for leaving a comment is that I will be holding a drawing for 20 of these ↗️ sheet music page holders on Valentine’s Day, to express my love and appreciation for my followers! Each time you leave a comment on a post in December, January, and February you are entered to win. (Only one comment per post will yield an entry!) On February 14th I will draw 20 names out of my cloche hat, and will post a video of the drawing as a story on my UpperHandsPiano Instagram account. (Sorry international friends, you must live in the US to win the page holders.)
Have a wonderful month of February 💌 love. Hopefully the groundhog will bring us an early spring tomorrow! But if not, stay cozy and play your piano. Feel the magic of the keys under your fingertips. With love and blue music, Gaili
PS- If you don’t already know about my piano instruction books for adults over 50, you can take a look at them on my website, or on Amazon:
It has been awhile since I posted, as I was in France and England for 4 weeks, enjoying amazing architecture, music, art, books, and food with my family. One lucky day last spring I received a request to exchange my little house in Los Angeles for this 17th Century chateau in the Cognac region of France 😮 We hadn’t planned on a trip to France, but when someone wants to give you their chateau for 4 weeks, you must at least consider it!
The chateau was located on 300 acres of lush grasslands, lakes, apple orchards and hiking trails. Though it was large (5 bedrooms) and majestic, it was very cozy inside, and we had the time of our lives! Unfortunately the French family did not own a piano, but they had a little keyboard, so I was able to keep my fingers moving 🎹
And of course a few days in Paris (also on a home exchange) brought breathtaking views, wonderful bookstores, music and museums.
While driving through the French countryside, we listened to all kinds of French music: Satie, Debussy, Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour, and Django Reinhardt.
We flew in and out of London where we got to visit the National Gallery. The Vermeer paintings of women playing a virginal (early harpsichord) were beautiful.
This all brings me to the issue at hand. Ever since I retired the sheet music for Clair de lune from my website I have had almost daily requests for it. I am happy to send it by email, but I thought that I might repost the Clair de lune INTERMEDIATE and EASY sheet music here for those of you who would like to print and play it but missed the original posting.
I hope you enjoy playing Clair de lune as much as I have enjoyed listening to it in France! And I have some exciting news: In a few days I will begin posting a medley of the main themes to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue! I’m so excited that it came into the public domain this year. It’s a long piece, so I am taking the most beloved themes and arranging them for intermediate piano, and I will offer it free to you in installments, starting with February.
Also to celebrate the month of love, I will be hosting another GIVEAWAY in 💌February! I will be giving away 20 Kibkoh sheet music page holders to followers of this blog (in the U.S.) who leave a comment on my post in February. Every comment you leave in December 2019, and January and February 2020, gives you an additional chance to win.
I hope you are staying warm and cozy wherever you are. 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
Since this is the month for expressing gratitude, I would like to say that I am deeply grateful for the work I get to do– blogging about issues of interest to piano players and teachers, composing and arranging music, and playing and teaching piano. I can’t believe that I’ve been teaching piano for over 30 years! It is still the most enjoyable, rewarding (and cozy 🏠) work I can imagine. To give back to the 🎹 community, I try each month to give you the best content I can think of– free sheet music, worksheets, flash cards, and the latest science on the best ways to practice.
Recently I’ve seen book giveaways from 📚Bookstagrammers📚 (people who talk about and review books on Instagram) , and I suddenly thought, “Why not give away some Upper Hands Piano books?” So today I have stacked these 12 copies of Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 1 (a $23.95 value) that I can’t wait to give to my subscribers. These books are 100% brand new, and would make a great holiday gift for any adult who has been wanting to start piano lessons, and just needs a little nudge. They are however last year’s edition and I had to cover the old BLOG address with the current one, with a sliver of adhesive paper. Other than that issue, these books are up to date. If that’s ok with you, then please enter to win one of 12 new copies of Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 1!
✅You must be a subscriber to this blog 💻
✅You must write a comment on this post: Your favorite holiday song? 🎵Or tell us something about your piano playing? 🎼 Or just say hello!🙋🏽
✅You must be over 18 👩🏾👴🏽
✅You must live in the United States 🇺🇸
The contest closes Saturday November 30th at 12 midnight EST. I will post a video of me picking random names from a hat on my @UpperHandsPiano Instagram stories, and will announce the winners here on my blog (I won’t give out your full name). I will also email the winners (only I see your email address if you leave a comment), and will send the winners a free Upper Hands Piano BOOK 1 via media mail, but you must email me back with your address! Don’t worry, I never share anyone’s information with anyone, ever.
YET ANOTHER GIVEAWAY!
Do you see the little metal gadget on the lower right side of the stack of books in the photo above? Those are called Page Holder Bookmarks, and are incredibly handy for keeping your sheet music books open. I have 20 of them to give away! If you leave a comment on my blog and didn’t win a book, you will be automatically entered to win the Page Holders in my January GIVEAWAY. So stay in touch!
By the way, your chances are pretty good that you will win a book or page holder. Though I have 4,614 subscribers on my blog (including my mom👵🏻 and she is disqualified), they are not very chatty! I get only a few comments each month, and without a comment you will not be entered to win!
Meanwhile, check out some of my former posts on the right ➡️to print free sheet music, flash cards, worksheets and to read about important practice tips. I want to be your resource for making piano lessons as fun and as understandable as possible.
Thanks again for following my blog, and good luck to you! With love and Music, Gaili
P.S. If you’re having trouble subscribing to my blog, send me an email atUpperHandsPiano@gmail.com and I will subscribe you myself. Sorry, this technology is flawed!
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.
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
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 😎
As you progress in your piano studies an issue will eventually come up that we piano teachers call hand independence, particularly where dynamics (volume) are concerned (also called tone balance). What this means is that more experienced pianists are able to play more softly with one hand than the other. This is an important skill because you want to be able to bring out the melody of a song or piece while keeping the accompaniment softer.
first it feels impossible, like rubbing your stomach while patting your
head! But after some concentrated practice over time (it takes time for
the brain to grasp this skill!) you will be able to play with your
hands at different volumes, naturally.
Toward this end I’ve developed a set of five progressive exercises, each of which you play in all 12 keys (using the first 5 notes of each scale, called the pentascale). It’s important that you do practice each exercise in all 12 keys in order to fully learn the technique. If you haven’t pretty much mastered an exercise by the 12th key (not uncommon at all), play it again in all 12 keys until you’ve got it. I suggest you play the exercises in chromatic order as it is good for the brain to mix it up, with difficult keys following easier keys:
C, D-flat, D, E-flat, E, F, G-flat, G, A-flat, A, B-flat, B.
side benefit, these exercises teach (or review) major triad inversions!
Inversions are when we change the order of the notes of a chord, and are
important to learn. If you’re playing classical music styles you will come upon
inversions all the time, and if you are familiar with them, you will learn the
music more quickly and accurately. If you are playing popular music styles you
will also be playing lots of inverted chords, and it would be great to become
familiar with the chord symbols if you’re playing from “fake books”
or “lead sheets” (treble melodies written with chord symbols above
You might also like trying some ideas by another teacher which involve “ghost playing” with one hand (tapping the keys without depressing them) while the other hand depresses the keys. They are more difficult to learn than my exercises, but you might like using both. Start at 2:25 here.
If you are new to my blog, welcome! Thanks so much for subscribing. Please check out my fun, supportive piano instruction books for adults over 50 on my website, (where you will also find lots of free sheet music, which I give away each month). The Upper Hands Piano books teach both classical and popular styles with larger notes and fonts, and emphasize learning chords. They use the latest scientific data on how the brain learns and retains musical information, to help you learn as quickly and enjoyably as possible.
Speaking of free sheet music, in honor of Groundhog’s Day (Feb 2nd) I will soon be posting an easy-ish arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Variation 18 – Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini that was played by Bill Murray in the beloved movie Groundhog Day (I must admit that I watch it every year!) I can’t include his jazz solo, but there will be a full arrangement of the theme:
hope you are enjoying a beautiful winter wonderland, wherever you are. Here in
Los Angeles it has been raining (which is wonderful for us), but I do feel
envious of the snowscapes I see on Instagram and Facebook. If you are on those
social media platforms, please follow @UpperHandsPiano to get updates on free sheet music and piano
PLEASE feel free to ask questions or share your observations about these 5
exercises (or anything else piano related!) We love to hear from you, and
everyone learns when someone asks questions or shares their experience. Stay
cozy, and enjoy your piano practice!
P.S. Many people have reported that they are no longer receiving my blog posts. I am working on this issue- it’s a technical problem which is not my forte! But I am working with a support team, so hopefully the issue will be resolved soon. So sorry if you have missed some of my posts lately, or if you got this post twice! ;(
I recently heard author (of Eat, Pray, Love) Elizabeth Gilbert speak about creative work:
Everything that is interesting is 90% boring… and we are in a culture that’s addicted to the good part, the exciting part, the fun part.
I laughed out loud when I heard her say that. It’s so true! It is incredibly difficult dealing with the tedium of practicing something challenging, day after day…but the willingness to work through that tedium is exactly what separates the artists from the quitters. What can really help us become more productive is a system or structure of accountability. If you are a piano player, please read my post called Have a Plan, with lots of suggestions for getting your bottom to the bench.
Luckily for me, piano students usually require teachers to make sure they are playing correctly. Good teachers also act as trusted mentors, helping students to stay on track with consistent practicing. An effective mentor guides without dictating; s/he offers you the wisdom of experience while also listening to and respecting your voice. Director Steven Spielberg famously said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” A mentor or teacher should hold high expectations of you, and question and challenge you in a positive way. The ideal piano teacher is open to the styles of music you want to play, and helps you address your challenges. Give your piano teacher permission to level criticism when s/he sees you going astray, or not taking your piano studies seriously. Teachers should also acknowledge your progress.
Another great means to accountability is playing the piano for and with other people. My students and I hold aPiano and Poetry Partythree times per year to share music, and support each other’s progress. It is wonderful for me to see my students making more time to play before a performance. The anticipation of performing gives us that extra edge of motivation to practice. As a result, the pieces we perform are the ones we remember the best, even years later. If you don’t have recitals or performing opportunities with your piano teacher, you can seek out other ways to get social with your music. There are lots of meet-up groups and open mics for musicians that want to play for each other, and pianists can get together with other instrumentalists such as guitarists, flutists, violinists and singers to jam on a few tunes.
Ultimately, however, you must make yourself accountable to your values and your vision. Plan your practice sessions at the beginning of each week, allocating the minutes (or hours) in your calendar. Establish a structure for practice and stick with it. When you need to miss your practice session for an extended period of time, such as for a vacation, write your intention to leave for the appointed amount of time and resume your practice when you return. Take yourself seriously; keeping aligned with your creative objective even when it is incredibly difficult is an act of self-love and a sign of healthy self-worth.
How to you hold yourself accountable to your creative practice? Please leave a comment! It is great to share ideas 🙂
This post has been excerpted and edited from my upcoming book called Passion Practice: A Playbook for Overcoming Obstacles to Creativity, which will hopefully be available in the fall! I will be giving 10 copies away as soon as it is in print, through Goodreads and Amazon.com. I’ll keep you posted!