Chopin was only twenty when he composed his Nocturne Opus 9, No. 2 in 1831, and it is one of the most beloved pieces in piano literature. I originally excerpted the first page of the Nocturne in my Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 4, and decided to expand it to encompass the full piece (minus a couple cadenzas and repeated sections) for you for the summer! I transposed it to F, and arranged it for intermediate piano. If you are a beginner, just play the treble line, and the first bass note in each measure, to simplify. Learn the first two pages this month, and next month I will provide you with pages 3-4!
How is your summer going so far? Here in Southern California it has been very dry, and because of the drought we are cutting back on watering our gardens. But of course global warming has been affecting the weather everywhere; I hope you are doing ok in your part of the world.
Have you set any goals for the summer? I am going to start studying French again this month, and I am practicing my accordion a few times per week in addition to jamming each week outside with neighbors. It has been a while since I’ve composed music for films, but now I am composing BOOK themes! I’ll tell you more about that later, as soon as I have posted some in my RipeReads (book recs for adults 50+) blog, and Ripe Reads Instagram accounts. And of course I play the piano every day- classical, jazz, rock, original music… I love it all. What are you planning to do this summer? Travel? Relax more? Learn how to play Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2? Leave a comment below and share what your plans are! With love and music, Gaili
Today is the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach (though there is some confusion about the date). To celebrate, I have arranged Bach’s Arioso for intermediate piano. Bach’s Arioso has a bittersweet quality that makes it the perfect piece for the season. I have posted an intermediate piano arrangement of Arioso on my website:
In Atlas of the Heart, Brown expands on the concept of effortful learning:
Comfortable learning rarely lead(s) to deep learning…. I used to have a sign in my office…that said, “If you’re comfortable, then I’m not teaching well.”There’s a zone of optimal confusion, there’s desirable difficulty. – Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart.
Robert A. Bjork and Elizabeth L. Bjork coined the term Desirable Difficulty in 1994 when writing about how to enhance learning, and the data is even stronger today: In order to learn deeply and to remember what we have learned, we need to space out our practice so that each time we practice we have forgotten some of what we have learned, and in relearning a concept or skill, we understand and remember it more deeply. “Learners should interpret errors as opportunities for enhanced learning.” (1)
I love these terms “optimal confusion” and “desirable difficulty.” While we teachers are working with students we are constantly observing whether the student is receiving an appropriate balance of challenge with fun, confusion with understanding. Brown asserts that too much confusion can lead to frustration, which can cause the learner to disengage, feel bored, or quit an activity. But as it relates to piano lessons and home practice, if you are not feeling challenged when learning something new, you are not moving forward in your studies as much as you could be. So the next time you are feeling a bit overwhelmed at your piano, think of it as a good thing! Take some deep breaths and recite your mantra: This is desirable difficulty; This is optimal confusion. Maybe take a short exercise break, have a snack or a drink, then get back to your bench, and keep playing.
I hope your April is filled with beautiful music, and the resplendent gifts of spring.
I hope this finds you well, and feeling at least somewhat optimistic about 2021. Last year was admittedly abominable, but some of us have been fortunate to have also acquired some new skills, or have experienced some new growth, or other benefits due to the pandemic: I have learned how to teach piano online, and although in-person lessons are more enjoyable, my students have embraced the technology and continued with lessons in a way they never would have dreamed of before it became our only option; since April my husband and I have been hosting sing-alongs on Friday nights that wonderful neighbors we hadn’t previously met attend in their cars; some of my students that have been too shy to perform in my in-person piano recitals, have been participating in my video recitals; and I have been writing some fun new music books and reading great new novels (if you love to read, see my reviews of books that feature older adult characters at RipeReads.net!) with my extra time.
I have heard people refer to these positive aspects of our stay-at-home lives as Silver Linings, a term that reminds me of an old standard I love, called Look for the Silver Lining by Jerome Kern and B.G. DeSylva which has been recorded by so many great artists: Tony Bennett, Chet Baker (uptempo), and Judy Garland (she adds the introductory phrases), and contemporary artists Brad Mehldau and Lane Webber.
I have arranged Look for the Silver Lining three ways. On my website you can print the intermediate/advanced arrangement:
Will you please comment below and tell us your silver linings stories? We can all use the encouragement! If you have lost someone you love, then you will be hard-pressed to see any positives, but I hope that playing this song can help some of you to Look for the Silver Linings in your life.
In the last month I have seen the 2020 film adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Emma twice; once in the theater, and a second time last Friday when it was pre-released for rental on Amazon. Though the rental was expensive ($20), being able to watch it as a family makes it worthwhile. I also purchased the soundtrack as I absolutely love it. There are classical pieces and old English Airs, as well as beautiful underscoring by a female composer named Isobel Waller-Bridge. As a former film composer, I cheer for any woman who is able to break the barriers and score a feature film.
Besides the entertaining story, the gorgeous costumes, majestic homes and delicious food styling, you will love the music of Emma! I thought it would be fun to give you a few pieces of sheet music for songs and pieces featured in the film, which you or your students might enjoy playing.
1. At 9:15 in the film – Menuet and Trio No. 1 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Emma demurely plays this piece (which was written by Mozart when he was 5 years old!) as Mr. Knightly walks in and speaks to her father. Here is a Youtube video of the piece, with the clickable free sheet music below it:
2. At 44:00 in the film – O Waly Waly (The Water Is Wide); After Emma rebuffs his romantic advances, Mr. Elton storms out of the carriage and we hear The Cambridge Singers singing this gorgeous tune. I posted the free sheet music for this piece in 2018 and am reposting Easy and Advanced arrangements again for you below the video:
3. At 1:03:40 in the film – Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes; Distressingly for Emma, Mr. Knightly plays and sings this lovely tune with the dreaded Jane Fairfax. Below the video you can print an easy arrangement with Treble notes and chord symbols from Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 1, as well as the traditional intermediate sheet music:
I hope you enjoy playing these pieces from the 2020 Emma. I just love adaptations of old English novels and this one is particularly beautiful to watch. Stay tuned for Part 3 of Rhapsody in Blue – I will post the free sheet music at the beginning of April. For Rhapsody in Blue Parts 1 and 2, click here.
I have been teaching via Facetime at home. It has been really fun trying something new that continues our lessons while keeping us all safe. And seeing my students, even remotely, is a wonderful blessing. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. Remember that playing a musical instrument can make you feel better (much!), so get yourself to the bench and start playing some of your favorite pieces, or some of these gems from Emma.
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.
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.
(Note: After May 2020 you may request this free sheet music by commenting below or sending me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
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
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.
(Remember, free sheet music is only available for 1 year on my website’s Free Sheet Music page. If you do not see the sheet music there, please request it in a comment below and I will email it to you ASAP)
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 the primary differences between experienced pianists and beginners is in the fluidity of the hand moving forward and backward on the keys. Experienced players instinctively move their hands forward on the keys (towards the piano) when playing black keys or encountering a succession of keys that put their hand at an awkward angle. Less experienced pianists however, tend to keep their hand at the edge of the keys (closer to our bodies) so that when they encounter an awkward succession of keys they need to twist and stretch their body.
Check-in with your body when playing a physically challenging musical passage or playing black keys. If you feel your body contorting, try moving your hand forward on the keys instead. Though it can be a little more difficult to press down the keys as you move closer to the wood, it is far better to move your hand forward than to twist your body. Besides looking and feeling awkward, twisting your body takes more time, resulting in missed beats.
It takes some time to develop the instinct for moving your hand forward and backward effortlessly on the keys. When you encounter a musical passage that seems to take extra time and effort for maneuvering, try moving your hand forward instead of twisting your body. Watch this YouTube video of La Campanella (you can find simplified sheet music on my former blog post here) and notice that the pianist is constantly moving her hand forward and backward on the keys, and often plays at the very top of the keys where need be. While most of us are not as advanced as this pianist, we can take her fine technique to heart and apply it to our own playing. Start by becoming more aware of how you move your hands and body at the piano.
I hope that during your Thanksgiving preparations (if you are American!) you will take time to practice your piano, even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Playing the piano is a great way to de-stress, and clearing the mind of to-do lists for 10 minutes will help you to think more clearly and increase focus.
I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my blog subscribers. Your support means the world to me. I so enjoy arranging songs and pieces for you each month, and sharing my practice tips with you. Writing helps me to deepen my understanding of the piano. I love that playing the piano provides us with the opportunity for lifelong learning and development. I’m grateful that you are here, and that we can learn and grow together. Always feel free to leave a comment. When you share what you have observed in your playing, we can learn from each other!
I have had many requests for easy sheet music to Debussy’s Clair de lune, and so have transposed it to C and simplified it for the intermediate piano student. I have also arranged a one-page EASY version of Clair de lune for the beginner.
Note: I can only keep each free sheet music arrangement on my website for a year. But I have reissued it here.
Here is a performance of this intermediate arrangement of Clair de lune:
Clair de lune, (translation: “moonlight”) is the third movement from the Suite bergamasque by French composer Claude Debussy. It has been featured in many films for its beautiful, emotive quality. I have written in fingering, but as always it is only a suggestion, and you can change it per your own comfort.
Labor Day feels like the beginning of the end of summer. Are you sorry to feel the air chilling and the days shortening? Autumn is my favorite season so I am happily anticipating the days ahead. Perhaps you or your students can learn Clair de lune to play for your family on Thanksgiving! Remember that sharing your music is a gift to your loved ones, and planning to play for an event is a great way to get motivated to practice.
For those of you new to my blog, let me tell you quickly that I am a piano teacher of over 30 years, who has spent the last decade doing research on how the brain learns and retains musical information. I’ve used principles of the learning sciences to write a series called Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul (available on Amazon.com), and am currently writing a series called Piano Powered, for children and young adults. I have an article coming out in the magazine American Music Teacher soon about teaching older adults, with an article about the best ways to learn and retain music, to follow.
Thanks for subscribing to my blog. Feel free to request simplified sheet music for pieces you love (written before 1923!) and reach out with your questions, comments, observations and celebrations. I love to hear from you! With love and music, Gaili
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!
I hope you are enjoying luxuriously lengthening days as we launch into summer. My garden is crying out for me to do some much-needed pruning, weeding and watering, but thankfully I can always count on my lavender to thrive without making any demands whatsoever. This is a photo of the gorgeous lavender fields at the lovely Senanque Monastery in Provence, France. My lavender doesn’t look quite like this 🙂 but I can dream…
This month I wanted to share Tchaikovsky’s June with you. It’s a beautiful piece that reflects the June gloominess we experience here in on the California coast. I have simplified it for the early intermediate student who wants to enjoy Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous theme. Some in our piano community believe that we shouldn’t simplify piano literature, but I think it’s inspiring for students to get to be able to play beautiful themes from the masters, as they are learning. And anything that inspires practice is a win in my estimation. This arrangement is from our Songs of the Seasons: SUMMERbook, available on Amazon along with our Upper Hands Piano books for older adult students!
You might also want to scroll down on the free sheet music page to print last June’s arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon. It will only be available until the end of June, so print it now! (I take down all pieces after a year to make room for new content.)
Speaking of inspiring practice, I am currently engrossed in writing a practice journal for people who need some strategies and words of wisdom and encouragement to keep them on track with their creative practice (I know that I have in the past!) I am loving the process of writing and researching this book, and hope to have it finished by the end of the summer. In the coming weeks I will excerpt some of the pages from the book that best apply to piano students, in hopes that it will help get you to the bench. Do you have any summer goals for your piano practice? Is there a piece you wish to complete, or a skill you would like to improve? Please leave a comment so we can support your goal!