December Free Sheet Music: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

@HudsonHintz

One of my favorite holiday rituals is listening to Tchaikovsky’s enchanting Nutcracker Suite. Though we won’t be able to attend the ballet in person this year, there are several online performances we can watch, and of course we can play his beautiful music on the piano.

I love the mysterious Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy for its playfulness as well as its dissonant harmonies and E minor key. Tchaikovsky used the celesta for his piece, but it sounds beautiful on piano as well!

I have written two arrangements for intermediate piano: one for the intermediate level 1, and one for the intermediate level 2 players amongst our blog subscribers. Print them both if you are not sure. If you feel more comfortable with the level 1 arrangement this year, you might be ready for the level 2 arrangement next year! I can only post the level 2 arrangement on my website for a year, so if the year has passed, leave a comment below and I will send you level 2.

PRINT Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy LEVEL 2

If you’re not quite ready for level 2, level 1 is also quite challenging:

As always, remember that the fingering I wrote in is just a suggestion. If you find a fingering that works better for you, that is perfectly fine. Just be sure to cross out mine and write in yours. You will learn faster if you use consistent fingering.

In other music news, this month would have been Beethoven’s 250th birthday! He was baptized on December 17th 1770, so the guess is that he was born a day or two before that. To celebrate I will post a free arrangement of one of his pieces around the time of his birthday, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already!

What is your favorite Beethoven piece? He was such a prolific composer, it’s difficult to choose just one of his beautiful pieces.

I hope that you are maintaining good physical as well as mental health, wherever you are. Playing the piano can help. If you know of anyone over 50 who might like to play the piano or to refresh their piano skills, please keep my Upper Hands Piano books in mind as holiday gifts! I also have a parallel series for adults under 50! It’s called Piano Powered. There are links below if you would like to check them out on Amazon.com.

Until Beethoven’s birthday, stay warm and well. And thanks so much for following my blog! I hope you find the sheet music enjoyable and the piano skills posts helpful!

With love and music, Gaili

Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul, Piano Powered: An Innovative New Piano Method To Power The Brain And Feed The Soul, and Songs of the Seasons: Winter Spring, Summer, and Autumn

November Free Sheet Music: We Gather Together

While we Americans are patiently 😁 awaiting our presidential election results, we might turn our attention to the fact that it is the season of gratitude. In the US, the weeks approaching Thanksgiving are a time to slow down and take stock of all the things we are thankful for. Life is such a gift, and I grieve for all who have lost loved ones in the pandemic, and am grateful for our own good health. What are you thankful for, in spite of all the disasters we have experienced this year?

I have posted the Thanksgiving favorite, We Gather Together for my November giveaway. This is replacing last year’s Over The River and Through The Woods. If you want that arrangement, leave a comment below and I will email it to you.

Print: WE GATHER TOGETHER

This month is also your last chance to print O Holy Night from my website. Just click on the link above and you can see all the other downloadable free sheet music from the past year.

I hope you are well, and will be able to connect with your loved ones during the holidays, even if it is only online. I am deeply grateful for all of the kind people who subscribe to my blog and tell me that they are playing and enjoying my arrangements. Bringing more music into your life gives meaning to mine. Thank you for joining me here, and for all of your good wishes.

Leave a comment below if you have a request for an arrangement of a holiday song or piece for December!

With gratitude, love and music, Gaili

Free Halloween Sheet Music: Chopin’s Funeral March

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

Gaili Schoen

Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul, Songs Of The Seasons, and Piano Powered for younger adults!

PS- I just noticed that the Piano Powered manuscript book is on sale for $3.14, regularly $6.95. I have no idea how long this sale will last, Amazon does what it pleases, but it’s a pretty great deal!

October Free Sheet Music: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21

During the pandemic I have been posting piano arrangements of beautiful melodies to soothe and uplift. Last month, subscriber Keith requested Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, and I have been hard at work turning this gorgeous orchestral piece into a piano solo! It is three pages long, but I hope you agree that it is worth your time and effort to learn.

CLICK TO PRINT Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21

In the video below you will notice that on p. 1 measure 2, I cut off the sixth and twelfth triplet bass chords (EG) almost as if they were staccato. I did this to demonstrate that the treble 16th notes in measure 2 are played in between the bass notes. When this figure repeats on page 3 measure 1, I played it the way it should sound, with the bass notes sustaining.

I did not add pedal marks to the sheet music for ease of reading, but I used the damper pedal throughout, refreshing the pedal on beats 1 and 3 of each measure. But you might want to wait to add the damper pedal until you are more comfortable with the notes.

If you are not yet familiar with triplets, the simple explanation is that triplets divide each beat into three. So this piece feels as if there were twelve beats per measure even though it is in 4/4 time. I discuss triplets in Upper Hands Piano BOOK 4, but if you don’t have my books, watching the video will help you place your rhythm:

How are you doing? Between the pandemic, the fires and hurricanes, dirty politics and sad passings, I think that many of us feel at our wit’s end. I have been trying to mitigate these disasters by playing and arranging beautiful music, along with expressing gratitude for the beauty of nature, my good health, and the love of friends and family. Sometimes we can’t help but fall into despair, but when I can get myself to the bench, playing helps calm and focus me, and it makes me feel that I am moving forward in my studies and skills.

What are you doing to keep yourself positive? I have been writing two new book series that I am so excited about. Firstly, I have been adapting the Upper Hands Piano Books for younger adults! The new series is called Piano Powered: An Innovative New Piano Method To Power The Brain and Feed The Soul, and BOOKS 1 and 2 will be available on Amazon in a few days! I try not to do too much “selling” on this blog, but if you don’t mind, I will post about the new series when it becomes available. Many have asked me to adapt the brain training aspects of the Upper Hands Piano series for younger adults, so I have done that. I have been testing it on adults and teens in the past year, and my students have been progressing quickly and easily using these new books. They are very similar to the Upper Hands Piano series.

I have also been working on a new songbook series – collections of songs and pieces to play for their various therapeutic benefits. I can’t say more than that, but I’ll keep you posted about those volumes as well.

For now, I wish you better days ahead, and I hope you enjoy the cooler days of Autumn in your part of the world. Be well and play on. With love and music, Gaili

Gaili Schoen, Author

Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul, Songs of the Seasons, Piano Powered, and more!

September Free Sheet Music: Tristesse (Chopin’s Étude Op. 10 No. 3)

Searching for beautiful melodies, I suddenly remembered that Chopin believed that his theme for Étude Op. 10, No. 3 was his most beautiful melody. I first came upon it in childhood when I opened a music box containing a ballerina dancing to Tristesse (according to the label beneath); though Chopin didn’t name his composition Tristesse, it has become the popular title, so I defer!

You can listen to the original piece here, and watch a video of my intermediate arrangement below:

CLICK to print TRISTESSE (early intermediate arrangement)

Or click to print the original sheet music for Tristesse below:

Happy September! I think many of us are looking forward to the cooler days of autumn. With all of the recent disasters, I hope that playing your piano can remind you of all that is beautiful in your life.

I have some additional posts planned for this month, and be sure to leave a comment if you have a piano-related issue you would like me to address in a post. Do you have a favorite piece you would like me to arrange for beginning or intermediate piano? Remember, I can only give away arrangements of songs and pieces that are in the public domain (i.e. written before 1925). How is your practice going? Give us an update! Be well friends 💛

With love and music, Gaili

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

August Free Sheet Music: Solace

Scott Joplin was one of the most innovative composers in the history of western music. Credited with inventing ragtime music in the 1890s, Joplin composed over 100 pieces before he died at age 48. One of my favorite Joplin pieces is Solace. Though not as popular as The Entertainer or The Maple Leaf Rag, Solace, with the subtitle, A Mexican Serenade, is a slow, reflective piece that expresses a wide range of emotions. You may remember that Solace was featured in the 1973 film, The Sting.

I have arranged the final theme from Solace for early-intermediate piano. As always, remember that the fingering I have printed is only a suggestion. If you find a fingering you like better, cross mine out and write yours in, in order to keep your fingering consistent.

CLICK to PRINT Solace

Here’s a demonstration video of my early-intermediate arrangement of Solace

If my arrangement is too difficult for you to play, just play the top notes of the treble staff; that way you will still enjoy Joplin’s beautiful melody without the difficulty of playing two right hand notes at a time. If you are a more advanced pianist and would like to play Joplin’s original sheet music, click below:

Photo of breakfast tray with flowers

I hope that playing the piano is providing some solace for you. Sometimes a tasty meal, a cutting of flowers, or a beautiful melody can lift our spirits and remind us that a world of beauty surrounds us. What are you doing to self-care?

Have you been playing any of the French music or the Swan Lake arrangement I posted last month? Please tell us about your progress in the comments below!

With love and music, Gaili

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

Bastille Day! Free French Sheet Music to celebrate

It is Bastille Day! A time to celebrate and enjoy all things French. You might want to consider making a light Salade Niçoise, a Quiche Lorraine, or a Croque Monsieur for dinner, or if it’s not too hot where you live, try making Coq au vin or Steak frites!

You might want to watch a French film on Netflix for free. You can also watch some old French films such as Marius and Fanny for free on Amazon Prime video, or rent one of my all time favorite films (on Amazon Prime video), Chocolat, starring the French actress Juliette Binoche, with Judi Dench, Alfred Molina and Johnny Depp.

Of course, in my opinion, the best way to celebrate French culture is with French music! In the film Chocolat you can hear French composer Erik Satie’s hauntingly beautiful Gnossienne No. 1. Click below if you would like to play my simplified arrangement of Gnossienne No. 1 from my Songs of the Season: Autumn book:

A true Francophile might like to play the French national anthem, La Marseillais:

You can print both my easy and my intermediate arrangements of Claude Debussy’s Clair de lune for free here.

I love the Edith Piaf favorite La Vie En Rose, but since it is not in the public domain I can’t arrange it for you for free. I did find a site that allows you to download the original sheet music for free here. (Click on the blue “Download” box above the top right corner of the sheet music to print.) If you are a beginner, just play the top vocal line.

I hope you enjoyed mon petite tour du France post today. These days we need to find fun ways to celebrate wherever we can, non?

With love and 🇫🇷 music, Gaili

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

July Free Sheet Music: Swan Lake (theme)

Now more than ever it feels important to play beautiful music, to calm and elevate the spirit. The theme from Swan Lake has a gorgeous, haunting melody that I hope you will enjoy playing. I have created an early intermediate piano arrangement for you that expands on the theme I offered in Upper Hands Piano BOOK 4. If you are a beginner, you can play just the treble staff notes, or you can add a note or two from the bass staff. You can listen to a Youtube video of the Swan Lake theme here.

Click here to print SWAN LAKE

I hope you are coping as well as possible during the pandemic. Playing the piano helps 🎹 . Leave us a comment below and tell us what you are playing now! I love to hear from you.

With love and music, Gaili

P.S. I took this photo six years ago in Switzerland when passing Lake Geneva on the way to visiting the United Nations with my daughter. This swan family was so sweet, elegant and beautiful!

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

Composing – How To Write A Song Or Piece, Part 5 expanding chords using the The Circle Of 5ths

To purchase this poster click here

You may have heard of the phrase, The Circle of 5ths. It’s a useful tool for musicians to understand, and for composers and songwriters to use in their pieces. In Part 1 of this series on Composing and Songwriting, I suggested that you start by limiting your piece to just the chords which are built on the C scale (C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim) and I provided you with a chart so that you could figure out the seven chords in any key. But perhaps you are now feeling that you want to step outside of the key. For example, if you are in the key of C and want to move to an unexpected B-flat major chord, you can use the circle of 5ths to help navigate your way back to the key of C.

I’m going to let my friend Fred Sokolow take it from here because he is the Circle of 5ths master. Start at 5:30 in the video below and continue on to the end if you would like to join him for his jam:

Fred is an crazy good multi-instrumentalist and has created a small vinyl cling decal of the circle of 5ths for $3 which you can purchase here. You can safely stick it to your piano because there’s no adhesive. (Fred also gives private online lessons in banjo, ukulele, guitar, mandolin and dobro if you are so inclined!) If you have a Paypal account would you consider “tipping” Fred to say thanks for today’s instruction here or search for Fred Sokolow on Venmo? Any amount even $1 or $2 would be appreciated! You can receive notice of Fred’s future mini lessons (there are a lot of great ones!) by joining his mailing list: sokolowmusic@gmail.com. For more jams and free lessons, follow Fred on Facebook.


In classical music there are many ways to structure a piece. Generally when you are starting out, you want to establish a primary theme, move to second theme, then come back to the first theme and end the piece. All of what I wrote about in Parts 1 (chords), 2 (melody), and 3 (melody and chords) are relevant to composing classical music, as well as the Circle of 5ths discussion above, as all melodic music is based upon chords. You can also add lyrics to your classical piece, as with an aria or operatic piece. Feel free to ask questions in our comments below, and please tell us how your songs and pieces are coming along! It would be great to emerge from the Covid quarantine with a few original songs or pieces under your belt!

With love and music, Gaili

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

Composing – How to Write a Song or Piece, Part 4, Lyrics and Structure

I have a piano student who had always wanted to write songs, but just couldn’t seem to get started. 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. “I’m so uncomfortable. That’s your first line.” And he wrote a wonderful, poignant song called, Uncomfortable. If you want to write a song, start from where you are or what you are feeling, and just jump in.

The first step when considering lyric ideas is to get it all down – out of your head, onto paper or into your recording device or app (the Voice Memos app in iPhones is handy). Writers speak of their messy first draft, and the same applies to songwriters. Don’t censor your impulses, just let the ideas flow spontaneously. When you feel you are done, take a break, for at least a few hours. Do something else to clear the palate of your mind, heart and soul.

Then sit back down with your words, read them aloud, and see what you think. Which lines do you love? Which are not flowing well? Have you said what you need to say, or do you need to dig deeper? Or do you want to lighten up the mood a bit? Make notes on your initial impressions, and then get down to work.

If you have started with your lyrics, you will need to begin singing them into a melody. As I have said in Part 3, sometimes it helps to take a walk or drive while singing your lyrics to activate your creative juices in a less pressured environment.

If you have started with a melody, hum the melody and see if any lyric ideas arise from the rhythm of the notes. When the melody dictates the words they are likely to fit really well; but if lyrics arise with a few too many syllables, you can easily add extra notes to your melody.


When writing a popular song, you have two primary kinds of lyrics to consider. The lyrics for the verse, and the lyrics for the chorus. Generally the verse lyrics tell what the song is about. The chorus contains the hook, which is the part of the song we remember best; the chorus lyrics usually repeat, and consist of shorter phrases sung to a memorable melody. The song Every Breath You Take by The Police starts with two verses, each with 5 lyric lines, the last of which repeat in every verse (I’ll be watching you). The chorus reads:

Oh can’t you see, You belong to me. My poor heart aches, With every step you take.

Every Breath You Take has such simple words! Its chords, melodies and structure are also very simple. And yet it was the biggest hit The Police ever had. I’m not suggesting that you write a song with a view to it being huge hit (that’s never a good way to create art), but I do want you to remember that a song doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be really good.

Many songs also contain a bridge. The bridge serves to elevate the song to greater energy or excitement. Every Breath You Take has a bridge at 1:22 consisting of five lyric lines followed by a 16-bar rhythmic instrumental passage.


Some songs also have an instrumental hook such as the Gary Jules recording of Mad World. In Mad World, the piano hook comes as an introduction that repeats in the choruses. Notice also in Mad World that there are two distinct sections to the verses. When that is the case, we call the first section the A, the second section the B:

A: All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces. Bright and early for the daily races, going nowhere, going nowhere. Their tears are filling up their glasses, no expression, no expression. Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow, no tomorrow, no tomorrow.

B: And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad. The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had. I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take. When people run in circles it’s a very very…

Chorus: Mad world. Mad World.

There is no bridge in Mad World, perhaps because the verses are long, and the B-sections feel like a bridge. Notice that there are a lot of repeated lyrics, which can be a great dramatic tool.


Generally, there are two categories of songs; there are songs that tell a story, and songs that paint a picture. Sometimes you might want to write a song that tells a story about something traumatic or something wonderful that has happened to you, or as with the song Raymond by Brett Eldredge, your song can be like a short story. Other times you might just want to paint a picture for your listener such as Paul McCartney’s Junk, or create an impression about something such as what it feels like to be in love, or to be the victim of discrimination, or how to live a better life.

Some examples of songs that tell a story:

  • Eleanor Rigby, by The Beatles
  • Cats In The Cradle, by Harry Chapin
  • Runaway Love, by Ludacris and Mary J Blige
  • Whisky Lullaby, by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss
  • Just My Imagination, by The Temptations
  • Fast Car, by Tracy Chapman
  • Raymond, by Brett Eldredge
  • American Pie, by Don McLean
  • Don’t Give Up, by Peter Gabriel
  • Jack and Diane, by John Mellencamp

Some examples of songs that paint a picture, which can include expressing an emotion, giving advice, or making a political statement :

  • Over The Rainbow, by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg
  • Yellow, by Coldplay
  • Shallow, by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
  • Girl On Fire, by Alicia Keys
  • Thinking Out Loud, by Ed Sheeran
  • Unanswered Prayers, by Garth Brooks
  • Running On Empty, by Jackson Browne
  • Good Riddance, by Green Day
  • Complicated, by Avril Lavigne
  • Under The Table, by Fiona Apple

Let’s take a closer look at a song that incorporates all of the song elements I have discussed so far. I first heard Ben Fold’s song The Luckiest while watching one of the best, most positive movies ever made (in my humble opinion), About Time.

There is an introduction at the beginning of the song, with a piano hook, and for the rest of the song Folds is playing simple major and minor chords which he is constantly breaking up into single notes.

In the A-section, Folds paints a picture of a man who makes mistakes, and he also acknowledges that our mistakes are an important part of who we become:

I don’t get many things right the first time. In fact I am told that a lot. Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles, the falls brought me here.

In the B-section of the verse, Folds reveals that he is in a relationship. It is also in the B-sections of The Luckiest that Folds provides the only rhyming lines: day rhyming with face:

And where was I before the day that I first saw your lovely face. Now I see it everyday. And I know that…

And the second B-section rhymes eyes with recognize necessitating a few extra notes for the extra syllables in the word recognize:

In a wide sea of eyes, see one pair that I recognize. And I know that…

The choruses are simply: I am, I am, I am the luckiest.

After the chorus, Folds plays his piano hook again, then another verse and chorus. After the second chorus he provides a short bridge:

I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you.

Up until now I would unreservedly call The Luckiest a song that paints a picture. But in his third verse Folds tells a story:

Next door there’s an old man who lived into his nineties, and one day passed away in his sleep. And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days and passed away.

In the B-section that follows, the lyrics read: I’m sorry I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong. So although the song contains a short story, the song is not about that story; Folds simply uses it to illustrate his feelings about his own loving relationship. So, The Luckiest is not a story-song.

While most of the lines in The Luckiest don’t rhyme, almost all of the lines in Every Breath You Take do rhyme. So remember that while some rhymes in your song give the song sing-ability and cohesiveness, you don’t have to rhyme all the time if you don’t want to.


Once you have finished the first draft of your song, take another break from it for at least a day or two. Enjoy your time away and trust that you will take a look with fresh eyes when the time is right. Then come back to fine-tune it. The process of editing is often where creative flow breaks down. Editing your song is a daunting task and the failure to face up to it is why many would-be songwriters never finish their songs. Ask yourself if there are any lyrics, chords or melody notes that aren’t quite there yet. Work on it everyday until you feel good about all of it. Don’t let too many days go by without completing your song, as you run the risk of having nothing but half-finished melodies in your repertoire. On the other hand, you also need to be able to intuit when to stop editing and call it done.

Even if you ultimately decide it’s not very good, finish your song. Completing things is a practice of its own, and we only get better and faster at writing, editing and completing our work though consistent practice. The willingness to edit and complete a song makes the difference between a songwriter and a wannabe.

In classical music there are many ways to structure a piece. Generally when you are starting out, you want to establish a primary theme, move to second theme, then come back to the first theme and end the piece. 

In my next and final post about composing I will expand a little on chords, then will move on to the next musical topic! I hope you have enjoyed analyzing a few good examples of how to put together simple but effective songs. If you are interested in further study, look up some of the songs from the bulleted lists above on Youtube.com and ask yourself questions to deepen your understanding of the writer’s style: What is the structure of the song? Do the verses have a B-section? What are the choruses? Is there a bridge? Does the song tell a story or paint a picture? Are lines repeating? Rhyming? Do some of the verses add extra lyric syllables requiring extra notes?

But don’t analyze too much or for too long. Rather than continually asking what makes a great song, take that time to create one of your own. Remember that your song will be different from anyone else’s because no one has experienced your unique life. You can create something fun or personal that is as beautiful, important and valid as anyone else’s. So get to work!

With love and music, Gaili

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