Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere! Though it feels like our cold, wet winter will never end here in California, my garden is abloom with the vibrant colors of spring. I love the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes with their equal measures of darkness and light, because it reminds me to think about balance: to balance work with play ⚖️ intensity with calm ⚖️ solitude with social activities ⚖️
For piano players, it is also a great time to learn or review Dynamic Balance exercises – drills that can help you to play louder with one hand than the other. This is an important skill for bringing out melodies and for playing ostinato (repeating) lines more gently. (Note: Dynamic Balance exercises are for more experienced piano students – intermediate and beyond.) I have made videos of my six exercises to help you increase dynamic balance and overall finger control. Read my post HERE; play the exercises in all 12 keys at least 3-4 days per week during the spring season, and by summer you will notice that your hands can move more independently! Stronger, more agile hands will enable you to play more expressively, and that is what we’re going for. These exercises are not all that fun or creative; but as one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert said,
“The difference between those who do and those who wish to do is often those who can bear the tedium.” 😅
So balance out these exercises by playing some or your favorite songs and pieces, while enjoying the increased agility and power they will bring to your fingers!
With love and music, Gaili
P.S. If you are ready for some new books, here are some of my favorites:
Our beloved Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on this day, January 27, in 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. To celebrate his birthday and to set the mood for February, the month of love 💌, I have arranged Mozart’s Romanze, the beautifully tender and tranquill 2nd Movement of his piece Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. I have arranged a Romanze movement for both beginners and intermediate pianists, and have also included the advanced sheet music below.
I hope you celebrate Mozart’s birthday by listening to and playing some of his exquisitely beautiful music! Have a great weekend wherever you are, and enjoy a Romanze-filled February! With love and music, Gaili
P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus worksheets, practice tips and information on music and the brain. I have written piano instruction books for older adults (UpperHandsPiano.com), younger adults and teens (PianoPowered.com), Songs of the Seasonspiano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books calledThe Music Remedy: sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view a few of them on Amazon.com.
Happy September Piano Friends! Lately I have been posting a lot of classical sheet music, so today I thought I would offer something popular. I watched Sleepless in Seattle lately and was reminded of how much I like the song Bye Bye Blackbird. In the movie, the little boy Jonah’s mother used to sing it to him when he had nightmares, and the song is featured throughout the movie.
I have arranged Bye Bye Blackbird for Advanced, Intermediate and Easier-to-Play (not exactly for the earliest beginners, but will be a comfortable challenge for those who have been playing for 6 months or more.)
The Advanced arrangement is available for only a year, so print it now!
I have made a demonstration video of how an advanced player might approach my arrangement. Notice that I am keeping strict time with my left hand accompaniment, but I play the right hand melody with a rubato jazzy feel. With popular music, especially jazz, you don’t necessarily have to play the melody exactly as written, but you do want to keep a constant beat with your left hand.
For Intermediate players, both hands stay in time, and there are fewer notes and chords:
Beginners might like to try this arrangement I call “Easier to Play” because nothing is EASY when you are first learning to play the piano. There are so many notes to learn when you are a beginner! Just take it slowly, learning a few measures at a time.
I hope you or your students enjoy playing one (or all!) of these arrangements. Bye Bye Blackbird has been recorded by Joe Cocker [excerpt from Sleepless In Seattle], Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Miles Davis and so many other artists!
September has always been the time for new beginnings: new classes, new clothes, new school supplies, new projects, the bountiful Fall harvest, and the gradual drawing back within our homes and ourselves as the climate cools. Besides loving the stunning colors of Fall I enjoy the quiet time between the busy summer and holiday seasons because it can be an optimal time for focus and intention. If you are like me, “more piano” has always been at the top of my Autumn to-do list. Remember that cognitive science shows that short daily exposure to a challenging skill reaps better rewards than one long practice session per week. Try to play for at least 10 minutes per day, at least 5 days per week, to keep progressing.
What are you playing now? Leave us a comment below so that we can support your practice! Are there any pieces you plan to study this Fall? Hope you are staying safe and cool wherever you are. With love and Music, Gaili
P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus posts to motivate and inform. I have written piano instruction books specifically for adults 50+ (UpperHandsPiano.com), younger adults and teens (PianoPowered.com), Songs of the Seasons piano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books called The Music Remedy – sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view them on Amazon.com. Thanks for your support!
Swing rhythm has to do with eighth notes 🎵: it is the long-short “lazy” feel you hear in jazz tunes, as well as country, rock, folk and other music styles. Think about the songs Heart and Soul and Happy Birthday; both have eighth notes that “swing” because they are uneven, with a long-short feel. Swing is not notated in your sheet music; the eighth notes 🎵 in a piece meant to be played with swing rhythm look the same as usual 🎵. The word “Swing” is sometimes written as a tempo marking at the beginning of a swing rhythm piece, but sometimes it isn’t 🤪. You need to train your ear👂to tell whether a song is to be played in swing rhythm. You can do this by practicing my swing rhythm exercise below, and by listening to your song on Youtube.com and discerning whether the song uses even eighth notes🎵or eighth notes that swing🎵. Try playing all 12 scales with me, using Swing Rhythm in this video:
I hope you find these videos on Swing Rhythm helpful! Swing is one of those mysterious unwritten rules of music theory that isn’t always taught. Someone must explain it to you, or you will never quite understand why Happy Birthday sounds kind of jaunty and uneven.
Leave a comment below and tell us about your experiences with Swing Rhythm! I really appreciate comments!! You help others in the community of adult piano students when you ask a question or share an anecdote, so please don’t be shy!
P.S. Amazon has put my Piano Powered, BOOK 2 on a crazy sale ($3.93 instead of $19.95!) I don’t know how long it will last, so click to order now. It is almost the same as my Upper Hands Piano BOOK 2, but altered slightly for younger Adults and Teens:
P.P.S. More free sheet music is on its way August 1st, so be sure to subscribe to this blog in the top right of this page. Thanks!
If you are beginner, Triplets Exercise #1 might be challenging for you. Eighth note triplets subdivide each beat into three equal parts. Click to print the Exercise #1 sheet below, then follow these steps:
1) Play your LH quarter notes along with my video, staying with my beat and listening to the RH triplets.
2) Play your LH quarter notes along with mine, singing “tri-pl-et” or “mu-si-cal”evenly for the triplets.
3) Play your RH triplets along with my video, and see if you can stay with my beat.
4) When you are ready, try playing Ex# 1 with hands together along with my video. FYI, my metronome is set at 50 BPM (beats per minute)if you want to try this exercise on your own.
Triplets Exercise #2
If you are an intermediate piano player, Triplets Exercise #2 might be challenging for you. Six quarter note triplets spread out evenly and equally over four beats. Click to print the Triplet Exercise #2 sheet below, then follow these steps:
1) Play your LH quarter notes with my video, listening to the sound of the RH quarter note triplets.
2) Sing “tri-pl-et” or “mu-si-cal” for the triplets while your LH plays the quarter notes along with mine.
3) Play just the RH quarter note triplets with mine.
4) After much practice with RH alone, try playing Ex #2 with hands together with the video. (FYI, my metronome is set at 90 BPM). (Note: Beginners might not be ready to play Exercise #2 for quite a while.)
Triplets appear in music often, so it’s helpful to practice this skill over time, before you encounter it in your music. Be patient with yourself; it can take days, weeks, months or more, to master playing 6 quarter note triplets against 4 quarter notes. It can feel like patting your head while rubbing your stomach! Keep playing with these videos until you can stay with my right and left hands. Often students think they are playing triplets correctly when they are not, so be sure to record yourself playing your triplets with mine to hear if they are aligning properly. Practice this skill at least a few days a week until you can play both exercises on your own, without the video. Once again, record yourself to be sure the triplets are even.
Let us know how you do with this exercise! Please subscribe in the upper right corner ↗️ of this page to get your July free sheet music next weekend!
With love and triplets 🎶, Gaili
P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of almost 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus posts like this one to motivate and inform. I have written piano instruction books for older adults (UpperHandsPiano.com), younger adults and teens (PianoPowered.com), Songs of the Seasons piano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books called The Music Remedy – sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view them on Amazon.com.
One of the most challenging skills for adults learning to play a musical instrument for the first time is keeping a steady beat. I suggest that you record yourself playing your piece (using memo messages on an iPhone, or another recording app or device). If you are playing the correct notes but your piece doesn’t sound right, your rhythm is probably the culprit. I’d like to help you work on your rhythm issues.
Though most students know intellectually that two eighth notes are equal in value to one quarter note, they tend to think of eighth notes as” fast notes,” and often rush them. This is a very simple exercise to help you play eighth notes at exactly twice the speed of quarter notes. I am playing 2 measures of quarter notes, followed by 2 measures of eighth notes, then I repeat. If you have a mobile phone, a tablet or laptop, bring it to the piano and play this exercise from this email. Plug in some headphones and try your best to stay with me. Keep practicing until your rhythm is aligned with mine.
I am playing the D above middle C. You can play D with me, or choose another key such as A, F#, G or B.
Once you can keep your beat aligned with mine, go through the music you are playing now, identifying the quarter notes and eighth notes, making sure that your eighths are exactly twice as fast as your quarter notes. Record yourself, then see if you can tap a steady beat as you listen to your recording. If the beat is not steady, keep practicing small sections of your piece which contain quarter notes and eighth notes, and keep practicing my exercise.
This might seem elementary, but in my 35 years of teaching, I would say that keeping a steady beat between eighths and quarters is the most difficult thing for students to learn– both young and old alike.
Do you think this might be an issue for you? Let us know how you do when playing this exercise along with me. I can provide additional rhythm exercises if I see that there is interest.
Hope you have a lovely weekend! With love and music, Gaili
P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of almost 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus posts like this one to educate and motivate. Check my previous posts for free sheet music offerings on the right sidebar ➡️➡️➡️
I have written piano instruction books for older adults (UpperHandsPiano.com), younger adults and teens (PianoPowered.com), Songs of the Seasons piano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books called The Music Remedy – sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. They might make great Fathers’ Day gifts for the piano playing dads in your life. Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view them on Amazon.com.