Mise en place

I just finished reading an interesting book called Practice Like This: 35 Effective Ways To Get Better Faster by Jonathan Harnum, PhD. It’s a book about practicing in general– sports, games, painting, music, cooking, etc.– but the author is a trumpet player, so his practice strategies are all applicable to the musician. In the coming weeks I will share what I think are the most valuable practice tips for us piano players.

As a passionate foodie, I was immediately attracted to Harnum’s use of the chef’s term, Mise en placeMise en place is a French culinary phrase which means “everything in its place.” It refers to the set up required before preparing a meal as well as the organizing of a kitchen.

 

My daughter runs an amazingly delicious Mediterranean restaurant in the Hamptons area of New York called Calissa that features an open kitchen (above left and center) and its fast food sister restaurant near Grand Central Station called Amali Mou (above right). I find it fascinating to watch the chefs as they create their gorgeous meals. Though they are feeding as many as 250 people at any given time, everything they need seems to be at their fingertips. As Harnum writes: “When things get hot and heavy in a busy kitchen, there’s no time to hunt for your cracked pepper or your sharpened paring knife.”

A good chef, baker or cook knows that in order to be efficient and focused, they must assemble all of the tools and ingredients they need before preparing a tasty dish. 

 

A kitchen must be clean, and well organized 

so that the chef knows where everything is and feels inspired to work her culinary magic.

Likewise, says Harnum, for a musician: “If you adopt the mise-en-place approach in your practice, you can toss off a quick practice session with no setup time.”

As pianists, we don’t always have a lot of choice as to where we can put our pianos, but they should ideally be kept in a place where we can readily sit down and play for 5 or 10 minutes. It’s best to keep your instrument in an area where you will constantly see it; people whose pianos or keyboards are in basements or converted garages tend to practice less, because they simply forget about it! On the other hand, if a piano is in the same room as a television or another popular family entertainment feature, our playing might be prevented or interrupted, and the practice opportunity is lost. If your piano is in a living room or den, you might want to consider purchasing a small keyboard with headphones that you can keep in your bedroom and play anytime. 

© creativecommonsstockphotos ID 87589627 | Dreamstime Stock PhotosMost importantly, we must put our mobile phones away. 

We can’t focus when we are hearing the bells of incoming messages and seeing the flash of our latest instagram LIKES. A good strategy is to put the phone in another room with the sound off. If you know that you only have a certain amount of time to practice, set the timer to ring in 20 or 30 minutes and forget about it, just as you might do while meditating. 

Using natural light or a piano lamp with a full spectrum or soft light bulb instead of harsh
LED light also creates a more inviting learning 
environment. A vase of flowers or herbs (mint is easy to grow and makes a refreshingly fragrant bouquet), and candles (beeswax aren’t smoky) make your playing space feel special. I love playing the piano at night by candle-light. Music-themed or other pleasing artwork on the walls can also be inspiring.

One important element in creating the feeling of a sanctuary or sacred space is to clear our piano area of clutter; when I moved music books and sheet music to a file box next to the piano instead on top of it, the piano area looked much more appealing. Clearing clutter from our pianos, helps to de-clutter our minds.

Before you start playing, you might consider keeping a pitcher of fragrant cucumber water near (not on!) the piano to stay hydrated in between pieces. And if you might get hungry, put a small bowl of raw almonds, walnuts or pecans close by so that you can have a quick snack without needing to wash your hands. 

Likewise, we piano teachers need to take stock of our studio space, with the goal of providing a clutter-free, quiet, and calming environment, conducive to the joyful expression and creation of music.

Students walk in with all of their worries and pressures, and I hope that at least for the duration of our lesson, they are able to put their concerns aside, and connect to their music. New studies are showing that listening to “happy” music, in particular “promotes more divergent thinking.” I hope that when students leave their lesson, their mind feels a little freer. And through the brain enhancing magic of music, maybe even a few new creative solutions to their problems might pop up on their ride home. 

Take a look at your piano and see if it feels welcoming. Think about what you might do to create a Mise en place practice space. Please leave a comment sharing your ideas and observations!

With love and music, Gaili

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

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Valentine’s Day FREE Sheet Music: Red Is The Rose (intermediate)

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As Valentine’s Day is approaching I wanted to find a beautiful love song, and I when I came upon Red Is The Rose, I knew my search was over. Red Is The Rose has the most beautiful melody, which is almost the same as the melody to the Scottish tune, Loch Lomond, but the rhythm is a bit changed and the lyrics are very different. Red Is The Rose is Irish, which means that you can play it not only for Valentine’s Day, but also throughout March for St. Patrick’s Day! There is some question as to whether the tune began in Ireland or Scotland, but it doesn’t really matter– both songs are gorgeous. 

What is it about the Celts that makes them such amazing artists? The music, the poetry, the literature… so much beauty and history! In my travels around Ireland and Scotland I’ve noticed that nearly every child either plays a musical instrument, sings, or does traditional dance. Adult and children’s competitions abound for all three. You can find live music in every pub, and everyone knows and loves the traditional songs. The Scots and Irish hugely influenced music in Northern America since so many immigrated in the 19th century. Here in Southern California we have a Scottish Festival at the RMS Queen Mary this month, and an Irish Fair in June, plus a St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Los Angeles. Seems like we’re all a bit Celtic at heart. 

I have arranged Red Is The Rose for intermediate piano. (If it feels too difficult now, print it out for another time–it will only be available for a year!) It has an intro and an outro and can be played as a solo piece, or to accompany a vocalist. The chord symbols are also included for guitar, bass, etc. You can print the music below, and also watch the video to see the fingering I am using. In the Youtube videos I linked above for Red Is The Rose and Loch Lomond, you will notice that the artists took liberties with the rhythms and notes. You can also feel free to take liberties with this arrangement– express yourself through the music (dynamics, tempo, rhythm) however you feel it. 

PRINT Red Is The Rose HERE (3 pages)                                    (only available through January 2019)

You might also want to print You Made Me Love You on the FREE Sheet Music page from last Valentine’s Day, and other songs and pieces from the past year. 

I hope you will enjoy playing Red Is The Rose, and I hope you will sing it as well. The Irish don’t care if they are singing perfectly in time or in tune. Everyone enjoys singing! Try it- -singing is incredibly therapeutic!

Soon I will begin blogging about practicing tips again– it’s been a busy year with taking classes, teaching teachers, writing books, traveling and teaching my beloved piano students. But I do want to get back to some of the nuts and bolts of playing the piano. Leave a comment and let me know if there are any particular piano technique topics you would like me to discuss. 

I hope Valentine’s Day finds you playing and listening to beautiful music.

With much love, Gaili

P.S.

If you like Red Is The Rose, you might also like the sheet music I posted last September for The Water Is Wide— another gorgeous folk song. 

Gaili Schoen

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

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Why Do You Play the Piano?

 

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I am studying the effects of piano lessons on the brain at the University of Washington, and have found a host of scientific studies showing that piano instruction enhances mood, quality of life, movement, and Executive Functioning in the brain. Executive Function is kind of like the CEO of our brain and is located in the frontal lobe. Amongst other tasks, it facilitates attention, learning, memory, organization, decision-making, perceiving and estimating time, planning and executing plans, multitasking, problem-solving, analyzing, flexibility and reasoning.

You can read three of these fascinating studies here: Piano Lessons Increase Executive Function and Memory, here, and there.

Many are drawn to the piano because they have heard that it is an awesome brain workout, but I think you might agree that there has to be additional motivation in order to keep us doing the hard work of learning to play the piano. What gives you the willingness and courage to keep a piano practice?

For me it is a deep connection to music that feels like a spiritual practice. When I’m playing a piece I love I feel a sense of delving deep into my core. As I practice something challenging, I strive to become fully engaged in the notes and fingering and whatever set of skills I need to gain in order to learn the phrase. To me it’s worth all of the trouble, to get to the place where I can play and understand the music.

I haven’t always felt this way, however! As a child there were weeks (and maybe months) that I tried to quit piano lessons; it was sometimes so difficult to find the time to practice, or my teacher moved away (my beloved teacher Judy Lloyd moved to Australia to be with her boyfriend, and it broke my heart!), or I just wasn’t sure I was committed.

But I would soon begin to feel incomplete and disappointed in myself; stopping lessons left a hole in my life and I missed working on my piano skills. I missed the engagement, I missed the connection, I missed the music.

I often ask my students, “Why do you play the piano?” Here are some of the answers I have received:

“I play because I love music”

“It’s my therapy; it calms me and helps me to stay focused in general. I’ve definitely noticed that I have better concentration since starting lessons.”

” It’s a goal I set for myself to learn how to play the piano and understand music.”

“It’s fun!”

What brings you to the bench? Of all the activities you have to choose from, why do you choose the piano?

With love and music, Gaili

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Piano Players’ Brains

I just read another fun article about how beneficial piano playing is for the brain. While studying any instrument is a great practice, this article highlights what is unique to playing the piano:

http://www.lifehack.org/517069/science-says-piano-players-brains-are-very-different-from-everybody-elses

I think it overstates a few things, such as its assertion that for an advanced pianist …the weaker hand is strengthened to the same degree as the stronger one. Even very experienced pianists would probably say they have a weaker hand, but certainly playing with two hands does hugely impact “brain balance.” PET scan research has repeatedly shown that playing the piano stimulates multiple parts of both hemispheres of the brain.

We know that the primary reason that piano playing is such an amazing brain workout is that it requires intense multitasking; we must read the notes, observe the fingering, count the rhythm, listen to the music, press the damper pedal, play with emotion, and so much more! And I have seen first-hand that the multi-tasking skills we cultivate at the piano are put to use in other parts of our lives.

I had never considered, however, the idea put forward in this article, that experienced piano players turn off the part of the brain that offers stereotypical brain responses. It makes sense that playing the piano with expression gets us into the habit of expressing ourselves more authentically, in general. Although the word “authenticity” is sometimes overused, I think that it’s an important concept worth considering. Dr. Brené Brown (author, research professor) has this to say about authenticity:

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be, and embracing who we really are…..Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to let ourselves be vulnerable.

I love the idea that playing the piano can lead us to living a more authentic life. And it certainly makes us feel extremely vulnerable at times!

The aforementioned article also touts the virtues of improvising. As a jazz musician I improvise all the time. Sometimes my habit of improvising doesn’t turn out so great when I improvise on recipes in the kitchen…. But for the most part, I find that my willingness to improvise helps me to be more flexible and adaptable in the world. If you are interested, check out my blog posts about improvising here:

Improvising Part 1  |   Improvising Part 2  | Improvising Part 3  |

Also, scroll down to the bottom of the science article to see some links under REFERENCES to learn more about why it’s SO great to play the piano. This one is particularly interesting :

Science Shows How Piano Players’ Brains Are Actually Different From Everybody Else’s

Have you noticed any changes in the way you think or act since starting piano lessons? Does multitasking at the piano keyboard help you to multi-task in other areas of your life? Have you noticed increased attention and focus since playing (or in the hours after playing) the piano? What impact has playing the piano had on your life? By the way, how is your 10-Minutes-A-Day pledge going? I welcome your comments and observations!

With love and music, Gaili

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PEDAL PASSION | PEDAL PRACTICE

 

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Venezuelan virtuoso pianist/composer Teresa Carreño (1853-1917) believed that pedaling is like mixing paints on a palette, creating a profusion of colors and shades. She called the use of pedaling, tone-painting.  Her good friend/teacher Russian pianist/composer Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) further called the damper pedal “the soul of the piano.” It is Anton Rubinstein’s legato pedal technique that I will be describing here today.

I waited until well into BOOK 4 to introduce the art of piano pedaling to beginners, because it is difficult to think about moving your foot while you are already lifting your fingers, reading the notes, counting the rhythm, and gliding your hands across the keyboard! However, many of you who played the piano in childhood regularly use the damper pedal, and might like a refresher course on pedaling BEFORE getting to BOOK 4. Therefore, this post is for the intermediate piano student starting BOOK 4, or for the returning student. Beginners can revisit this post when they are ready to begin pedaling!

Teresa Carreño warned that though we use the pedal to extend the sound of the notes after our fingers have lifted off the keys, it is not a substitute for smooth, legato playing:

 The “legato” must be produced with the fingers, the hands, and the arms, and the [damper] pedal must be brought to act as a help, not as the chief medium.

The damper pedal is especially helpful in allowing the sound to linger while our hands are leaping to notes that are far apart. Besides a legato effect, the damper pedal also heightens the piano’s tone, making the music sound warmer, more vibrant and rich.

To introduce you to damper pedal technique I have made two videos. The first video is an introduction to damper pedal technique:

A general rule is to lift and press (“kick-back”) the damper pedal each time a chord (broken or block) changes, but if you are playing a lot of sixteenth notes, you might lift and press the pedal with each quarter note beat. Using the legato pedal technique I describe in the sheet music and video below, you fully depress the key (“hit-bottom”), then immediately raise and lower your pedal. The result is that you are lifting your pedal slightly after playing the note.

By waiting to lift and press the pedal until you have fully depressed the key, you prevent any silences from occurring between the chords. 

 The second video below accompanies pages 28-29 in Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 4 offering an exercise to learn this “legato” (or “overlapping”) pedal technique. Click on the sheet music to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

You can watch the following video as you follow along in the music:

(Please excuse my nerdy videos! I am trying to get more comfortable in front of the video camera, but I am not there yet!)

If this is your first time using the damper pedal, you will find it challenging! Think of the lift/press (“kick-back”) motion as one maneuver. Each time you lift, you immediately press once again. (You can practice this quick up-down, “kick-back” maneuver any time or any where you are sitting!) In Upper Hands Piano BOOK 4  you will find many exercises and pieces in which to practice this technique.

Though at first you will faithfully follow the pedal markings, after a while YOU will determine where pedaling will enhance your music. It becomes second nature and instinctual with time. But beware of over-pedaling. In The Art of Pedaling, Teresa Carreño advises:

The pianist cannot be careful enough in avoiding the blurring which can arise from an “abuse” of the [damper] pedal.

For now, experiment with a little pedaling each time you practice to get used to it. Try to lift and press (“kick-back”) once your key is fully depressed, each time your chord changes. Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment!

With love and music, Gaili

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Repeats – Barlines, Dots and Multiple Endings

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THE MECHANICS OF REPEATS

Repeated sections in music cause confusion for many students. Especially when they involve 1st and 2nd endings (called volta brackets).

Using the sheet music on the left let’s review repeat symbols and endings. When you come to a double bar with dots to the left of the lines, it is sending you back to either:

  1. The double bar with dots to the right of the lines, or
  2. If there isn’t a double bar with dots to the right, repeat back to the beginning.

In this arrangement of Spring, you will play from the beginning to the first ending (in blue). The blue double bar with the dots to the left sends you back to the blue double bar with dots to the right. Continue playing until you reach the blue 1st ending again. This 2nd time through, don’t play the blue measure. Skip it and play the orange measure instead, which is the 2nd ending.

Now continue on to the third line. Play through to the green 1st ending. The green double bar with the dots to the left sends you back to the green double bar with dots to the right. Continue playing until you reach the green 1st ending again. This time, don’t play the green measure. Skip it and play the pink measure, which is the 2nd ending.

I know this seems needlessly confusing, but without repeat signs and endings you would have additional pages and would have to read more notes.

PHILOSOPHIES OF REPEATS

For the intermediate and advanced player, there are other considerations when encountering repeats.

When you repeat a section do you play it exactly the same the 2nd time, or do you want it to sound different? In my example above, I indicated that the repeated sections should be played f-p, which means to play the section forte the 1st time, then piano the 2nd time. But what do you do if there is nothing to indicate playing the passage differently the 2nd time?

There is a fun book called Piano Lessons: Music, Love, and True Adventures written by NPR’s Noah Adams. In the book, Noah goes to a piano camp where he receives intensive piano training (doesn’t that sound fun?). I was struck by the advice of one of his teachers who said, “If you don’t have something different to say in the repeat, why bother playing it?”

Do you agree with her?

The Norton Encyclopedia of Music defines a repeat as, “The Restatement of a passage of music….” Composers use repetition to help the ear latch onto a melodic theme or motif. Sometimes these themes are restated in a variation, but other times there is no discernible difference. In the days before music could be recorded, pieces were usually heard only once at a concert or dance, so repetition helped the listener to remember and connect to melodies.

In the book Music and The Mind: Essays in Honour of John Sloboda, German pianist Eugen d’Albert is described as frequently playing “repeated passages quite differently from how he played them the first time.”

There is no hard and fast rule about repeats, so you can decide whether you want to modify your repeated section. If you want it to sound the same that’s fine. If you would like to change it you have options:

  • Alter the dynamics- For example, if the dynamic marking is forte, try playing it piano the 2nd time, or add crescendos and diminuendos.
  • Alter the articulation- Some examples are changing the staccato notes into legato notes, or playing accents only the 2nd time.
  • Alter the ornamentation- Some examples are adding trills and/or mordents the 2nd time through the section.
  • Alter the expression- You can let your tempo shift slightly faster and slower to add expression.

There are so many things we could discuss about music, the piano and the brain. Are there any musical issues you would like me to discuss? I am always looking for ways to overcome obstacles and solve problems if I can! Just leave your question in the comment block.

With love and music, Gaili

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White Key Improvisation (Improvising Part 3)

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I am so pleased to hear that some of you are doing a little improvising. It’s great to try something new, isn’t it? We need to keep pushing our creative boundaries in order to learn and grow. We don’t need to live there, but an occasional visit outside our comfort zone is a good thing.

Today I would like to offer another improvising exercise, this time on the white keys, in the key of A minor.

  • Start by playing and holding AEA in your left hand (an octave plus a 5th in the middle). Let your right dance around on the white keys. Since we are in A minor (no flats or sharps) every white key will work. You can start by playing 5-6 notes in a row, then change direction. Move up and down, skipping, stepping and jumping across the white keys, repeating your left hand AEA each time it fades.
  • Next, improvise to a slow steady tempo in 4/4 time, playing your left hand AEA on the first beat of each 4/4 measure. Keep your right hand simple so that you can keep the beat going.
  • Now I’d like you to try a chord progression. With your left hand practice playing these four chords as whole notes occurring on the first beat of each measure: AEA, CGC, GDG, DAD. Keep playing them holding each for four beats until you are comfortable with the jumps.
  • Next you will add improvised notes in the right hand on the white keys. If it’s too difficult to improvise while playing those four left hand chords, record them and improvise to the recording with your right hand alone. (If you own an iphone, you can record on your “voice memo” app that comes with the phone.) There are no wrong notes, all the white keys work!

Once you have gotten comfortable playing on the white keys, you can play to my recording below. I am playing fairly fast 4-beat chords with a popular-style rhythm to which you can improvise on the white keys.

Experiment with various note lengths–quarters, eighths–and repeating any phrases that you like. There is a lot of repetition in the chords, so feel free to use repetition in your improvisation.

For those of you who like a written representation of the chord progressions I’m using, here’s a “lead sheet” for you:

White Key Improvisation

2015 © UpperHandsPiano.com

Am    C    G    Dm7

Am    C    G    (G)                                                                                                                              

 Am    C    G    Dm7                                                                                                                         

Am    C    G    (G)                                                                                                                          

Fmaj7   G   Am  Cmaj7   G   Dm7   Am9   (Am9)                                                                      

Fmaj7   G   Am  Cmaj7   G   Dm7   Am9   (Am9)    (repeat whole section)

bridge:  F/A   F/A    Am9    Am9    F/A    F/A    Am9    Am9    F/A   F/A   Am9    Am9   F/A    F/A

Fmaj7   G   Am  Cmaj7   G   Dm7   Am9   (Am9)                                                                         

Fmaj7   G   Am  Cmaj7   G   Dm7   Am9    

Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin said,

It’s just a chord or riff that inspires me and then I go on and see how it goes color-wise. The whole thing just grows like an acorn…

I hope you get inspired!

With love and music, Gaili

 

 

Finger painting (Improvising, part 2)

Hello Piano Lovers:

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Today I’d like to delve further into the question, why should we improvise?

Firstly, if you read my post from yesterday, Improvising, Part 1, you know that brain scans ( fMRI) show that improvising activates a whole other part of the brain. It is called the Brodmann 9. The Brodmann 9 deals with short-term memory, verbal fluency, error detection, empathy, attention to emotions, planning, calculation and a host of other brain functions. Brain stimulation alone is reward enough. But improvising brings other gifts:

Once you become more comfortable with improvising, you’re able to cover up memory slips in your playing much more easily. You trust that you can fill in a couple of notes while you recover and keep going.

Recent studies show that improvising has a “releasing” effect on your creativity and originality in general. When you practice improvising, you are practicing letting go, opening your mind, inventing, risking, and imagining. You are becoming more adaptable. Adaptability is an important component of aging well.

As Sophia Loren said,

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

Let’s face it, studying the piano can be tedious. Practicing an exercise and playing a piece is challenging, and coming up against a difficult passage can be frustrating. Sometimes we just need to let loose and play something with no right- or wrong-ness to it.

Being creative is tapping into our humanity. It is an expression of our inner experience and our uniqueness. It is like a spoken history of who we are, and where we have been. Let the piano be your palette; paint a picture with your music.

Have I convinced you that improvising is at least worth a little experimentation? If so, try this:

BLACK KEY IMPROVISATION

  • Hold down a low F# octave (the two lowest F#s on your piano) with your left hand. Keep repeating the octave whenever it starts to fade away. With your right hand, play the black keys from the C# below middle C, moving up the keys for a few octaves. Then play the black keys moving back down to where you started. Next, move up and down within one octave.
  • Continuing to play F# octaves with your left hand, have your right hand skip around amongst the black keys. Play some that are next to each other, and some out of sequence.
  • Now vary the rhythm. Imagine that some are quarter notes, some are eighths moving twice as fast. Play some half and whole notes. Form a pattern with your rhythm such as quarter, quarter, eight, eighth, quarter, across the keys.
  • Repeat any phrases that you like, and make a mental note of them. Experiment with different key patterns such as moving up two keys then down one, over and over.
  • Now vary your dynamics. Play some notes forte, others piano.
  • Next vary your tempo. Play some notes allegro and others largo.
  • Try playing the black keys imagining you are in 3/4 time. Then go to 4/4. Then play with no meter, just let the music flow.
  • Try this improvisation again at another time and record yourself. Or write down any musical phrases you liked. You can use standard musical notation, or any type of short hand such as writing down the letters of the notes you played.

How was this for you? Did you enjoy it? Keep reminding yourself to let go, and not to judge. Think of it as finger painting! Dip In.

With love and music, Gaili

PS If you’re interested in learning more about how improvising affects the brain, watch this Ted Talk by Charles Limb.

7 Moving Pieces (For Inspiration)

 

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Dear Friends:

I sometimes turn to moving music to get me through a difficult time, or to reflect my feelings of joy and appreciation. Listening to moving music is one of the greatest pleasures available, but we don’t do it enough! How often do you just sit and listen to music? Without doing the dishes, driving, or exercising? We’re all so busy, but just sitting and listening to moving music is like therapy.

We can get swept away by inexpressibly beautiful songs and pieces that release dopamine into our brains making us feel amazing!

We can turn to different types of music for the many emotions we are experiencing. Here is my list of 7 moving pieces that will hopefully inspire you to move forward with your dreams, desires, wishes and intentions.

1) Gabriel’s Oboe (Main Theme from The Mission, By Ennio Morricone)

2) Sonata Pathetique (Adagio Cantabile, By Ludwig van Beethoven)

3) Triumph of Time and Tide (Sarabande, by Georg Friedrich Handel)

4) Etude No. 26 in A-flat Major (By Frederick Chopin)

5) When You Wish Upon A Star (By Leigh Harline and Ned Washington)

6) Don’t Give Up (By Peter Gabriel, with Kate Bush)

7) Wonderful World (By Bob Thiele and George David Weiss)

What music do you listen to for inspiration?

Tomorrow,  7 Moving Pieces (For Happiness)

With love and music, Gaili

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Musical Endings

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Today I would like to talk about musical endings.

In his wonderful book Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself,  (I love the audiobook!) Alan Alda said,

Deep in our hearts we know that the best things said come last. People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart. Doorways, it seems, are where the truth is told.

The end of a song or piece is like a doorway. The truth of the music is revealed in the final measures with an outpouring of pure emotion moving us into silence or into the beginning of the next movement. Endings can be long or short, triumphant or tragic, lyrical or succinct, humorous or melancholic, stately or surprising, or can fade away into silence. Some are conclusive and others end with a question. As with beginnings and middles, it’s a good idea to put some thought and care into how we would like to end our piece.

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1) Practice your ending until you can let go of reading every note, and can move beyond the notes.

2) When you have worked your way to the final measures of a piece, think about your expression, or the emotion of the phrases. Write down a few words to describe the ending so that you can focus your mind on those emotions when you play it.

3) What tempos and dynamics will you use? Will you slow down at the end of a piece, or keep the tempo steady? Will your ending be piano or forte, or will it contain a mixture of dynamics?

4) If you are playing a popular song you can choose a wide variety of endings. You can improvise a little melody of your own. You can play some extra chords such as a minor ii7, V7, I. You can play some chord arpeggios such as the I – Major 7th. You can repeat the last few measures an octave higher, then end with a very low note.

5) Whatever type of music you are playing, make your ending count. Don’t let yourself rush through it like a horse back to the stables! Take the time to give your ending its due. What truth do you want to tell at this doorway? For Alan Alda, it was,

Oh, by the way, I love you

When you are ready,

1) Play your finished piece for someone you love and trust. Sharing your music with others is a great gift and gives your piece a sense of closure.

2) While you move on to new pieces, KEEP REVIEWING THE PIECES YOU KNOW AND LOVE.

3) If you haven’t played a piece for awhile, don’t get discouraged when you can’t play it perfectly the first time. Keep playing, and it will come back to you!

4) Write down a repertoire of about 10 pieces that you will keep in rotation. Play these pieces for yourself and/or others as often as you can.

Each time you review a piece, you will deepen your understanding of it. You will play it with increasing ease and expression over the weeks, months and years of review.

With love and music, Gaili

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Bibliography

A Pianists A-Z: A Piano Lover’s Reader. By Alfred Brendel                                                                       Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself. By Alan Alda