May FREE Sheet Music: Pavane

UpperHandsPiano.com

UpperHandsPiano.com/blog

Dear Piano Players:

My dear student Joan requested the beautiful and melodic Pavane by the French composer Gabriel Fauré so I wrote a couple of arrangements for our piano community 🙂 One is exactly like the original, only a bit shorter, and the other I simplified to an early intermediate level. It has been used in many films and television shows so it will probably sound familiar to you. The Pavane is one of those pieces that appeal to both the young and old, so please feel free to share it with your friends, students or other teachers.

 

CLICK HERE TO PRINT PAVANE (and other titles!) FROM OUR WEBSITE.

Maypole

Happy May Day! In Europe and Scandinavia May Day was traditionally celebrated with a maypole dance in which neighbors circle around the maypole weaving their ribbons in and out. What might you like to weave into your life this spring? Think about an intention you might set for your practice, and begin each practice session by setting a small goal for a small section of your music, in support of that intention.

I want to remind you to think about your posture when playing the piano. When you want to bend forward, be sure to bend with a straight back. Check-in with your body now and then to make sure you are not curving your back or extending your neck. We tend to hunch over and extend our neck as we age,  (and as we text!) and that can cause “forward head posture”, with its attendant neck and back pain.

I hope you enjoy a lovely May filled with flowers and a few showers, wherever you are! With love and music, Gaili

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

UpperHandsPiano.com

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Practice Small

upperhandspiano.com/blog

UpperHandsPiano.com/blog

Dear Piano Players:

Last year I wrote a blog post called Goals vs Intentions, and today I would like to explore those ideas further.

To start with, we might approach our practice by creating intentions in the form of questions:

  • What do I need to do to become a better player?
  • How can I learn to accept my mistakes without becoming discouraged?
  • How can I learn to read notes better?
  • How can I improve my rhythm?
  • Can I allow myself to relax and play?
  • How can I play with more emotion?
  • How can I play more smoothly?
  • How can I be a more effective teacher?


In his book Practice Like This, Dr. Jonathan Harnum asserts that setting goals for a single practice session is an effective learning tool towards supporting that intention. For example, if your intention is to play more smoothly, Harnum suggests you set immediate, micro, and nano goals for your practice session, which might look like this:

Immediate Goal: “During this practice session, I would like to be able to play measures 6-8 more smoothly.”

Micro Goal (smaller): I will focus on my fingering in these two difficult passages by playing slowly with hands separately.

Nano Goal (smallest, specific) 1: I will practice crossing my RH 3-finger over my 1-finger on B following with my 2- and 1-fingers on B-flat and A, until I can play it three times correctly.

Nano Goal 2: I will practice the accompanying LH chords with my eyes both open and closed, until I know them well. (Once you know the left hand notes, your brain will be more available to focus on the right hand fingering.) 

Harnum suggests that when you achieve your nano goal, “…savor the accomplishment because that will fuel your motivation to continue.” 

I recommend setting your nano goal at no more than three correct repetitions; learning research shows that after a few repetitions, the skill becomes less effortful and therefore no longer advances learning. Instead, after you have played the passage correctly a few times, move on to practicing something else (perhaps alternate with your other nano goal). Then come back to the first passage after leaving some time for forgetting to set in. Each time you cycle back to recall a skill after forgetting it somewhat, your learning grows stronger and deeper. Click to learn more about: The Best Ways To Practice Using the Latest Brain Research.

Start your practice session with your immediate goal in mind; the brain best remembers what we study first and last during a practice session, and you don’t want to run out of practice time before addressing your greatest challenges. However, be sure to also play your piece from the beginning periodically. In her Great Courses lecture series called How We Learn, Dr. Monisha Pasupathi shows that we must continue to practice recalling both what has become easy and what is still difficult in a piece, in order to be able to play the whole piece smoothly:

“The most effective strategy for learning is to repeatedly retrieve both items that are known and items that are not as well known….Over time, people [start] forgetting the unpracticed items…; it’s as if failing to practice these items makes them unlearned.”

Remember also, that what we call “talent” is, for the most part, simply having become motivated enough to put in the time and effort. In his book Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin shows that very few superstars in the business, sports or music world were born with any discernible innate talent. For both Mozart and golf pro Tiger Woods, for example, it was their fathers making sure they were practicing daily, that gave them the skillful edge. Forget about talent, it’s primarily about your practice. Using nano goals you can grow your talent one small step at a time.

With love and music, Gaili

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

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April Free Sheet Music: Wayfaring Stranger

 

Dear Piano Lovers:

In light of the fact that we’re having some pretty strange spring weather on both the east and west coasts, and because I have been hearing that you’re enjoying the old folk songs, I decided to arrange another beautiful oldie, called Wayfaring Stranger. This dark tune  which probably originated in the southern Appalachians, has been recorded by many fine artists, many of whom you can watch here. I think my favorite version is Jack White’s:

You can watch a bit of the song as White sung it in the 2003 film, Cold Mountain (starring Renée Zellweger, Nicole Kidman and Jude Law): 

I offered an easy arrangement of Wayfaring Stranger in Upper Hands Piano BOOK 1, and have also re-arranged it for intermediate piano. You can download both, below:

Print Wayfaring Stranger EASY & INTERMEDIATE HERE.

In the intermediate arrangement I tried to simulate some of that mountain guitar sound that Jack White creates, but I have kept the melody to the traditional notes. Here is a video to help you play Wayfaring Stranger, intermediate:

Here are the lyrics to the third verse, which I didn’t include in the sheet music:

I know dark clouds will hover o’er me
I know my pathway is rough and steep
But golden fields lie out before me
Where weary eyes no more will weep
I’m going there to see my Mother
She said she’d meet me when I come
So, I’m just going over Jordan
I am just going over home

You might also want to scroll down on the FREE Sheet Music Page and print a few more songs before they disappear! (They are available for only one year.) If you haven’t already, print The Water Is Wide. It’s such a beautiful song; I want everyone to know it!

I hope Wayfaring Stranger helps you enjoy the final vestiges of cloudy/rainy/snowy moody/gloominess before the dawning of a sunshiny spring!

With love and music, Gaili

Gaili Schoen, Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul (BOOKs 1-4, available on Amazon.com)

UpperHandsPiano.com

 

March FREE Sheet Music: Star of the County Down

Kylemore Abbey, Ireland

Hello Piano Lovers!

It’s March, and I’m enjoying practicing Irish tunes for a few upcoming St. Patrick’s Day gigs. Though I already have two Irish folksongs — Red Is The Rose and Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral — posted on the Free Sheet Music page of the website, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to offer you one more Irish beauty: Star of the County Down. Van Morrison and The Chieftains made a great recording of it in 1988, but I love when it is played as a slow waltz. I wrote two arrangements, one easy, the other intermediate. 

If you’re a subscriber to my blog, thanks very much! I hope you are finding the practice tips, cognitive science connections, and free sheet music helpful. If you have arrived here via a link from social media, could you take a second to leave a comment telling me where you linked from? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn? To thank you I’ll send you free sheet music for The Irish Washerwoman. My students often play it as a fun exercise in every key! 

PRINT Star of the County Down HERE

There is some question as to whether the lyrics are in the public domain so I didn’t include them. But if you would like to have them, click here

Since we’re celebrating the Irish influence in America this month, is there an element of Irish culture that makes your heart sing? Do you have a favorite Irish book (Ulysses, Angela’s Ashes, The Country Girls, Brooklyn, Waiting for Godot, Circle of Friends)? Author (Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Bram Stocker, W.B. Yeats, Maeve Binchy, Oscar Wilde)? Song (Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, She Moved Through The Fair, Si Bheg Si Mor, Rocky Road to Dublin, Lagan Love, Sailor’s Hornpipe)? Band (U2, The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Sinead O’Connor, The Bothy Band, Planxty)? Films (The Quiet Man, The Secret of Kells, The Crying Game, Once, My Left Foot, The Commitments, Waking Ned Devine, Ryan’s Daughter)? There is so much of Irish culture to enjoy. As soon as the Oscars are over I just might have to re-watch The Secret of Roan Inish! That is one of my all-time favorite films, filled with music and magic. 

Next week I will be back in your inbox with some new practice tips from my latest research in learning science. Hope you enjoy the last weeks of winter wherever you are!

With love and music, Gaili

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

UpperHandsPiano.com

 

 

Mise en place

Dear Piano Lovers:

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

UpperHandsPiano.com

 

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

UpperHandsPiano.com

UpperHandsPiano.com/blog

Dear Piano Lovers:

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. 

Go to our website to PRINT Red Is The Rose HERE (3 pages)

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

UpperHandsPiano.com

Resolve

Happy New Year Piano Peeps!

Resolve! UpperHandsPiano.com/blog

If you’re like me, you love making new year’s resolutions. The year ahead is a clean slate, filled with possibility, and it’s important to me that I feel that I keep growing, keep improving, keep learning.  Musicians form short-term goals to improve our skills; we practice playing a difficult musical passage smoothly, our exercises, memorizing a short piece, or learning the minor 7th chords in all 12 keys, etc. But all makers of art also need to resolve to develop an enduring plan for maintaining the good practices we cultivate while working towards our creative goals.

To maintain a music practice, we might speak in terms of intentions rather than goals. Life coach/author Jennifer Louden writes that the word intention comes from the Latin “intendere” which means “to stretch toward something.” Louden suggests that while a goal drives you toward a future outcome, an intention helps keep you in the present: 

 The goal feels positive, but closed, almost a should, and it doesn’t inspire the imagination nearly as much as the intention, which feels open-ended, expansive, encouraging….

Instead of, or in addition to setting a goal such as, “I will learn this piece in 60 days,” you might want to form an intention, such as, “I am folding piano practice into my life at least four days per week,” or, “I am exploring improvisation in my piano studies this year,” or “I am going to halt negative self-talk by celebrating my accomplishments,” etc.

Write down your intention. Then come up with a structure to support it. You can adjust your expectations and intentions as you go along, but a written intention and structure acts as a roadmap. For example, if your intention is to become a better note-reader, your structure might be to open one of your piano books and play one random line a few times each day at the beginning of your practice session, and to draw random notes on lines, spaces and ledger lines on manuscript paper, then write the letters next to the note heads, four days per week. You might also make some flash cards for the ledger line notes you consistently have trouble reading. Whatever your intention(s), find a structure that you can embrace. Setting unreasonable expectations is counter-productive.

When you have to leave town and won’t be able to practice, set an intention to put practice aside until you return, and name the date that you will resume your practice routine. That way, your travel becomes part of your intention, and not an aberration.

When days or weeks pass in which you didn’t fulfill your intention, let regrets go. Start fresh the following week doing your best to reinstate your structure. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about process. Keep it light and enjoyable. Intentions are about how you want to live your life.  Your intentions are driven by your values. A little guilt is ok if it keeps you aligned with an intention, but don’t let yourself slide into shame and self-recrimination.

Be brave enough to live creatively…. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You…get there…by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: Yourself.      –Alan Alda

I hope you are enjoying new found resolve in 2018. I took a long, wonderful trip in December/January, and though I was missing playing my piano and working with my dear students, I was still learning as I listened to a lot of music with wonderful exotic flavors. I also journaled during the trip. You might consider keeping a music diary or journal, recording your thoughts and feelings about playing the piano, or writing about your successes and challenges, and especially writing about a practice technique that is working for you (i.e. playing before bed, or leaving a difficult piece and coming back to it after a walk, etc.)

If you missed my last blog post and would like to see/hear what I saw/heard in Morocco and Tunisia, click here. I hope you are enjoying a beautiful winter’s day wherever you are. 

I love your comments; please share any piano practice intentions you are forming for  2018 so we can support you!

With love and music, Gaili

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

UpperHandsPiano.com