December FREE Sheet Music: O Christmas Tree (with jazz chords)

Dear Piano Peeps:

There is nothing better than music to bring family and friends together during the holidays. My piano teacher Mildred Portney Chase used to tell me to “play the piano with love.” When we are able to bring love into our music, we express that love to those who are listening. I want to encourage you to play for your loved ones during the holidays (even though you may not be able to play perfectly!) It really is a wonderful gift to hear someone play the piano for you.

Today I am pleased to offer you the sheet music for O Christmas Tree, which I have arranged for piano, using some colorful jazz chords. While I usually post easy piano arrangements, this arrangement of O Christmas Tree might be considered “late intermediate”. 

You can also find a video below to help you hear and trust the dissonances. It is played rubato, so the pauses and tempo changes are just one person’s expression–make it your own! Do you like the jazzy voicings, or do you prefer the traditional chords? Let me know what you think and what kind of sheet music you would like to see me offer in 2018. Keep in mind that everything I give away here must be in the public domain (written before 1923). 


If you scroll all the way down on the FREE SHEET MUSIC page, you can also print the duet, I Love To Stay At Home by Irving Berlin which I posted in December 2016, and an easy arrangement of Winter from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi (I Love To Stay At Home will only be available til the end of December, so print today if you want it!)

You can watch a video performance of O Christmas Tree here:

If you are new to this blog, welcome! I post free sheet music every month, so I do hope you will subscribe. I have also written a series of piano instruction books called Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to SPARK the Mind Heart and Soul. You can learn more about the books here.

I also arrange music for Sheet Music Plus. You can find titles such as Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, White Christmas, Sevivon and Oh Chanukah here

I hope you have a warm and cozy holiday season, filled with friends and family, music and magic. Soon we will be ringing in a new year, with new musical goals and intentions. Think about what your you would like your piano practice  to look like in 2018! Let’s discuss it next month!

With love and music, Gaili

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


November FREE Sheet Music: Over The River And Through The Woods

Dear Piano Peeps:

This month I wanted to give you the music for two of my favorite Thanksgiving songs. Over The River And Through The Woods is a fun song for kids and adults to play and sing together. Here in Los Angeles we have neither snow nor woods, but we carry the fantasy of snowy woods, and this song helps evoke that cozy feeling. I hope you will also scroll down on my FREE SHEET MUSIC page to print, We Gather Together, a beautiful 16th Century hymn that celebrates fellowship, and gratitude.  A couple years ago my daughter and I wrote a verse of lyrics to reflect our appreciation for food and family. She is a restauranteur in New York, so we had so much fun collaborating over FaceTime and email. I include both the traditional and our verse in the sheet music. I want to encourage adult piano students to play both We Gather Together and Over The River at your Thanksgiving gathering! Your family will love it, even though you won’t play it perfectly 🙂


Autumn holidays are my favorite. Last night we had hundreds of kids trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Of course we could all buy our kids a bag of candy and call it a day. But Halloween is about community, and we loved seeing and chatting with the creatively-costumed kids at our door. Most kids said their thank yous, and the parents stopped to chat, or wish us a Happy Halloween if we didn’t know them. I was so touched that with all of the fear in the world of terrorism, poisoning and other nefarious acts of violence (much scarier than ghosts and goblins!), families still enjoy walking door to door to connect with neighbors.

Over The River And Through The Woods and We Gather Together are from my Upper Hands Piano SONGS OF THE SEASONS: AUTUMN book which you can purchase along with the WINTER, SPRING and SUMMER, and the Adult 50+ Upper Hands Piano books on 

In Songs of the Seasons: Autumn, we look at the idea of gratitude, and how we can be more mindful of the many blessings in our lives:


Autumn is naturally a time for acknowledging all of the people and things we

are grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal in November and write 5 things you

appreciated about each day. Tell your significant other, friends and family

what you appreciate about them. Once you start looking, you’ll find so much

in your life to be grateful for. Express your gratitude in the music you play.





I also wanted to mention that I have lots of holiday music arrangements on Sheet Music Plus, including songs such as Autumn Leaves, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, White Christmas, and various other Chanukah and Christmas Songs, if you like to play just a song or two. 

I hope your music helps to bring peace, love, hope and gratitude to your Thanksgiving table, wherever or however you celebrate. I am enormously grateful for my students and my musical work. What a gift to be able to live through music! With love and music, Gaili



October FREE Sheet Music- (Tchaikovsky’s) October: Autumn Song

Dear Piano Poltergeists:

My freaky student Jack O’Lantern has been playing some of the pieces from Tchaikovsky’s, The Seasons. I arranged June for our Songs Of The Seasons: Summer book, and am offering an easy arrangement of October for free this month on our website. You can play the hauntingly beautiful October theme to scare your trick-or-treaters on Halloween, and to get into the autumn spirit. This is also a great piece for introducing students to triplets, as there are many triplets in various rhythmic configurations in this eerie piece, none of which are frightfully difficult.


You might also want to scroll down and print Chopin’s spooky Prelude (Op. 28, No. 20) from last Halloween. The Prelude will R.I.P. when the witchcraft wears off, so print today before it becomes an apparition!


In other news, I came upon this post by Inc. Magazine today that once again affirms that playing a musical instrument is one of the most effective things we can do to keep our brains fit:

According to Dr. Melissa Maguire of the Yorkshire Brain Research Centre, playing music activates both hemispheres of the brain at the same time….“Music is probably the only activity you do that excites the whole brain.”

When playing the piano makes you want to scream, remember that it’s because it is bloody challenging that it’s the beastliest brain workout possible. 

I hope you enjoy Tchaikovsky’s October! Don’t be a ghost; won’t you please leave a scream in the comment section if you print?

With music and magic, Gaili

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


September FREE Sheet Music: The Water Is Wide

Dear Piano Peeps:

© Greg Spivey |

In these times of fires and floods, trouble and tragedy, we need music more than ever. I searched for a beautiful song that could resonate with our sadness as well as our gratitude, and I think I found it in The Water Is Wide. Here it is performed by James Taylor and also by The Indigo Girls, Jewel and Sarah McLachlan. The song originated in Scotland where it was called O Waly Waly (translated O Woe is Me). Since my musical mission is piano accessibility for all, I usually offer easy arrangements of songs and pieces. With The Water Is Wide, I created two arrangements: one easy, the other more advanced with bigger chords; both feature large notes and sparse page markings for ease in reading. 

To Print the arrangements of The Water is Wide, CLICK HERE

You can also scroll down the page to print the sheet music for School Days which I posted last September (it will only be available for another week so print it now if you want it!) 

If you are new to our blog, please read The Best Way To Practice Using The Latest Brain Research and When Should You Be Practicing?  Even if you are a regular subscriber I think these posts are worth a reread when you have the time. If you haven’t yet, please read my post about Performance Anxiety we experience at piano lessons and the post Playing An Instrument Is Like Fireworks In The Brain for inspiration. 

I hope that you enjoy playing The Water Is Wide. Do you have a song or piece you like to play when you are feeling down? Please share your favorite pieces for grief and relief. 

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”   — Kahil Gibran
With love and music, Gaili

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

P.S. If you don’t have a teacher and you need help fingering the advanced arrangement of The Water Is Wide, email me at: and I’ll send you a video

Performance Anxiety At Piano Lessons?

Dear Piano Peeps:

Many of us piano students experience performance anxiety every time we play in front of our teacher. In spite of the teacher’s best intentions to put us at ease, we still feel attached to playing our pieces perfectly. When we make a mistake our stress level rises, the fight or flight instinct kicks in, and we find it difficult to think or even see the page clearly. Though it is probably a bit different for everyone, here are several common reasons why we experience performance anxiety at lessons:

  1. We know that we didn’t practice enough.
  2. We practiced, but we’re afraid that it won’t show.
  3. We are afraid that our piano teacher is bored, disappointed, or judging us.
  4. The teacher’s piano feels and sounds different from our own, which is disorienting.
  5. We want to do well, and being a student makes us feel incompetent.
  6. Making mistakes feels like we are ruining the music.
  7. We are tired, hungry or distracted with personal concerns and are finding it difficult to keep it together for our piano lesson.
  8. We suspect that we just don’t have the talent to play the piano.

Having spent many years as a student as well as a teacher, I have had all of these thoughts, and felt all of the attendant emotions. I’d like to talk about each one, then offer some solutions.

1. What is “enough?” It is an elusive goal that can never be reached. We almost never feel that we have practiced enough, because there is so much to learn, and always room for a great deal of improvement. Take heart in the overwhelming evidence that shows that a little practice each day can move us steadily forward. If you can’t practice 30 minutes a day, try for 10 minutes. The brain learns most efficiently with regular reviewing of musical material, even if your practice sessions are short. If you have been able to play for at least 10 minutes a day, five days per week, you have done enough. If you weren’t able to keep to a 5-day /10-minute regimen, practice before your lesson, then try to find more time in the following week. Put it in your planner; don’t let your head hit your pillow until you’ve shaken hands with your piano each night, for at least an exercise, or to study a short musical passage that you find challenging.

2. You will never play as well in front of your teacher as you played at home. That is a given. Your teacher experienced the same issue when s/he was a student. You can simply explain that you have been playing that passage without a hitch at home, and your teacher will understand that your mistake is temporary. Playing under pressure highlights weaknesses, so your teacher might still want you to go over the mistaken notes a bit at the lesson. Perhaps it was a fingering issue, and s/he can help you find something that works better.

3. If you really believe that your teacher is bored, or is casting negative judgements upon you, you must find another teacher. I think I can speak for most music teachers in saying that we go into this profession because we love experiencing each student’s musical development. We love it all- the beginner who is just opening her/his eyes, ears and heart to the world of making music; the intermediate student who after learning the basics begins to enjoy listening to his/her own playing; and the advanced student who can play more complicated pieces, but still needs direction and feedback. I love hearing my students’ music, mistakes and all. And I get excited when I think, I know just what this student needs to move to the next level on this piece. I love watching a student who is struggling with a passage for weeks come to that place where s/he just GETS IT! I love getting to know my students, noticing their individual beauty, rejoicing in their triumphs and sharing their pain when they face life challenges. Working one-on-one enables me to connect with each student– teaching piano privately is a great job! If, however, your teacher does not seem to enjoy working with you, find another teacher with whom you connect better. Unfortunately some teachers are frustrated musicians. They had never wanted to teach, only to perform, and failing that, they decided to give lessons. You want to find that person for whom teaching is fun and enriching. Another consideration is how you treat your piano teacher. Are you friendly, trusting and receptive to your teacher’s suggestions? Do you give sufficient notice if you need to cancel? Do you take your lessons consistently? Do you try to arrive on time? Both the teacher and student must treat each other with respect and kindness.

4. With time, you become accustomed to your teacher’s piano. It’s a good idea to get used to playing on a wide variety of pianos anyway; increased adaptability is an important skill for pianists who can’t take their instrument with them.

5. Being an adult beginner can be daunting. In her essay for the New York Times Magazine, piano student Melanie Rehak tells the story of her first lesson as an adult student:

“And so it began — an excruciating half-hour of mistakes, confusion and deep, deep frustration. I’ve never been more relieved to exit a room in my life. As I turned to sprint down the stairs and back across the street to safety, the door of the practice room across from mine opened and a small boy came out — a small boy with a stack of complicated sonatas and concertos as thick as a phone book. The humiliation was complete.”

Let me ask you this: What if you actually were content with your playing just as it is? What if we don’t measure ourselves up against prodigies or professional pianists, and we just enjoy our practice? I am taking French lessons, but I know that I will not be fluent before my trip to Morocco and Tunisia this winter; I will never be fluent. I just think it will be a thrill if I can utter an intelligent sentence or two to a waiter or shop keeper here and there. Shed your perfectionism, and just enjoy playing the piano however you show up.

6. Making mistakes is an essential part of learning, in any field. Of course you know that. In his book, The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning To Trust Your Musical Self author William Westney says, “A wrong note can indeed be…’perfect’–beautifully constructive and useful–when we consider it thoughtfully. And doing so can lead to liberation and mastery.” He suggests embracing your mistakes. Laugh at them. Focus on a small section, letting the body figure out how to play it, with time and practice. “Trust the process and don’t try to control it. Enjoy all the sensations.” Can you imagine embracing your mistakes instead of feeling shame about them? Try smiling when you make a mistake in your practice today. Enjoy all of the sounds you make, instead of recoiling at mistakes. Instead of seeing mistakes as evidence that you will never play well, try seeing them as “beautifully constructive and useful” information.

©Andi Berger

7. Students coming to lessons after work might consider bringing a snack and water bottle to refresh and replenish on the way to the lesson. If you are struggling with a challenge in your life, try some very slow, deep breathing before your lesson, letting your exhale take as long as your inhale. You won’t be able to forget about the problem entirely; perhaps it will add emotion to your piece, but let the music take center stage in your mind. Try repeating this affirmation before, and even during your lesson:

While I play my pieces I focus on the music. If my mind wanders, I bring my focus back to the piece

8. In his book Talent Is Overrated, author 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. Put in the time and you will progress. If you don’t have the time today, make a little time tomorrow. Competence and artistry come with experience. You will not be able to catch up to someone who has been playing all of her life, just as I will never speak French like a native. But enjoy the feel of the keys under your fingers, the challenge of learning to read notes and rhythms, and the thrill of hearing yourself play beautiful music. Let where you are today, be enough.

Remember, music lessons are not a performance, but an exploration of musical concepts and skills. Instead of trying to play from beginning to end, work on small problematic sections. Try to focus on the music and let your judgmental thoughts go. If you’re nervous, don’t try to make it go away, just accept it and shift your focus back to the page. Let go of unrealistic expectations of perfection. Life is too short for us to beat ourselves up for playing imperfectly. Here are some affirmations to help you enjoy the process of learning how to play the piano:

  • I give myself permission to make mistakes
  • I open myself to the process of learning to play the piano without judgements or expectations
  • It is beautiful and courageous to learn something challenging

Do you experience anxiety during your piano lesson? How do you cope? What helps you relax? Please share your experiences with us! With love and music, Gaili

Gaili Schoen

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

August FREE Sheet Music: Fascination

Dear Piano Peeps: 

With the solar eclipse approaching, I thought it would be fun to play the song, Fascination, this month. You can sing along with Nat King Cole here. I couldn’t use the English lyrics because they are not yet in the public domain, but I included the beautiful French lyrics as performed here by Edith Piaf.

You will probably recognize Fascination from films, television and the many artists who have recorded it. I love its dreamy, romantic feel, and the way it just makes you want to waltz all through your house.

To print Fascination, click on the FREE SHEET MUSIC page on our website.

You can also scroll down to print the other songs and pieces I’ve posted in the past year. 

How has your summer practice been going? Lately I’ve been feeling a renewed sense of comfort and joy at the piano. I’m practicing vintage songs (such as Fascination!) to play with Ian Whitcomb‘s band on the Queen Mary for the ship’s Art Deco Festival. To make my practice space more appealing I have been clearing away clutter from my piano. I also brought some candles over, and put some of my favorite things near by, such as shells, acorns, and flowers, to make my piano feel like a special place, apart from the rest of the house; like a sacred space, or sanctuary. When I sit and play, I turn off all phones, shut the doors, and enjoy…. What do you do to make your practice area feel like sanctuary? I’m writing an article about it and would love to add your ideas.  

Will you be traveling to view the solar eclipse? I hope you are enjoying the summer wherever you are. 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 Download: Summer (from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons)

Vivaldi's Summer

Dear Piano Peeps:

My Hungarian grandmother loved picnics. When I, as a little girl, spent long weekends with her, she helped me to get over my homesickness by producing a gorgeous array of portable foods. While my busy career mom was all about TV dinners, boil-in-the bag frozen vegetables and fast foods, my grandmother would spend hours cooking and baking the most wonderful European dishes. And she wouldn’t stop there; she always brought a cute tablecloth with cloth napkins, silverware and glasses to make our picnics special. Grandma Szerén didn’t drive, so we carted two large zippered lunch totes and a thermos on busses across LA to Santa Monica beach.

Those fond memories later inspired me to picnic with my husband and children. We enjoyed hilltop hikes and beach days with picnic lunches in our backpacks as often as we could. So I’m excited that it is picnic season once again, and I can pull out the picnic basket and table-cloth, and dream up creative lunch menus.

If you live in or visit Los Angeles, another great picnic spot is The Hollywood Bowl. Here’s my video from last summer at the Bowl when I saw our resident maestro Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic with dancers from the American Ballet Theater performing Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. What a thrill to experience this performance! 


This year I bought tickets for Gershwin-Under-The Stars and the All-Vivaldi night. To me, listening to live music outdoors on a summer’s night is one of life’s greatest pleasures. One of my favorite pieces is Summer, from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The theme from Summer is in a minor key which creates a darker, more introspective sound, which I love. 


 …as well as last July’s offering, Some Sunny Day by Irving Berlin by scrolling down to the bottom of the page. Both can be found in Songs of the Seasons: SUMMER

You can also print this 2-page, intermediate arrangement: Summer intermediate

Will you be able to attend any outdoor concerts this summer? Where will you go and what will you hear? What is the best venue for outdoor concerts in your opinion? Do you have a favorite summer song or piece? I love to hear about your experiences so please leave a comment! With love and music, Gaili

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