JUNE 2017 Free Sheet Music: Pachelbel’s Canon


Venice Wedding | Gaili Schoen |UpperHandsPiano.com

Dear Piano Peeps:

Happy June! The month of light and love. 

And since all this loveliness can not be Heaven, I know in my heart it is June – Abba Woolson

I was lucky to capture a bit of  VIDEO of this romantic floating wedding in Venice, Italy in June, 2015. I was teaching about regional music on a tour of Europe, and our group was delighted to witness this charming wedding party gliding past our gondola. 

As a musician, I think of June as the month of marriage. Though they are playing another romantic song in the VIDEO (can you name that tune?) the top request for wedding marches still remains the Canon by the German Baroque composer, Johann Pachelbel. I have played Pachelbel’s Canon at many wonderful weddings, and never tire of its elegant blend of celebration and ceremony. My arrangement is late beginner/early intermediate and includes most of the major themes from Pachelbel’s original. (There is also an easier arrangement in Upper Hands Piano: BOOK 2.)

CLICK HERE to print Pachelbel’s Canon (as well as other free pieces I’ve posted in the last year)

Notice that the first eight bass notes repeat throughout the piece. Practice the left hand first to get comfortable with the fingering before adding the right hand notes. This would be a great piece to keep in your repertoire; who knows, someone might ask you to play it at their wedding!

If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance – Bernard Williams

Do you have a favorite wedding piece? I do love Wagner’s traditional Bridal Chorus (available in our Songs of the Seasons: Summer music book!) And when I play Shubert’s Ave Maria at weddings, I always cry. There is nothing more evocative of rites of passage than music, to usher a couple into their new conjoined life. What are you hearing at weddings these days? Which pieces stir your heart the most? Have you guessed the song being played int the VIDEO yet?

With love and music, Gaili

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


WHAT??? 12 Ways To Protect Your Ears Against Noise-Induced Hearing Loss


© Carlosphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Let me begin with a painful confession: I abused my ears in my youth. I played keyboards in a rock band that performed on crowded stages with stacks of Marshall guitar amps screaming behind me and stage monitors blasting me from the front. The fact that my acupuncturist could take away the persistent ringing in my ears gave me false confidence that my hearing loss and tinnitus were temporary and curable. When I outgrew the touring life I began scoring films (along with teaching piano) and had to compose late at night using headphones so as not to wake my family and neighbors. But another confession: I like it loud. Listening to my mock orchestral scores in headphones at high volume was a euphoric pleasure I indulged in far too often. After scoring my second movie I took my ringing ears to my acupuncturist and was horrified to discover that his treatments no longer worked. I launched into desperate experimentation with Chinese herbs, nutritional supplements, body work and foods that were rumored to improve auditory function. But nothing cured the ringing or hearing loss. I would lose big chunks of conversation if I was not staring at the speaker’s lips. There was nothing else for me to do but invest in a good pair of hearing aids; hearing aids are extremely helpful, but not a fix by any means. Listening to music will never be the same, and I still have a lot of trouble understanding women’s and children’s words.

More than ever, hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is a huge problem in America for musicians and non musicians alike. According to the National Institute On Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) one in eight Americans 12 years and older have hearing loss in both ears. The New York Times reports that though hearing problems can be age-related or due to genetic factors, medications, ear wax and illnesses, most hearing problems are noise-induced. Noise-induced hearing loss can result from one loud noise such as a gun shot or explosion near your ear. Or it can be from prolonged exposure to noise such as street traffic, subway trains, sirens, jets, motorcycles, or unfortunately, loud music.

We love listening to loud music with ear buds or headphones, but music above 85 decibels can cause damage in just 15 minutes according to Dr. Michael D. Seidman, author of the book, Save Your Hearing Now. I tell my students to set a comfortable volume for headphones, ear buds, or speakers, then turn it a few notches down. Always listen at levels softer than you would like. And give your ears a rest after 30 minutes of listening, even at lower levels. 

If you listen to music with headphones on flights, at the gym, or while walking in the city, it would be worth your while to invest in a pair of good noise-canceling headphones such as the Bose Quiet Comfort series (I have the QC15 over-the-ear). Noise-canceling headphones reduce background noise so that you can listen to your music at lower volumes.  If you are listening with noise canceling headphones on quiet streets or hikes but find that you can’t hear your music when you move to a busy street, instead of turning up the volume, pause the music until you’re in a quieter place again. 


©Melinda Nagy | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I hate to say it, but concerts can be hazardous to your hearing health! Hear Forever reports that symphonic concerts can range upwards from 90 decibels advising that musicians should wear ear plugs while performing. And listeners should wear ear plugs, too, especially if they are sitting near the brass section, or in front of speakers. I never leave home without ear plugs.  Rock concerts in stadiums or small clubs are even louder.

Responsible musicians wear ear plugs while they play, and so should their fans. Yes, ear plugs muffle the sound, but they protect your ears, so get over it and wear them! And make sure your kids wear them too! Ask yourself if listening to loud music is really worth a lifetime of ringing in your ears, and having to say, “WHAT?” whenever anyone speaks to you. Not being able to be part of a conversation makes you feel isolated and embarrassed. Believe me, I know.

You can buy inexpensive but effective ear plugs at any drug store, or google “custom molded ear plugs” or “musicians ear plugs” if you want to try something more comfortable or less muting than the over-the-counter offerings.

Here are some other decibel levels provided by the Hearing Health Foundation:

  • Firecracker/gun shot 140-160 dB
  • Jet take-off 140 dB
  • Ambulance siren, thunderclap 120dB
  • Jack hammer, concerts 110 dB
  • MP3 players at maximum volume 105dB
  • Subway platform 95dB
  • Heavy traffic, school cafeteria 85dB
  • Dishwasher 75dB
  • Vacuum, hair dryer 70dB (but many blow dryers are louder than that!)
  • Normal conversation 60dB
  • Whisper 30dB

More suggestions for avoiding noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Don’t be embarrassed about putting your hands over your ears as a subway train or siren passes you by.
  • Remember to turn on your device before putting on your headphones, in case the music is too loud. 
  • If you use a blow dryer frequently or for more than a few minutes, wear ear plugs.
  • Wear ear plugs when in an elementary school cafeteria or auditorium.
  • Wear ear plugs when operating loud equipment such as lawn mowers, blowers, chain saws, and even vacuum cleaners. 
  • Keep ear plugs with you at all times.


It’s too late for me- I can’t undue the damage I did to my ears in my ignorance. But I hope that my post will encourage you take action to protect your own ears. Hearing aids are EXPENSIVE (they cost thousands); they make speech sound tinny (even the best ones), and music sound out-of-tune (even with good music settings); though they are extremely helpful, I wouldn’t suggest thinking of hearing aids as a back-up plan when deciding whether or not to wear ear plugs in a loud situation.

Protecting your hearing is a vital part of living a healthy, happy life. 

To read a scientific study about listening to loud music, click here.

I welcome your comments! With love and music, Gaili Schoen

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


May FREE Sheet Music: The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring (Tra La!)



Dear Piano Peeps: Here in Southern California we have had the wettest, rainiest winter in a very long time 🙂 As a result, we are seeing beautiful wildflowers popping up everywhere!  To celebrate the abundance of spring flowers, I arranged the Gilbert and Sullivan favorite, The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring for easy piano, vocals and guitar. 


Click here to print The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring

You might also want to scroll down to print the FREE Sheet Music from last May, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sleepers Wake, an easy piano arrangement which will only be available until the end of May. 

Upper Hands Piano

Songs of the Seasons: SPRING

These pieces are from our Upper Hands Piano collection, Songs of the Seasons: SPRING only available on Amazon.com. Some of the other songs in the SPRING book are April Showers, A Ticket A Tasket, Dayenu (for Passover), Her Mother Came Too (for Mother’s Day), De Colores (Cinco De Mayo), No One Could Do It Like My Father (by Irving Berlin for Father’s Day), and spring pieces such as Vivaldi’s Spring, Mendelssohn’s Spring Song, and Joplin’s Silver Swan Rag

I’m also noticing more birdsong around my neighborhood this year; our Crow population seems to have finally moved on, allowing the smaller song birds to feather their nests in our neighborhood trees. After years of nothing but the piercing caws of Crows it’s a treat to hear the gently animated melodies of our resident mama and papa House Wrens, and the tappity taps of the Acorn Woodpeckers who favor our telephone poles! Have you been able to identify any of the birds where you live? Listening to bird song reminds me to be thankful for my hearing, which I still possess with the help of hearing aids. Our hearing is so fragile, and easily damaged. In my next post I will be writing about protecting our ears. Please subscribe below if you would like to receive my 1-2x monthly blog posts. I hope you are enjoying the abundance of spring, wherever you are!

With love and music, Gaili

UpperHandsPiano.com A Method for ADULTS 50+ to SPARK the Mind, Heart and Soul

April FREE SHEET MUSIC: Spring (from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons)

UpperHandsPIano.com/blog (photo by Maura S. Monagan)

Dear Piano Peeps

There is nothing that declares the coming of SPRING more beautifully than the Spring theme from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It is such a joyous, triumphant piece, replete with birdsong and even a spring thunderstorm.

To view and print SPRING, click HERE

You might also want to scroll down to the bottom of the FREE SHEET MUSIC page to print Dayenu for Passover, or Bach’s Sleeper Wake.

This arrangement of Vivaldi’s SPRING is from our Upper Hands Piano SONGS OF THE SEASONS: SPRING book, available on Amazon on sale for $6.95 today! (regular $7.95) 

I love spring not only because of the profusion of flowers, the new wildlife and warming weather, but also because the spring equinox is the time when we have equal hours of daylight and night. It’s a great time to think about bringing balance into your life; eating healthy along with enjoying a few treats, exercising your body along with stimulating your mind at the piano. There are many ways to consider balance in your musical studies. Think about your posture: The ideal posture is a straight back that pivots at your derrière, with relaxed shoulders and feet flat on the floor. Piano players also strive for dynamic balance, which is the ability to play one hand louder than the other, as needed. You can find 6 exercises and a video about playing with dynamic balance on my blog post The Art of Balance.

Spring is also the traditional time of cleaning. What do you need to clear out of your life to make more time and space for your piano practice? (For me, it’s getting my taxes done!) 

I hope you are enjoying the renewal of spring, wherever you are. Please leave your comments below–I love hearing from you!  With love and music, Gaili




Kylemore Abbey in the Connemara mountains

Top ‘o the mornin’ to ya! It’s that magical time of year when we celebrate Irish music and culture. St.Patrick’s Day is March 17th, and the song Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral is the traditional favorite. I have arranged Too-Ra-Loo-Ra, for easy-ish piano, guitar and vocals. It is in “fake book” or “lead sheet” style, meaning that it contains only melody, lyrics and chords. To print Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral, CLICK HERE (You might also like to scroll down on my FREE SHEET MUSIC page and print Red Is The Rose, another Irish treasure, and other songs and pieces I’ve posted in the past year.) 

If you are not well into Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 2, you might not understand the “slash chords” you see in Too-Ra-Loo-Ra. The slash chord symbols tell you that the order of the chord’s notes has been changed. In the third measure you see Am/C. That means to play an A minor chord with C on the bottom of the chord. We call this the first inversion of A minor. From bottom to top, you would play C E A for the Am/C chord (instead of the usual A C E). Remember that the name of the chord is to the left of the slash, and the note to be played at the bottom of the chord is to the right of the slash. You can also choose to ignore the slash chords 🙂 simply play the chords you see to left of the slash and it will sound fine. Slash chords are there to make moving between chords easier, or to create a slightly different sound to the chords. 


If you’re not familiar with the 7th chords you see in the last line, you can simply play them as triads, or try playing an A7 like this from bottom to top: A C# E G, and a G7 like this: G B D F. 

I hope you enjoy playing and singing some Irish music this month. It is lilting and beautiful, filled with rich chords and Céad Mile Fáilte (“a hundred thousand welcomes”). And with it comes the promise of spring, right around the corner! Sláinte! (“good health!”) With love and music, Gaili


Pledge To Play final day

Dear Piano Players:


Piano Love

Today is the final day of our Pledge To Play 10 Minutes A Day, 30-day challenge.

How did you do? If you played every day for at least 10 minutes, CONGRATULATIONS! That’s an incredible accomplishment! I hope you can see progress in the goal to which you dedicated your pledge. Please share your progress with us in the comments section below!

If you didn’t play EVERY day but made a greater effort to get to your piano more often, that’s great too. The fact is that the brain likes frequent exposure to the skill we are trying to learn and absorb. So the more often you play, the better. Don’t feel bad about the days you didn’t play, but celebrate the days you did, and honor your courage, perseverance, and willingness to maintain a piano practice.  

If you were on vacation or not able to play very much in the last 30 days, you can start the 30-day pledge any time. See the pink section below.

Now that the 30 days has passed, how will you continue your piano practice? What are your long-term intentions aiming towards? Do you play because you love music? Because you love the piano? For brain stimulation? To be able to jam with others? To compose? For enhanced motor coordination? For self-expression? To train your ear? To learn more about cultural history? To relieve stress? To increase focus? To improve skills you learned as a child? To improve memory? To improve discipline? To feel a sense of achievement? As a meditation? To bring more happiness into your life and the lives of those around you? Because playing the piano does all of these things and much more.

If you are my student, please let me know if there is some intention I can help you move towards. If you are not my student please leave a comment below about topics you might like me to cover in future blog posts. I love doing research, so tell me what you would like me to explore further in this blog. Though I am busy taking classes through the University of Washington (in gerontology), I would like to write a blog post at least once or twice every month, which you will find instructional or of interest.

If you came to the pledge late but would still like to take the 30-day challenge, you can start any time. And you can repeat it any time! You can visit our original Pledge to Play challenge which began on January 15, 2015. If you scroll down you will see a link like this below each post:

so that you can read your daily blog post as you continue your daily practice challenge.

This year I did not post every day, as some of you felt that daily posts were too much for your email intake! If you would like to start a 30-day challenge with my 2017 posts, you start your pledge HERE, then every 6-7 days read another of the following posts: Distractions, Piano Players Brains, Goals vs Intentions, and Why Do You Play The Piano?

Thank you so much for taking this 30-day journey with me, and for subscribing to this blog which is such a joy for me to write. I love writing as much as I love playing the piano, and I’m so gratified to be able to do both. Here’s hoping you enjoy a Valentine’s Day full of love– love for yourself, for your family, for your life, for our country, for the world. If you need inspiration, listen to these 7 Moving Pieces for Love

With love and music, Gaili


Why Do You Play the Piano?

Dear Piano Lovers:


Piano Brain! UpperHandsPiano.com/blog

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?

We have only 6 days left in our 30-day Pledge To Play 10 Minutes A Day. Even if you haven’t played EVERY day, I hope our pledge has helped get you to your keys more often, and helped you to foster the habit of playing daily, whenever possible. Keep it up! Home stretch! Sometimes the best practice comes when we’re nearing an end point… With love and music, Gaili