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

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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.

TO PRINT OCTOBER, CLICK HERE.

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:

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© Greg Spivey |Dreamstime.com

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            UpperHandsPiano.com 

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: upperhandspiano@gmail.com and I’ll send you a video

Performance Anxiety At Piano Lessons?

Dear Piano Peeps:

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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.

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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 UpperHandsPiano.com

August FREE Sheet Music: Fascination

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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

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July Free Sheet Music Download: Summer (from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons)

Vivaldi's Summer

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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. 

 PRINT THE 1-PAGE, EASY-ISH ARRANGEMENT OF SUMMER HERE…

 …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 Amazon.com

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JUNE 2017 Free Sheet Music: Pachelbel’s Canon

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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

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

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© 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. 

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©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.
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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

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