Colorado Power Piano

Music Notes

Archive for February, 2014

Piano as an Adult

Monday, February 24th, 2014

This week both Howard and I have been battling whatever respiratory crud is going around.  We even had to cancel a couple of days of teaching.  Yukky stuff!  So my practice has taken a real back seat this past couple of weeks.

It’s funny how when my work was being done for large corporations, there were always meetings, and deadlines, and production schedules to meet.  Even when I was sick, I always had to “catch up”.  There was always someone prodding me to just get it done.

But now as the weekend comes and some time to recover from the winter crud, I remind myself why I sit down at the piano.  Sure, I have goals like this year’s project of getting to know the composers better and how to play EVEN scales.  But the reason the piano calls to me is because I love it and the music I make.  I love poking the keys down and having sound come out – sound that I have made.  Certainly there are better recordings made of the pieces I play, but there is a tactile pleasure that comes from my own fingers and the shape of my hands between the keys; the smoothness of the faux ivory; the pressure with which I push them down and how they rise back up.

Being a musician requires tenacity, patience, and discipline.  But all of that flows out of the love for making the music.  There are voices that call to me from the kitchen to have a snack, or from the email to see what a friend has sent, or the myriad chores that need doing.  But I can ignore them when I get lost in the music.  I just have to take a few breaths, look at the piano, and remind myself that I do this for the love of it.

What I discovered years ago —but all too often forgot under the pressures of life — is that making music is not a guilty pleasure.  It’s fun, and necessary to make the world a more beautiful place.  However, no one will tell you to make time for the piano.  That is something only you can do.

Til next time,


First Pieces – Scarlatti

Monday, February 17th, 2014

In an earlier post, I mentioned that this year I’m working on getting to know the composers a bit better.  Howard and I have identified about 10 pieces for each of the major composers that are some of the easier pieces and yet representative of that composer’s style.  I really enjoyed my work last month on Bach and played the Prelude in Cm at the monthly piano group.

So this month I was excited to move on to Scarlatti.   Below are the first pieces we recommend for him. And I have too many favorites to limit it to just 1 piece, so I think I’ll play three of them at our monthly soup group gathering.

Scarlatti’s pieces are numbered by Llongo who catalogued all of his pieces.  Howard has played through all 545 of his pieces many times and has recorded about 50 of his favorites.  You will find sound files to listen to them HERE.

  • L423 in Dm Slow Aria
  • L79 in G Lilting Triplets
  • L483 in A Left Hand Half note march
  • L75 in F Gigue and Minuet
  • L23 in E Processional
  • L58 in Dm Gavotte
  • L84 in G Capriccio
  • L104 in C 6/8 Hunting Song
  • L445 in G Lilting 12/8
  • L454 in C Fast 4/4 8th notes, whole note melody

Until next time, happy playing,


Carl Czerny

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Carl Czerny was Beethoven’s most famous and successful student. Beethoven and Czerny remained lifelong friends. It was Czerny who performed the world-premiere performances of Beethoven’s works such as the Emperor Piano Concerto after Beethoven was too deaf to perform in public.  Czerny became one of the most sought-after piano teachers in Europe.  The list of his students reads like a Who’s Who of 19th CenturyEuropean pianists.  The most famous was Franz Liszt.

Czerny wrote thousands of piano pieces. Many of them are grouped as teaching sets. They became progressively more difficult as the pianist plays through the book.  In recent years, unfortunately, Czerny has become so< famous for his written piano exercises, that many people overlook much of the wonderful music he has composed.  Opus 453 is titled 110 Exercises. But if one looks at individual pieces, you could try number 62 Bolero in Am, number 60 March in D, number 84 allegro maestoso in Cm and you would have some very nice short pieces. Also, sometimes two or three of the pieces can be combined to make a more interesting longer piece. We have marked several of the downloadable files to show how we have done that. This last recording of Opus 453 came about because of a listener in Brazil, Marcello Herbert. He is a student who is working with his teacher on some of the Czerny pieces in Opus 823. He told us that it was difficult to find recordings of these pieces and it was helpful to hear them as he was working on them. He said his teacher had played him some of Opus 453 and he wondered if we would consider recording and posting those exercises. So last month Howard recorded and uploaded the 110 pieces in that collection. You can find that HERE.

We have recorded the following 8 books in their entirety and you can listen to, or download the MP3 files of all of them HERE.  In our teaching, we use the following Czerny books in this order:

  1. Opus 823
  2. Opus 599
  3. Opus 139
  4. Opus 453
  5. Opus 553
  6. Opus 636
  7. Opus 299

Have a listen and see what you think.

Til next time,


First Pieces Project

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Hello musical friends,
Every year, in January, I decide what I am going to “work on” that year in music. Two years ago it was a focus on sight reading. I sight read at least 3 new pieces of music nearly every day. I wasn’t very good at it in the beginning and it was pretty hard work, but I kept at it and by the end of the year, I had read about 1,000 pieces of music.

Last year, I decided to work on improving my improvising skills so that I could open a fake book and play an interesting arrangement of any song the first time through, using different left hand rhythm patterns and different right hand embellishments. Again, I wasn’t very good at the beginning, but as the year went by I got better and better. Just yesterday, one of my students asked me to play a song I had never played and I was able to do a nice little arrangement of it for her so that it sounded pretty interesting.

This year I am going to work on getting to know classical composers a bit better. Howard and I have compiled a list of a dozen composers and the first pieces you should play by each composer. We call it the First Pieces Project. This month is J.S. Bach. Here is the list of what we think are the best first dozen pieces to learn by Bach:

  • Prelude in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier (sound file HERE)
  • Minuet in G from the Anna Magdalena Notebook (sound file HERE)
  • Minuet in Gm (also from AMN) (sound file HERE)Musette in D (from AMN) (sound file HERE)
  • Little Prelude 2 in Dm (sound file HERE)
  • Little Prelude 13 in C (sound file HERE)
  • Little Prelude 18 in Cm (sound file HERE)
  • Two Part Invention in F (sound file HERE)
  • Two Part Invention in Bb (sound file HERE)
  • Prelude and Fugue in Cm from the WTC (sound file HERE and HERE)
  • Prelude and Fugue in GM from the WTC (sound file HERE and HERE)
  • Tocatta in Dm (sound file HERE)

Take a listen and see what YOU think.

Most of these pieces are available in 3 small books edited by Keith Snell and published by KJOS. If you haven’t played any of them, start with the Anna Magdalena book – link below to take a look at a sample page.
J.S. Bach Selections from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach GP381 HERE
J.S. Bach 18 Little Preludes GP383
J.S. Bach Two-Part Inventions GP382

Til next time,