Colorado Power Piano

Music Notes

Archive for June, 2014

Living with a Pianist

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

It is such a privilege for me, and a joy, to live with such an amazing pianist as Howard. You may remember reading a few weeks ago about the good jazz books we recommended. I heard him playing through half a dozen of the new jazz books for a couple of months and it was like being in my own private club.

Now, Howard is working on the Beethoven Sonatas. He has set out to record all 32 of them. He has recorded 20 of them so far. They are such great music and it’s so inspiring to listen to him play them. The last two days he has worked on and recorded the Waldstein Sonata No. 21 Opus 53 (one of my favorites). They will be up on the website as we get them converted into mp3 files.

I remember hearing the interview of Maurizio Pollini’s wife who was a good pianist in her own right.  The interviewer asked her if she still played and she said, “No, what’s the point with Maurizio around.” I find just the opposite, I get inspired to play with Howard around.

Til next time,


Playing in Different Keys

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

One of the steps in working on a piece is to know what key you are in and to play the scale and scale chords of that piece. I have made it a habit to play the scale and scale chords of every piece I play that isn’t in the key of C. If I do that before I play the piece, my ear and hands are sort of “primed” for what they are hearing and feeling as I play.

Sometimes there is some confusion about what the scale chords are and why they are important. These chords are the chords built up on each note of the scale, using only the notes of the scale.

In the Key of C, the notes we can use are C D E F G A B. Since there are no sharps or flats all the keys are white keys.

  • Starting with the 1 chord, C, we add E and G, to make a C Major chord
  • The 2 chord starts on D, and we add F and G making D minor
  • The 3 chord starts on E and we add G and B making E minor
  • The 4 chord starts on F and we add A and C making F major
  • The 5 chord starts on G and we add B and D making G major
  • The 6 chord starts on A and we add C and E making A minor
  • The 7 chord starts on B and we add D and F making B diminished

The 1, 4, and 5 chords are major. The 2, 3, and 6 chords are minor. The 7 chord is diminished.

Therefore, when I play the scale and scale chords before playing the piece, I know to expect the chords listed above as appearing most often. Actually the 1 chord, 4 chord, and 5 chord will appear much more often than the others in major keys.

When my students start to sight read a new piece at their lesson I will ask them what key it is in and what the 1, 4, and 5 chords are for that key before they start to play. It’s a good habit and builds your knowledge of theory.

Til next time,



Monday, June 16th, 2014

In a previous post, I described our approach to sight reading which includes spending half your practice time sight reading. So, I thought I would describe the results of some of that sight reading.

Yesterday was a day off for us and what did we do? Sight read at the piano taking turns throughout the afternoon. Howard is reading through all the Beethoven Sonatas and he played 4 complete sonatas yesterday. I took a look in his Beethoven Sonata book and found this note that he wrote in the front of the book.

“I own about 800 books of piano music (classical, pop, jazz, concertos, chamber music and duets).   I have about 120 main collections (82 classical – 14 composers; 33 jazz by 12 people. I regularly read through another 120 secondary collections (90 classical – 12 composers; 40 jazz – 16 composers). That is a total of 240 books by 54 composers and arrangers.”

We always tell our students to write the date in the front cover of the book when you finish reading through that book. So, I looked in his Beethoven Sonata book. He started keeping track of the times he has played the whole book in 1985. Since then, he has read through all of the sonatas 23 times. I looked through several others of his classical books like Chopin and Mozart and Bach and he has read all of them 25 times at least.

I began doing that same sort of keeping track when I met him. Last month, when I played some Clementi Sonatinas, I looked and found that I had read through the whole book the first time in January of 2003 (it was slow and painful I remember – grin). But last month, I finished the whole book for the 14th time. Yesterday was my first time through the Mozart – Snell edition. It was slow, but not too painful (grin).

Til next time,


Piano Group Jammin’

Monday, June 9th, 2014

We had an extra special piano group today. Chuck Harbaugh is one of Howard’s long-time students and he hosted the group at his lovely home. What made the group extra special is that his son, Dick Senna, is a drummer who used to play in Howard’s band at the Red Vest Inn about 40 years ago. Dick brought a small drum set and all of us played along with Dick drumming for us.

For many of the players, it was their first opportunity to play with a live drummer and they were quite excited about it. Howard and I play with our students using the electronic keyboard rhythms, so they are used to playing along in rhythm, but a live drummer makes it all the more special. Afterwards, they were all eager to do it again.

Dick is a great drummer and what makes him great is that he listens to the piano player and pays attention to what they are doing – following the phrasing and dynamics to really add to the performance. It was such a fun time; we look forward to doing it again. Here is the link to this little clip on YouTube..

Til next time,


First Pieces Mozart

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Well, friends, it’s time to move on to another composer. In case you are just joining this blog, look back to January when we started with Bach and you’ll get the explanation of the monthly plan.

Last month it was Clementi and I loved playing all six of his Opus 36 Sonatinas. I read through them all 5 times and then performed Number 5 at the Soup Group yesterday.

So now it’s time for a little Mozart. Here are the first 12 pieces to try to get really acquainted with Mozart.

(Number 2-9 are all in the Keith Snell Mozart book – link HERE)

  1. Rondo in C  Sound file HERE
  2. Viennese Sonatina 1 in C – 1st mvmt Sound file HERE
  3. Sonata in C K545 – 1st movement Sound file HERE
  4. Sonata in C K545 – 2nd movement Sound file HERE
  5. Sonata in C K545 – 3rd movement Sound file HERE
  6. Rondo a la Turca Sound file HERE
  7. Fantasy in Dm  Sound file HERE
  8. Rondo in D   Sound file HERE
  9. Twelve Variations on Twinkle Little Star   Sound file HERE
  10. Sonata No. 5 in G – 1st movement   Sound file HERE
  11. Sonata No. 5 in G – 2nd movement Sound file HERE
  12. Sonata No. 5 in G – 3rd movement   Sound file HERE

Have fun playing through these, I know I will!

Til next time,