Colorado Power Piano

Music Notes

Archive for November, 2014

Christmas Music – Part 2

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

As we said last week, we have a HUGE collection of Christmas Music. Below is a list of our favorite books. All of them are available at either SheetMusicPlus.com or Amazon.com

Since we also teach improvisation, we use Easy Christmas Fake Book for most of our students because it offers the opportunity to play a lot of songs with simple block chords. Or for those who like, it’s great for improvising and making more interesting arrangements.

Progressive Series

 

Christmas Memories by Melody Bober. We like these especially because they offer a really rich, full sound without being difficult to play.

Level 1  

Level 2

Level 3

Mike Springer has a Series called “Not Just Another Christmas Book” They are jazzy and bouncy.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Faber and Faber Christmas Supplemental books, which run from Level 1 through Level 5. They are good student choices of familiar songs in very easy, to somewhat difficult at Level 5. Link below is for Level 3A, you can find the others easily.

Level 3A Funtime Christmas

Later Intermediate Level

 

Jerry Ray has two books we really like, 1 solo piano book and 1 duet book with unequal parts.

Christmas with Style for solo piano

Christmas for Two for duet piano

Phillip Keveren’s Jingle Jazz is a later intermediate jazzy collection.

Bethany K. Smith’s A Christmas Offering is a later intermediate collection with modern arrangements of traditional Carols (only available SheetMusic Plus)

Lloyd Larson’s Rejoice, Rejoice is later intermediate collection with modern arrangements of traditional Carols (only available SheetMusicPlus)

Sandra Eithun’s Let Heaven and Nature Sing is a later intermediate collection with modern arrangements of traditional Carols. (only available SheetMusicPlus)

 

Advanced Level

 

Mark Hayes is the most beautiful, interesting arrangements at the Advanced Level. The only 2 left in print are, Carols for the Intermediate pianist is fairly difficult despite the title, Emmanuel: Artful Piano Solos for Christmas. (only available SheetMusicPlus)

Dan Coates’s Professional Touch, The Best in Christmas Music Complete offers traditional arrangements of traditional carols.

Tom Roed The Complete Christmas Piano Solos is good. These are advanced arrangements in a more traditional style

David Lanz, Christmas Eve is a good New Age collection.

Trans Siberian Orchestra has an advanced book Christmas Eve and other Stories that we love.

Mannheim Steamroller has a Fresh Aire Christmas and Christmas in the Air that are a rhythmic modern pop Christmas.

Enjoy the Christmas music – it only comes once a year.

Til next time,

Karen

Christmas Music – Part 1

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Our students have just started working on their Christmas music again this year. We’re not really rushing the season. They need to start in November, so they are all set to actually play for family and friends (and just themselves) in December. We both look forward to hearing the music that only gets played for a few weeks each year. It seems so special and fun.

But it’s more than that from a piano player and teacher’s perspective. It is a terrific benchmark for your improvement in musical skill. Since this is music you only play once a year, you get to test yourself on “different” music than you routinely play. There are as many levels of difficulty in Christmas music as there are in all the other genres of music, from Level 1 beginner books to Level 10 only-the-very-strongest-players-can-play books.

Just like my students, I have progressed through levels each year as I have gotten better at sight-reading, counting rhythm, recognizing chords, recognizing patterns, and all the many details of skill building. A book that was “Too Hard” for me last year is comfortable now. And I can feel a sense of pride of musical skill building. One of my students was surprised at how easy last year’s books were for her. I wasn’t surprised at all. In the past 6 months she had begun really doing the things I suggested she work on at her lessons and the improvement was inevitable. But what was magic was that SHE saw it.

One of my long-term students was not even disappointed or frustrated at the end of last season that she couldn’t play a book she had wanted to. She said, “Well, maybe next year I’ll finally be able to play the Liz Story book.” She has gotten so much better this past year, I’m sure she will be able to.

There are so many talented arrangers of the Christmas music. We have a HUGE collection of books. Next week, we’ll give you a list of the ones we like best. So come back and check in.

Til next time,

Karen

 

Fast Scales

Monday, November 10th, 2014

One of our international friends wrote to us asking how to play fast scales putting the thumb under.  Here is our answer:

Try this.  Play a 6 note scale up and down.  Finger 123 123 21 321.  Turn your hand inward so that your thumb is closer to your body and your little finger is further away.   Play your thumb.  As soon as you play your second finger, reach your thumb under.  Play your 3rd finger.  Your thumb should then be in position over the note to play.  As soon as you play your thumb on the 4th note, move your arm sideways so that the 2nd and 3rd fingers are in position.  As you come down, as soon as you play your thumb, push your arm to the left so that the 3rd finger goes over.  As soon as you play your 3rd finger, reach your thumb down to the first note.  When you play your 2nd finger, your thumb should already be in position.

Practice SLOW and LOUD and first, making the movement your arm up and down the keyboard as smooth as possible.  Moving sidewards a little bit as you play each note.  Play up and down the six note pattern SLOWLY and LOUDLY 10 times.  This should only take a minute or so even when you are doing it quite slowly.  Then try a little faster.  As you go faster, lighten your touch so that you don’t play so loudly.  Push the speed to where you are going the fastest you can and keeping the notes even.  You will be playing softly at the fastest speed.  You should not spend more than 6 or 8 minutes total on this exercise.

You always vary the tempo between slow and faster.  I think you’ll find that your faster tempo gets gradually faster.  After awhile, add 2 notes at the top of the scale so that you are doing an entire octave up and down.  If you have trouble crossing your thumb under your 4th finger (which will happen when you go more than 1 octave), you might spend some time practicing a 7 note scale, fingered 1234 123.  The important element still remains the same.  As soon as you play your thumb, you reach it under.  When you go faster, your thumb will not so much reach under as glide along beside your hand as you move your arm up the notes of the scale.  That should happen just naturally as you increase the speed.

We’ll post a video of this on YouTube later this week for those of you who are visual learners.

Til next time,

Karen

First Pieces – Chopin

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Well, friends, it a new month and a new composer. Chopin is probably every good pianist’s favorite composer. He just writes SO WELL for the piano.

Here are the first pieces we recommend (and links to the recordings so you can hear them.)

The first 7 are all in the Keith Snell Chopin Selected Works by Kjos publishing. Here is a link to the page on SheetMusicPlus.com. BOOK It’s not available on Amazon.

Waltz in Am (post) Sound File Here

Mazurka in F Opus 68, No. 3 Sound File Here

Mazurka in Am Opus 67, No. 4 Sound File Here

Prelude No. 4 in Em Opus 28, No. 4 Sound File Here

Prelude No. 6 in Bm Opus 28, No. 6 Sound File Here

Prelude No. 7 in A Opus 28, No. 7 Sound File Here

Polonaise in Gm (post) Sound File Here

Other books

Polonaise in Bb (post) Sound File Here

Waltz No. 3 in Am Opus 34, No. 2 Sound File Here

Waltz No. 9 in Ab Opus 69, No. 1 Sound File Here

Waltz No. 12 in Ab Opus 70, No. 2 Sound File Here

Mazurka No. 5 in Bb Opus 7, No. 1 Sound File Here

Mazurka No. 6 in Am Opus 7, No. 2 Sound File Here

Mazurka No. 15 in C Opus 24, No. 2 Sound File Here

Til Next time,

Karen