Colorado Power Piano

Music Notes

Archive for January, 2015

Concert Time

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

We had such a wonderful time today! We performed a two-piano concert at the Eaton Senior Communities complex. My mother lives there. They followed the concert with a tea with little sandwiches and sweets. There were about 65 people in the audience who all seemed to have a great time. Afterwards, many people came up to thank us and tell us what a great concert it was. The one that touched my heart the most was a woman who said, “My father was a concert pianist. He died when I was 9 years old. When I closed my eyes and listened to you play, I heard my father. Thank you.” Here’s the list of what we played. What fun it was!

  • In the Mood – duo
  • Malaguena
  • Pachelbel Canon in D – duo
  • Bach Prelude in C
  • Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – duo
  • Chopin Fantasy Impromptu
  • Pink Panther – duo
  • A Decorated Hawk (Karen’s composition)
  • Diabelli Sonatina No. 1 – duo
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Linus and Lucy
  • Sounds of Silence
  • Ronado Andalusia for Two Pianos by Karen Pancoast

Wish you could have been there. We had a great time.

Til next time,



Four Ways to Play the Piano

Monday, January 19th, 2015

I got up in the middle of the night and found Howard sitting at the kitchen table writing in a notebook. He said he woke up, thinking about a new student and how to explain the various kinds of piano playing choices he had. The new students has only been playing for a few months and is working on Maple Leaf Rag. He’s got the first 2 lines figured out and learned. He is just starting the 3rd line. It has taken him several weeks. He’s a good practicer. However, in order to build his musical skills, so that every new piece is not as difficult as this first one, he needs to do other things. That is what prompted Howard’s insomnia. How could he explain it to him? Here is what he came up with.

There are 4 ways to play the piano:

  1. Practice Pieces
  2. Read Music
  3. Play By Ear
  4. Improvise

There are many pianists who are very good at one or two of these ways of playing. The very best pianists do all of them. In coming blogs, we will explore each of these in more detail.

Til next time,


How to Use your Practice Time

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Sometimes people are unsure about what lessons will be like and how to prepare for them. I generally follow something like the list below:

Standard Lesson Format

  1. You play 2 pieces of your choice that you have either been working on, or have read in your sight reading books, or have as repertoire pieces.
  2. We check in on your assignment progress – if you have questions, or for me to hear anything you have ready for me to hear.
  3. We work on skill building in your individual current areas (such as Note recognition, Chord recognition, Counting, Chord Drills around the circle, Improvising techniques, Playing in different keys, Music Theory, Composing)
  4. We sight read together with or without the band in whatever books you are sight reading currently.


So what should you do in your practice time?

Essentially the same thing.

  1. Play your repertoire pieces to keep them up – play 1 or 2 every day
  2. Work on skill building – whatever skill we are working on for 10 -15 minutes
  3. Sight Read – half your time
  4. Work on your Practice piece (finger, analyze chords and melody, do section practice)


Til next time,





Happy New Year

Monday, January 5th, 2015

At the beginning of a new year, people often are inspired to create massive plans or resolutions on how to reshape their lives and be smarter, thinner, richer, more organized, etc. Well, most of that initial burst of enthusiasm lasts maybe through January. Instead, I’d like you to take the longer view.

I’d like you to think about 3 kinds of goals. There are “grasp” goals – those are things that will likely happen if you keep doing what you’ve been doing at the level and intensity that you’ve been doing it at. For example, if I continue to take piano lessons and have to play for an hour a week for my teacher, eventually, I’ll be able to play the pieces I’m working on.

The second kind of goal is the “reach” goal. That is, if you have to expend a little more effort, get a little out of your comfort zone and do more, you can achieve more than you have in the past. In terms of piano, that might be choosing a bit harder piece than you’ve chosen before, or actually learning to do good trills instead of just hurrying over them.

The third kind of goal is the “stretch” goal. This is the bigger one, the one that scares you a little. This is where you have a dream, but it seems that you might not quite have the stuff to realize that dream. The one that makes you get really out of your comfort zone and do a lot more (or more for a lot longer) than you’ve been doing. In piano playing it might be something like master a piece of standard classical literature each month and perform it at piano group. Or it might be read through all the Beethoven Sonatas this year. Something that is a stretch.

As I look back on the past year, I set a goal to write a blog piece every week all year. I didn’t think it was going to be very hard. It was. I didn’t achieve it every week. The holiday weeks had me slipping behind. But I consider it a success because I WAS able to maintain something I had set out to do. I also set a goal last year that I wanted to be a better sight-reader. So I committed to reading 40 pages of music 5 days a week. I began in May and by the end of the year I had read over 7,000 pages of music. I also had a goal of becoming more familiar with the standard classical composers, so each month I read a dozen pieces by each and chose 3 to perform at piano group. I now know I love Haydn and I didn’t think I did before last year.

As you begin this year in music, think about what you have been doing, what skills you want to build, what music you want to be working with and set some “reach” goals and maybe one “stretch” goal for the whole year. Let me know how it goes and I’ll let you know how mine go.

Til next time,