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Resources for Studying Scale Fingering

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Scales… Like them, love them, or hate them, they simply are essential for a well rounded pianist’s music study.

Below are a few printables with scale fingering:

One octave scales:

https://arts-sciences.und.edu/music/accepted-students/piano-proficiency-exams/files/docs/scale-fingerings.pdf

Two octave scales:

http://colorinmypiano.com/wp-content/files/Scale__Arpeggio_Fingerings_for_Piano_2_Octave.pdf

While learning 2 octave scales, remember that all of the group I scales (C, D, E, G, A) use the 4th finger only once per octave. In the right hand this is the 7th scale degree and in the left hand this is the 2nd scale degree. The main thing is to just to practice scales consistently and, if you’re taking an exam, don’t leave studying them until the very last minute. Muscle memory will prove extremely helpful when you’re under pressure in front of an examiner.

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Note Reading Reinforcement: Identifying Correct Intervals and Octaves

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Two challenges I’ve noticed students can have while playing piano are playing correct intervals and matching a note to the correct octave’s hand placement.

Identifying correct intervals:

Why is this a difficulty?

I believe sometimes it’s due to poor quality of sheet music or even students’ eyesight (perhaps some students could use a pair of reading glasses. At times students just need to pay good attention to the music by keeping focused and also by listening to themselves as they play. Often students think of notes individually without reading ahead or finding the relationships between notes and this can make playing correct melodies more difficult than needed.

What are some remedies?

Intervalic reading! Train students to almost subconsciously know the distances between notes. For example, an interval of a 2nd goes from a line to a space or a space to a line. One possible activity is to show a student 2 identical bass clef F notes and ask, “does the second note go up, down or stay the same?” Then find F and G flashcards and ask the same question, pointing out that in the first example the notes stayed on the same line while in the second example the first note is on a line but the second note moves up to the next space. Also, drilling the “anchor notes,” notes that students can use as their reference points such as G in the treble clef and F in the bass clef, is very helpful. If students are playing notes that are close but not quite what’s written, have them look at the slope of the music. Is it going down, up or does it curve? What intervals are within the music’s slope (remember to notice the lines and spaces!)? Is it mostly steps or skips? Are the notes written close to “anchor notes”? If so, how close? With both study and paying close attention students will improve by becoming more familiar with intervals and intervalic reading.

Playing in the Correct Octave:

Why is this a difficulty?

I believe sometimes it’s lack of familiarity with the teacher’s studio keyboard. Or maybe students struggle to find their starting notes before playing a piece because they are nervous or haven’t practiced as much as was needed. Students also tend to be familiar with a certain range of notes (usually close to middle C) or 5-finger positions (such as C and G) but when their pieces move out of their comfort zone they are unsure where to put their hands!

What are some remedies?

Do sight reading activities or repertoire pieces that are “outside of the box” with different starting notes and hand positions than students are used to. Also, use the whole keyboard. One way to do this is using lead sheets. Lead sheets are so flexible and students can play their left hand in broken arpeggios or in octaves down in the low range of the keyboard. They can also play the melody in octaves. Even though these lead sheet suggestions don’t require reading the higher or lower notes specifically, students can at least become more familiar with the keyboard as a whole.

When a student comes to a piece where he\she needs to read and play specific notes, however (such as the D above treble C), ask them, “which C is the D closest to, middle C, treble C or bass C?” Identifying middle, treble and bass C is important for confident playing. If students see an 8va or 15ma symbol and is unsure where to play, make sure they know note that’s written before the extra symbol was added and THEN have them move up or down. I find that usually when students are confused which octave to start in, they can often tell me the note but it’s more a matter of hand placement they are struggling with. Get familiar with the keyboard and with the various C’s as they are written in sheet music.

Reading notes better is important. It gives us greater freedom to enjoy music. Diligence and being grounded in the basics will yield encouraging results.

If you’re interested in taking lessons at Flynn Piano Studio, please contact me for more information! If you’d like to sign up for email updates, sign up on my home page.

Falling Arm Weight and Dynamics: Some Word Pictures

Arm weight controls dynamics. If a student drops their arm heavily and quickly onto the keyboard the sound will be forte. If, however, the student  drops his arm with a slower and lighter attack, the sound will be piano. Recently a student and I came up with some word pictures that helped him to create a range of sounds on the piano. Word picture options are endless but here are a few ideas:

pianissimo (pp) is like a loom band or rubber band falling.

piano (p) is like a feather dropping.

mezzo piano (mp) is like a hot air balloon landing.

mezzo forte (mf) is like a stone or pebble hitting the keys. If a musical piece has crescendo from mezzo forte to forte, the student can think of the pebbles gradually increasing in size as they approach the forte mark.

forte (f) is like a basketball bouncing on a gym floor.

fortissimo (ff) is like a a heavy bowling ball dropping.

 Before incorporating these concepts into a song, the student should explore various dynamics individually by dropping their arm (and therefore finger) onto the keyboard. This will give students practice before they incorporate the dynamics into their piano pieces. I believe that using word pictures like these can make students more relaxed and controlled as they play dynamics. Perhaps you may try thinking of these or other word pictures the next time you play the piano.

Fill-ins for Autumn Piano Lessons

Fill-ins for autumn piano lessons

Piano Lesson Fillers

 

As a new piano term is approaching I’ve been looking at various worksheets, sheet music and games to use with my piano students.

  • At some point every piano student should understand the theory concept of scales. A blog called “Sara’s Music Studio” has two free worksheets which reinforce pentascales for major white and black keys. Rather than printing off the Major White Key Pentascales Worksheet & Major Black Key Pentascales Worksheet for each student I plan to print off one copy of each worksheet and to have students create pentascales on the pages during the lesson with colored buttons, afterwards playing the pentascales on the piano keyboard.
  • I believe it’s beneficial to teach adult students chords and chord progressions. Adults enjoy hearing a full sound from the keyboard and playing chords gives a sense of accomplishment as the right and left hands are playing together. 8notes.com have a variety of easy sheet music with chords written alongside a right hand melody; I’ll be keeping on hand Fur Elise and an Irish tune called Star of the County Down.
  • Makingmusicfun.net is offering free ebooks to download. The Mozart Piano ebook and Beethoven Piano ebook contain piano pieces which are suitable for students who are getting a start to playing Classical music.
  • Joy Morin’s “Color in My Piano” blog has several games which I’d like to try. One is called The Amazing Keyboard Race Game and it reinforces note-reading. The other is called Finger Piano Twister and it reinforces finger numbers. These games are quite kinesthetic and look great for children.

If you are interested in taking lessons at Flynn Piano Studio this autumn, please get in touch using the contact form on the home page!

Should I Learn How to Read Sheet Music?

Being able to read music notation opens up a whole world to piano students. While many musicians can play beautifully without knowing how to read sheet music, learning how to read sheet music will enhance their musical skills.

Benefits of Reading Sheet Music

Reading Sheet Music

  • By learning how to read sheet music students can play virtually any piece of notated music.
    When a student learns how to read notes, rhythm and other musical markings, sheet music will be understandable. Music is very orderly and structured, so there is no need to be confused at all the symbols. Start by learning simple rhythms and commonly used notes and then gradually adding on to that knowledge until almost any combination of notes, rhythms and  markings make sense.

    Reading Sheet Music

    Music Theory

  • By learning how to read sheet music students can visually see theory principles at work.
    Reading sheet music allows a student to play other peoples’ compositions and to see how these composers applied the “rules” of music into their compositions. Rather than simply learning theory principles (ex. chord progressions) in an isolated manner, students can view how individual theory principles work in a broader musical context.

    Composition

    Composition

  • By learning how to read sheet music students find ideas from other composers for their own compositions.
    As students play sheet music they will find musical combinations that sounds pleasant to the ear. Students can then transfer these ideas into their own compositions, improvisations, or accompaniments. Musicians benefit not only from listening to well-played music but also from playing beautiful music scores by skillful composers.

Classical Music for Wedding Receptions

Classical music Ideas for wedding reception music

Classical Piano Music Ideas for Wedding Receptions

 

Two adjectives com to mind when I think of wedding reception music: simple & joyful. Simple because the music is in the background as an addition to all the other beautiful things surrounding it. Joyful because of the occasion of two lives who have just joined together.

The list below is not exhaustive but includes some classical pieces that suit the mood of a wedding reception. All of these are piano solo music.

  • M. Clementi
    6 Sonatinas (Op. 36)
  • Georg Friedrich Handel:
    Courante (from Suite in Bb Major, HWV 440)
  • Joseph Haydn
    Sonatensatz (Hob. XVI:10), Sonata in D Major, “Tempo di Menuetto” (Hob. XVI:33)
  • Edward MacDowell
    To a Wild Rose
  • Mendelssohn
    Songs Without Words, “Confidence” (Op. 19, No. 4)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Minuet in G Major (KV 1/1e)
  • Domenico Scarlatti
    Minuet in Bb Major (K440),
  • Schubert:
    Original Dance, Waltz (Op. 9, No. 11), Waltz (Op. 9, No. 3), Moment Musical (op. 94, D 780)

Whether or not a person chooses the musical pieces listed above, I would recommend finding accessible music. For example, music which is a level or two under what the pianist would learn for a recital. Buying an anthology of piano music that is at a specific level can be helpful because it will contain many suitable songs which have the right mood and which are at the same difficulty. Another source of sheet music is imslp.org which contains public domain classical pieces for piano solo or piano with accompaniment. Keeping in mind that every couple is different will be of help in choosing music as some couples may prefer very calm, romantic music while others may enjoy music which is a bit more lively.

Enjoy playing through music and finding pieces which will suit the mood of the occasion–simple and joyful!

Online Rhythm Practice Games & Exercises

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Perhaps some of these free games will grow your understanding of an important building block of music–rhythm.

The rhythmic dictation exercise is great for those who want practice before an exam or who simply want to better train their ear. Another rhythmic exercise is the time signature one. Both exercises work for a variety of levels.

These games are useful for early-intermediate through advanced-level students.

This rhythmic math quiz tests a student’s knowledge of note values.

This game is called “Find the Correct Measure”

If you found this article helpful, consider following my blog where I post a variety of helps for both students and teachers!

What are your favourite online rhythm games? Please leave a comment below.

Practice Note-Reading Online

If you want to practice reading music notation, these games may be a fun way to practice over the summer.
Practice note-reading using online games.

Practice note-reading using online games

  • Speed Note Reading Tutor: http://www.vicfirth.com/education/keyboard/speednotereading.html
    This game is particularly helpful for those who need to learn the space notes (FACE) or the line notes (EGBDF). To practice this, go to level 1, rookie. Some of the levels use a “keyboard.” I found the keyboard confusing at the beginning but then realized that the first note is F rather than C.
  • Note Name Game: http://www.classicsforkids.com/games/
    Practice finding notes in the treble clef by spelling various words that appear on the screen.
  • Musical Notes Game: http://www.knowledgeadventure.com/games/musical-notes/
    This game is more challenging by adding a time limit. Find the notes that scroll across a screen before they disappear. Notes are in treble and bass clef. Accidentals (sharps and flats) are also used.
Feel free to add any games you find in the comment section below!