A Piano Haiku

Peaceful, Sunlit Room Playing Piano Making Music Fills with Joy
Music Haiku: Peaceful, Sunlit Room Playing Piano Making Music Fills with Joy

Hand Flexibility and Finger Dexterity for Piano and Guitar players





As a musician, your hands are the most important part of your body when it comes to your instrument (unless you’re a singer, of course!). Because music is not a sport, it may not be immediately obvious that we can do things to make our hands stronger and more flexible. But our fingers, hands, and arms have muscles and tendons that really do affect our ability to play. There are also exercises and stretches you can do either with your instrument or away from your instrument that can help make your hands even better at what they’re trying to do when playing a song. How we use them makes a difference as well – working towards your fingers being relaxed at all times and not moving when they aren’t being used gives your music a better sound and avoids injury.

Here are some links to some exercises you can do to work on strength, flexibility, and control in your fingers. DO NOT practice these exercises for more than five minutes a day, and if something hurts, stop immediately. Talk to me about it in your next lesson before resuming the exercise.

I would encourage you to check out exercises for all instruments, even if you just play one. Some of the exercises explained that are not instrument related are helpful for both piano and guitar.


Finger Dexterity Exercises | LIVESTRONG.COM



Guitar Exercises to Strengthen the Pinkie Finger | LIVESTRONG.COM

Guitar Exercises to Increase Finger Strength & Flexibility | LIVESTRONG.COM

8 Excellent Guitar Stretch Exercises to Develop Flexibility – GUITARHABITS

Tips for Strengthening Your Fretting Hand – Guitar Tricks Forum

TE-101 β€’ Finger Stretching Exercise | free guitar lesson from justinguitar.com


8 Essential Exercises to Reduce Pain and Increase Dexterity While Playing Piano

5 Exercises for Relaxing Your Hands at the Piano

Improve Dexterity on Piano

Finger Exercises for Piano When Not Playing – read through the comments

Intro to Music Theory, Part 1: Chromatic Scale, Half Steps, and Whole Steps

Good afternoon! This is the first video in a series that is designed to help my students better understand how the music they play works. It will also help with ear training and sight reading. Here are the main vocabulary words to keep track of:

Chromatic Scale – the series of all the notes, moving up or down by half steps

Half Step – moving from one note to the note right next to it

Whole Step – moving from a note to another note, but skipping just one note in the middle

*Just as a disclaimer, I don’t have super duper recording or video software, but this does get the job done!

After watching this video, take a look at the chart below that is appropriate for your instrument. For guitar and violin, the notes move up in pitch as you move down the fingerboard. Chromatic Scale

Fret Chart for Guitar - Right HandedBeginning Violin Fingerboard Chart


Here is a worksheet to help you recognize whole steps and half steps by sight and by ear. Make sure to hit play on the videos.

Then you can head over to the post on Melodic Direction to learn about how the movements from one note to the other are categorized and what they sound like.

Theme and Variations – Little Girl Dance

Theme and variations are really interesting! If you saw the post on making your own arrangement, a theme and variation is kind of like that, except the original version and the new version are both a part of the same piece. Here’s the dictionary definition:

Theme and Variation

Theme and variation is a specific kind of form in music. The form of a piece of music tells you how the music is organized. With a theme and variation, the piece begins with a theme that is the main melody. That is followed by one or more variations of that melody. A variation is music that is similar to the theme but is also different enough that it does not repeat the melody exactly.” –Β http://study.com/academy/lesson/theme-variation-in-music-definition-form-examples.htm

Check out the lesson video in the link above for more information and a quiz πŸ™‚

Also, here is another example of a famous theme and variation:

Does that melody sound familiar? Can you hear that familiar song woven through each variation?

Try making up your own variation! And if you do, send it to me and I’ll post it on the blog!

Danielle πŸ™‚

Learning about Dynamics with Arabesque



Today we’re going to talk about Dynamics. In music, dynamics has to do with how loud or how soft you are playing. The main terms I want you to remember are piano, forte, crescendo, and decrescendo.

Instead of just reading a bunch of words about it, however, here are some amusing videos that help get the point across:

Forte and Piano

Crescendo and Decrescendo

There are actually a lot more than just these four terms though! Here is a chart of some of them.
Dynamic Markings

I thought this one was interesting because it helps give an understandable idea of what the sound difference is supposed to be:

Dynamic's Note Velocity

For even more information, you can check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamics_%28music%29

And that’s about it! Go back to the recording of Arabesque above and listen for the different dynamics when the markings appear.

Have a great day!

Danielle πŸ™‚



Pachelbel’s Canon in D

Two posts for this week!

Pachelbel’s Canon is one of the most well known classical pieces in the world. It was written around 1680 for three violins and a bass by Johann Pachelbel, a German composer. Today, it is frequently used as wedding music.

Here is a great link if you would like to learn a little bit more about the piece and listen to a youtube video of it: http://www.classicfm.com/composers/pachelbel/music/pachelbels-canon-d-facts/#mU3krF2CqPIGDzFY.97

For those of you who are playing this piece, I have some files for you. These are midi recordings of the music and the sheet music for the part you will play by itself, and all the parts together. A midi recording is electronic, so it may sound a little weird, but it’s still helpful to have.

Part 1 Only
Audio: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B98pP6Nhq8BEMkZGT0xud05WYkk/view?usp=sharing
Sheet Music:Canon in D part 1 PDF

All Parts
Audio: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B98pP6Nhq8BEakMtcV9PaHdHX2M/view?usp=sharing
Sheet Music:Canon in D PDF

There are two main ideas that are important to know about Canon in D. The first is that this piece is a type of music called a Canon. The second is that in this Canon, Pachelbel uses something called an Ostinato.

See the below video for a good (and rather silly) explanation of a Canon, also known as a Round:

Pachelbel uses an Ostinato throughout the entire piece. It’s the bassline you hear that goes like this:

D A B F# G D G A

To understand what an Ostinato is a bit better, check out this video:

Before I go, I thought I’d explain a little bit of how I made the sheet music and recordings. There are some wonderful computer programs that allow you to write music on your computer and it will play back what you have written using special audio software. The program I use is Finale. You get to enter in the notes on the staff with your mouse or keyboard. Here’s a picture so you can see:

Screen Shot of Finale

So on the top and left, you can see all the buttons for picking out certain kinds of notes, rests, time and key signatures, etc. It can be pretty fun actually!

Finally, if you prefer this instead, I have some youtube videos of the recordings.

SO much information in one post! Haha

If you are interested in playing Pachelbel’s canon, please download the music and we can work on it in class πŸ™‚

Have a great day!

Arranging Music: Amazing Grace

Today a student asked if I would play Amazing Grace and sing it; unfortunately we were out of time, so I suggested posting a video of me singing/playing it instead. However, I realized that Amazing Grace would be a good piece to use for examples of basic arranging ideas that can be used for many songs. The video is also going to explain some important things like Inversions, Suspended Chords, and Seventh Chords.

Just a few notes:

– For the opening part where I’m singing, the left hand is playing octave bass notes and arpeggiating (playing the notes one at a time) the chords in the right hand.

– In the video, the term I couldn’t think of for extra notes not in the chord are nonchord tones or nonharmonic tones.

Let me know if you have any questions! If you come up with your own arrangement of Amazing Grace, send it to me and I’ll post it here on the blog!

πŸ™‚ Danielle




Always Growing



It’s hard to believe that this video of me playing the piano is over four years old. Where has the time gone?? It feels like it wasn’t really that long ago that I would frequently shut myself up in a practice room at the university and practice for as long as I could. In this particular video, I was preparing for giving my solo junior recital.

It’s interesting, though, that as I listen to this recording, I can hear things about how I was playing back then that make me think if I was playing this piece today that I would do it a bit differently. The name of this piece is called “Un Sospiro.” It’s a transcendental etude by Franz Liszt. Un Sospiro means “A sigh” in French. Does this piece sound like a sigh to you?

To me, it does. This is actually a fairly good interpretation of this piece. However, I think it might sound a bit more like a sigh though if it was actually a little bit slower. Sometimes, a few places feel like I’m “rushing” through playing the notes. Also, having more of a ritardando (slowing the tempo down at certain places in the music, which can give a more dramatic or emotional effect) at times and perhaps more changes in dynamics (how loud or soft the music is) by having more crescendos and decrescendos, which mean to gradually get louder and gradually get softer, respectively.

How is it that I can see ways to make improvements now and not back when I was playing this piece? Well for one, I don’t remember how far into practicing this piece I was, and some of these things might have been corrected later down the road. The other thing though, is that as I’ve gotten older and had more experience with playing, listening to, and teaching music, my understanding as matured. This will happen with you, too. You may look back at a recording of you performing a piece that you played two or three years ago at a recital and think of all the things you would do different now – it’s because your ability to play and your understanding of how music works has “grown up” a little.

The interesting thing about being a musician is that there is always that room for our understanding and ability to “grow up” a little. Even if you have been playing for a really long time, there is always something new to learn, and something new to accomplish! And that is completely normal. Being a good musician doesn’t mean that you have learned everything that there is to learn and that you are perfect at everything you do. No one has done that! The important thing is that you keep growing. Don’t be discouraged if sometimes it feels like you’re not growing in piano, or whatever other instrument you play. As long as you’re working towards your goals and not giving up, you are definitely growing. Just like how you’re physically growing now, if you’re still a kid. You can’t see it, but it’s never stopped happening since the day you were born.

Do you have questions about how to grow as a musician and get better at your instrument? Ask me!

Hope you have a great day πŸ™‚