Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Musical compositions, it should be remembered, do not inhabit certain countries, certain museums, like paintings and statues.  The Mozart Quintet is not shut up in Salzburg: I have it in my pocket.”

– Henri Rabaud

Every Wednesday brings Words of Wisdom here at the Color in my Piano blog…in the form of a musical quote or joke, intended to bring inspiration or humor to the middle of your week.   Have suggestions?  Send an email off to admin[at]colorinmypiano.com.

Announcements, Composition, Teaching Piano

Creativity in the Piano Lesson | Part 1 of the series

I’ve been reading a lot about improvisation (non-jazz, particularly) and creativity in the piano lesson lately, as I’ve been working on a paper for my Into to Music Research class for college.  It’s interesting to me how today there seems to be a trend for exact, literal performances of composers’ works.  It was not always this way; in the Romantic Era, pianists would freely change composer’s works when they performed them in concert.  They would often be completely unrecognizable from the original!  But that was what the audience members came to hear: that pianist’s version of Beethoven, Bach, or whatever. Continue reading “Creativity in the Piano Lesson | Part 1 of the series”

repertoire / methods

New Piano Method: Piano Safari

Picture 2I recently heard about a brand new piano method series, called Piano Safari, written by Katherine Fisher and Julie Knerr, both grads from University of Oklahoma’s excellent Piano Pedagogy program.  The series looks very intriguing.  I would like to try out the series the next time I get a new beginner student!

The element that I find most unique about this series (based on what I’ve heard/read so far) is the technique exercises (suitable for beginners) which are utilized across the Musicianship and Repertoire books, and into later repertoire.  Each exercise is named in accordance with the safari theme.  An example: if you ask the student to play the “Zechariah Zebra” exercise, they would play the rhythm: eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth-quarter-quarter (think “Zech-ar-i-ah Ze–bra–” ) on Middle C, then on D, working up to G, and then back down to C.  Check out the technique tutorials they have on their website to see a this and more exercises in action!  Other exercises include: “Kangaroo,” “Elephant Stomp,” and “Monkey Swinging,” and “Ancient Tortoise.”  Just think how exciting it could to learn piano while going on a safari!

As an alternative to using the Musicianship and Repertoire books of the Piano Safari method, teachers may instead purchase the Technical Exercises and Rote Pieces book, which is designed to supplement whatever current method the student is using.  It contains all the technical exercises and rote pieces from the both the Musicianship Book 1 and Repertoire Book 1.

repertoire / methods, Resources

My Favs: Jim Brickman solo piano music

Picture 3In a post last week, I mentioned Jim Brickman — composer of new age solo piano music (as well as some pop music with vocals).  His music is great to play when you are stressed out and just want to play something relaxing that doesn’t require as much concentration as classical music.  =D  I thought I’d share some of my favorites among his compositions.

I own two books of sheet music by Jim Brickman.  I enjoy playing his music at weddings and dinners.  It’s perfect for occasions when you need to play something more contemporary and less formal than classical music.   It also mixes well with hymn arrangements.

  • One of the books I own is: Jim Brickman / Piano Anthology.  This book is a great value for the money.  Some of his books of sheet music include pop songs that have vocal lines (such as the popular Christmas song, “The Gift” ).  If you want to avoid those and stick to mostly solo piano music, this book is a great option.  A couple great pieces included in this book are, “Angel Eyes” and “Rocket to the Moon.”
  • My favorite of the two books that I own is: The Songs of Jim Brickman for Easy Piano: Piano Solos.  These selections have been arranged by Dan Coates, and are a little touch easier to play — not to mention they are easier on the hands!  Jim Brickman must have large hands, because he likes to include lots of tenths in his LH accompaniment figures.  =)  So if you have small hands, this book is preferable over his original arrangements.  This includes my all-time favorite Jim Brickman tune, “Serenade.”

You can visit his site here, to get more information and hear some recordings.  I noticed on his site that he also has available a few books I’ve never seen before, but look very interesting:

Professional Development

New Nat’l Music Achievement Program in the US?

I recently heard that Carnegie Hall and The Juilliard School are considering the possibility of implementing a National Music Achievement Program in the US.  Here’s the lowdown:

The program would include the following characteristics:

  • Students would be evaluated by regional, reputable adjudicators using a pre-defined syllabus and repertoire list
  • Evaluations would be available several times per year in each area
  • Evaluations would be based on instrument performance
  • The evaluation would consist of 8 different performance levels, from beginner to advanced students
  • Students would receive a numeric score at the end of the evaluation
  • Students would be able to access their ranking in relation to other students across the country

The achievement program aims to benefit students and teachers in several ways, including:


  • Offer teachers materials to support their instruction
  • Help teachers track the development of their students
  • Enable students to understand their skill level on a national scale and gain recognition for passing each grade level
  • Motivate students to continue studying music by offering clear development goals

It is an interesting idea to consider.  I wonder if it will be similar to the National Certificate Program (based on the curriculum of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada)?  It sounds similar in some ways.  I’m not completely convinced that we need another National Achievement Program, but I do like that fact that this one would be “American made.”  My hope is that it will be something easily affordable for all students, and available for students in suburban and rural areas as well as urban.

To participate in the survey that Carnegie Hall and The Juilliard School are conducting about this possible achievement program, click here.  (The above information was quoted from the survey.)

(via Music Matters Blog)

repertoire / methods, Resources

Free piano arrangements of anime music

I recently received a new transfer adult student.  She’s an excellent sight-reader and a fun person to be around!  She has a great interest in anime (for those of you not familiar with anime [AH-nee-may], it is “a style of animation developed in Japan,” according to Answers.com).  Shehas been teaching me quite a bit about anime and video game music.  I think I am learning just as much from her as she is from me.  =)

Evidently, there is a wealth of free piano arrangements of anime music themes online.  The arrangements she has been working on (they are “just for fun” pieces, which accompany her classical repertoire, of course) basically sound like new age solo piano music (think Jim Brickman or George Winston).  Below, I’m passing on a few links she shared with me:

  • Check out this recording of “Sadame” for piano here, and then find the sheet music here (scroll down to the “Animes” section, and click the pdf icon for “Destiny – Sadame” ).
  • Other sites for finding free anime sheet music can be found herehere, and here.
  • It can seem overwhelming to browse through these anime sites, especially when you’re not sure what you are looking for.  For me, it’s a whole new world within the sheet music realm!  According to my student, anything from Final Fantasy, Naruto, and Inuyasha is good.

I hope you find this information helpful for any high-school or college-aged piano students you might have.  Happy browsing!

improving as a teacher, Practice, Teaching Piano

Highlights from Michigan Music Teachers Conference 2009

This past weekend was the Michigan Music Teachers Association 124th State Conference, taking place in Bay City, Michigan.  A couple of my fellow college piano pedagogy majors and I drove over to Bay City on Monday, to hear the conferences of the day.  Conferences are so great because they give you all sorts of new ideas and get you re-inspired!  Here are some highlights:

  • We had the privilege of hearing Jane Magrath present two sessions about piano teaching.  I can’t even express how fabulous her presentations were.  But here’s the biggest thing I took away from her presentations: when introducing a new piece to a student (say, intermediate level), guide the student through some steps towards analyzing the piece.  Example: “Let’s find some ways that will make learning this piece a little easier. Do you see any patterns in this piece?”  By identifying and labeling various rhythmic and melodic themes, the student can understand the piece at a greater depth and play with more understanding.  In addition, the piece suddenly becomes much less daunting.
  • Derek Polischuk gave a presentation about utilizing “Audio and Video Technology in the Studio to Provide Student Feedback.”  He uses the webcam on his MacBook computer to record during student lessons and post them onto YouTube in such a way that the student can login to this private area and view the movies.  Doing so is a great teaching tool and greatly motivates students.  After all, this is a day and age where kids understand technology so much better.  You can find his blog here, where he regularly posts various student videos, including projects by his college-level piano pedagogy students.
  • David Abbott spoke to us about “Beethoven through the Romantics: Pedaling and Issues of Interpretation,” highlighting some examples of places where the composer’s pedal markings are frequently not followed by pianists (qualified by the fact that our pianos today are so much different than back then). Abbott made the argument that we should be more true to the composer’s markings, for they might be indicating exactly the aural effect they were seeking to create.

What fun!  I am already looking forward to next year.  =)


free Renee Fleming download @ Amazon.com

Picture 2Run on over to Amazon.com!  They currently are offering a free mp3 download of La Bohème/Act 3 – Addio! Che Vai?…Donde Lieta Uscì by the amazing Renee Fleming.  It is not often that Amazon includes classical music among their selection of free mp3s, and it won’t last long.  If you are a fan of opera music, especially by Renee Fleming, don’t pass up the chance to get this!

Printables, Teaching Piano

Just Added! Flashcards: Naming Notes (Middle C Position)

Just added to the PrintablesOther Resources page:

Flashcards: Naming Notes (Middle C Position)

There are two pages in this file:

  • Page 1: Contains 10 flashcards for reinforcing the notes of the Middle C position (i.e., Bass F through Treble G).
  • Page 2: Contains the “answers” to the note name flashcards, to be printed onto the backside of Page 1.

This set of flashcards is designed for the absolute beginner piano student.  They are pretty self-explanatory.  You can either ask the student to name the note they see on the flashcard, or ask them to play it on the piano, or both.  Enjoy!