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Music basics


6 Piano Solos to Brighten Your Day

6 piano solos to brighten your day.

There’s so much fun music out there and I love when people send me good music. So, for a change, I asked my friend Molly to share 6 piano solos that brighten her day, and here’s what she says about them.

The sun may be shining and the summer months are quickly approaching, but sometimes we all need a little bit of extra day-brightening. Stress doesn’t take a summer vacation, and where I’m from, May means it’s still raining often.

Music can be a cure for a lot of things. More specifically, upbeat music. Empowering music.

Even if you’re already feeling good, these solo piano covers are worth checking out because they exude good vibes to put a smile on my face every single time!

 

Happy – Pharrell Williams

Sheet Music

What could make someone more happy than a piano solo that is literally titled ‘Happy’? 

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Starter Piano Kit for the Beginner

Starter Piano Kit for the BeginnerThe world of piano can be confusing. There are many options and not nearly enough time to research every one.

I get a lot of questions about the best equipment for beginner pianists. Throughout the years of teaching piano, I’ve done a lot of research and experimented with different tools.

Here are the must-have tools for beginner pianists:

  • A Piano
  • Piano Finger Exercise Book
  • Piano Method Book
  • A Practice Buddy
  • A Dedicated Piano Teacher

I discuss each item below.

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How to Get Stronger Fingers Today

How to Get Stronger FingersLearning an instrument isn’t easy, but it’s refreshing.

I don’t recall the exact moment when staying up to decode Chopsticks on the piano turned into an obsession with playing faster, stronger, louder. There is something magical about not knowing where you’ll end up.

This question comes from a reader who only learned to play with his right hand:

I have just started to learn how to play the piano by way of using a keyboard. I took an eight-week recreational piano course from April 1st to May 20th; we met on Fridays only. I now feel lost and frustrated, as my goal is to learn how to play by reading sheet music and by ear as well. I can only play with my right hand and I am trying to learn how to play well with the right, left, and then both hands. I want to learn how to play well enough to be a well-rounded piano/keyboard player, and to play gospel piano for my baptist church.

Now that I have my own keyboard at home, will you please tell me what I should be practicing in order to learn how to become a great and well-rounded, two-handed player that can play everything from Gospel to Rock & Roll?

Greg

Hi Greg,

One thing I tell all of my students: consistency is key! Even twenty minutes of practice, everyday, does wonders. Ten, if you’re pushing it.

We will tackle this from two angles: technique and ear training. At any point, a pianist should be excelling in both of these areas. Technique is about the quality of sound you’re producing and how practiced your fingers are. Ear training is about processing the music you hear and how well you’re able to play it back.

If you want to play others’ music, you’ll need to learn to read sheet music. There is no way around it other than practicing naming the notes (remember how you learned how to read English?). You can practice naming notes from both clefs on paper, or get an app that does that; here’s a quick guide.

During your practice session, you will want to warm up with finger exercises. Many people skip this and it’s one of the biggest roadblocks to stronger fingers.

Train your fingers to be able to play stronger and more evenly. When you do finger exercises, lift your fingers high and press to the bottom of the key, while keeping your wrists loose.

If one hand is significantly stronger than the other, you want to do two exercises focussing on the weaker hand for every one you do on the stronger hand. For example, your 4-5 fingers are likely the weakest on your non-dominant hand, so you might do two sets of those for every one on the dominant.

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5 Summer Contemporary Piano Solos

Summer Contemporary Piano SolosSummer is more of a feeling than a time of year. No matter where you are, these 5 beautiful contemporary pieces will remind you of summer.

My definition of summer heat is now ten degrees hotter and more bustled than I’ve ever known–I’ve gotten the most humid welcome to Asia.

I encourage you to pick one up on the piano and share with a friend to catch the end of the summer. Like a sunset, with more character.

 

Summer – Joe Hisaishi

Sheet Music

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19 Jazzy Christmas Piano Solos

19 Jazzy Christmas Piano SolosThis year, I’m feeling the big-band! I can’t wait to unveil what I’ve been working on.

In the mean time, I’ve collected 19 jazz-inspired Christmas piano solos. I wish I had time to play all these.

Sheet music is linked below (ranging from late intermediate to advanced). Click here to listen to all the pieces on Youtube as a playlist. Enjoy!

The first pieces are loud and boisterous…

New York, New York

A trombone player should jam with me. (Sheet Music)

 

Sleigh Ride – arr. A. Gentile

Love this arrangement. Edit: A reader, Susan, sent me the sheet music link! Happy dance. Here’s the mp3 from the Steinway album.


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How Many Hours Should You Practice Everyday?

How Many Hours Should You Practice Everyday?

It might sound counter-intuitive, but I encourage people to practice less and then stop practicing— because it helps.

Maybe you’ve tried and gradually faded off practicing your music. Family, friends, things get in the way.

I spent 8 hours practicing the way to park a car perfectly (yes, you read that right– I don’t have a license yet), and fully realized something that many people, including myself, often miss when trying to master a skill.

When would focussing on quantity (not quality), help us improve more?

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How to Supercharge Your Performance With This Hip Hop Trick

How to Supercharge Your Performance With This Hip Hop Trick

When can you wear sweats onstage?

(As in your grey, baggy pants with white drawstrings…)

Or jeans?

When can you whip your hair back and forth… and strangers will cheer?

Hip hop time, that’s when.

Hip hop dancers use a technique that helps them perform their best, and that’s what we’ll be talking about here.

You know the friend you fall out of touch with? You meet again a few years later, and remember really awesome things about that friend.

And you think, “Whoa, what happened back then? I didn’t realize how great she was.”

That was me with hip hop this weekend.

There’s something great that we can get from hip hop… that YOU can use in your playing too.

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