Music Notes

March Piano Groups & A Good Jazz Book

We had such a wonderful time at the two piano groups this month. What a great variety of pieces our friends played. Several of the Jazz pieces came from a great new book called Late Night Jazz. It’s part of the Jazz Piano Solos Series by Hal Leonard. We particularly like the books in that series that are arranged by Brent Edstrom. He has a way of using good voicings of the chords that produce a rich full sound and his written out improvisations in the middle of each piece are what you would hear live in a jazz club. You can check out the Late Night Jazz at SheetMusicPlus HERE Or at Amazon HERE.

Here’s the list of what everyone played:

  1. Love Me or Leave Me
  2. Boogie Around the Clock
  3. Ragtime Improv
  4. What a Difference a Day Made
  5. Blue Monk
  6. I Wish You Love
  7. Frankie & Johnnie
  8. Theme from “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves”
  9. Scarlatti, Sonata in A
  10. Making Whoopee
  11. Handel, Gavotte in G
  12. Beethoven – 3 Bagatelles
  13. One Day More
  14. Ice Queen
  15. Bewitched
  16. Blue Skies
  17. God Bless the Child
  18. Scarlatti Aria in Dm
  19. Scarlatti Sonata in G

 

Til next time,

Karen

First Pieces March – Lichner

Well, last month was sure fun with Scarlatti’s first 10 pieces. I particularly liked The Slow Aria in Dm (L423) and the lilting triplets in G (L79). In fact I inspired Rick Clyne to play Scarlatti at piano group yesterday. So we had 3 Scarlatti pieces played this week. Plus some jazz and blues.

I don’t know how it can be March already, but since it is, I am ready to start a new composer. This month it’s Heinrich Lichner (1829-1898). Although he was a contemporary of Chopin and Mendelssohn, he wrote more in the early classic style like Clementi. We never hear his 9 Sonatinas in concerts, but they are an important part of the Sonatina Literature. They help develop the classical technique needed for Mozart and Beethoven. We have recorded all 9 of them, but the following 5 are our favorites and they are listed in the order to be played. You can find the recordings of all of them under our Various Composers HERE.

Sonatina No. 4 in C (Op. 49, No. 1)

Sonatina No. 2 in F (Op. 4, No. 2)

Sonatina No. 5 in G (Op. 49, No. 2)

Sonatina No. 7 in C (Op. 66, No. 1)

Sonatina No. 9 in G (Op. 66, No. 3)

You can find a good edition of them at Sheet Music Plus for about $15.00 HERE

Til next time,

Karen

Piano as an Adult

This week both Howard and I have been battling whatever respiratory crud is going around. We even had to cancel a couple of days of teaching. Yukky stuff! So my practice has taken a real back seat this past couple of weeks.

It’s funny how when my work was being done for large corporations, there were always meetings, and deadlines, and production schedules to meet. Even when I was sick, I always had to “catch up”. There was always someone prodding me to just get it done.

But now as the weekend comes and some time to recover from the winter crud, I remind myself why I sit down at the piano. Sure, I have goals like this year’s project of getting to know the composers better and how to play EVEN scales. But the reason the piano calls to me is because I love it and the music I make. I love poking the keys down and having sound come out – sound that I have made. Certainly there are better recordings made of the pieces I play, but there is a tactile pleasure that comes from my own fingers and the shape of my hands between the keys; the smoothness of the faux ivory; the pressure with which I push them down and how they rise back up.

Being a musician requires tenacity, patience, and discipline. But all of that flows out of the love for making the music. There are voices that call to me from the kitchen to have a snack, or from the email to see what a friend has sent, or the myriad chores that need doing. But I can ignore them when I get lost in the music. I just have to take a few breaths, look at the piano, and remind myself that I do this for the love of it.

What I discovered years ago —but all too often forgot under the pressures of life — is that making music is not a guilty pleasure. It’s fun, and necessary to make the world a more beautiful place. However, no one will tell you to make time for the piano. That is something only you can do.

Til next time,

Karen

First Pieces – Scarlatti

In an earlier post, I mentioned that this year I’m working on getting to know the composers a bit better. Howard and I have identified about 10 pieces for each of the major composers that are some of the easier pieces and yet representative of that composer’s style. I really enjoyed my work last month on Bach and played the Prelude in Cm at the monthly piano group.

So this month I was excited to move on to Scarlatti. Below are the first pieces we recommend for him. And I have too many favorites to limit it to just 1 piece, so I think I’ll play three of them at our monthly soup group gathering.

Scarlatti’s pieces are numbered by Llongo who catalogued all of his pieces. Howard has played through all 545 of his pieces many times and has recorded about 50 of his favorites. You will find sound files to listen to them HERE.

  • L423 in Dm Slow Aria
  • L79 in G Lilting Triplets
  • L483 in A Left Hand Half note march
  • L75 in F Gigue and Minuet
  • L23 in E Processional
  • L58 in Dm Gavotte
  • L84 in G Capriccio
  • L104 in C 6/8 Hunting Song
  • L445 in G Lilting 12/8
  • L454 in C Fast 4/4 8th notes, whole note melody

Until next time, happy playing,

Karen

Carl Czerny

Carl Czerny was Beethoven’s most famous and successful student. Beethoven and Czerny remained lifelong friends. It was Czerny who performed the world-premiere performances of Beethoven’s works such as the Emperor Piano Concerto after Beethoven was too deaf to perform in public. Czerny became one of the most sought-after piano teachers in Europe. The list of his students reads like a Who’s Who of 19th CenturyEuropean pianists. The most famous was Franz Liszt.

Czerny wrote thousands of piano pieces. Many of them are grouped as teaching sets. They became progressively more difficult as the pianist plays through the book. In recent years, unfortunately, Czerny has become so< famous for his written piano exercises, that many people overlook much of the wonderful music he has composed. Opus 453 is titled 110 Exercises. But if one looks at individual pieces, you could try number 62 Bolero in Am, number 60 March in D, number 84 allegro maestoso in Cm and you would have some very nice short pieces. Also, sometimes two or three of the pieces can be combined to make a more interesting longer piece. We have marked several of the downloadable files to show how we have done that. This last recording of Opus 453 came about because of a listener in Brazil, Marcello Herbert. He is a student who is working with his teacher on some of the Czerny pieces in Opus 823. He told us that it was difficult to find recordings of these pieces and it was helpful to hear them as he was working on them. He said his teacher had played him some of Opus 453 and he wondered if we would consider recording and posting those exercises. So last month Howard recorded and uploaded the 110 pieces in that collection. You can find that HERE.

We have recorded the following 8 books in their entirety and you can listen to, or download the MP3 files of all of them HERE. In our teaching, we use the following Czerny books in this order:

  1. Opus 823
  2. Opus 599
  3. Opus 139
  4. Opus 453
  5. Opus 553
  6. Opus 636
  7. Opus 299

Have a listen and see what you think.

Til next time,

Karen

First Pieces Project

Hello musical friends,
Every year, in January, I decide what I am going to “work on” that year in music. Two years ago it was a focus on sight reading. I sight read at least 3 new pieces of music nearly every day. I wasn’t very good at it in the beginning and it was pretty hard work, but I kept at it and by the end of the year, I had read about 1,000 pieces of music.

Last year, I decided to work on improving my improvising skills so that I could open a fake book and play an interesting arrangement of any song the first time through, using different left hand rhythm patterns and different right hand embellishments. Again, I wasn’t very good at the beginning, but as the year went by I got better and better. Just yesterday, one of my students asked me to play a song I had never played and I was able to do a nice little arrangement of it for her so that it sounded pretty interesting.

This year I am going to work on getting to know classical composers a bit better. Howard and I have compiled a list of a dozen composers and the first pieces you should play by each composer. We call it the First Pieces Project. This month is J.S. Bach. Here is the list of what we think are the best first dozen pieces to learn by Bach:

  • Prelude in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier (sound file HERE)
  • Minuet in G from the Anna Magdalena Notebook (sound file HERE)
  • Minuet in Gm (also from AMN) (sound file HERE)Musette in D (from AMN) (sound file HERE)
  • Little Prelude 2 in Dm (sound file HERE)
  • Little Prelude 13 in C (sound file HERE)
  • Little Prelude 18 in Cm (sound file HERE)
  • Two Part Invention in F (sound file HERE)
  • Two Part Invention in Bb (sound file HERE)
  • Prelude and Fugue in Cm from the WTC (sound file HERE and HERE)
  • Prelude and Fugue in GM from the WTC (sound file HERE and HERE)
  • Tocatta in Dm (sound file HERE)

Take a listen and see what YOU think.

Most of these pieces are available in 3 small books edited by Keith Snell and published by KJOS. If you haven’t played any of them, start with the Anna Magdalena book – link below to take a look at a sample page.
J.S. Bach Selections from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach GP381 HERE
J.S. Bach 18 Little Preludes GP383
J.S. Bach Two-Part Inventions GP382

Til next time,

Karen

Piano Group

One of my favorite parts of being a piano teacher is our monthly piano groups. We get together and take turns playing for each other. It’s NOTHING like a recital. Only those people who want to play for each other come and play. No one may come and “just watch”. So it’s a very friendly group of listeners. Many times, we have no idea what someone is going to play until we hear it. Our students have introduced us to a lot of really good music that way. In particular, lately, we have learned to love Ludovico Einaudi’s music.

We have such a good time. Here’s what our students played this past weekend at our piano group.

  • Go the Distance (Hercules theme)
  • Beethoven Sonata #10, 2nd movement
  • Winter Splendor by Martha Mier
  • Bach Two-Part Invention #14
  • Willow Weep for Me
  • Peaceful by Louis Landon
  • Diabelli Sonatina #6/li>
  • Excerpts from Czerny Opus 453
  • House of the Rising Sun
  • Someone to Watch Over Me
  • Rock Around the Clock
  • Mozart K309 Rondeau
  • The Way We were
  • Clementi Sonatina #1
  • Love Story
  • Sounds of Silence
  • Blues in the Night

Til next time.

Karen

Introductions

We have been so very excited about the launch of our new and improved website. Thanks from the bottom of our hearts to our webmaster, Doug Tapia. He has done an outstanding job of creating our online home.

Well, let’s see, how shall we start? I guess the biggest news is that we now have all our published music available on the site for purchase. Howard and I have been married for 13 years and we have been writing books and publishing them all along. It’s kind of surprising to me to see 23 books all on one page. But then, it’s like we tell our students in sight reading practice. If you just read 3 pieces a day, in a year you will have played over 300 pieces. Now multiply that by 3 or 4 years and you’ve played over 1000 pieces. It’ll be awhile before we have composed 1000 pieces and published them, but it still feels like an accomplishment to see all those covers.

I began composing pieces when I was a teenager, before I could read music (or write it down). Howard began composing pieces for daughter Dori when she was about 6 years old. So we’ve been doing it for a long time. My students sometimes ask what my favorite book, or favorite piece is that I’ve written. It’s hard to say, as many of my pieces were composed about or for loved ones. But, if I were pressed to say which of my books is best, it would have to be Enchanted Journey for myself. Although I have probably sold many more copies of In A Minor Mood. Howard’s bestselling book is by far, Boogie Piano. Take a look at the sample pages and listen to some of the sample tracks and see what your favorites are. Link to Print Music HERE.

Thanks for stopping by.

Karen