It’s a New Day, and a New Week

An inspirational quote to start the new week –

And while you read, you might also enjoy this original, hope-filled piano composition from a while ago…

Here’s the quote – very simple, but have a good think about each sentence before skipping ahead…

The writer talks about a “New Day”, but at the start of the week perhaps we can apply it to the “New Week” with even more benefit!

“Every morning means a fresh start on things.
If yesterday was trying and exhausting, today is a given opportunity to do something different.
If yesterday was full of triumph and satisfaction, today is a free chance to go further.
All too often we wake up, think of our schedules, and assume that we must act according to the same dull script. We need not.
If we find what is unique to each day, we will have freshness and the greatest fulfillment possible.”

Deng Ming-Dao,  365 Tao Daily Meditations (1992, Harper Collins)

Have a unique and wonderful day – and week ahead!

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10 Important Memory Tricks for Pianists

Guest Post by Sofie Kay

Have you ever suddenly forgotten your PIN? It happened to me once. I was standing in line with a friend who said something to me just as I was about to enter my number, and it suddenly went out of my head. I couldn’t remember those 4 digits until about a year later! It was a bizarre experience.

The same thing happened with a piano piece I loved, too. I was 16, attending a residential piano school and in a group lesson where we were being critiqued by an expert in the field.

I played Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1, was told by the professor to play something at the beginning a bit differently, and suddenly found I couldn’t play any of the first page any more. I needed to sight-read the page to work out what I needed to do!

The commonality between these two situations is that while I was preparing to do something I expected to be second nature to me, something out of the ordinary happened, and in essence it caused a glitch…

In the case of the PIN, a friend saying something was enough to throw me off.

In the case of the summer school lesson:

  • I was performing,
  • I was intimidated by how wise and experienced the professor was, and
  • The professor had asked me to change the way I was playing the piece, and had pointed out I was playing a wrong left hand note near the beginning (after months of playing it this way…)

All situations that can throw a nervous teenager off. I did my research and found out that this phenomenon can happen with anything we’ve learned, but there are ways to combat it…

Continue reading 10 Important Memory Tricks for Pianists

Effective Musical Learning

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Sound before Symbol: Lessons from History has been one of the most widely read posts on the Pianodao site. If you haven’t seen it already please have a read, because this post is in effect an addendum and update to that one.

Continue reading Effective Musical Learning

“Mindfulness: The Piano Collection”

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In his practical, in-depth article Is Mindfulness relevant to piano playing? guest author Doug Hanvey made a brilliant and thoroughly practical case for linking the two. It’s great to now see that case amplified in a brand new publication from Faber Music – Mindfulness: The Piano Collection.

According to Faber Music:

“Mindfulness: The Piano Collection offers a way to bring mindfulness and playing the piano together by sharpening musical focus and establishing the pianist’s attention in the present moment. The carefully selected repertoire, which is aimed at intermediate level players, is presented with guidance on how to bring mindfulness into piano playing.”

So what does the book include, and how is it different to other piano anthologies?

Continue reading “Mindfulness: The Piano Collection”

Piazzolla: finding his unique voice

The French composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) notably taught several of the most distinguished musicians of the 20th century, including Aaron Copland, Quincy Jones, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Daniel Barenboim, Philip Glass and Astor Piazzolla.


Recalling the first introduction to Boulanger, the Argentine musician Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) wrote:

“…When I met her, I showed her my kilos of symphonies and sonatas. She started to read them and suddenly came out with a horrible sentence: “It’s very well written” … After a long while she said: “Here you are like Stravinsky, like Bartók, like Ravel, but you know what happens? I can’t find Piazzolla in this.”

And she began to investigate my private life: what I did, what I did and did not play, if I was single, married or living with someone, she was like an FBI agent! And I was very ashamed to tell her I was a tango musician. She kept asking: “You say you are not a pianist. What instrument do you play then?” And I didn’t want to tell her that I was a bandoneón player…

Finally, I confessed and she asked me to play some bars of a tango of my own. She suddenly opened her eyes, took my hand and told me:  “You idiot, that’s Piazzolla!” And I took all the music I composed, ten years of my life, and sent it to hell in two seconds…”

Piazzolla is, today, remembered as one of the great icons of 20th century music – the creator of a new style called tango nuevo which drew on jazz, fusion and classical influences as well as the traditions of the Argentinian tango that he grew up playing.

At his death in 1992 Piazzolla had composed more than 3,000 works, and his music has been embraced the world over. And as well as his many recordings and film scores, classical musicians such as Martha Argerich have brought his music into the ongoing classical concert repertoire.

And though his music has met with a certain resistance from all quarters, including most vociferously in his own homeland during his lifetime, Piazzolla’s individual musical voice has spoken, and has become part of our heritage.

The advice of teacher Nadia Boulanger set Astor Piazzolla on a course that would allow him to be creative by being himself, and developing his unique personal expression.

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Relax with Beautiful Pieces

Sheet Music Review

For those who play the piano purely for their own enrichment (rather than for certificates or prizes) the latest series of publications from Schott Music will be of special interest. The Relax With series is aimed at intermediate to advanced pianists who play “mostly at home for their own enjoyment”.

According to British concert pianist Samantha Ward, who put these selections together :

“Schott Music’s Relax With series is designed to help you unwind with some of the piano repertoire’s greatest works, alongside lesser known pieces from the Baroque period right through to the 20th century. I have tried to include as many different styles and techniques as possible, whilst remaining within the boundaries of ‘relaxing’ pieces of music.”

So let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Relax with Beautiful Pieces

Playing the Piano “for Fun”?

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I recently asked the members of an online piano teaching forum the following question:

“I want to learn to play piano for fun…”
What do you think when pupils/parents say this to you?

Perhaps it’s no surprise that answers ranged from “Get a trampoline!” at one end of the spectrum to “Great – that’s the best reason!” at the other. And the constructive debate that followed proved to be very interesting and enlightening. 

With this in mind, I would like to share a few of my own views and hope this will encourage further thought and ongoing discussion within the teaching and piano community.

Continue reading Playing the Piano “for Fun”?

Music Collaboration Online

SoundCloud has become, since its inception in August 2007, the website of choice for collaborating musicians, offering them the ability to freely upload tracks, sharing them privately with selected recipients, downloading, and leaving timed comments.

It’s been a simple but winning formula that has won considerable popularity against more complex rival collaborative offerings.

Continue reading Music Collaboration Online

The Definitive Bartók Edition?

Sheet Music Review

It is 1975. In the living room of a Victorian house in the middle of Bedford sits a nine-year-old boy at the piano. Fired by a life-changing encounter with the music of Mozart he recently started lessons, and dreams of one day “going in for” music.

For now though, he stares quizzically at the somewhat forbidding book on the music stand – 32 Klavierstücke by somebody called Béla Bartók. His piano teacher has set the first two pieces this week – The Little Lane and Game.

But what kind of music is this?? Very odd… but enchanting!

Four decades later, and one of the greatest joys and privileges I experience as a piano teacher is to see – time and time again – piano students young and old experience this same epiphany, this first discovery of the beguiling beauty and brilliance of Bartók’s extraordinary music for piano.

Continue reading The Definitive Bartók Edition?

Burgmüller: 25 Easy & Progressive Studies Op.100

J.F.F.Burgmüller (1806-1875) was a popular pianist based in Paris who improvised hundreds of Salon Pieces as well as composing a wide range of instrumental music.

He is best known today for his Piano Exercises, notable the 25 Easy and Progressive Studies Op.100. Although called “studies”, and very beneficial for piano playing technique, these are actually very attractive pieces which remain favourites with students of all ages.

I have recorded all 25 of these popular pieces as a resource to help students, and am making the recordings publicly available here so that other players and teachers can have a listen and freely download.

Individual tracks can be freely downloaded from my SoundCloud page here.

I hope you find these recordings useful – and perhaps feel inspired to play these very enjoyable classics for yourself!

The Sheet Music is available from Musicroom here.

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