Posts tagged books

Pentatude

Penta comes from the word Pentatonic while Etude is the French word for “study”. Together they form Pentatude – an all black note book written for the piano. 

Repertoire:

  1. Big Bad John – this song is simply an easy black note blues tune
  2. Coming Home – represents that place we hold dear to us… and when we return home, the peace it provides
  3. The Harpist – Let’s face it, every kid loves to do glissandos.  Fill yer boots.  This is the right song for those gliss-lovers.
  4. Hey Jimmy – Pure unadulterated funk.  Groove at its best.
  5. Inspiration of Ghana – Was written to sound like mallets playing
  6. On My Morning Run – If you ever come to Victoria, BC Canada… take a walk along the inner harbour and you’ll understand the scene.
  7. Never Supposed to End This Way – A melancholy end to a relationship.
  8. Nothing But Blue Skies – And when there are blue skies… you just want to get up and dance.  This is the music for the blue skies.
  9. Raindrops and Lilypads – 5/8 time, it depicts a very gentle scene of water droplets on lilypads.
  10. Saltair – Live near the ocean and this smell is unmistakeable.
  11. Slowpoke – Yeeee hawwww. Giddyup.  A wee tune for them thar country folk.
  12. The Deep South – This is 6/8 time old gospel.  Give it a listen.

Click here to visit the Pentatude book and listen to recordings.

Five Words to Parents

I’ve been asked numerous times by parents what the secret to success is for keeping their children interested in the piano.  Over the years i have noticed five common threads amongst the students who excel.  Invariably most if not all of these are neccessary ingredients in the music learning process with successful students.

1. As parents – be present.  Small story: my dad had a lazyboy recliner right beside the old grand piano i would practice on.  When he would come home, he would love to read the newspaper.  No words were exchanged.  He would just read the paper.  It’s AMAZING how much more focused a child is by just having a parent sitting beside them.  You don’t even need to be musical! You just need to be within earshot.  It can be the kitchen, the living room… just so long as it’s close.  It prevents kids from daydreaming and makes them get down to work.  The end of the story with my dad… he would quite often fall asleep while i was playing and the newspaper would fall to his face – the condensation and ink would turn his nose black.  I would gradually play softer, softer, softer…then BANG! into the Beethoven!  He would just about jump out of the chair.  As a teenager i would laugh and laugh and he would give me the not so approving look and then smirk.

2. Repertoire inspires.  There HAS to be some form of music that you enjoy at the piano or else you might as well be sitting at a typewriter (do they even have those anymore?)  Again, my father would buy books for us not related to our studies in piano that we would read through – jazz, blues and ragtime.  In the dry seasons of practicing – feeling like there is no end in view, I would often end my piano session with some sort of fun piece. Truly, this was one of the motivating factors in writing these six books for my boys to learn how to play. I wanted to combine entertaining (and at times challenging) music with good piano skills. (There’s my shameless plug for my books). So find what inspires your children and go out there and get it!

3. Be consistent. I know this sounds paradoxical, but I have this saying “You can’t love it ’til you hate it”. ANY student who has broken through the barriers of forcing their fingers to learn piano technique knows that it’s frustrating. But the key here is consistency. All too often i hear parents say “we want our kids to just have fun at the piano”. I’m translating in my brain “ok… this means non-enforced practicing”. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and state for the record that those students just won’t excel. PERIOD. Reason being – as soon as it’s not ‘fun’, the practicing stops. I tell parents over and over and over: Make piano a part of daily routine. I used to ask my kids “did you brush your teeth, make your bed and practice piano?” It was part of the fabric of the family. That said, i also needed to come to grips with allowing children to make their own decisions about piano – a fine line to walk for sure.

4. Speed of the turn. Why is early music so exciting for kids and as they progress, quite often that enthusiasm wanes? In part it’s due to the fact that as you get more advanced in music, the songs get more complicated and subsequently take longer to complete. There’s a danger here on both the part of the student as well as the teacher. Teachers want the song to reach perfection. Students get bogged down and sometimes drown in a song they feel they will never finish. The longer that song(s) take, the more the fire goes out of the student. As a teacher, i don’t expect perfection from each song. In fact i would much rather play through more songs and take them to the 80% mark than play only a few and try and perfect them. In addition, i would allow each student a ‘drop’ token – they were allowed to just drop one song per year and say “i don’t want to finish this one”. I’m a HUGE advocate of finishing what you start, but even i know that there are times to put songs to rest. But here’s the thing… the faster the rate songs are learned, the more energy it creates in the student. It’s almost like an appetite… they want to consume more when they realise they have the capacity to learn more. And so it should be.

5. Finally, perform. As an adult, the most fun i have had playing is with others while performing. When i was a kid, it was one of the most horrifying experiences. Now somewhere in the middle of those years, a lightbulb went on. I think it was during performance in jazz band in front of my peers. It was the incredible sound of a big  band that i loved and at the same time i received admiration from my friends. It somehow bolstered my fragile teenage ego. I realised i had a feather in my cap – i realised i had skills – i wasn’t just some kid practicing, there was actually a REASON i had played all these years. Isn’t one of the reasons we play music for social benefit? We interact and communicate through sound. How weird would it be if we were taught to speak in public but never had the opportunity to do it? If music is the means through which we speak, why then do we sit sheltered in a corner? Back to reality – we still need to hone the skills – learn the chops – do the woodshedding… but the greatest feeling is to finally peform. As a drummer friend always says (and in this context – regarding performance) “don’t hate, celebrate”.

The Planets

The PlanetsEver since i can remember, i’ve had a fascination with outer space – with a world we will most likely never be able to see, feel or touch.  I am fascinated with the magnitude of the planets.  Did you know that you can fit 1,382 Earths into Jupiter? And then there’s the distance – Saturn is 1.3 billion kilometers away from Earth.  If our moon has a pull of gravity on Earth, just imagine the force from the orbit of the planets around the sun… simply mind boggling.  A friend who is a teacher, when she found out that i was writing educational books exclaimed “Oh you should write a book on the planets”.  Immediately that struck a chord with me (pardon the pun :D).  And so this book is about ethereal soundscapes at the piano.  It combines the mystery, the intrigue and some loose associations with manmade concepts (Mars-war, Venus-love etc).

Repertoire

  1. Mercury
  2. Venus
  3. Earth
  4. Mars
  5. Jupiter
  6. Saturn
  7. Uranus
  8. Neptune
  9. Pluto (even though it’s now officially not a planet)
  10. Planet X

Retro

 

James Brown on one of his recordings said when asked for the next tune “i don’t know…but whatever it is, it’s jes gotta be funk-ay”.  I tend to like songs that are not only fun to listen to but also fun to play.  There’s just something about swing, funk & blues that bring a smile to my face.  Sometimes when i play, the pure mechanical feeling at the piano is exciting.  It’s almost like a musical puzzle – a tongue twister but once accomplished, it’s most satisfying.  This collection of songs is a sampler of various genres from the 1920’s to the 1970’s.  It contains laid back jazz, dixieland and even a bit of boogie woogie.  If fun is what you’re after, it doesn’t get more entertaining than this!

Repertoire

  1. Just in Time
  2. Dig It!
  3. Funk-ay
  4. Out Walkin’
  5. Chicago
  6. Checkers
  7. In Such a Flap!
  8. Riff Raff Blues
  9. The Moon and Back
  10. Cherries on Top
  11. Bullfrog Blues
  12. Afro & Bellbottoms

Secret Agent – Piano Book

 

I have two boys that play the piano.  Only problem is… piano music for boys is not exactly exciting.  When you’ve done about 3 year’s worth of music, what’s left to do but (insert yawn here) is 19th century Minuets; boring little doo-dad songs that sound unimpressive, uninspiring and are completely irrelevant to boy’s minds… how do i know this? I’m a graduate of 19th century minuets… yep – true story.  Despite the fact that i finished 2 degrees in classical music, i still find the early years in piano a complete GRIND.  So.. for the fun of it, i started writing music for my boys – things they would like to hear – things they would not only find challenging but interesting.  This book is all about spies… morse code, getaway car, super powers, headquarters – very James Bond, very stealth, very hip ‘n groovy… ok ok ok… i know my kids have told me not to use the word groovy…but, if the shoe fits…. well, you know what they say.  The songs will soon be made available online for purchase.

Repertoire:

  1. Espionage
  2. Chase
  3. Getaway Car
  4. Mission Accomplished
  5. Super Power
  6. Spies
  7. Covert Action
  8. Close Call
  9. Morse Code
  10. Headquarters
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