Posts tagged music

Piano Music… novelty?

Written in 1923, this incredibly catchy song was one i grew up both listening to and playing.  Recently my youngest son was sniffing around for some new music.  I played a few bars of this from memory and his eyes lit up.  Edward Elzear aka “Zez” Confrey wrote what was called ‘novelty’ piano music.  In later years, he composed more for jazz band.  What i didn’t know however was that he only died in 1971 with quite a career in composition.  His other famous song was entitled “Kitten on the keys”.  If you need a challenge for more advanced students… let them loose on Dizzy Fingers.  It’s a musical tongue twister and is supposed to be performed at break neck speed. 

BTW, you can still order it online and have it shipped to your door which is what i did. 

Without further adieu… here it is performed by none other than Liberace.  He embelishes the ending but is still a wonderful performance.



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. 


  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.

On the Fly


Santa Clara

Santa Clara

I once attended a seminar on piano – i’m surrounded by teachers and the guest lecturer posed the question “What is the definition of a professional?”  Many answers were thrown out on the floor like “one who is accomplished in their field” or another added “if you have enough skill to be compensated monetarily for your abilities”.  I’m thinkin’ to myself…if that’s the case, i woulda been a pro at age 5 when the senior in the old folks home tossed me a quarter for playing the piano.  lol.  Still others thought that it was the amount of years in the discipline.  Others suggested degrees etc.  Finally, the clinician offered, “In music, amateurs practice until they get it right.  Professionals practice until they can’t get it WRONG”.  Hmmm interesting.  I understand the concept – i understand the intention of practicing until there is a ‘safety net’ of instinct to fall back on.   But more than that, despite my best efforts in preparation, i believe that the inevitable happens and things go terribly wrong;  the slip of a finger, a distraction, a technical difficulty – and it’s that split second decision, that moment when you feel utter panic and then figure out on the fly what you’re going to do that in my books makes a professional.  As far as i know, the term “on the fly” refers to a flywheel which is a wheel that in the mechanical world moderates change in torque.  Quite often it’s constantly spinning but has the durability to withstand change.  In music, playing on the fly refers to making changes instantaneously.  So, to me, the definition of a professional is one who can play on the fly – one who can respond.  I’ve many a time heard people exclaim “oh that music is so easy… i could do that”.  Oh really? I read a book once called “The Inner Game of Music” where he asked “if you had to play happy birthday on the piano… could you do it? And now play that same song in front of 100,000 people.  Would that be different for you?”  My answer is YES!!!  I’d be way more nervous.  I’d be rehearsed – i’d know the song upside down and inside out.  Why? To ensure that i would be able to handle the situation.  Despite the difficulty level of music, it’s the preparation for ‘what-ifs’  that counts – it’s the ability to play on the fly.  Recently i was playing a gig in a band and my entire keyboard setup went up in smoke.  Split second of panic. Split second to regain composure. Split second to make a plan of action all the while i’m continuing to perform.  The music didn’t change, but the situation surely did.  It’s the multitasking and the reaction that makes the pro.  I absolutely LOVE what Oscar Peterson said once “there’s no such thing as wrong notes – just bad recoveries”.  Aye there’s the rub.

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).


  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



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!


  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

After 9 – Piano Book


I’ve been teaching for about 25 years.  Funny… my very first 2 piano students who were ages 4 and 7 just contacted me via facebook.  I was just a teenager then working on my performance diploma.  Over the years i’ve had opportunity to teach many adult students.  One thing i know for sure about adults is that they have different demands on them than kids.  Having raised my own 3 children i know that it’s not as easy to get at the piano as as adult as it was growing up.  Presently i taxi teenagers around to various lessons – piano, bass, drum, guitar, voice and dance!  Add to that mix making meals and household cleanup, and you quickly realise that most adults don’t even BEGIN making sound at the piano until AFTER 9PM.  And thus, this book was entitled.  After 9 is a collection of more easy going, easy listening songs.  They’re not aimed at making life complicated but rather simplified and calm.  This is a quiet sit-down at the piano.  Enjoy.


  1. Daybreak
  2. Dream
  3. Reflection
  4. Rose
  5. Summer Days
  6. Valentine Waltz
  7. Lost Heart
  8. The Old Carousel
  9. We All Need
  10. Sometimes I Do
  11. Days End

Countries of the World – Piano Book


Truth be told, i’m a jack of all trades master of none.  Over the years i’ve had the opportunity to play in so many different styles and genres – everything from country to hip hop to rock to jazz.  If i were to say that i have a speciality, it’s analysis.  One of my few awards in my life was for analysing scores of music and finding patterns  (Believe it or not, there are awards for such things…lol)  and although my formal training is in classical music, the methods of analysis are the same regardless of style.  So in my younger years, i used to do radio and television advertising – y’know the jingles – the tunes of the ads.  In this one agency they would say “we need it to sound like…” and they’d give you some name of some piece of music.  Well off i’d go – assignment in my hand and analyse the piece of music – all the while picking up on the components that make a certain ‘sound’.  Over the years, i have become well versed in many styles.  So without further adieu, this book is a compilation of fun songs written in various styles from around the world.  They’re stereotypical.  So the french song sounds like a musette in Paris.  The cuban song – with traditional cuban rhythm.  The american country tune – like a southern ballad.  This book is designed as a ‘sampler’ of ways of trying out different styles without having to know anything of the culture.  It’s all there in print.  Enjoy!


  1. South African Sun
  2. Antigua!
  3. Cuba
  4. Irish Luck
  5. Mexican Moon
  6. Turkish Coffee
  7. Spanish Guitar
  8. American Serenade
  9. French Musette
  10. Jamaica, Man!
  11. Tango Argentine
  12. Ukraine
  13. Scottish Pub
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