NEW for FEBRUARY! "Là ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni in Primer Level B
arranged by Claudio Bianchi
Grazie, Claudio, per quest' arrangiamento così bello e facile. Ho aggiunto parole in inglese e in italiano in due pagine .pdf separate. In questo duetto, cantato da Don Giovanni e la contadina Zerlina, il signore Don Giovanni riesce a far Zerlina seguirlo alla sua villa. Zerlina, già fidanzata con Masetto, non può stare fedele mentre questo Don sta cantando così sinceramante e così bene per lei.
Thank you, Claudio, for this beautiful and simple arrangement. I have added words in English and Italian in two separate .pdf pages. In this duet, sung by Don Giovanni and the peasant girl Zerlina, the noble Don Giovanni succeeds in making Zerlina follow him to his villa. Zerlina, already engaged to Masetto, can't remain faithful to her fiancee while this Don is singing so sincerely and so well to her.
NEW for JANUARY 2016! A Frog Went A-Courtin' in Level 4A
This old English song first made its appearance in print in 1548. Over the years many words have been put to the tune, but they all involve a frog proposing marriage to a mouse who must in turn ask her Uncle Rat's consent (or "she would not marry the president"). As part of my old "SingAlong" collection you also get guitar chords and quite a few verses--19 in all! Enjoy learning this song and playing and singing it with friends!
Also, you can now download mp3 audio files for all pieces in Level 3A, including slow playback, and hands separately. You can get announcements like this from the facebook group. which is associated with this site.
NEW for DECEMBER! "(We are Climbing) Jacob's Ladder" in Level 2C
I love the way you can hear Jacob climbing higher and higher as this song ascends in pitch. Reinforce Jacob's climb by playing the first part--with low notes--softly, and play the middle part--with high notes--loudly.
"Jacob's ladder" is a spiritual which draws a parallel in the ladder's steps, representing the upcoming exiles of the Jews, with the tribulations of American slavery. I have two videos of this song. Listen to how different they are.
NEW for NOVEMBER! "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah in Level 4A
This Christmas standard is a thrilling piece of music no matter how many times you hear it. The loud and proud opening statement of the theme, the contrast between full four part harmony and the single line singing "For the Lord God omnipotent...", and the dramatic pause near the end, all combine to make a perfect show-off Christmas piece.
If you watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing "Hallelujah" you will notice that the soloists and audience stand up as it begins. The story behind this custom is that when the King of England first heard it, he felt the presence of God so strongly that he had to stand, just as a royal subject would be expected to stand in front of his sovereign. Then when the audience saw the king rise, they were all compelled to rise as well, out of respect for their own king.
Also NEW for NOVEMBER! "Amazing Grace" with color coded dynamics in Level 4C.
The second page of this version pops out with notes of contrasting colors as they reflect extremes in dynamics. This page is a variation of the tune which had been presented more traditionally on page one with no contrasting colors. Enjoy this new color coded version of an ever-popular song.
The judge has ruled "Happy Birthday to You" is in the public domain! Now you can download three arrangements at three different levels from this site. Finally all legal, and all brought to you here before any of the traditional publishing houses can get them to the stores. Teachers, make a habit of assigning these versions every time a student's birthday rolls around. They'll love playing it!
New for SEPTEMBER! The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond in Primer Level C and in Level 4C. Download the color coded version!
A song strongly identified with Scotland, this nostalgic tune tells of a time when two lovers would meet on the banks of lovely Loch (or Lake) Lomond. Though the narrator and his comrade take the high and low roads back to Scotland, he knows all too well that he will never see his love again.
Like my "Sonatina Piccolina" in Level 1C, this gavotte will appeal to beginners who want to play serious classical and baroque music, but have no sheet music appropriate to their level. A gavotte is a French dance used commonly in Bach's suites. It can be identified as having a pick-up consisting of two staccato quarter notes in 4/4.
ALSO for August! Color coding for dynamics in Level 4C has begun!
Download "Cielito Lindo" and "Voici venir la nuit"
Now that all pieces pieces have color coded dynamics in Intermediate Level 1 and in Keyboard Classics, I am beginning to do color coding in Level 4. Click the green dot in column 2 under this symbol in Level 4C:
So why use a key signature with a C sharp in it when C's are consistently made natural? Good question! Some arrangers in fact would notate this piece, with the very same pitches, with just one sharp, F, in the key signature. The sticky point here is that "Old Joe Clark" does not use a regular scale. Clearly D's are important here--the first and last chords are D and the last note of the melody is D. But a D scale normally has a C-sharp, and this piece just as clearly does not. Actually "Old Joe Clark" is in what is called the "Mixolydian mode," a fancy term for a major scale with the seventh note (in this case C-sharp) lowered by a half-step (in the case to C-natural).
So I could have used a key signature of F-sharp only, but there is also something to be said for always associating one sharp with G as the key note and two sharps with D as the key note. With a piece at this level piece I thought it was important to reinforce those associations. So that's what I did. There you go.
Oh yeah! It's also a lot of fun to play! My music theory nerd alter-ego kind of took over there. Sorry :-)
With this month's addition of color coded dynamics in "For Michelle" by Ken Allen and "Minuet in G minor" from the notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach, all the pieces in Intermediate Level 1 are available with colored notes. If you add the pieces in Keyboard Classics, there are now a grand total of 31 pieces with colorful reminders of the importance of dynamics. If you as a teacher agree that many students at this ability level need cues which are more obvious that the traditional "mp", "ff" "cresc.", hairpins and so on, then download these pieces and give them a try!
Remember to set your printer quality to "best" or "photo." These settings are needed to print the gradations in color which denote crescendos and diminuendos.
To the right Dr. Alan Huckleberry of The University of Iowa plays the second movement of this piece. I am always looking for easy Sonatinas and I think I have found a great sounding one here. This piece is also available with color coded dynamics, as are almost all pieces in Intermediate Level 1
ALSO NEW for June! "Arctic Nights" with color coded dynamics
is now available for FREE in Intermediate Level 1
Now you can download "Arctic Nights" for free if you choose the version with color coded dynamics. Although I ask you to pay for most of my original pieces, there are a few exceptions. I decided to offer this one for free because I am so excited about the idea of color coded dynamics.
By the way, if any teachers see positive results among their students about their use of dynamics with my color coded pieces, please tell us.
Write your comments at the facebook group.
My Music in MAY! "Babies Don't Keep" in Level 1A
from the poem, "Song for a Fifth Child" by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton
These words seem to be everywhere that new parents might look. I have seen them on plaques, picture frames and pillows. So why not in song? I made up the music to this sentimental poem when my own children were very young, and a copy still hangs in our third floor hall.
The words are from the last stanza of Ms Hamilton's poem:
"Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep."
ALSO NEW for May! The complete Clementi Sonatina Op.36, No.1
with color coded dynamics! See Intermediate Level 1
"Teachers: Now your students can play all three movements of this sonatina with color coded dynamics. As they progress through early intermediate repertoire your students should not have to rely as heavily on you for expressive interpretations. Yet it is so hard to get them to play dynamics on their own! Believe me, I know from my own teaching experience! So this set of color coded pieces is the result of an effort to prod them along as they begin to make musical decisions by themselves.
Mi dispiace che c'era un errore sulla pagina "Intermediate Level 1" il mese scorso. C'era un "bottone" per "Quel mazzolin'..." con colori che non funzionava. Adesso il bottone funziona e ho scritto "Nuovo!" la sopra.
NEW for APRIL! Two versions of "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain"
One in Level 2B and one in Level 3B
This popular and lively children's song is derived from an African-American spiritual called "When the Chariot Comes." The "she" in the original song referred to the chariot which the returning Christ is imagined as driving.
This month I am giving you two versions of "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain." In Level 2 the hand position is close to "thumbs share C", except that the left thumb is on B. In Level 3 the key is G, but only partly in G position. Download whichever is appropriate for you and play for (fellow) children!
NEW MUSIC for March! "Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me" in Level 2C
"Get away from me, fly! You're annoying!" No need to read more into this song which has become a favorite among children in the United States. However, there has been a more serious side for some people who have sung this song: For instance during the Spanish-American War it was sung by US troops for whom flies were a serious health hazard--more than just bothersome. Fortunately for us, however, the song is also just plain fun!
For March: STILL MORE(!) color coded dynamics in Intermediate Level 1!
A waltz, pieces by Handel, Beethoven and from the notebook of AM Bach
You now can download these color coded scores: Beethoven's "Romanze" from his Sonatina in G, Handel's "He Shall Feed his Flock" actually arranged by me, "Shepherd's Wife Waltz" an old time fiddle tune, and the well known "Minuet in G" from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach. This brings to a total of eleven color coded pieces in Intermediate 1. In addition, all 14 pieces in Keyboard Classics are available with colors for a grand total of 25 pieces on this site. Where else are you going to find dynamics, this often neglected element, so clearly notated?
Remember to set your printer to BEST QUALITY or PHOTO QUALITY to print these scores.
NEW MUSIC for February! "Hush, Little Baby" in Level 1A
Now you--or your students--can play this simple arrangement on the piano for your little ones. Be sure to play an octave higher than written. It's more soothing that way. This was my favorite song as I was coaxing my own children to sleep. I enjoyed improvising on the simple V I harmony as I lengthened each phrase and slowed the tempo until my child slowly went off to dreamland. Now I am lucky enough to sing this for my grandchildren, inserting "Nonno" (Italian for Grandpa) for "Papa".
For February I have given you color coded scores for "Humming" and "Melody", from Schumann's Album for the Young, Op. 68, as well as Gurlitt's "Novelette". With these contributions you have available to you almost half of the pieces in Intermediate Level 1 as color coded scores.
Remember to set your printer to BEST QUALITY or PHOTO QUALITY to print these scores.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
NEW MUSIC for January 2015! "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Solidarity Forever" in Level 4A
The stirring melody of these two songs originated in religious camp town meetings in the United States. A true folk melody, there is no known composer and it underwent many variations as it was transmitted by rote from one person to another. Eventually during the Civil War, it was set to lyrics about the abolitionist, John Brown, and later still to the two sets of lyrics you are receiving this month.
These two pieces are from an old collection of mine called "Sing Along Songs" which provided beginning accompaniments specifically for singers. Accordingly you will find many verses, guitar chords, and closer attention to the vocal range than in your usual pieces on this site.
Here are four pieces edited for you so that the color of the notes reflects their loudness, or their dynamics. No longer will students mechanically play all the right notes at the same volume and then believe that such a performance is satisfactory. Dynamics are so clearly displayed on these pages that students will not be satisfied until they are able to master this important and expressive element.
For January you are getting colored notes for Schumann's "Soldier's March", Burgmuller's "Arabesque", Ellmenreich's "Spinning Song" and the Musette in D from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach, four popular early intermediate pieces.
Set your printer to BEST QUALITY or PHOTO QUALITY to print the color gradients for crescendos and diminuendos .
Of the 641 of you who responded to last month's survey there was a slight preference for colors being used to represent dynamics (loudness). Almost 42% of you preferred dynamics while 24% and 35% preferred colors to encode form and modulations respectively. However among those of you who are piano teachers, whom I happen to really respect, the results were more lopsided. Of the 61 of you who are teachers, fully 6 out of 10 preferred dynamics while only 2 out of 10 preferred form and another 2 of 10 preferred modulations. See the charts below.
Since you chose color coded dynamics I will oblige by providing more pieces with what I have been calling "dynamic colors." Look for them soon in Intermediate Level 1.
NEW MUSIC for December! "Cielito Lindo" in Level 4C
You have probably heard "Cielito Lindo" sung and played by mariachi bands. It is a popular Mexican song whose title roughly translates as "Pretty Darling," although "cielito" also can mean sky or heaven. This song, which is identified so strongly with Mexico, harkens back to the country's Spanish heritage by referring to the Spanish Sierra Morena mountain range in the first line.
Now you can see how loudly to play simply by looking at the color of the notes! Color coded dynamics (the musical term for volume) in the Keyboard Classics level emphasize a crucial musical element which students frequently ignore. In this level a column has been added headed with the symbol right next to the pdf column. Click on the green dots below this new symbol and you will get the same pieces as before, but now with the addition of notes color coded for dynamics. Even gradual increases and decreases in volume ((crescendos and diminuendos) are notated with gradients slowly moving from one color to the next.
But wait! There is no reason other musical elements cannot also be color coded. Since I only have time to revise scores for just one element I will leave the decision up to you: Would you rather I color code for
1. Dynamics. See Example 1 or
2. Form (the sections in a piece). See Example 2, or
3. Key changes (modulations). See Example 3?
Cast your vote here and I will continue with this project however you suggest. [Survey has been closed as of December 1, 2014.]
NEW Music for October! Two pieces introducing left hand C position
1. "Il est né le divin Enfant" in Primer Level B
Here are two pieces with an easy left hand part an octave below the right hand in what is sometimes called "C position." Almost all pieces listed in the First Pieces and Primer levels before these are arranged in what I call "Thumbs share C." Il est né le divine Enfant" and "There were three Jolly Fishermen" have been added as an introduction to C position.
"Il est né le divin Enfant" is a popular French Christmas carol. There is more music with several verses not included here which describe the foretelling of the birth of Jesus by the prophets and the humble conditions of the birth in a manger. Listen to this video for the full version.
These three fishermen are named in subsequent verses as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and for some odd reason they all end up sailing to Amsterdam. With clear references to bible stories this song is a standard at Jewish camps, and can be heard occasionally as a boy scout or girl scout song.
Here's the much loved lullaby which Brahms wrote for his good friend Bertha Faber on the birth of her second son. I have included both the original German words for our German speaking friends and the traditional English words (even though I myself had to look up the meaning of "bedight"!). This lullaby has already been available in Level 3B, but the tune is so popular that I thought it also would be fun for pianists who are playing at an earlier level.
NEW for August! Rondo Alla Turc (Turkish March) from Mozart's Sonata No. 11 in Level 3B
The European nobility during Mozart's time was fascinated by all things Turkish. Turkey was exotic and, as home to the Ottoman empire, it was a real power to contend with. Imitations of Turkish culture became a fashion called Turquerie, and many European classical composers wrote pieces in what was considered to be a Turkish style. Beethoven for instance wrote a Turkish march in the last movement of his ninth symphony featuring the Turkish sound of a piccolo, bass drum and triangle. Mozart wrote this Turkish rhythm (in red) in the Turkish march you are now receiving:
NEW for July! "Flower Power", another composition by B Meyer in Level 3C
Ms Meyer writes that she was inspired by Debussy's "Jardins sur la Pluie", which she once attempted to learn. "I wanted a similar feel and sound but playable by people with less experience and smaller hands. "Flower Power" really impresses people when you play it! It sounds a lot harder than it is. One of my students (8 yrs old) just played it for a recital and blew everyone away."
Thanks for your music! When something "sounds a lot harder than it is" you can be sure it's a great recital piece!
Sweetly sings the donkey?" I don't know, but with a vocabulary limited to "Hee" and "Haw" on just the two notes G and C, I sense some serious sarcasm here! This beginning piece is a fun round and I have provided an easy accompaniment with the three different parts played against each other. Watch the timing on the last line--the pick-up and the long notes had better be counted out to work with the accompaniment.
Your NEW tune for June! "He's Got the Whole World" in Level 4A
Frank Warner collected this spiritual from the singing of Sue Thomas in North Carolina. Warner also performed it and recorded it on an Electra label in 1952, but it was not until 1958 when it was recorded by the young British singer Laurie London, that it really became popular. Wikipedia says, "It was the most successful record by a British male in the 1950s in the USA" and, "It was the first, and remains, the only gospel song to hit #1 on a U.S. pop singles chart."
I arranged this tune in C and D with a left hand figuration which spans an octave throughout the piece. Meanwhile the right hand plays bouncy syncopated chords. The chords themselves are easy; it's the syncopation which might take some practice. But hey, it's well worth the effort--that bouncy sound is "so fun!"
NOUVEAU pour Juin! "Compagnons de la Marjolaine" dans Niveau 2B
Selon Monique Palomares qui écrit sur mamalisa.com,
En cherchant des renseignements sur qui étaient ces "compagnons de la marjolaine", j'ai trouvé que la marjolaine était utilisée dans les chansons comme la rose ou le muguet, comme prélude à l'amour, ainsi que le fait que les jeunes gens qui partaient faire la fête mettaient des brins de marjolaine qui dépassaient de leurs bottes, formant ainsi une mouvante "Compagnie de la Marjolaine", les deux versions disant qu'ils étaient des séducteurs.
J'ai aussi trouvé dans "Trésors des plus belles mélodies de tous les temps et de tous les pays", Delfolie, Editions Edsco, Chambéry, 1947" qu'au 15ème siècle, les gens ne disaient pas "donner la sérénade" à quelqu'un mais "réveiller les pots de la marjolaine" et que la Confrérie de la Marjolaine était la confrérie des parfumeurs, très puissante parce que la cour et la ville faisait un usage intense des parfums. La chanson remonte aux alentours de 1650.
D'après Du Mersan (Chants et chansons populaires de France, t. 2) c'était la rencontre des jeunes gens et jeunes filles qui allaient danser dans les prés où fleurissait la marjolaine."
Bref, c'étaient de bien joyeux drilles!
NEW for May, by guest composer B Meyer! "The Brook" in Level 3B
Ms Meyer tells us that, "The Brook was written as a potential recital piece so kids could play something that no one else would be playing. It's called The Brook because of the way it seems to flow over rocks. The fingering challenges make it a good lesson as well."
This is one of many pieces for guitar and piano which Ms Meyers has written and we hope to include many more in the future. Thank you!!
NEW for April! "Billy Boy", a theme and variation in Level 1C
Poor Billy! Hopelessly in love with a young girl who is not ready to leave home. (I changed the words "young thing" in this song to the less offensive "young girl") The first half of this piece, the theme, is a rather easy first experience in G position. The only unusual thing is finger 2 crossing over the thumb. The variation is the same except for a light right hand accompaniment and some more challenging finger crossing.
So what I am giving you is really two pieces in one. Each half works well as a stand alone piece and students can play just the first half, just the second half or both together depending on their skill level. As such "Billy Boy" will be a valuable addition to a beginner's repertoire.
NEW for March! Two Waltzes!
First my original composition, "Lost Waltz" in Level 4B
These are "Old Time" waltzes, that is, they are in an old time fiddling style that I learned at my summer camp up in Vermont. "Lost Waltz" has an especially curious ending. Clearly in C major, it ends up on a surprising A minor chord. Don't play it just once! The transition from the ending in minor to the beginning in major sounds terrific! As you might suspect, the name "Lost Waltz" comes from the fact that I had made it up, left it in a drawer for many years, actually forgot about it, and then finally discovered it by accident one day.
My hope is that some old time fiddlers and contra dance bands might find this waltz and perform it. Come on fiddlers, I'm posting it for free for you!
This is an old time fiddler's waltz which I learned as a camp counselor--see this rendition on YouTube. In fact it was the inspiration for "Lost Waltz" which I describe above. I remember our square dance band leader yelling above the fray (our dance bands were large), "The bass should go in contrary motion to the melody!!" --one of my first lessons in music theory. And speaking of music theory, I hope none of my professor friends scolds me for the parallel octaves in this arrangement. It's folk music for goodness sake. Lighten up!
So yes, my fellow music enthusiasts, good advice for all of us. Just lighten up and enjoy!
Certainly my grandson's favorite song in the world (he LOVES trains), I arranged this old chestnut for two levels. In Primer Level this is by far the longest song, and would therefore make a great recital/show-off piece. Piano players at Level Four will enjoy playing this challenging version in front of young audiences.
I have been wanting to arrange this song for a while. The only version that has been on my site until now has been a practice version to become familiar with bass clef.
Gray squirrel (put right hand out in front of you with wrist bent down like a paw),
gray squirrel (put left hand out to join the right hand with wrist bent like a paw),
Shake your bushy tail (wiggle hands to left and right, wiggle hips, and bend your knees more on each beat).
Wrinkle up your little nose (point to your nose with one finger),
Put a nut between your toes (use your pincer grip to pluck an imaginary nut from the air and bring it down between your toes)
Also new for January: The Theme from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake in First Pieces B
Tchaikovsky's ballet, Swan Lake, is a love story about Odette, who was turned into a swan by a sorcerer, and Prince Siegfried, who has been forced by his mother to choose a bride. When the prince goes hunting he is enchanted by the lovely Odette/swan, but he is then tragically fooled by the sorcerer who has transformed his own daughter to look like Odette. Prince Siegfried declares his love to the imposter, realizing his mistake only too late. Broken hearted both Odette and the prince plunge into Swan Lake and drown.
I first heard this theme on a music box. I had no idea at the time how much people loved it.
NEW for December! The National Anthem of the People's Republic of China in Level 3C
Greetings to the proud people of China! A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting Beijing and had the pleasure of interacting with the people there. I found them always friendly and smiling and happy to go out of their way to help an North American tourist who did not know their language.
This piece fills a significant hole in my "National Anthems project." Home of nearly one fifth of the population of the world, China has become an influential player on the world stage.
New Music for November: "When I First Came to this Land" in Level 4A
The Pennsylvania Dutch made up this song about persevering and surviving as immigrants in a new land. It was translated from the original German by Oscar Brand ("Dutch" is actually a mispronunciation of "Deutsch", the German word for "German").
Learning this song will introduce you to the all-important stretch of an octave in both hands. The contexts for both stretches will serve you well since they are so common: in the left hand you will leap down an octave on the fifth note of the scale (sol) just before the end of the phrase--good preparation for classical pieces which often contain this figure. In the right hand the stretch is incorporated into a broken chord--good preparation for the arpeggios which advanced pianists practice so much.
So have fun learning this new skill in this fun song!
New for October: The Apple App, "Sing That Note!" This FREE iPhone and iPad App will help improve your listening skills!
"Sing That Note!" (singing optional) is a must have app for anyone interested in improving their ability to listen to and read music .
Have you ever wondered what notes are being sung, what chords are backing up the singer, or how high that crazy trumpet line leaped up? If so, Sing That Note! can help you begin to hear these musical elements. All these listening skills are based on the recognition of one all-important note: the key note, the tonic, the syllable do, or scale degree one (it goes by many names). Test yourself to see if you have recognized the key note in real music as played by live musicians. Just listen to a musical phrase and sing OR PLAY the note you believe to be the key note back into your iPhone. Sing That Note! then analyzes your note and tells you if you have hit the correct one. [--from the iTunes store]
Click the App store graphic on the right.
New Music for October: "Hino Nacional Brasileiro",
The National Anthem of Brazil, in Level 4B
In the past decade Brazil has come to the attention of people around the world as an economic powerhouse and as host to several high profile international events. Brazil was host to Pope Francis in 2013 and will soon host the FIFA World Cup (in 2014) and the Summer Olympics (in 2016). Traditionally an exporter of coffee and soybeans, Brazil's economy is becoming more high-tech, in the words of the CIA factbook, "outweighing that of all other South American countries, and expanding its presence in world markets" .
It is true that Brazil has recently gone through some political and economic challenges, but what modern country has not? Brazil's problems are those of a vigorous people suddenly finding themselves on the world stage and struggling for a trustworthy and honest government.
A musette is an old French bagpipe with a soft small sound. If you're used to the loud Scottish ones designed for big military marches, this quiet instrument may come as a surprise to you. French peasants would play musettes for themselves or an occasional sheep which wandered by as they watched their flock. When the nobility began idealizing the "simple life" of the poor, they asked their court composers to make up simple, rustic pieces called Musettes.
In both new pieces for this month you will play the typical drones of the bagpipe. In Bach's there is a long held G; in mine there are repeated A's and E's played together. Against these static, unmoving accompaniments the right hand plays a folk inspired melody.
I hope you like these pieces. I am offering my own composition for free this time. It is the only original composition of mine on this site which is available for free.
Music for August: "Faith of our Fathers" in Level 2C
Faith of our Fathers is an English hymn, the words of which were written in 1849 by Frederick William Faber in memory of the Catholic martyrs from during the establishment of the Church of England by Henry VIII. In the U.S. it is usually sung to the tune "St Catherine" by Henri Hemy--and this is the tune I arranged here--while In England and Ireland it is usually sung to the traditional tune "Sawston".
July's New Music! "Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Foster in Primer Level C
This song tells of a lover serenading a "Beautiful Dreamer", who is oblivious to all worldly cares. Helen Lightner writes, "This sentimental ballad is folk-like in character with its repetitious but lovely melody and its basic harmonic accompaniment. The quiet and calm of this mood is portrayed by the arpeggiated accompaniment [in the original] and by the repetitiveness of the melodic pattern. --from Wikipedia
The innocence of the dreamer in this song is in contrast with the mood of the next song. Read on...
More Music for July: "Hard Times, Come Again No More" also by Stephen Foster in Primer Level C
There was a resurgence of interest in the song, "Hard Times" with the financial crisis of 2008. Many people identified with the difficulties Foster portrayed. With an important and serious theme, this piece can be quite meaningful to adult beginning pianists.
Here's the perfect piece to introduce treble clef in the left hand and the stretch of an octave. The octave is approached gradually and systematically while the high notes in the left hand reflect the high pitches of a music box. In addition, I have simplified the look of the piece on the page by changing the meter from 3/8 to 3/4 thereby doing away with those nasty looking 16th notes!
As you play Three Moods think of the contrasts between the pieces. First is an easygoing 4/4 entitled "Carefree", then comes a slow piece in minor, and finally there is a piece with spirited scales in D major--I call it "Scaling the Heights." Three Moods is a great set for older beginners who can easily reach octave skips. All three pieces are from Daniel Gottlob Türk's "Kleine Handstücke," a set of 49 very short compositions, most a mere 8 measures long.
When you find your new June pieces you will also notice lots of new practice tools for every single piece on the page. There are new audio files, some with playback at a slow speed and some with right and left hand alone, and there are new Youtube videos of talented musicians playing the pieces you want to learn. All this new material will give you more valuable resources for your goal: learning to play the piano.
Music for May! "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" in Level 3B
This song is wonderfully and deceptively complex. The melody is simple enough for a child who is anticipating the return of a parent, yet the words also mention the ladies who will turn out and men cheering from the crowd. The minor key reflects the danger of a soldier's job while simultaneously the song's words are joyous and exuberant: "Johnny is coming home!" How complicated we are in these intense situations; How well this song has captured a whole range of our emotions!
For April, think ahead: Learn "Pomp and Circumstance" in Level 4A
Congratulations to all graduates! Yes, it does seem early to be thinking about graduating, but I know how long it takes to decide what piece to play (or who should play it), to learn it, to memorize it, and to finally perform it. So here we are at least a month ahead--no excuses for passing it up.
A few comments about the piece itself: Sir Edward Elgar wrote a set of six "Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches", and what we normally call "Pomp and Circumstance" is the trio of the first March. The tradition of playing this piece during a graduation ceremony began at Yale, and has become so common, especially in high schools,that the idea of omitting it has become all but unthinkable.
More Music for April: "Hickory Dickory Dock" in Level 1B
I'm using this fun kid's song to help you learn (or teach) a shift in the right hand five-finger position from thumb on C to thumb on D. It's a great introduction to getting the right thumb off of C. It involves only a short stepwise phrase, and you can have all the time in the world to shift your hand--I have provided two (count them, 2) fermatas immediately beforehand.
The block chords in this month's pieces are basic to almost every accompaniment a pianist plays, and practicing them early is a great way to build up to more complicated patterns--"chord figurations" as composers call them. Challenge yourself to play the pieces smoothly, with no pauses as you prepare to change chords. Both "Lazy Mary" and "A-Tisket A-Tasket" have versions in the keys of C, D, F and G.
"Lazy Mary" in Level 2A will help you get familiar with I and V7 chords in the left hand. It is a popular American folk song (and has nothing to do with the Italian song by the same name as sung by Lou Monte).
"A-Tisket, A-Tasket" also in Level 2A will give you practice with the same chords in the right hand. Though basically a children's song, it was popularized by the great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald--proof that a great performance depends as much on interpretation as on the sophistication of the piece.
My mother taught me these songs, as she did a few others on these pages, and I have fond memories of singing about the mountains around Turin which our family so loved. Bardonecchia, Melezet, Aosta... these towns showed us a calmer and more peaceful life than that of the big bustling city.
"Sul cappello" or "A Feather in our Hat" in Level 2A was first sung during World War I by the "Alpini", a tough military regiment which specialized in the rugged and forbidding terrain of the Alps. The feather in their hat was a source of pride and, as the song states, served as their flag. See the videos.
"Quel mazzolin di fiori" or "That Little Mountain Bouquet" in Intermediate Level 1 is a popular mountain song with a quick and cheery tune. "Watch out that my bouquet doesn't get wet," the narrator sings. "I want to give it as a present for my husband this evening." There is no hint in the first verses that the husband probably won't be coming home because he will be visiting Rosina. Don't worry. As an Intermediate piece I did not feel compelled to include these initially bright, but ultimately disappointing, words. See the videos.
Whether you have never played before or you have played for a good year or two, you will find a version of this old mountain song at your ability level. You no longer have to say, "I sure wish I could play that tune, but it's too easy [or hard] for me." Arrangements of folk music are not written in stone. Part of their beauty is that arrangements can be written appropriate to any skill, any instrument or even any genre. Maybe in the months to come I will arrange some harder versions--Maybe I'll even arrange a jazz or classical version! "Horrors!" would say my purest folk musician friends. "Would he dare??" Well stick around. I just might!