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How to Choose a Weekly Practice Plan

So you’ve started your piano education – Congratulations! You’ve embarked on a lifelong journey brimming with enrichment and accomplishment. To learn an instrument is not only to reap the joy of playing music, but to learn about yourself and develop your core learning abilities.  Now that you’re committed to the path of learning an instrument, it’s time to pick the route you’ll take to make your musical goals achievable: it’s time to make a practice plan. Practicing is how you get better at music. Period. If you do not practice, you cannot improve, and the best way to improve through … Read more

What are Dynamics in Music?

In music (or, more precisely, in music notation), we use a variety of symbols and written instructions to tell us how a piece of music should sound.  We use notes to tell us about pitches and how long they should be. We use slurs, staccato dots, and accents to tell us about how we should articulate the notes. We use tempo markings to tell us how fast the piece should be.  We also use special symbols to tell us how loud or soft the music should be, and these are what we call dynamics.  Dynamics (or dynamics markings) are volume … Read more

Common Tempo Markings

We consider a number of elements when learning a piece of music. We think about how loud the piece should be, how to count the beats, and how we should articulate the notes. We also consider how fast the piece should be, because speed is one of the most important factors determining the character of a piece of music.  In the world of Western classical, jazz, and pop music, we refer to the speed of a piece as the tempo, and we have a variety of different terms we use to communicate what the tempo should be. Some of these … Read more

What is 6/8 Time Signature?

As far as music time signatures go, you’ve probably seen a lot of 4/4, and a lot of 3/4, but have you ever seen a 6/8 time signature? 6/8 is a compound time signature that conveys a feeling of two, but has 6 beats per measure. Want to know how it works? Keep reading to find out. Review: What’s a time signature again? Remember that a time signature is a way of organizing the beats (or, the “pulse”) in music. Time signatures break down musical beats so that they can more easily be counted using measures.  Time signatures are typically … Read more

What are Piano Scales?

Practicing scales is one of the most commonly encountered topics when exploring ways to learn the piano.  There are good reasons for this; practicing scales not only teaches you how to navigate the keyboard, but also teaches you about some of the key, foundational elements of musical thinking. The notes within scales are used in composition to determine how the melody and harmony work together. Knowing more about scales and the notes they contain will make it easier to understand how music works, and easier to learn pieces. However, before you can achieve that level of understanding, you need to … Read more

What are Key Signatures?

Key signatures are some of the most commonly encountered elements of music notation. They are frequently used in western notated music, and even music beginners will probably come across them early in the music learning process.   But what exactly are key signatures? Despite their prevalence, key signatures can be strangely difficult to understand for beginners. In this article we’ll explain what key signatures are, where they’re found, and how to most easily think about what they do. Where are Key Signatures, and What do they Mean? Key signatures are collections of accidentals that show up at the beginnings of pieces … Read more

How to Read Music – Part 2

Section 1: Rests and Ties In Part 1 of this article series we learned how to decipher music notation in time (horizontally) and in pitch (vertically). This duet of understanding makes up the bulk of reading music.  That said, there are still some basic key elements of music notation that are worthwhile  to add to your understanding. We may know what notes to play and the counts of the notes that need to be played, we still don’t really know anything about how they should be played: how loud, how short or long, etc. We also could benefit from a … Read more

How to Read Music – Part 1

Have you ever wanted to learn to play an instrument, but hesitated at the thought of learning to read music? All those dots and lines and funny little symbols…. it can seem like an alien language, accessible only to the gifted few.  While it’s true that the ability to read music notation (which we’ll refer to simply as “reading music” from now on) can take years of study to master, the basics of reading music aren’t actually that complicated. There are only a few key elements to consider when reading basic music notation, and once you’ve become familiar with those, … Read more

Reading Chord Symbols: A Pianist’s Guide

The piano is a “harmony” instrument, meaning that we can play many notes at once. Certain combinations of notes give us harmonies that we call chords, and the ability to play chords is an important skill, no matter what style of music you’re playing. One of the most efficient routes to knowing which chords to play is by having the ability to read chord symbols. In this article, we’re going to teach you how to read chart-style chord symbols. Along the way we’re going to reinforce our understanding of what chords are and how they’re built. As a bonus, we … Read more

How to Memorize Music: A Pianist’s Guide

Introduction Have you ever watched a great pianist perform a complicated piece from memory? Impressive, isn’t it? All those notes and details, perfectly remembered and then fantastically re-created in the moment. There’s something about a performance of memorized music that makes it feel somehow more authentic, more intimate and honest. To be sure, this is a subjective perception, as many of the greatest performers used sheet music when playing, but the appeal of a memorized performance certainly exists. The practice of memorizing music is different from the more standard modes of practice to learn music off the page. In some … Read more