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

What are the Piano Pedals?

“The pedal is the soul of the piano,” said the famed 19th century pianist Anton Rubinstein.  But wait, which pedal? Aren’t there three of them?  In this article we’ll provide an overview of the piano pedals: we’ll tell you what they are, how they work, and briefly explain how they are used. The Sustain Pedal How the Sustain Pedal Works The sustain pedal (also called the damper pedal), is the rightmost pedal when facing the keyboard. Whenever you hear someone talk about using “pedal,” this is the pedal they’re referring to (including Mr. Rubinstein in his quote from above). The … 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

Composer Bios: Chopin

Few names are as closely linked to the history and performance of the piano as that of Frédéric Chopin. Called the “Raphael of the Piano,” Chopin composed a rich, diverse array of piano music that ranks among the most performed in the classical music repertory. An important figure in the early Romantic period of Western Classical music, Chopin lived during the artistically fruitful and politically charged early decades of the 19th century, and he crossed paths with many of the leading musical figures of his day. As a pianist, Chopin’s skills are reputed to have been prodigious, and his compositions … 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

Composer Bios: Beethoven

The name “Beethoven” is one of the most recognizable in all of classical music. Ask anyone to name a few classical composers, and among the short list you’re likely to get, one of names will almost certainly be Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven’s music continues to receive regular airtime through both performances and media spots, and a number of the most popular melodies from the classical world come from his compositions. In this article we’ll take an introductory look into the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven. Life and Times Early Life Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 in … 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

Easy Piano: 10 Easy Minor Pieces

There are lots of articles out there claiming to contain “easy” piano pieces. Some of them are good, some of them are not, and many of them throw big, famous titles into their list of offerings, such as Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” or Claude Debbusy’s “Claire de Lune.” You might be familiar with these pieces by name, and through hearing snippets of their most well-known sections, but have you ever tried to play them? Or even listened to a complete recording? Doing so in either way reveals that these are hardly “easy” pieces, and the closest many beginning or intermediate players … Read more