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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

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

6 Excellent Practicing Strategies Commonly Missed by Pianists

Introduction Why do we practice music? Your answer may be something to the effect of, “well, we practice so that we can play the music,” which is pretty much correct, but can be stated a little more succinctly: whether you’re planning to play in front of a blowout crowd at Carnegie Hall, a modest gathering of friends and family at a holiday gathering, or simply for yourself in the privacy of your own home, the goal is the same, we practice to perform.  Ok, but what exactly is practicing? Or, more importantly, how do we practice? What are we supposed … Read more

Practising Music Away from Your Instrument

It should go without saying that as music students, a sizeable amount of the time we spend thinking about and, well, practising music will be done at or with our instruments. After all, we’re practicing to be able to play, and it seems counterintuitive to practice playing without the “playing” part of the equation. To that end, we’ll spend many hours of many days of many years generating sound with our instruments, ever intent on shaping it to our desired musical vision. This is as it should be; no musician has ever achieved mastery with their instrument by not playing … Read more

The Women of Classical Piano: A Brief History and Overview

As musicians, our preoccupations in study and performance trend towards the compositional side of notoriety. When we think of the ‘greatest’ musicians, the names we tend to utter first are the composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev… This is not unreasonable, as without these masters of compositional craft we would not have their music. However, in consistently leaning on these gargantuan names, we tend to overlook the vast and storied history of the practitioners who have so brilliantly brought the works of these master creators to life. To be sure, many of these composers were … Read more

Discovering Keys: From Then to Now

It’s easy to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of studying music. Intervals, scales, chords, key signatures, chord progressions…once we dive into the deep pool of musical fundamentals, it can take some effort to recall that our ultimate objective is to create and play music. Indeed, it’s important to remember that the study of music as a formal, institutional affair will always be a biased sort of learning—we may treat our scales and chords and other wonderful musical basics as gospel, but they are derived from a fairly specific musical tradition, and not every practitioner of music will … Read more