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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

Overcoming the Social Distancing Blues: Ways to Boost your Spirit and Relieve Stress while in Quarantine

COVID-19 has been classified as a pandemic, governments world wide have begun shutting down regular communal activities and ordering everyone to stay indoors to quarantine the potentially sick and limit interactions. While these measures are in the best interest of everyone’s collective health, it is normal to feel anxious and worried about being seemingly cut off from the world with no definite understanding of when these social distancing measures will end. Practicing healthy habits and staying productive in these times of “social distancing” is more important than ever in order to lift your spirits and reduce stress levels. It is … 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

10 Tips for Guitar Players with Small Hands

Large hands with long fingers are common physical traits found amongst some of the best guitar players. Just do a quick Google search and look at the hands of Paul Gilbert, Buckethead, John Mayer, Guthri Govan, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Wes Montgomery. Having bigger hands definitely gives you an advantage when it comes to playing complex chord voicings, reaching for large interval jumps, and playing fast licks.  However, many guitar legends like Angus Young and Prince didn’t have massive digits, and just look at how they’ve transformed how we play the guitar forever. You can also … Read more

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz – Learning to Arrange for Solo Guitar

So far we have learned how each note of the C major scale feels and sounds when it is played over each chord in the progression. As you become more comfortable with these notes, you will be able to learn arrangements much more efficiently, as all the shapes will feel somewhat familiar.  In “I’m Yours,” an incredibly popular song from Jason Mraz’s 2008 album We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, the chord structure is our simple I V ii IV. The original is a half step lower, in the key of B major. It’s always best to start any … Read more