Category Archives: Music Planning

Spring has Sprung

This past Sunday was my least favorite day of the year – Daylight Saving Time/Time Change Sunday. My body has a very difficult time adjusting, even though I try to go to bed early, etc.

I still don’t understand why they don’t have the time change Friday night/Saturday morning. But they didn’t ask me, right?

Anyway, I’m always paranoid that I’m going to set my clock in the wrong direction, or miss my alarm, or forget to set it altogether. In this day of “smart” technology, we can’t even set our phones ahead. They change automatically. Or, they are supposed to.

I knew someone whose phone didn’t update correctly and they were late for practice before Sunday service. Ever since then, I’ve set multiple alarms and even pulled out the old “manual” alarm clocks.

This year I set my alarm an hour earlier just in case something didn’t go right. The only clock I could set ahead was my oven clock, which I did. Then when my alarm went off at 5:15am, I got up and went out to the kitchen to see if my phone matched the oven clock. It did! Score! Then I went back to bed for another hour. 🙂

We got to church on time and had a wonderful worship service. We sang/played one of my favorite packages – Crown Him King of Kings/Crown Him with Many Crowns. I love playing those songs!

The weather even cooperated and was absolutely gorgeous!

Perhaps Spring has (finally) sprung!

(We are supposed to get back down in the 50s tomorrow, but we won’t think about that right now.)

Do you have any stories from Time Change Sunday? I would love to hear them!

Piano Teacher Resources: Susan Paradis

Do you ever come across something online and the next thing you know, an hour has gone by?

That happened to me last night. And it wasn’t Facebook! 🙂

I was looking for a handout to use for my kids explaining whole steps and half steps for their Five Finger Patterns, and I stumbled on this amazing website.

Susan Paradis has put together an extensive compilation of resources for the piano teacher. I was so excited!

Many of the resources are free to download, which is even more exciting!

Her resources include Worksheets, Teaching Aids, Games, Sheet Music for all seasons and holidays, and much more!

In addition to all these free items, she also has a store with even more stuff!

If you’re looking for easy church music for your piano students, she has several seasonal and hymn arrangements you can download.

I downloaded several worksheets that I plan to use for my kids, and I’ll definitely be going back!

Be sure to check it out. Who knows…you might even find something for yourself!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Saturday…Best Laid Plans…

Very rarely do I have a Saturday with nothing planned that I have to go to (meeting, get-togethers, church functions, etc.). But today was one of those days.

I still gave piano lessons in the morning, but after that was open and free.

My plans: go to the grocery store, clean the house and watch college football (Roll Tide, btw).

Sounds fun, right?

Let me explain…the last two weeks have been pretty hectic, with work and lessons and church music. So, needless to say, the house had been pretty neglected.

So I cleaned. all. day. long.

Seriously, I just finished an hour ago.

But, I have this awesome open floor plan where I can pretty much see or hear the TV from anywhere.

So I also watched/listened to college football. all. day. long.

And, yes, the grocery store run happened during halftime. I had motivation to be quick!

After all that, I just sat down to do some lesson paperwork, plus make sure I’m ready for church music tomorrow. Good thing, since I was contacted to play for someone in the morning service. Plans were quickly made to meet and practice in the morning.

All is well here. My feet hurt. My house is clean. My football team won.

How was your Saturday?

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Piano and Cowboy Boots

I’m very picky about what shoes I wear to play the piano.

Flats don’t work. Wedges don’t work.

Heels do work, but not too thin of a heel. Not too chunky either. (I’d take chunky over thin, though.)

So, this week I’m faced with a dilemma.

Our church has a special Sunday this Sunday called Fall Festival Day. It’s a day where the service is more casual and somewhat of a western theme.

It’s a day where cowboy(girl) boots are the “in” footwear. And, yes, I do own cowboy boots. And I love them.

My boots

My boots

But I’ve never played the piano in them.

I have played wearing winter boots before, and I didn’t like it. The boots were just below the knee, and when I lifted my foot for the pedal, the boot rubbed against my leg in a very weird way.

I really want to wear my boots. If I don’t wear them, I’m not sure what shoes I would wear.

Decisions, decisions.

What do you think? Would you wear cowboy boots to play the piano? Have you done it before?

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Saturdays: Catch Up and Prep Up

Catch Up Prep Up1Saturday is probably my favorite day of the week. Normally, I try to plan very little for Saturdays to allow myself to take a deep breath and catch up from the week.

And I have caught up today, but I haven’t really taken a deep breath until now.

With all the earlier prep in the week for my first week of piano lessons, I neglected some of my housework. (Don’t worry…my music room looked great!)

So the majority of today has been spent catching up on house-cleaning, picking up random clutter (it’s always random it seems), doing loads of laundry (yes, pun intended), and going to the grocery store.

I kept thinking of things that needed to be done, so I put them all in my iPad for me to mark “completed” once they were done. I only have six left of twenty-one!!

Some of those tasks included prepping for Sunday’s worship service. I practiced the accompaniment for a solo, put all my music in order on my iPad, and looked over the songs for any transitions/modulations.

I also need to prep a little bit for lessons next week. Thankfully, last week I did lessons plans for the entire semester, so I won’t have to do lesson plans each week. (Hurray!)

I’m going to try to relax in a little bit, then head to bed to be fully rested for tomorrow. (A horrible night’s sleep on a Saturday night makes for a miserable attempt at playing the piano.)

How have you spent your Saturday? Relaxing? Working? Playing?

However you did, I hope you enjoy(ed) it to the fullest!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Musical Pop-ups

On-the-Go Pianist

So yesterday was one of those days where I truly felt like an on-the-go pianist. From the time I started my day until I went to bed, I had the following “musical pop-ups”:

(in random order, unless I can get them in order)

(remember, these are not complaints; just an idea of how music follows me throughout the day)

1. Received emails with comments, notifications, likes, etc. from my recent blog posts. (I love all of these…keep them coming!)

2. Sent text to soloist for Sunday to check on music for their solo.

3. Received text back from soloist that music with recording should be emailed sometime that day.

4. Realized I needed another set of piano books for student coming that night, so I ran to the music store on lunch to grab the books. (Yay, they had them all in stock!)

5. Received emails from soloist with sheet music and audio recording.

6. Put my headphones in and listened to the recording.

7. Emailed soloist about practice.

8. Emailed driving directions to parent.

9. Prepped for lessons – filled water bottle, grabbed Listerine mint strips (love those things!), made sure pens and pencils were handy.

10. Gave three piano lessons.

11. Worked on lesson plans for upcoming students.

And all this is in addition to work, commuting to and from work, quick run to the grocery store (after lessons), putting away the groceries, eating dinner, cleaning up the kitchen, and feeding and taking care of the dogs.

But I was on such an adrenaline rush after teaching, I was glad to go to the grocery store and walk it off.

I’m looking forward to more musical pop-ups this week!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Let the Fun Begin (again)

piano studioI’ve been teaching piano lessons for over 15 years. Now I haven’t taught for 15 years straight, but my teaching still covers a span of 15 years. And I love giving lessons. It’s fun.

For the last year or so, I took a break from teaching lessons; mainly because I got married.

Today, the fun begins (again). Tonight, I’ll start teaching piano again, and I’m very excited and nervous.

Why excited?

Because I love playing the piano. And I love to see young people want to learn to play the piano. I’m excited because teaching piano is a way that I can plant seeds in future church pianists. I won’t be around forever.

Why nervous?

Because I want to do a good job. I want to explain the concepts clearly in a way that the students can learn and want to continue learning. I want to make learning piano and music a fun experience. I want my students to love playing the piano as much as I do.

I want to be successful and help them succeed as well.

So, here we go. All the prep work has been done. Books are ready to be opened and marked in. The house has even been cleaned (thanks to my awesome husband)!

All we have to do now is let the fun begin (again)!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Using Transitions in the Worship Service

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned on Facebook that I was working on transitions for the upcoming Sunday worship service. I received many questions and comments about how I use transitions and what exactly did I mean by them.

I will attempt to explain here…

First of all, I should let you know that our church likes to have music playing almost at all times. Meaning, there is no empty or quiet space between songs. A typical order of service will have 2-3 worship songs, then a Guest Welcome, then the choir special, then 2 more songs. The piano does not play during the Guest Welcome. That’s it.

(Thankfully, I have the songs loaded on my handy-dandy iPad with the songs in order. See more about that topic here.)

Ok, so, this particular Sunday, the first two songs were “Majesty” (in Bb)  and “All Hail the Power” (in G). when I received the order of service the Tuesday before the Sunday, I immediately began to think about how to transition between these two songs. Going from Bb to G is…well…weird. Plus, both songs are such powerful and big songs that I was hesitant to do my usual play-the-minor-ii-chord-to-the-V-chord.

Yawn. Boring.

I figured the music director would be speaking a little bit between songs, so I needed to fill that time with something interesting enough that it wouldn’t bring down the energy that was built from the first song.

I couldn’t think of anything. Friday night I sat down at the piano and tried to figure something out. All I could come up with was a 4-bar interlude that used the ii chord to the V, without it being a “basic” introduction. I didn’t think that would give the music director enough time to speak between songs. I wanted at least 8 measures.

Grr…this shouldn’t be this difficult, right?

I didn’t know what to do. Nothing was coming to me.

Then, that Sunday morning while I was getting ready, it hit me. I could use a common note to go from Bb to G.

Here’s what I did…after the end of “Majesty,” I repeated the first line (Majesty, worship His majesty) in Bb. That put me on an Eb chord with G as the melody note. Then I played the same line again in the key of G, starting with a G chord (using the note G as the common note).

Ok…that took up 8 measures of time, and put me in the key of G for “All Hail the Power.” Now I was in the key of G on the IV chord – C. I just walked my bass down to B and walked my RH up to D and played the last three measures of “All Hail the Power” for the introduction.

All in all, 12 measures of interlude. Just enough time for the music director to say his “say.” Seriously, it was just enough time. No more. No less. God is good.

Now, I still did a “basic” introduction, when I really wanted to lead up to the V. But it worked better with the basic introduction, because the people at least had some time to recognize the song.

Also, Bb to G would normally be going down in the modulation, but since I used the line in “Majesty” that went up in the melody and then kept the common note, the modulation actually sounded like I went up instead of down.

I know this was a little tedious, but I wanted to really be specific in explaining this transition.

I will try to address more transitions and modulations in days to come. Until then, let me know your thoughts, questions, etc.

ForScore: Music App for iPad

Several of you have shown interest in how I use my iPad for the music service. Hopefully, this article will help explain the concept and how it works.

I am already so addicted (if I can use that word) to using my iPad for the hymns and I’ve only been using it for a little over a month. There are more possibilities to how I can use it in the music service, but I’m trying to learn carefully and not over-do it. The last thing I want to do is flub up the service because I don’t know what I’m doing.

Ok, with that being said, here is the process I use:

1. I downloaded the app ForScore from the iTunes Store. It isn’t free, but the $6.99 or so that you will spend will be so worth it. (If you look for the app on your iPhone, it won’t come up. It’s an app for iPad only, so you have to look for it on your iPad…makes sense.)

You may ask why I use ForScore? Well, it’s simple. My music director uses his iPad for the service and he uses ForScore. He’s the one who recommended it to me, so wha-la, that’s what I use. Plus, it makes much easier for sharing files…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

2. Unfortunately, ForScore doesn’t come with the hymns pre-loaded. I wish!!! So, the question that everyone wants to know, how do I get the songs on my iPad?

My music director scans the hymns from the hymnbook into PDF files (individually for each song). He then uploads them to Dropbox. (If you’re not familiar with Dropbox, you need to be. You can set up a free account and share/store files and access them anywhere.) Dropbox even has an app for the iPad!

We share the music folder on Dropbox. I pull the PDF files from Dropbox and open them in ForScore. Once you open them in ForScore, they are automatically saved. Nice. Our files are named by hymn number then the title (ie: 591 Have Thine Own Way).

NOTE: It is convenient to use the same app/program as my music director because you can email files from ForScore (in case a song doesn’t get added to Dropbox).

3. Once I have all the hymns stored in ForScore, I’m ready to make my setlist (like a playlist). I name my setlists by the date of service and AM/PM. I add my hymns for that service in the order they are listed on the order of service. If a song changes or the order changes I can easily rearrange the order of the songs.

Then I select the first song in the setlist and I’m ready to play!

4. This is where I absolutely LOVE using the iPad vs the hymnbook. The hymnbook is so big (at least ours is) and the pages are difficult to turn while transitioning to the next song. For example, we might sing 43 All Hail the Power and then have to transition to 772 When We All Get to Heaven. Do you know how cumbersome it is to flip/turn 700 pages while transitioning to the next key?

On the iPad with ForScore, you only have to tap the screen (on the right side of the screen) and it will turn to the next page. If the song has two pages, you will have to tap the left side of the screen to go back to the next verse…but that’s ok. I started out swiping the screen, which also worked, but then I discovered I could tap the screen and it worked just as well.

Aren’t you just a little curious to try it? Doesn’t it sound incredible?

Like I said before, there is a bit of a learning curve when first starting out, but take your time and practice with it. The pros definitely outweigh the cons! Speaking of cons, I will be doing an article here soon on some of the cons I’ve encountered so far (not many to be sure) and how to troubleshoot them.

I am loving all the comments and feedback you all are leaving on here and on Facebook! Don’t stop! I want to hear if you try ForScore, if you like it, if you hate it, all of the above. If you have a different method that works for you, I would love to hear that as well. We’re here to help each other provide a great music service for The Lord. Keep it up!

Playing with an iPad

How many of you like change? If you’re like me, change is not my favorite. But a couple weeks ago, I took the “change” plunge…

Our music director started using his new iPad to direct the music for the services. From my place behind him in choir, I was fascinated that all he had to do was seemingly tap the screen to turn the pages.

I had originally wanted to get the iPad mini, but I was advised that the regular size had better resolution for music. So I saved up my money and got one. Fun stuff! Now I had to learn how to use it for church.

I bought the app forscore, which allowed me to put the songs in a playlist.

My music director sent me the hymns in PDF format, which I opened in forscore. Once I had the playlist (setlist) ready, all I had to do was swipe the screen and it would turn the page. Even if it was a new song, I just had to swipe the screen.

The first Sunday I used my iPad, I was instantly addicted. The benefits are awesome…

No more turning/handling/lugging around the ginormous hymn book. It is so heavy!

I can see now over the piano music stand! Before, the hymn book was taller than the stand and I had to strain my neck to see the music director. I’m on the shorter side, so I still have to strain a little.

Since I’m on a rotation schedule, I don’t play for every service. But I’m looking forward to trying more with my iPad, like choir songs and special music accompaniment. If I’m really brave, maybe I’ll use it for an offertory!

Do you have an iPad that you use for the music service? I would love to hear from you!