Category Archives: Music Practice

Away in a Manger – Piano Solo

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Well, I must admit that you all blew me away this past week! We reached over 500 likes in no time!

Thank you all for posting, sharing, liking, etc. I’m happy to share with you all this new Christmas piano arrangement of “Away in a Manger.”

The arrangement is late intermediate level with broken chords providing movement in the left hand and the simple melody in the right hand. The middle section changes to a quick 3/4, felt better in a combined one, then changing back to the original tempo and legato movement.

I hope you all enjoy the arrangement (click on link below)!

Away in a Manger – Piano Solo

 

Pedaling for Hymns

pedals1Pedaling is very fascinating to me.

I remember being told by a teacher to change the pedal every time a chord changed. That was very good, basic advice.

When playing traditional gospel songs (ie: Power in the Blood), you will have your three basic/primary chords: I, IV, and V.

If you apply the basic principle of pedaling for every chord change, you won’t pedal overly much.

But if you add anything remotely extra, like any stepwise in either hand or even changing bass octaves within a measure (like moving from Bb to D on a Bb chord), you will want to lift the pedal more often.

I always try to listen for any “muddling” and negate that by lifting the pedal more frequently.

Any stepwise I usually “flutter” the pedal or “half-pedal”. Just a quick lift to clear the air.

Overall, I would rather have less pedal when playing hymns. If they are a little dry that’s ok. A heavy pedal just causes muddles and blurs everything together.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject, basic pedaling technique includes the following:

1. Heel on the floor (always, at all times)

2. Play then pedal (have the pedal up when playing the first note(s) of a new chord, then put the pedal down)

Anything you would add? I love hearing your comments!

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

Two months from today is Christmas

What!?! Really?!? Already!?!

Yep. It’s back. That time of year again when everybody goes crazy in the stores and we spend money on things that most people will never use more than once or twice.

I love Christmas, really, I do.

Why?

I love the lights, the decorations, the colors, the traditions.

But, mostly, I love the music.

It’s time, my friends. Time to break out the Christmas playlist, the Pandora channel, the sheet music.

And this year, I get to pick out Christmas songs for my piano students.

I’m so excited!!!

What about you? When do you start listening to Christmas music?

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

Sightreading Tips for Rehearsals

PianoLast night, I had the opportunity to practice with a group after church. They had been practicing on their own previously, and I was just coming in to rehearse before they sing in church.

I had never seen the music before last night. And they just expected me to sit down and play it!!

(Actually, I love sightreading so this didn’t bother me.)

Even though I’ve been sightreading for years, I still do certain things before I start to play. I thought I would share these “things” with you today:

1. Make sure you have the music open to the correct song. Yes, you would think this would be a no-brainer, but it never hurts to double-check. 🙂

2. Look through the music. When I do this, I look for the following items:

– Key signature – what key do I start in?

– Clef(s) – Do my hands start both in the treble or bass clef? Or are they normal?

– Time signature – Does the time signature change at all during the song?

– Tempo marking

– Repeats, D.C. al Coda, D.S. al Coda, codas, etc. – anything that means I have to jump around. If I have to go back to a Sign, I’ll always locate the Sign so I don’t have to search for it while I’m playing.

– Key changes – I don’t want to get thrown off or surprised by going to six sharps. I’d rather know ahead of time.

– Anything else out of the ordinary (unusual rhythms, notes cut off the pages, a capella sections, etc.).

3. After I look through the music, I ask the leader what they want the tempo to be. They usually will count or beat out a measure for me, which is very helpful.

4. Play away!!!

Don’t feel bad if you take a couple minutes to look through the music. The time you take at the beginning is worth it if you don’t have to stop or fumble through the rehearsal.

What else would you look for? Any fun sightreading stories?

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: Practice Schedules

Sometimes I’m asked to accompany one special during the course of a month. Sometimes I’m asked to accompany two or more specials during a month.

For the two or more specials, finding time to practice can be a challenge.

Remembering when I said I would practice is also a challenge.

Take yesterday, for example.

During the day, I received a text asking if I could practice that night at church. Of course, I replied. I said I would try to get there early (hence scheduling practice before the service and not after.)

Now, I was raised to keep my word. So if I say I’m going to practice, I need to be there.

Since I’m a busy person, I need all the help remembering what comes next.

To help me, I set a reminder on my phone. I set the reminder to alert me early enough so I could leave the house in time. (I live 30 minutes away from church.)

It worked and I made it to practice on time.

Also yesterday, I received a text to check my email about practice with another group. I checked my email, saw the question about practicing next week, and replied that I could practice at that time.

They replied that I will get another email with more specific practice details. Something to look forward to for next week…

How do you schedule practice times?

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

Chinese Food and Piano

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I was in the Sunday morning service and knew something was wrong.

Usually, I try to have coffee and eat something somewhat substantial on Sunday morning…especially if I’m playing for the morning service. I don’t have low blood sugar, but there are times when I feel lightheaded or weak or “out of it” if I haven’t had enough to eat.

This is how I felt when I started to play for the soloist. I had already played a ten minute prelude, played for four congregational songs, and the choir special.

I didn’t remember eating. I didn’t remember what had happened up to this point in the service. All I knew was that I couldn’t focus. My head was spinning and I felt all wobbly.

During the middle of the song, my hands started playing the wrong notes. I heard the notes as if they were in a tunnel. The soloist turned and looked at me questioningly.

I tried to recover. I had to keep going. Concentrate. Focus.

Nothing was working. Where were my hands? I couldn’t even see my music.

I would never live this down…

…I stirred and opened my eyes. Where was I?

Oh, it was a dream. It didn’t really happen. I’m in bed on a Saturday morning.

Whew. Praise the Lord!

Yes, I really did have this dream Friday night/Saturday morning. It was so real.

I don’t normally remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me.

I even went and practiced the song for the soloist for the next morning. Amazing how motivation works!

I was telling this story to my sister (who didn’t believe at first that I really had that dream), and she reminded of the time when she actually experienced this in real life.

I’m very thankful it was just a dream. I’m also thankful it happened Friday night instead of Saturday night, or I might have really been freaked out.

Sunday morning (the “real” Sunday morning), I remembered to have coffee and eat something with sustenence. And, thankfully, the worship service went well, even though my arms were a little tired when I was done.

Oh…the Chinese food, you ask? Couldn’t you guess? That was my dinner Friday night. It worked almost as good as pizza.

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!

Music Endurance

Depending on your church’s order of service, you (the church accompanist) might play for about twenty minutes, or at least sit at the piano for that long. When you leave the piano for the message, you might only have to play again for the invitation.

In our church, the offering occurs at the end of the service. This week is my turn to play the offertory, and I have been requested to play a “big” song. Last night, I went to our church auditorium and practiced on the grand piano. I wanted to get a realistic feel of the sound quality, so I turned on the sound system. Wow, it was loud (which was good)! My overall practice lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. During that time, I practiced my offertory at least ten times (sorry, I did not keep count). The first several times were horrible! My hands were cold, my reactions were slow and my head was pounding.

I took a break from that song and played some other songs for fun. Then I came back to the offertory and played it again. Finally, it sounded decent! Some spots were still shaky, so I singled out those areas and worked out the kinks. I played the song a couple more times until I felt very confident with the results.

As church accompanists, we play for many elements in the service – preludes, choir, hymns, special music, and offertories. All elements have importance to the service. With the offering at the end of the service, this is the last music the congregation will hear before leaving. My responsibility is to leave them with a positive reflection of the service. Therefore, I need to have the endurance to give it my best for every element – especially the offertory!

Of course, I cannot accomplish this on my own. The Lord gives me the strength and ability to play every Sunday. Everything I do is for His glory. I am prepared as much as possible; now I just have to rely on Him and enjoy the song!