Friday, November 2, 2012

Learn Music While You Sleep

This sounds like 60's sci-fi science, but an article in this month's Scientific American Mind reports that you can apparently learn music while sleeping!  Thanks to Northwestern University for doing the research and reporting on it!  (for a little more on the research, see here)

In the meanwhile, here are the highlights for those of you that are interested:
  • This must be a piece of music you're already practicing
  • The piece needs to be played over and over again while you sleep
  • Sleeping improves your ability no matter what, but hearing the music while you sleep increases your ability even more!
  • The research was only tested during 90 minute naps - not overnight sleep
So, if you're addicted to multitasking, here is yet another way you can do two things at once!

Or, you could just play the following video and take a nap right now!  I wonder how many people out there have gotten really good at the music that accompanies these types of CDs?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Studio Star Scholarship Results!

The Studio Stars of the 2012-2013 school year have been decided and I'm happy to announce that the winners are Eddie and Erica!

Eddie has proven to be a committed piano student by focusing his practice on that which will get him closer to his goal of giving his Suzuki Book 1 recital.  He has proven himself able to take what we learn in lessons and improve on them at home and he has taken on this responsibility in a very mature way.  This is going to be a great year in piano for Eddie!  To recognize this achievement, Eddie is being awarded 5% off tuition for the remainder of the school year as well as his choice for where he plays in the order of this year's studio recitals.  Congratulations Eddie!

Erica, this year's second place winner, has continually proven herself to be a committed student with a passion for music.  Because of her careful and consistent work, she has shown herself to be a very musical and solid performer in competitions around Chicago and on stage.  Erica is being awarded one free piano lesson in which she can choose anything she wants to work on at the piano.  Congratulations Erica!

All of my students are eligible for these awards, which are given yearly.  Eddie takes lessons in my home studio and Erica takes lessons at Sherwood, so if you see either of them in the studio or the hall, please congratulate them on the hard work they've put in this year!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Starting All Over Again

Welcome back, everyone!  Is it my imagination, or did we skip autumn this year?!

This week I've been thinking a lot about what strength of character it takes to relearn something.  In lessons over the past two weeks I've been encouraging students who lost a bit of what they could previously do at the piano over the summer vacation and are discouraged by how lacking they have found their skills upon returning to lessons.

Sometimes, when all we have in mind is the big picture, the distance we find ourselves from our goal is the only thing we can see.  And when that distance gets slightly bigger, it seems that we are hopelessly heading in the wrong direction.  And then practicing seems frustrating.

But that isn't how our brains work!  Luckily, every time we "relearn" something, we're not starting from scratch AT ALL!  These skills that we've developed stay with us ("like riding a bike") and it is just being able to access these skills smoothly that we need to practice.  And it takes far less time to remember how to access these skills than it does to learn them in the first place.  

I've seen students this month cheerily tackle this, knowing that if they did it once, they can do it again.  Good for you!  I've seen students dramatically get angry with themselves for not living up to their own expectations.  No biggie!  Stomp around a bit!  Go get a cracker and a piece of cheese!  Then take a breath and come back to the piano - your brain has been practicing that whole time anyway!  I've also seen students retreat from the piano and their normally ebullient selves when faced with the daunting and disappointing task of relearning something.  It's okay.  It isn't YOU.  We just need to remind your hands of our expectations and give them a little practice before we go around thinking they can just do this miraculous thing on command! 

So, do me a favor this month.  Trust me and relax.  Let's practice together in lessons and find those skills again that I know you have!  We'll do all the work together - all you have to do at home is check in on your hands every day just to keep reminding them of what they learned in lesson.

Happy Practicing!  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer Contest 2012 - Results!

Wow - you guys are creative!  I had a lot of fun watching everyone's entries into this summer's contests.  There is a winner and a runner up for each one.

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the COMPOSITION contest is Mary, who demonstrated with her composition (titled "composition2013") great understanding of musical structure and style.

The runner up of the COMPOSITION contest is Jerecho, who used the steady beat, performance poise, dynamics and technique that he learned during his last year of piano study to play us "Thunder-Clap."

While composing is a noble skill, sometimes you just have to be goofy.  There was a contest this summer to showcase the goofy side I get to see of all of you in lessons on a weekly basis!  I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the CIRCUS CONTEST this year is Pauline.  Her humorous use of a balancing routine while still incorporating beauty and accuracy in her performance won her first prize.

And the runner up of the CIRCUS CONTEST is Anne Marie, who chose a very difficult skill to demonstrate her daring abilities at the piano!

Congratulations to all of you!

I must say that it was difficult to choose winners in these competitions, and I couldn't have done it alone.  Everyone's entries were worth sharing multiple times and each time I watched, I was reminded of why I teach piano.  Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who participated, and let's goof around with composition and circus tricks more in lessons this fall!  Deal?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pauline has been working HARD!

Congratulations to Pauline, who has worked really hard this spring to put some more advanced repertoire in her cache.  She's a level 2 kid now, but keep an eye on her - she'll be moving on again before you know it!

Congratulations, Pauline!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cole - On to Bigger and Better Pieces!

Congratulations to Cole on completing his Music Tree Book 1.  He is now in Book 2 and we can't wait to see what it has in store for him!  If you see him, give him a high five, because he has worked patiently and with focus to get to where he is in his piano study today!

Congratulations, Cole!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Contests

All current students of mine at Sherwood or FaithSlaker Music:

I hope you're all having a great summer so far!  Care to show us all what you can accomplish on your own?  
This summer there are two contests.  The first contest is to compose your own piece of music and perform it via video.  You do not need to write it down.  Decide what the mood of the piece is and use as many piano techniques that I've taught you as you feel like!  The second contest is to perform a piece with a circus-type trick involved.  The piece still needs to be performed with beauty and accuracy.  We've talked about ideas in lessons and there are several ideas on my youtube channel.  As always, winners will be selected based on accomplishment within their playing level, musical expression and daring choice. 

Entries must be received by midnight on August 31st (via youtube, vimeo or mp4) and winners will be announced via blog/twitter/facebook the first week of fall classes.  There will be one winner and one runner up for each category (composition or circus trick) and the winners will be awarded fun sheet music to work on in lessons as well as the privilege of spending a lesson working on either composition or circus tricks!

Now, head on over to the piano, warm up with your performance pieces, and see what you can do!  I look forward to watching all the entries!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Recital Video 2012

Congratulations everyone on a beautiful job the other night!  Below are the performance videos for you to share with your grandparents, friends, parents' friends, dentist, etc!  Enjoy!

If you are Jerecho, Amber, Ioannis, Katie, Chloe, Fiona or Graham, you'll want to see this clip:

If you are Cole, Natalie, Kabir, Whitney, Tiffany, Evan, Declan H., or Mary, you'll want to look at this one:

If you are Adrian, Eddie, Maurice, Erica, Pauline or August, you'll find yourself here:

If you are Declan F., Maeve, Anne Marie, part of the Minuet Extravaganza or Criss, please check this out:

If you enjoyed the duet performed by Graham and Mary or the piece performed by Ms. Aubrey, you can find them here:

(I'm sorry about the lighting on this video!  Next time I'll get it right again!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Piano Move 2012!

For those of you who take lessons with me at home, you know I've moved.  I'm sorry I had to cancel lessons today, but we ran into a bit of a snafoo when trying to get the piano into the new apartment.  We thought we were going to have to rent a crane and get it in through a bedroom window (which is what is being recommended to me when I move again), but we managed today through sheer positive thinking instead (and skill, and sweat)!  (At least, that's what the guys said.)

I've put together some highlights - just fourteen minutes of the long morning to show you how it is done.  My piano is safe and sound - unscathed - resting up for a good tuning in my new livingroom.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Anne Marie - moving up!

Congratulations go out to Anne Marie Hofherr who just completed the Primer Level of her Music Tree piano method book.

She has worked diligently and is now reading music quite fluently.  You will see her perform in the June Recital, where you can congratulate her on a job well done!

Erica - Suzuki Book 2

Congratulations to Erica this weekend for beautifully completing her Suzuki Book 2 recital.  The performance was nuanced and heartfelt and do give her a high five if you see her this week! 

She also won third place in the Roberta Savler competition this month.  Erica is on a roll!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Declan H. Challenges YOU!

What new and crazy are you playing your newest pieces?  Declan is playing his WITH HIS EYES CLOSED!  Can you do the same with your newest piece?  Show me in lesson this week!  We'll take a video and post all results of everyone's hard work!

What's this?!  Chloe already has a response?!  SHE can do it too???  Well done!

Who is next?  Bring it on!

MAEVE is next!  Check out her eyes-closed skills:

Monday, April 9, 2012


In case you're all caught up in the beginning of baseball season (go Cubs?) and think you don't have the right mindset for a symphony, think again.  And listen to this:

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Practicing Away from the Keyboard - an App Review

Who likes technology?  Who likes kids occupied productively?  Who likes games?  Who needs a vacation?!  (If you answered, "me," or "I do!" or, "You're talking to him!" to any of these questions, this posting is for YOU.)

There are some things about music that are helpful to practice AWAY from the piano.  The piano is how we make beautiful music, and while note reading can be fun, sometimes a bit of drilling that won't interfere with our newest and most beautiful pieces is what would help the most.

Below are some apps that I've found and tried out and recommend.  I've organized them by operating software and then by level.  If there are any that you know of and can recommend that I haven't listed below, please e-mail me so I can pass it on to everyone else!

If you have Apple Software (ipad, ipod, Macbook, ipod touch, etc):


Music Keys by Foriero - This is a quiz of playing the correct keys on the keyboard when given them by letter name.  You cannot control the range of keys quizzed on, but in the training mode, it does teach you how to find a flat and a sharp.  The piano keyboard presented is a good size for playing, and the game plays the sound of each note as you play it on the KB.  You play until you get a wrong answer and you are given a score.  This app is FREE.

Music Notes by Foriero - In this game, you see a range of notes from a whole note to a thirty second note and you are asked to select the correct symbol based on the word it gives you.  You need to be able to read to play this game.  The notes you select are not extremely realistic looking and there are no dotted notes or rests, but I have found that kids like this one a lot.  This app is also FREE.

Music Intervals by Foriero - This is a cute quiz game.  There are two modes, "train" and "play."  In the train mode, the game presents an interval on the staff, plays the sound of it melodically, and then gives the answer below.  In the play mode, the student has to come up with the answer.  You play until you get one wrong and are given a score.  I like this because it gives the sound of each interval, which is important in interval recognition.  What I don't like about it, is that it calls a "unison" a "1st."  This app is FREE.  **

Flash Class - This is a note naming flashcard game.  If you set the game preferences to "piano keyboard," a student is given a note on the staff and has to play that note on the keyboard provided.  You do need to be accurate with the small keys, but the program plays each tone and you're able to set up what the range of notes to be quizzed on are.  If you decide to use this app, feel free to ask me in lesson what the range should be.  This app is $3.99 in the app store.

Music Tones by Foriero - This is like the flashcard game, but is a little more colorful.  You cannot control of the range of notes given except by staff (you either practice all the notes on the treble staff or all the notes on the bass staff).  Unlike Flash Class, you name the note by letter name instead of playing it on the keyboard, so it doesn't really work on that reaction we try to create by sightreading in lesson.  But it IS FREE!

Music Cubes by Foriero -  This is a GREAT game.  Remember the little handheld Simon game?  It is similar in that each round you get a new tone.  You are given the first note, and everything else is a note added to a melody.  This is a game to be played by ear and each note is relative to the preceding note.  I LOVE this game.  AND it's FREE.   **

Music Tool by TheWay - This is not a game, but a pretty well designed tool for anyone that is learning their scales and chord progressions and the circle of fifths.  You choose a key (say your piece is in F Major), and it gives you the key signature, the scale degrees and their functions and on a keyboard, will show you the tones in the scale and any chord you select in that key.  This would be quite helpful for harmonic analysis.  The free version has all of that.  The paid version ($3.99) includes many modal scales and typical scales from other cultures aside from just major and minor.  **

Music Theory by Brainscape - This is more of a collection of flashcards than anything else.  My favorites are Key Signatures, Interval Ear Trainer, and Name that Chord.  It is quite in depth, teaches you about chords, symbols and even composers.  Many of the options might be too difficult for a child though and you might need to supervise or help him/her.  It works like flashcards do though.  You don't plug in an answer - you think it, say it, or write it down and then check your answer.  It then asks each time "how well did you know this?" and will keep that question in the deck according to your response.  I strongly recommend this one for its ear training, though it can be a bit academic for symbols.  See me about assigning from this app.  This app is $1.99 and a great deal.

If you have Android Software:

My Little Note - Switch the input method to keyboard, and this is a really cute, fun game to practice sightreading.  It is simple, easy to play, you can control the difficulty level, number of questions and clefs to work on and it is $1.54.  This is one of my favorites for note reading.  **

Musical Flash - This is a simple flashcard practice app.  You are shown a note on the treble or bass staff and given three options.  You choose the correct one and keep going.  There is no keyboard for the note naming.  This app is FREE.

Piano Sightreading - This is an app for identifying on a small keyboard, the notes on the staff.  It gives you an accuracy and a speed and has no sound.  This app is FREE.

Music Tutor Sightread - This is a great flashcard app that allows you to answer what note on a staff you're presented with on the keyboard!  You are given a certain time and your score is based on how many you got correct in that time limit.  The Lite version, which is free,  has only treble cleff.  The full version, which costs $2.33 has the bass clef, grand staff, range selection, accidentals, and key signatures.  I think it is worth the price.  **

CSharply -  This is a great little collection of music reading quizzes.  The note ID is on the staff (not with a keyboard - just letter names), the interval ID is realistic and plays the sound harmonically (instead of melodically, which is easier to hear), and Key ID is a simple key signature labeling quiz.  It also has specific interval ID and chord ID which are kind of tricky, but good practice.  This app is $1.43.

If you're an android use and want better apps and have the know-how to make that happen, Samsung is holding an app writing contest and I vote for a new music theory app!

I have all of these apps, so if you want to try them, let me know in lesson this week!  I starred my favorites, but each is different and may appeal to different kids.  The android ones aren't as varied as the apple options yet, but I'm sure there are some out there that I haven't tried - let me know if you have!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Canon in D - Declan's Version

A student of mine this week was proud to show me something he has been working on at home by ear on his own.  It was so beautifully done, that I thought I'd share it with you here.  What are YOU working on at home?

Well done, Declan!

(For a comedic version of Pachelbel's Canon, click here.)

Oh cool!  Amber figured one out on her own too!  Anybody else care to share?


Monday, February 27, 2012

Victor Borge - William Tell

If we talked about inverted themes in your lesson this week (ahem - Pauline.....) this video is for you!

(It is also for you if we've discussed fugues or counterpoint (hey Criss.....) or variations (that means you guys - Katie, Mary, Erica, Jimena and Whitney!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mozart Sonata K.283 for Saturday Group Class

The following is a recording of the first movement of the Sonata K.283 by Mozart which we discussed in class performed by one of my favorite performers of Mozart's music, Mitsuko Uchida:

And for those of you who weren't in class on Saturday and don't have your own copy of the Mozart Sonatas, here is a link to the complete free downloadable score of this sonata:,_K.283/189h_%28Mozart,_Wolfgang_Amadeus%29

Be sure to mark all parts of the movement as we have discussed in class and label what key each portion begins and ends in.  And enjoy!  This is a charming sonata!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sonata Form

Here is a quick version of the notes from last week's Sonata lecture:

  • Slow and stately, Commanding, Catches your attention
  • Varying lengths
  • Not always present
  • This section introduces the main themes of the piece
  • The first theme is usually grand, and the second contrasting, and usually lyrical
  • The first theme is in the tonic key and the second theme is usually in the dominant
  • The entire exposition is usually repeated
  • One or more of the themes are played around with and changed up
  • The development often ends with something called a retransition - that part that feels quite intense and builds up, usually with new material or transition material to bring us back to the main theme.
  • This is when the two themes from the exposition return in their original form
  • The second theme though is usually in the tonic key
  • Though the piece may end with the recapitulation,  many sonata-allegro form pieces have a coda
  • A "tail" end - with a grander variation on one of the themes, a piece of the development, new material or very grand sounding final material
Suzuki Book 2 and 3 students are challenged to find these parts in their own Sonatinas!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christmas Day Secrets

Anybody looking for a beautiful version of Christmas Day Secrets to aid them in their practice of Suzuki Book 1 should look no further!  Natalie has graciously supplied us with a thoughtful, carefully articulated and beautiful version.  Enjoy!