Thoughts on Music, Practice Tips and Music Reviews: Podcast 2

Thoughts on Music, Practice Tips, Johann Sebastian Bach and Music Reviews

Where words fail, music speaks. Hans Christian Andersen

Music is so important in everyday life. Why is it that couples have a song? Why do certain pieces of music remind us of a happy or a sad time?

We need music in our life. It colors or world in a way that words cannot. It gives movement to our thoughts and our feelings. When we are happy we can play a happy tune whether it is on our iPod or sitting down with an instrument and playing a favorite song. When we are sad we play music that reflects the sorrow we feel. We can also play a happy song when we are sad. For example, if a loved one passes away we are sad because of our loss, so we may listen to music that has a somber tone. During that same time of sadness we may choose to play the favorite song of our loved one because it makes us feel closer to them and it can bring a smile to our heart during that painful time.

I tell my students to run to their music to express their feelings. When they are frustrated or angry because of something that happened during their day, then they should play “angry”. Let it out! A person can take the most mundane piece of music and play it so it expresses how they feel. The same goes for when they are feeling exuberant or excited. Sit down and play a piece of music as fast as you can or give it some swing!

Pay attention to the music you choose to reflect your emotions. Use music to give you a pick-me-up when you need it.

Practice Tips

Everyone knows that practice makes perfect. Kids on the other hand can look at practice like it is a chore. Well I don’t want them to!

If the student is over the age of 9, thirty minutes of practice is a good goal to set. If they are younger than 9, their attention span isn’t very long. I suggest that you break up their practice time. Have them practice two or three times each day.

Here is a great rule of thumb:

  • After the lesson, have the student run through their new lesson before they go to bed. (Play each piece one time.)
  • First day of practice, have the student play each song 5 times. (5 is the magic number for getting song correct!)
  • Second day practice each piece 4 times.
  • Third day practice each piece 3 times.
  • The rest of the week play each piece 2 times.

Parents don’t ever make practice a punishment and don’t ever withhold practice as a punishment!

 The Magic Pencil

Here is a little tip for the young beginning piano student in your home. Young kids have a hard time looking at the music, then looking down at their hands, and then finding their place back on the music. You can really help them if you would take a “magic” pencil and point to the notes in order for them.

I have my students come in and review the song that they have been working on for the past week. If they are struggling, I say, “Let me get my magic pencil and help you”. It works every time!

Now you don’t have to do this for them everyday. Just do it for the first couple of days to help them with their hand-eye coordination. You will be amazed at how much faster they will learn and it gives you a chance to participate in their learning.

Music Appreciation

I want to start with the Baroque Era of Music. This era was from 1600 – 1750. There are four famous composers of that era and I want to discuss a little bit about all four. I will provide their most famous pieces of music.

What is the Baroque Era of Music? Baroque music is a style of Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This era followed the Renaissance, and was followed in turn by the Classical era. The word “baroque” comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning misshapen pearl, a negative description of the ornate and heavily ornamented music of this period.

Johann_Sebastian_BachOur first composer on our tour is Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany in 1685. As a child, Bach’s father taught him to play violin and harpsichord. His uncles were all musicians, serving as church organists and court chamber musicians. One of his uncles, Johann Christoph Bach, introduced him to the art of organ playing.

My favorite piano piece by Bach is “Prelude in C.”


 Method Book Review

I have used many different method books for teaching music, so I want to share with you what I have learned and maybe give you some insight if you are looking for new books to choose from to keep your lessons fresh and exciting.

Faber Piano Adventures by Nancy and Randall Faber – The Basic Piano Method

I love this series for teaching piano. Today I am going to focus on the Lesson Book Level 1. Students typically begin level one after they have successfully completed the Primer level.

I enjoy using this method because each book is a mini all-in-one. The student learns theory, musical styles, practice tips and duets with the teacher.



Lesson Book Level 1 begins with a review of the theory and a 5 finger scale warm up from the Primer level.

Warm-Ups can be found with the pieces:

  • Mexican Jumping Beans
  • Classic Dance
  • Kites in the Sky
  • The C Chord and
  • Jazzy Joe


Warm-ups ad value to the lesson. They give the student a point of focus before they begin playing the piece.

My student’s favorite pieces:

  • Young Hunter – especially the boys
  • Runaway Rabbit
  • Forest Drums and
  • The Bubble

Duets with the teacher – piano pieces do not have to be difficult to be fun to play and great to listen to. Here is a short list of my students favorite duets.

  • Boogie on Broadway
  • Russian Sailor Dance
  • Paper Airplane
  • Lil’ Liza Jane

This book is very bright and colorful. When my students receive their new books, one of the first things they do, is flip through all the pages to see the pictures.

State Songs

A few months ago I blogged about the “state songs” for each state in the US. I found that many of them were the same tune but different words. They are in my opinion, pretty boring. I began doing research into new music that is written for each individual state and if found a recital series for piano that I have fallen in love with. It is Alfred’s Recital Suite Series. This was created for performing piano students. Each suite is a short collection of fresh-sounding solos carefully crafted to be played as a group in a recital.

west-virginiaWest Virginia: The Mountain StateWest Virginia is a state located in the Appalachian region of the Southern United States. It is bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the north, and Maryland to the northeast. The capital is Charleston.


The state song for W. Virginia is John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.

j_denver“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves we are the same.” – John Denver 1943–1997


The first piece that I am going to share with you is titled “New River Gorge” by Martha Meir.

west_virginia_suiteMs. Mier says at the beginning of the piece, “A rugged, white-water river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. Construction on the New River Gorge Bridge was completed in 1977. This steel bridge, new Fayetteville, was the longest arch bridge in the world for many years (it now is ranked third) and has become a symbol of West Virginia. Visitors to New River Gorge can enjoy white-water rafting, zip-line tours, hiking, and horseback riding while viewing the stunning natural beauty of the gorge.

This piece is for late intermediate pianist.


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