Train Your Ears

Last Updated on 2022-11-30 | Originally Posted on 2021-09-18


Ear training isn’t something that I do enough with my students. It’s really difficult trying to fit so much into a half-hour lesson, which is the length of time that most of my students choose. I use the phrase train your ears, because I’m going way beyond the discipline of listening for intervals. It also involves listening to styles of music. You need to use different types of articulation. Hearing with precision is an important part of playing with precision. Let’s get the dissonance out of the way first!

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Two Tough Conversations with Prospective Piano Parents

Last Updated on 2022-11-27 | Originally Posted on 2021-01-29


As a piano teacher, I find myself doing lots of things besides teaching lessons. For instance, I’ve added sanitizing skills to my arsenal! That includes supplying hydrogen peroxide and clean clothes to make sure the piano keys stay Covid-free! One of the more normal side activities is to speak to parents about teaching their kids. This happens a lot at the beginning of each semester. Turnover is part of the business due to the number of families that move into and out of our area each year.

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Playing Guilmant

Last Updated on 2022-11-27 | Originally Posted on 2020-12-22


Playing Guilmant is something any serious organist will have to and want to do at some point. Félix-Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911) was an iconic composer in the romantic style for the organ. As a composer, he almost exclusively wrote for organ solo or for choir and organ.

He wrote some larger scale works, like his 8 sonatas, but he’s mostly known for the massive amount of short pieces he composed. They can be used for prelude, postlude, and everything in between! Many of these are part of the 18 books of Pieces in Different Styles, Pièces dans différents styles pour orgue. I play many of these pieces, but the following ones are special to me.

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My Music Charity Picks for 2020

Last Updated on 2022-11-02 | Originally Posted on 2020-12-10


Although the heading speaks about music charity picks for 2020, my picks aren’t what you might expect! I’m a real believer in making charitable contribution decisions as a contemplative act in the privacy of my own home. I don’t like being asked to donate where I shop, making a snap decision about a cause I likely know very little about. I say as much at the cash register, and I realize that I’m just speaking to the messenger. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to give because I’m feeling guilty by the picture of a malnourished child or puppy in need. I want to give out of being thankful and out of abundance.

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Find the Best Christmas Sheet Music

Last Updated on 2022-11-30 | Originally Posted on 2020-11-21

This post has no affiliate links. In other words, I don’t get any compensation as a result of purchases made using these links.


Christmas songbooks that are sold in the mass market, like at Sam’s Club, on, or at your local bookstore, are not thoughtfully compiled with piano students in mind. You’ll get a lot of songs at a reasonable price, but the arrangements will vary in difficulty from page to page. They’re often too complicated for beginners, but too easy and boring for advanced students.

Fortunately, there are many Christmas songbooks compiled with the piano student in mind. Some of these work great for amateur pianists as well. Faber and Piano Pronto are my favorite publishers for these books. There is an overwhelming number of choices even with a singular publisher, so be prepared to spend some time searching for the right book(s).

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Chopin Scherzi on YouTube

Last Updated on 2022-11-28 | Originally Posted on 2020-09-07


Perhaps you have already listened to my recent performance of the complete Chopin Scherzi on the Weekly Acorn. Despite its billing, that was not a bite-sized concert. The good news is that the Chopin Scherzi on YouTube below are listed separately at plus or minus 10 minutes each. I think they are great inspiration for Music Monday!

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Long Road to Chopin Scherzi

Last Updated on 2022-11-28 | Originally Posted on 2020-09-04

It began as a teenager…

The four Chopin Scherzi have always had a special place in my heart. I was looking for a flashy piece to play for a local scholarship competition when I was a senior in high school. My teacher Susan Starr suggested that I learn the first scherzo, though it would be a tough go to learn in just three weeks, with at most two lessons beforehand. It was tough to learn, and I didn’t learn it well enough to place in the competition. I did end up playing for one of the winners, though, as a collaborative pianist!

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Lead Sheets in Action

Last Updated on 2022-11-02 | Originally Posted on 2020-08-19


When I came back to piano teaching in earnest several years ago, I learned about the types of skills progressive teachers teach their students. One of them is lead sheets, sometimes called fake sheets. It’s certainly nothing that I studied with any teacher privately or in college. However, I did remember having to “fake” my way through playing from them as the unwilling jazz-band pianist.

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Music Reading Through Rote Teaching

Last Updated on 2022-11-30 | Originally Posted on 2020-08-16


I was asked by Sarah Folkerts to write a long-form blog post that became Music Reading Through Rote Teaching. She works with Nicola Cantan on the Colourful Keys Website and the membership site Vibrant Music Teaching. It all started as a result of my trying to reconcile how something sounds with the musical notation. Perhaps that was bolstered by spending hours of listening to orchestras play and reading along with the score during my formative years. I chose the opening motive of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as an example. This point was peripheral to the article I ended up writing. However, since it’s where the idea originated, I wanted to briefly explain it here.

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Arthur Rubinstein

Last Updated on 2022-11-28 | Originally Posted on 2020-08-03

A Pianist I Narrowly Missed

When I grew up, there were a certain number of pianists that I idolized. All but one of these were still alive and actively concertizing. That one, Arthur Rubinstein, is who I will first discuss in this series of profiles of my piano idols. Although he died in 1982, when I was still in high school, he stopped concertizing in 1976, so I never got to see him play live.

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