3.08.2024

πŸ–¨️ New Printable: The Best Way to Remember the Grand Staff!

March 08, 2024 0 Comments

I created a grand staff printable to help organize the many mnemonic devices I have learned over the years. 


To give credit where credit is due, I want to thank my student, Ed, for figuring out the phrases to relate the mnemonics for lines and spaces on the treble and bass clefs. You will see those written at the top and bottom of the pages. He also came up with the astronaut as the top line of the bass clef. 


Also, My First Piano Adventure came up with Queen Treble Clef, King Bass Clef, and the Middle C Cats that they own. 


I have this displayed in a 5x7 frame on the wall in my studio, visible if needed by the piano. 


Included:


  • Queen Treble Clef
    • G Clef
    • Every Good Burger Deserves Fries
    • FACE
    • Middle C Cat with tail up
  • King Bass Clef
    • F Clef
    • Ground Floor G
    • Astronaut A
    • All Cows Eat Grass
    • Middle C Cat with tail down

Printable contains 2 pictures and each should fit in a 5x7 frame.

Grand Staff Picture Reference.pdf



-Jenny

12.08.2023

🧭 My Piano Journey: A Side Quest

December 08, 2023 0 Comments
Part 1 - Side Quest (You Are Here) - Part 2
An untitled piano piece from my childhood


Composition

When it comes to movies and video games, I'm most interested in who wrote the music. Not the actors, not the directors, not the writers. It's a career that I've been drawn to for over 20 years. While it hasn't become a career, composition has been a wonderful hobby and creative outlet. 


How I Started Composing

Around 1997, my very first composition was called "Butterflies" for my flute when I was 9.


A transcription of my first composition.


In 2001, at 13, my brother asked if I could try to learn the opening to Linkin Park's "In The End." It was a very popular song at the time and I did my best to pick out the introduction notes in D minor. 


I think it was that day that I decided to try playing my own piece in D minor. My left hand played open 5ths down the minor scale: Dm, C, Bb, Am. I improvised a repetitive melody over the top. And I mean repetitive. I made a middle section of repeated fifths, then I finished by playing part one again, this time an octave higher. 

My first composition for piano. As you can see, it's extremely repetitive!



I typically wrote in D minor or D dorian because it reminded me of fantasy stories about princesses and kingdoms. In middle school, I spent a lot of time in class drawing my story and character ideas on the back of school handouts. It's a time of my life that I remember with fondness; a reminder that I love being creative. I even started world-building and designing original characters. I was going to write, draw, and animate an original story! And, of course, I would score it too. 


Ambitious? Yes. 

Impossible? No. 

Has it happened? Not yet. Never say never!


My Planned Fiction Story Soundtrack


I created similar themes using this same chord progression. The tunes were short and I didn't know how to develop new motives and sequences. I have no idea which piece came first; The Legend of Kanali handwritten above or the Kanali transcription I was sure was my first composition. 

When September 11th happened, I wrote "Song of Peace". 


I wrote a piece for my mom. 


I wrote a piece on the black keys that sounded like it was from China. My friend in high school played the guzheng, a Chinese harp. She was able to learn my piece by ear after I played it for her on the piano. 

If I recall correctly, the transcription below has so many cross-outs because I didn't leave enough room for the accompaniment.




Around this time, my dad bought me a music writing software called Music Write. He said he would pay for any music I wanted to copyright with the Library of Congress until I turned 18. 


I didn't take him up on it because I thought my music wasn't good enough to warrant an official copyright. 

I didn't major in composition because I thought what I had created wasn't good enough for a portfolio. 


Dear traveler, never pass up opportunities when you hear "not good enough" in your mind. How do you know unless you try? Failure is an option and it's a good one, contrary to popular belief. It helps us grow and learn. 


I was embarrassed by the compositions that I created and didn't feel like sharing them because I thought they would be ridiculed. Honestly, my cultured piano teacher, Mrs. Turner, was less than thrilled with my musical taste and time spent composing! I had the support of my family, but I tended to discount that because of course they would say it was good, they were my family. 


In college, I remember receiving my homework and my professor, Dr. Edwin T. Childs, had mentioned that he liked my bass line. He was the composition professor and I wish I had asked him if he thought I could change to composition when I developed repetitive motion injuries from being a piano major.  He was very kind and encouraging. I’ll always remember that.


About a year and a half ago, I ventured into the world of orchestration. Remember the repetitive music I wrote when I was a kid? The final movement of my 8 and a half minute piece is a mashup of those themes. I hope to write a post about it in early 2024.

-Jenny

12.01.2023

πŸŽ„ Twelve Weeks of Lessons (Parody)

December 01, 2023 0 Comments

On the first week of lessons, my teacher taught to me 
to improvise on the black keys

On the second week of lessons, my teacher taught to me 
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the third week of lessons, my teacher taught to me
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the fourth week of lessons, my teacher taught to me 
dynamic contrast
always count 
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the fifth week of lessons, my teacher taught to me the
Circle of Fifths! 
dynamic contrast
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the sixth week of lessons, my teacher taught to me 
set the metronome
Circle of Fifths! 
dynamic contrast
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the seventh week of lessons, my teacher taught to me 
seven sharps and flats
set the metronome
Circle of Fifths! 
dynamic contrast
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the eighth week of lessons, my teacher taught to me
eight intervals
seven sharps and flats
set the metronome
Circle of Fifths! 
dynamic contrast
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the ninth week of lessons, my teacher taught to me
nine lines and spaces
eight intervals
seven sharps and flats
set the metronome
Circle of Fifths! 
dynamic contrast
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the tenth week of lessons, my teacher taught to me
to change the pedal
nine lines and spaces
eight intervals
seven sharps and flats
set the metronome
Circle of Fifths! 
dynamic contrast
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys

On the eleventh week of lessons, my teacher taught to me 
eleven Czerny etudes
to change the pedal
nine lines and spaces
eight intervals
seven sharps and flats
set the metronome
Circle of Fifths! 
dynamic contrast
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys.

On the twelfth week of lessons, my teacher taught to me 
twelve tone series
eleven Czerny etudes
to change the pedal
nine lines and spaces
eight intervals
seven sharps and flats
set the metronome
Circle of Fifths! 
dynamic contrast
always count
to sit up straight 
and to improvise on the black keys!!!!

Merry Christmas!


What are some of your ideas for Christmas song parodies? 

-Jenny

10.22.2023

πŸ“œ Happy Birthday to the Composer of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2!

October 22, 2023 0 Comments

So how can you celebrate Franz Liszt's birthday?

πŸ“œ Listen to Liebestraum No. 3 in A-flat major.  


πŸ“œ  Choose a Liszt piece to start learning as a repertoire piece. 

  • Here are my personal suggestions!
    • Consolation No. 1 in E major
    • Consolation No. 3 in D-flat major


πŸ“œ  Watch Victor Borge play Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.



πŸ“œ  Watch Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry play Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

Which one do you think came first? Let's settle this once and for all!


πŸ“œ  Watch Mao Asada skate to Liebestraum No. 3


πŸ“œ  Learn German and French.


πŸ“œ  Compare Paganini's final movement of Violin Concerto No. 3 and Liszt's La Campanella


πŸ“œ  Read books about art and religion. 


πŸ“œ  Read his book, The Life of Chopin. (ebook)


πŸ“œ  Read The Holy Bible.

"I pray to God that He may powerfully illumine your heart through His faith and His love. You may scoff at this feeling as bitterly as you like. I cannot fail to see and desire in it the only salvation. Through Christ alone, through resigned suffering in God, salvation and rescue come to us." -Franz Liszt


πŸ“œ  Read a biography about Franz Liszt. 

What are some of your ideas to celebrate Liszt's birthday? 


-Jenny

P.S. Yes, I did just use a list emoji to symbolize Liszt.

10.18.2023

🍳 The Griddle (parody of The Middle)

October 18, 2023 0 Comments

Teaching my students their favorite songs is important to me. 


Sometimes the lyrical content isn't appropriate in pop songs, so I decided to rewrite the lyrics to The Middle for that very reason. 


This parody is based off the song by Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey. 


I hope you enjoy it!


The Griddle

Verse 1

Whisk and beat

Fill it with air, beyond compare

Whip soft peaks

Put sugar in there and I’m unaware

Of just how I made all of this mess, this is impressive

Spilling cream was not my intention


Pre-Chorus

Toast in the toaster

Oh no, I burnt the toast

This breakfast is all over

I gotta let it go


Chorus

You said, Baby, why don't you just put eggs on the griddle?

And only cook mine just a little

Cuz I like runny yolks right in the middle

In the middle


Baby, why don't you just put eggs on the griddle?

And only cook mine just a little

Cuz I like runny yolks right in the middle

In the middle


Verse 2

Ohh, break an egg

Wait for a minute, you’re in the kitchen

Watching me

My spatula’s flipping, now yolks are broken

Oh how did I make all of this mess, this ain’t impressive

Breaking yolks was not my intention


PreChorus

And now you’re closer

Why have you come so close

Oh, you want to take over

I guess I’ll let you cook


Chorus

You say baby, why don't we put pancakes on the griddle?

Let’s work as a team just a little

So why don't we put pancakes on the griddle?

On the griddle


Bridge

Looking at you, I can't hide

Want you to be cooking

Regardless of my objection

And it's not about my pride

Just pouring ingredients

Just take over, you’re cooking


Chorus

You say baby, why don't we put pancakes on the griddle?

Let’s work as a team just a little

So why don't we put pancakes on the griddle?

On the griddle no no

You say baby, why don't we put pancakes on the griddle?

Oh yeah, Let’s work as a team just a little

So why don't we put pancakes on the griddle?

On the griddle Baby-y-y, why don't we put pancakes on the griddle, baby?

Let’s work as a team just a little

So why don't we put pancakes on the griddle?

On the griddlegriddle

On the griddlegriddle 


The piano version we used is in Pop Hits for Kids (Easy Piano) published by Hal Leonard (HL00279378).


I hope you enjoyed this rewrite! I am a huge fan of Weird Al, so if you want more pop parodies, I suggest listening to his music. I love writing my own parodies. If you use these new lyrics, please credit me!


What song should I parody next?

-Jenny

10.09.2023

πŸ•΅️‍♀️ And Then There Was a Piano

October 09, 2023 0 Comments
It was a bleak and blustery autumn afternoon when I received the first of many similar emails.

October 7, 2022

Greetings, I want to give away my late husband's Yamaha Baby Grand Piano GC1 to a passionate instrument lover. If you have any family or church in mind who will cherish it, share this message with them. God bless you.

Regards,
Arianna

I imagined Arianna to be an elderly woman with long, white hair and a sweet smile.  I immediately felt sorry that she had lost her husband. I imagined him to be a retired concert pianist who could play Rach 2 instantly on request. 

'A family or church in mind.' Too bad my apartment was too small and my church already had a baby grand. I definitely would have cherished this piano, but since I didn't have anyone else in mind, I passed on the email without responding. 

On a crisp, fall afternoon 10 days later, I received another email. It was similar, but the widow was named Tammy, not Arianna. 


October 17, 2022

Greetings,
I am giving away my late husband's Yamaha Baby Grand Piano GC1 to a passionate instrument lover as God's lead. If you have any family, Organization or Church in mind who will CHERISH it, Please help me share this message with piano teachers, piano studio, Or any family in need of a piano. God bless you.

Sincerely,
Tammy.


How interesting that Tammy is also a widow giving away the same piano that also belonged to her husband. The word CHERISH was now written with some urgency. There were strange placements of capital letters, but these were not Taylor Swift liner notes; no message could be deciphered. The cadence of her English, the incorrect grammar, and the placement of a period at the end of her name could only mean one thing. 

This was definitely a sca-


ndalous murder mystery. I'm no Nancy Drew, so I decided to leave this mystery to the professionals. Surely someone would notice this strange string of events and realize the key to solving my musical theory. 

And then it became personal... 


November 20, 2022

Hello,

How are you doing? I am looking to give away my late husband's Yamaha baby grand piano to a passionate instrument lover, so please let me know if you will take it or have someone who will care for it.

Regards,
Bianca.


How am I doing, Bianca? No, how are you doing? Once again, her husband has also mysteriously died! And there it is. That ominous, killer baby grand piano. How in the world is it continuously killing people, always virtuoso pianist husbands, and no one is noticing? 

I decided to let Bianca know my suspicions. 

I wrote back:


November 20, 2022

No, thank you. It seems that Yamaha baby grand pianos kill a lot of husbands. Evidently, they are very dangerous. You, Arianna, and Tammy have emailed me that their late husband's Yamaha baby grand piano is also available. I am not interested

I love my husband too much to risk it on this dark piano. 

How does the piano kill its unsuspecting victims? I wondered. 

Muahahahahahaha
Does a piano string burst mid-performance and strike them? (Yes, piano strings can burst and fly across the room.)
Do they get crushed trying to put up the lid with the high stick? 
Is there a poison tuning peg that pricks them like Sleeping Beauty's spindle? 
Or has Bugs Bunny rigged a key with TNT like in an episode of Looney Tunes? 

In vain, I hoped that Bianca would have taken my warning seriously. But unfortunately, it appears that Elizabeth Lozano's husband was a passionate instrument lover and they unsuspectingly adopted this fiendish instrument. 


May 5, 2023

I am giving away my late husband's Yamaha Grand GC1 to a passionate instrument lover. If you know of a fellow teacher, student, family or church that might be interested, please forward this email to them. 
God bless you.

Sincerely,
Elisabeth Lozano


Poor, poor Mr. Lozano. 

What prompted me to write this blog post for you, dear reader is the most recent of these tragic emails. Because it seems as though these women are continuously becoming widows and don't see the larger picture, perhaps I can spare you the pain of unsuspectingly adopting this Puck (note: This is not performed on a Yamaha).


October 5, 2023

Hello,

I hope this mail gets to you soon. I'm looking to give away my late husband's baby grand piano to a loving home, music school or church. Please let me know if you will adopt it or if you have someone in mind who wants it, just in case you don't need it.

Best Wishes,
Rebecca.

A seasoned detective really needs to look into this. Immediately. 

And when they do, I hope my blog post will be the tip off and that I will get a reward for the lead.

My counsel to you, dear reader: if you have a husband, you do not want this piano. If Rebecca or any other future widow contacts you, ignore this email and do not refer her to someone else. If someone asks you on behalf of a widow, say no. It's not worth it. Do not send this widow (or future ones!) money to pay for movers that she prefers. 

Oh, and here is the full text of my email to Bianca. 


November 20, 2022

No, thank you. It seems that Yamaha baby grand pianos kill a lot of husbands. Evidently, they are very dangerous. You, Arianna, and Tammy have emailed me that their late husband's Yamaha baby grand piano is also available. I am not interested






in your scam.


Have a nice day.


In reality, I do love Yamaha pianos, so this is not to create a villain of all models of Yamahas, simply this one in particular. 

If you do adopt it, please do us all a favor and roll it off of Navy Pier. 

-Jenny

9.26.2023

πŸ™️ Happy Birthday to the Composer of Rhapsody in Blue!

September 26, 2023 0 Comments

September 26th is George Gershwin's Birthday! 

So how can you celebrate?

πŸ™️ Watch George Gershwin play his own compositions. Here's I Got Rhythm

πŸ™️ Sight-play his jazz standards like his first hit, Swanee.  


πŸ™️ Choose a Gershwin piece to start learning as a repertoire piece. 

  • Here are my personal suggestions!
    • S'Wonderful (improvisation transcription)
    • Prelude No. 1
    • Rhapsody in Blue for solo piano


πŸ™️ Listen to Rhapsody in Blue.


πŸ™️ Watch Kim Yuna win the Olympics skating to Concerto in F.




πŸ™️ Watch An American in Paris starring Gene Kelly. 


πŸ™️ Visit The Music House Museum in Traverse City, MI to listen to Gershwin playing Rhapsody In Blue on the 1925 Webber Duo-Art reproducing piano.


πŸ™️ Listen to Alan Berg's Lyric Suite


πŸ™️ Learn to improvise jazz. 


πŸ™️ Play tennis.


πŸ™️ Paint a portrait.


πŸ™️ Read a biography about George Gershwin. 


What are some of your own ideas to celebrate Gershwin's birthday?

9.11.2023

πŸ“š Review: Daring Greatly

September 11, 2023 0 Comments

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by BrenΓ© Brown, Ph.D. LMSW


For piano teachers and students alike, there are many situations that make us vulnerable. Lessons, recitals, auditions, and teaching are a few of the many arenas we may find ourselves in. If you have ever felt afraid and thought that you are not good enough, I highly recommend this book. 


This non-fiction, research-based psychology book teaches assertiveness, taking risks, and having courage. BrenΓ© Brown, Ph.D LMSW presents her extensive original research in shame: an overwhelming emotion with which many of us have suffered at one time or another. It is a subject that we often try to avoid. The purpose of Daring Greatly is to encourage people to take risks, especially in the face of possible failure. 


Dr. Brown points out that many of our critics are not "in the arena" with us, they are on the outside and are often projecting their shortcomings on us. She describes the scarcity mindset, characterized by "never good enough," and contrasts that with the abundance mindset. Her practical recommendations for adopting this new mindset are clear and life-giving. 


I learned that failure is necessary to one day be successful. I learned that what I create is not the same as who I am. I learned that I am not the sum of prizes and accolades I have collected from other people. 


I'm finding joy in playing piano and teaching that I didn't have before.  The love of music and curiosity that drew me to piano in the first place is back and I feel freedom to continue to learn. I have also written new music and entered competitions. Rather than stopping myself because I might not be good enough, I decided it can't hurt to try it out. I've had disappointments and hurtful words from professors in the past that I carried on my shoulders for over a decade. When that happens, why even try to improve? But by not taking their words personally, I have found that I have been able to thrive in ways I never imagined. 


Dr. Brown's tone is humorous and colloquial. Her personal anecdotes are descriptive and realistic. Reading each personal story felt as though I was present in the scenario. (As a note, she does use profanity occasionally, so if you are sensitive to that form of language, please be forewarned!)


Some of my favorite quotes from this book:

"You know that you are far more than a painting, an innovative idea, an effective pitch, a good sermon, or a high Amazon.com ranking." (page 64)


"I have never heard one person attribute their joy, success, or Wholeheartedness to being perfect." (p. 128)


"Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It's about courage." (page 248) 


I encourage you to read this book and I hope that you find it to be transformative. 


What books have helped you?


-Jenny