piano

3 Tips for Playing Open Score (For Choral Accompanists Everywhere)

3 Tips for Playing Open Score (For Choral Accompanists Everywhere)

As all choral accompanists know, playing from open score is a fact of life. At one point or another, you'll likely find yourself sitting at the keyboard in front of a choral score with no piano reduction, forced to muddle your way through reading four lines of music at the same time. How can you prepare? What can you do to develop this skill?

If you have the opportunity to practice in advance, there are a few things you can do:

1. Practice systematically.

This is probably the most common piece of advice you'll receive, but careful, systematic practice is a helpful first step toward developing this skill and training your eyes to read four lines of music at once. Begin by playing each part individually - soprano and alto parts with your right hand, tenor and bass parts with your left hand.

Once you've played each part, practice them in all 2-part combinations: SA, ST, SB, AT, AB, TB. Again, try to keep SA parts in your right hand and TB parts in your left.

Tried-and-True Favorite Collections for the Church Pianist

Tried-and-True Favorite Collections for the Church Pianist

As all church pianists know, good piano arrangements are a necessary part of what we do. From preludes to postludes (and everything in between!), having collections that you can pull out and play from over and over are golden! I've collected several books over the years that I go back to again and again. The arrangements are fresh, accessible, and versatile, they fit well in various parts of the worship service, and they're fun to play! Looking for something new to play this year? Look no further. Here are my top 10, tried-and-true favorite collections for church pianists:

1. Classic Hymns We Love (various)
Twelve favorite hymns arranged by arrangers such as Mary McDonald, Pepper Choplin, Mark Hayes, and Ruth Elaine Schram. A go-to for preludes, offertories, and postludes!

12 Favorite Supplemental Piano Books for Elementary Students

12 Favorite Supplemental Piano Books for Elementary Students

I love choosing supplemental repertoire for my students - even those who are still pretty new to reading and playing. I make recommendations to parents based on the student's interests and try to find supplemental books that complement the other music they are learning.

It can be challenging sometimes to find repertoire that is appealing, musical, and still at an accessible level, but I've found a few great collections that I go back to again and again.

Grab a cup of coffee and your favorite notebook - here are a few of my favorite supplemental books for elementary students:

1. Celebrated Lyrical Solos, Book 1 (Vandall)
2. Celebrated Piano Solos, Book 1 (Vandall)
3. Piano Etudes - Preparatory (Snell)

My Go-To Plan for First Piano Lessons

My Go-To Plan for First Piano Lessons

Where should we begin?

It's the age-old question we ask ourselves when we sit down with a new (beginning) student for the first time. What should we talk about first? Hand position? Finger numbers? Letter names? Where's Middle C?

I like to get the student playing as quickly as possible. We explore high sounds and low sounds and sounds in the middle, black keys and white keys and the patterns they make, and rhythm patterns based on our heartbeat. We imitate, improvise, and create.

The first lesson is all about experimenting with the instrument and exploring sound. Here is my go-to lesson plan:

    "Around the World" Piano Theme

    "Around the World" Piano Theme

    One of my favorite ways to prepare for the new teaching year (or new semester) is choosing a theme and gathering inspiration. Last year, I spent some time planning an "Around the World" theme for my young piano students (inspired by a children's choir curriculum I created a few years ago). So fun! See my inspiration board here.

    Pack your bags and join us for an exciting musical journey around the world! This year, students will discover new skills and musical concepts, hear and play new music, and experience the language of music in a rich environment. At the end of the year, children will have suitcases full of new skills and experiences from their musical travels!

    Piano Assignment Sheets

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    I started using weekly assignment sheets in my studio last year. I know from experience that written assignment sheets do not work for every student, but for most of my current students, they make a big difference in organizing home practice and keeping open communication with parents. Keeping a written record of projects, goals, and repertoire keeps all of us on the same page, even though we're only together for 30 minutes a week.

    I thought it might be helpful to those of you considering using assignment sheets in your studio to have a roundup of some of the templates out there. For me, some of the key features of a weekly assignment sheets are:

    - name and date (a way to personalize them for each student)
    - blocks for warm-ups or technic, a few repertoire pieces, and musicianship activities
    - a way to track practice time during the week

    PianoPedagogy.org has a great post on using assignment sheets with several templates. In addition, Faber & Faber and Alfred have assignment books (I'm sure others do, as well). Some of these models include staff lines (for composition starters or warm-ups), the circle of fifths, keyboard legends (great for marking hand positions), and space to write messages to parents (and for parents to write messages to you!).

    I used many of these models as inspiration for creating my own Piano Assignment Sheet last year. This is what I use with my students on a weekly basis. Enjoy!