What is the most difficult part of learning to play an instrument?

I think there are many different answers to this question.  Here are some of the top few most common answers:

  1. It is hard to find time to practice.
  2. It is hard to stay motivated.
  3. It is hard to get my fingers to cooperate.
  4. I don’t know how to read music.
  5. I can’t play by ear.
  6. I don’t have any talent.
  7. I am confused about what the notes mean.
  8. I’m not sure if I am doing it right.
  9. I don’t like my teacher.
  10. I am too old to learn.

What do these all have in common?  They are all excuses that can be fixed.  Yes, anyone can learn to play an instrument.  Very few people are actually so bad that they shouldn’t learn.  Usually it is our own attitudes and perceptions that are the problem.  Next post I will share what some of the real issues are that prevent us from learning, and how to correct them all in just minutes a day.

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Pre-view Copy Missing?

If anyone was expecting a copy of the warm-up books and has not yet received it, you may have been a victim of user error on my part.  Most of the books went out, but some of them did not, and I can not see how to fix that.  To access a copy, you may go to the main site for this week only, and download it for free.  Sorry for any inconvenience.  Address is on the right, or you may click HERE to go directly to the page.


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Piano (Photo credit: me5otron)


As we’ve started working on our warm-ups, one of the first areas of focus is our posture.  Here are some of the tips we are working on.  Please feel free to add your favorite posture tips in the comment box.  Then here is your challenge for the day.  Revisit your posture as you play today!



  1. Don’t slouch!

  2. Are your feet on the floor? If your legs are too short to rest on the ground, you must either put something underneath them (phone books, or a bench designed for young players) OR cross your ankles to prevent your legs from swinging around. Some benches and stools adjust up and down easily for this purpose.

  3. Is your bench adjusted to the proper distance from the piano? You should be sitting on the front half of the bench, and your fists should touch the piano when your arms are stretched out.

  4. Are you leaning slightly forward, into the piano, feet slightly offset, with your dominant foot forward? This creates a feeling of intent and directs your energy into the piano.

  5. Are your neck, shoulder, and upper arm muscles relaxed?

  6. Keep your fingers strong and curved at the knuckles.

  7. Are your wrists too high or too low? No touching the piano!

  8. Do your fingers stay on the keys when they are not being used?

  9. Are you listening to the music you are making? No zoning off. Focus.

  10. Do your fingers stay on the keys when they are not being used?

  11. Are you listening to the music you are making when you sit properly? How would it sound to someone else? Is it interesting or dull?

  12. What are you doing with your wrists? Can you use them to create musical phrases?

  13. Play with your eyes closed to focus on your body while you play. How does your body feel? Are you incorporating all of the above?

  14. Get a camcorder or device with a video option. Have someone video you while you play. Watch your posture, your fingers, and your elbows. Are they all in their proper place?



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Four Days Left

English: Medals of the International Junior Sc...


Yes, only four days left to claim your free pre-view copy of My Music Olympiad.  I am so excited to start using it.  My students are already starting on some of the exercises and I can already see a significant difference!  Here is a summary of what My Music Olympiad is all about.


My Music Olympiad     This set of 3 books is designed to help teach piano students music fundamentals during their warm-up time.  By using a simple set of finger numbers, we eliminate the need to worry about reading pitches and rhythm and everything else at the same time, and we can simply isolate individual aspects of playing.  Each level has a set of fundamentals that the student will focus on.  Repetition gets the fingers going, and focus on areas such as posture, dynamics, rhythm and more helps the brain concentrate on learning these important fundamentals in isolation from a performance piece.


My Music Olympiad has three levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold.  These levels allow the student to earn a medal of Bronze, Silver or Gold upon completion.  Because of the simplicity and targeted effectiveness, the exercises are effective for students of any age.  In fact, I am encouraging several of the parents to earn medals along with their students!


Bronze Level – is appropriate for the casual, or beginning student.  Areas of focus include posture, rhythm, dynamics, touch, and singing.  Fewer repetitions per day are required to progress towards completion, but more days are required than other levels.  The exercises are simpler, and are appropriate for anyone who can recognize finger numbers.  Fluency is developed with hands independently, and hands together is introduced.  “Races” require basic familiarity with the piano keyboard, and a bit of practice.


Silver Level – is designed for the student who wants to seriously progress as a musician.  More repetitions per day encourages more disciplined practice skills.  Exercises are still straightforward, and the areas of focus also include a creative category.  Much more emphasis is given to the development of playing with both hands at the same time, and a basic understanding of transposition and keys is also required.  “Races” are somewhat more theoretical, using the circle of fifths, and specific fingering for chromatic passages.  Developing an understanding of basic solfege terminology is encouraged, but optional.


Gold Level – is for the more serious, advanced student.  Many additional theoretical concepts are incorporated and hand to hand independence and coordination is emphasized.  Emphasis transitions to accuracy of repetition rather than just repetition for the sake of practice.  Transpositions, variations, form, and technique are all inter-related and exercises become as much a mental exercise as a finger exercise.  “Races” focus on more traditional pursuits such as arpeggio patterns and two octave scales.  This level will not be available with the initial release.  It is, however, expected to be released by the end of April 2013.


Everyone at our studio is excited for this new opportunity to learn and be recognized for it.  My students are already planning which level of medal they want to earn by recital time.  Don’t forget to leave a comment here to reserve your copy!



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Christmas Music

One of my kids is learning Christmas music in March.  He’s either 3 months behind schedule, or 9 months ahead of schedule, but maybe Christmas is such a magical time that we want little pieces of it throughout the year.  Take a moment and reflect on the miracle of the Christmas season, for the birth of our Savior was a genuine miracle.  If you want some Christmas music in March with us, enjoy this arrangement.  Some people are just very talented!

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Easy Improv

The quickest and easiest way to start composing is on the black keys.  Create your own piece of music.  All black keys are “right” notes, and each can precede or follow another.  You do not need to write down the notes to this song, just play and memorize.  Here are a few tips to get started.

  • Create musical questions and answers.
  • Don’t jump from too high to too low too often, or it disrupts the “melody.”
  • Use patterns in your notes, and patterns in your rhythms.
  • Create an optional “harmony” by playing a repeating pattern with your left hand.


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Get used to the keyboard by racing on it!  Here are a series of “races” that I like to have beginning students work on.  I’ve recently realized that even intermediate students can use a refresher on the keyboard.  To race, first time yourself to get a baseline.  Then work on your race daily as a part of your warm-up routine.  Once a week do an “official timing” and see how much you have improved.

Oh yeah, you have to actually name the key out loud as you press it.

  1. Step up the keyboard
  2. Skip up the keyboard
  3. Octaves up the keyboard
  4. Chords up the keyboard
  5. Step down the keyboard
  6. Skip down the keyboard
  7. Octaves down the keyboard
  8. Chords down the keyboard
  9. Inversions up the keyboard
  10. Inversions down the keyboard
  11. Repeat all of the above using solfege
  12. For younger children – black keys up and down the keyboard

More details about the races and times will be included in my warm-up book!  Don’t forget to comment if you would like a preview copy!


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