Monday, December 10, 2012

Pyjama Practice, Day 1

Like all my students, right now I am gearing up to play at the End of Year Concert. Everyone gets to play a piece or two, and this year I'm having a go as well.

My favourite style of practicing is in my pyjamas. Yeah, that's a style. So here is me doing that. I'm hopefully going to record myself playing my concert piece every day for a week. It should end up being a record of how a half hour practice can improve a piece from day to day. Let's hope it DOES improve, because I pause to think a lot in this first video...

A lot of famous pianists around the year 1900, including Sergei Rachmaninov, got to hear their own playing back through recordings and player piano rolls they performed on. Some performers said, "WHAT?!? I sound like that?" Not sure what Rachmaninov thought of his own playing; it would be fascinating to find out.

It can be surprising how different your idea of how you play is to the real thing, so I recommend recording yourself to have a listen. Plus, you get to have a record of the pieces you've learnt. You could make a compilation CD!

Etude Tableau No. 2 in A minor - Sergei Rachmaninov

Monday, September 17, 2012

ANZCA Grade 7 Jazz - Three Jazz Flavours

Finally I'm settled in after a massive house move. So... here's a new recording!

Here's a nicely varied tune by Erskine Butterfield, a jazzy singer/pianist/bandleader active in the USA mostly in the 30s and 40s. You get to express three completely different moods in the key of G major. They don't last for long, kinda like the gummi bears in the picture...

Three Jazz Flavours - Erskine Butterfield

Monday, July 23, 2012

Free Music Writing Program

Here's a free program you can use to write your Incredible Compositions for posterity. If you have used Sibelius at school, this program should feel familiar. When you have written something, you can press a 'play' button so you can actually hear what you've done. It's fun. Ask me if you have any questions regarding program installation, how to actually write the music in the program - anything you need.

I had a go at this program a couple of months ago, and it was pretty easy to get the hang of. You can see the tasteful results of my efforts at the beginning of this post.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Glossary of musical terms

OK, let's face it - my mind is like a sieve. That is why it's important for you as a student to make sure you know the meaning of EVERYTHING that appears on your music, because I can't remember all the terms myself. There's like a zillion of them. One tiny direction written somewhere in Italian could be the key to getting the right vibe for the entire piece.

So, I'm attaching a link to Wikipedia's glossary of musical terms. I recommend grabbing a new piece, jumping onto this website, and writing the meaning in pencil next to all the musical terms on the page. Also, an examiner is going to check out your knowledge of the terms in your music, so get them all locked into your brain as early as possible.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

ANZCA Grade 5 Classical - Grieg's Poetic Tone Picture 6

Here's a slow-ish version of the tune for learning purposes. There are sudden changes in volume to observe, plus the coda must be practiced with emphasis on each quaver beat to get the feel right. Ooh, also notice the bit that gets loud and faster about two-thirds through - it's not me going all speed demon for the sake of it: the speed-up is one of the directions on the music - stringendo.

To listen to a full-speed performance of the tune, see my post on the Poetic Tone Pictures somewhere below here...

Poetic Tone Picture No. 6 - Edvard Grieg

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Classics for Kids website

This website is chock full of info about composers, genres like opera that you can learn about, and even a podcast to listen to. It's super important to know the background to the music you're making - it can inform the way you play in so many ways. The lucky thing is, it's fun to learn about this stuff. There's an A-Z composer index to look up all the gossip on the big name composers you might be playing the pieces of.
Go to the website:

ANZCA Grade 6 Latin American - Girl from Ipanema

This tune is super famous - about ten seconds in, you'll know it. Perhaps the most famous sung version is by Astrud Gilberto - check out her 60s verson here: Astrud Gilberto's version

The picture in the video below is of Ipanema beach. It's some pretty awesome scenery overlooking the sand.

Girl from Ipanema - Antônio Carlos Jobim

Friday, June 8, 2012

ANZCA Grade 6 Latin American - Wave

This tune is written by the great Bossa Nova composer Antônio Carlos Jobim. You might know his classic The Girl from Ipanema.

Wave sounds like it's about a very gentle wave at the beach - perhaps it's about watching the tide go in and out while chillaxing under a big umbrella.

Wave - Antônio Carlos Jobim

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ANZCA Grade 4 Jazz - Opus One

Woah, I picked the picture for this video before I found out about the composer, Sy Oliver. Turns out he was a famous trumpeter, so my picture actually works! Sy's Mum was a piano teacher, and his Dad played lots of instruments.

This little number is in Ternary Form with an introduction. Ternary form means there are three parts to the piece, with the first and last parts being pretty much the same.

Opus One - Sy Oliver

Monday, April 23, 2012


This is just a sweet tune I have played every now and then over the years. It's by Zdenko Fibich (1850-1900), a guy I don't know anything about and whose other piano pieces I have never heard. I think I'm going to look into his other tunes, because this one is a little gem.

If you would like to learn it, please let me know. It's about Grade 6 standard, I would say.

Poem - Zdenko Fibich

Friday, April 20, 2012

AMEB Grade 3 List B - tunes from the Grade books

Here's a list of links to youtube videos of pieces on for List B. They're all taken from the AMEB Grade books.

AMEB Series 15
  • Tchaikovsky - Op.39 No.1 Priere de Matin
  • Goedicke - the Comedian
  • Gurlitt - Ghost Story

    AMEB Series 16
  • Gurlitt - At School
  • Reinecke - Op. 183 No. 2 - Adagio
  • Turk - Trumpets
  • Vanhal - Sonatina Op. 2 No. 5 Movement 2 Andante

    Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir - The Daughters of Catulle Mendes at the Piano
  • Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    ANZCA Grade 5 Classical - Grieg's Poetic Tone Pictures

    Edvard Grieg might ring a bell for some of you, as Hall of the Mountain King has been known to have made an appearance at many a piano lesson. Here's some Poetic Tone Pictures you can do for Grade 5 - they're pretty flashy tunes, but with a lot of feeling. I really like them.

  • E. Grieg - Poetic Tone Picture Op. 3 No. 1
  • E. Grieg - Poetic Tone Picture Op. 3 No. 5
  • E. Grieg - Poetic Tone Picture Op. 3 No. 6

    Image: Edvard and Nina Grieg at the piano, from
  • ANZCA Grade 5 Classical - world of Chopin

    Frédéric Chopin is the kind of composer that you really can't avoid if you learn piano. But hey, that's a good thing, because he wrote some of the best piano music out there. Most of his music is for solo piano, and pieces like the Grade 5 ones below would have originally been played for fun in 'lounge rooms' throughout 19th century Europe, just like Chopin himself is doing in the picture. So carry on the tradition, and bring some Chopin into your lounge room!

  • F. Chopin - Mazurka Op. 7 No. 1
  • F. Chopin - Mazurka Op. Post. 68 No. 3
  • F. Chopin - Waltz in A minor (Op. Post.)

    Bonus piece written by Chopin (slightly harder than Grade 5)

    Image: Chopin Playing the Piano in Prince Radziwill's Salon, from
  • Thursday, March 29, 2012

    AMEB Grade 3 List B - Sonatina in F, 1st movement

    Beethoven was a pretty messy guy in real life. He always had stuff lying around all through his house and went around in really wrinkly clothes. But, you have to give it to him - he could write a very neat little tune. Check it out:

    Sonatina in F, 1st movement - Ludwig van Beethoven

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    ANZCA Grade 5 Classical Study Fest

    Feelin' a bit Classical? Like you want to learn something that will make you AMAZING at one particular aspect of piano playing? Sonething that sounds REALLY impressive? Yeah, I thought so.

    Here's a few studies people have put on Youtube from the ANZCA Classical syllabus. Grade 5 Modern piano people can pick one of these tunes to play for their exam, or even just to learn for fun.

  • C. Czerny - Study Op. 299 No. 6
  • C. Czerny - Study Op. 299 No. 7
  • S. Heller - Study Op. 45 No. 12
  • S. Heller - Study Op. 45 No. 13
  • S. Heller - Study Op. 46 No. 7
  • S. Heller - Study Op. 46 No. 8
  • S. Heller - Study Op. 46 No. 12
  • S. Heller - Study Op 47 No. 14

    Image by Wilhelm Busch - from
  • ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Boogie - Meet Frankie and Johnny

    According to Wikipedia, the song Frankie and Johnny is about a murder, but, hey, don't let that put you off - we're just meeting them in this tune... this is a sprightly Boogie Woogie in Twelve Bar Blues form with an introduction and a coda.

    I chose a diner as the picture because there's a movie out there called Frankie and Johnny and it's set around a diner (I think). I haven't seen that movie. One day I'll get around to it.

    Meet Frankie and Johnny - Gerald Martin

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    ANZCA Modern Grade 7 Boogie - Dark Eyes Boogie

    After recording a huge number of Grade 5 pieces, I thought it was about time to record a Grade 7 tune. Those of you not up to Grade 7 yet might be curious about how a Grade 7 piece sounds. I have to let you know, I did make a tiny boo boo - near the end, one part should be up an octave in the right hand, but as usual I was completely unobservant and missed the direction written clearly above the music. Nevertheless, this rendition will give you an idea about whether you'd like to learn the piece or not.

    This one is not in your typical Twelve Bar Blues form as so many boogies are. It's kind of in its own unique form. The melody is based on a Russian folk tune.


    Dark Eyes Boogie - Gerald Martin

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Boogie - Honky-Tonky

    This tune is in Ternary form - a piece in three parts. Parts one and three are pretty much the same and part two is sandwiched in between. You might also notice part two is a 12 bar blues fest.

    This piece reminds me of a cat playing around for some reason, hence the accompanying pic.

    Honky-Tonky - Gerald Martin

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Jazz - Jazz Ostinato

    An Ostinato refers to the repeating pattern you can hear in the bassline in this particular tune. Ostinatos were big news in Medieval and then Baroque times (we're talking about kinda around the year 1620), but this one is more about cool basslines in a jazz bar. The right hand starts off kinda modest and off-beat, and then gets really fancy by the end. It's all a bit hypnotizing.

    Jazz Ostinato - Gerald Martin

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Blues - St James Infirmary Blues

    I like this one. Sad, intense, and with a loud ending. This is a good one if you want to play something super dramatic. It's from the Joy of Boogie and Blues, such a great book.

    St James Infirmary Blues - Gerald Martin

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Latin American - Maracas

    This tune's infused with the rhythm of life. Or something. It's a bit peppy and a bit cute.

    Maracas - Glenn R Hunter

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Grade 6 Joplin Fest

    Grade 6 has some of the most famous rags by Scott Joplin. Lots of people will recognise them as soon as you play the opening notes. The Easy Winners is a big favourite of mine.

    Check out the story of Joplin's life on Wikipedia. Link here: Scott Joplin's Life

  • The Easy Winners
  • The Entertainer (this is the real version of the simplified Grade 1/Grade 2 piece)
  • Leola
  • Peacherine Rag (this link is a piano player version)
  • Pine Apple Rag
  • Silver Swan Rag - this one is from a piano roll - there are less notes in the real version. Read the notes below the video to get the story as to why.
  • Swipesy

    (image from Muppet wiki)
  • Grade 5 Joplin Fest

    Scott Joplin - basically the guy who invented Ragtime, an icon of American music. If you think about the music they usually use to accompany silent movies, that's pretty much the style Scott Joplin pioneered. While he had his sights set on becoming a classical composer, he's still best known for his 'Rags' - little did he know, he was setting the foundations for popular music all the way up to today.

    There's a bunch of tunes by Scott Joplin on for Grade 5. They just about all sound super impressive and fiddly, but once you get the hang of your first rag, they feel so great and easy to play.

    Here are links to youtube videos of the Joplin rags on for Grade 5:

  • The Cascades
  • Country Club
  • The Favorite
  • Kismet Rag
  • Original Rags
  • Paragon Rag
  • The Strenuous Life
  • Weeping Willow

    (image from Virginia Tech Music Biographies)
  • Thursday, February 2, 2012

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Latin American - Not Happy

    This one had to have a grumpy turtle as the mascot. I slow down at the very very end, but you're not actually supposed to... I just got a bit too dramatic there.

    Not Happy - Ian Ladd

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Pop/Rock - Fraggle Rock Theme

    It disturbs me that the young of today do not know Fraggle Rock. Here I am, thrilled that the Fraggle Rock Theme is on the Grade 5 piano syllabus, but nobody knows the TV show! I guess it is from the '80s...

    Here's a link to the theme song on youtube: Fraggle Rock Theme. It's pretty groovy. Feel free to learn it for Grade 5!

    Here's the webpage I got the above picture from - it pretty much explains the show and all the characters. Fraggles at

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Note reading help!

    Here's an awesome note reading game/tester thingy for those wanting to sharpen up their skills reading individual notes. Go to 'Settings' and enable bass clef reading to get pro at left hand notes.

    Note Trainer

    Try it out every now and then for a couple of minutes and suddenly you'll be sight reading with waaaaaaaaay less stress.

    (Image: digitalart /

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Jazz - Cool Jam

    I managed to learn yet another tune from the ANZCA book today, so here it is, and yes, I do realise the picture contains random jars of lentils, but just go with me on this.

    Cool Jam - Glenn R. Hunter

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Jazz - Time's Up

    Here's another one from the ANZCA Modern book, Jazz genre.

    Time's Up - Kerin Bailey

    ANZCA Modern Grade 5 Jazz - Solid

    Here's a tune from the ANZCA Modern Grade 5 book, Jazz genre.

    Solid - David Urquhart-Jones