Music notation: A brief look at its historical evolution

In early Medieval times, if one wanted to learn a song, one listened to someone sing it. ​It wasn't until the ninth century that monks began to experiment with various ways of notating music in written form, with the goal of helping people across a wide geographical area remember the many musical accoutrements of Roman Catholic religious servi...
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Vivid imagery in a piece from China

The Chinese composition "The Young Shepherd with his Little Flute" (in Chinese Folk Music for Children, Schott/Hal Leonard) is not only accessible for late-intermediate pianists, but has a colorful image that will motivate students. When I presented a poster session about the piece at the Ohio Music Teachers Association Southwest conference, many t...
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Learning John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes

I couldn't use percussion instruments for Syvilla's dance, though, suggesting Africa, they would have been suitable; they would have left too little room [on the stage] for her to perform. I was obliged to write a piano piece. I spent a day or so conscientiously trying to find an African 12-tone row. I had no luck. I decided that what was wrong was...
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Discover Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee: A window into the contemporary realm

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The music of Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee provides a refreshing look into the field of contemporary piano teaching repertoire. Rahbee, born in 1938, is an Armenian-American composer whose works for solo piano have been favorably received by pianists and audiences worldwide. She has written more than 200 works, and her catalog includes music for ensembl...
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Pupil Saver: Unique; reflective music

Finding interesting late-intermediate literature can be a challenge. In addition to teaching the repertoire standards, I always look for something a bit more out-of- the box, quite often a contemporary composition. I find that the contemporary music of Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee fits my needs perfectly, and her two sets of preludes provide a wea...
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Unique; reflective music

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Finding interesting late-intermediate literature can be a challenge. In addition to teaching the repertoire standards, I always look for something a bit more out-ofthe box, quite often a contemporary composition. I find that the contemporary music of Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee fits my needs perfectly, and her two sets of preludes provide a wealth of ...
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Exploring the melodrama: Works for narrator and piano

Of all the different fusions of literature and music, the melodrama is by far the most neglected and misunderstood. Since the late eighteenth century, composers have written works for narrator accompanied by piano, orchestra, or chamber ensemble. The first melodramas were declamations with orchestral accompaniment, but over time recitations ac...
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Drive and surprise

Here's a piece that captures the attention of everyone from precocious seven-year-olds to late beginners of all ages. Susan Ogilvy's Toccatina (Alfred) is suitable for students from the late-elementary to early-intermediate levels, is terrifically fun to play, and is often very easy to memorize. Most importantly, however, it sounds more diffic...
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Impressionism for intermediates

Helen Boykin's 1947 impressionistic gem, Seafoam (Schirmer/Hal Leonard), has remained a student favorite for almost seventy years. I've taught this intermediate piece many times, but it is also a solo that profoundly motivated me when I was a young student. The majority of the piece relies on a bold left-hand melody, with the right hand repeating a...
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How do you avoid assigning repertoire that is too difficult too soon?

​Each spring, I adjudicate festivals and write comments, review auditions for a summer program that I co-direct, and judge precollegiate competitions. Sitting with other pianists on these panels, the conversation is often something like: "Wasn't it wonderful the way Student X played repertoire at his or her level with polish and fine preparati...
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A heavenly, bravura piece

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I am often confronted with the need for intermediate literature that will not only motivate students, but cover up any deficiencies they might have (I am sure we have all had this experience). Case in point: I had a transfer student who could barely sight-read, which made learning every piece take forever, and proper technique, hand position, and p...
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Closer Look Pieces for warm weather

This spunky solo is atoe-tapping audience pleaser.A humorous recurring bumblebeemotif alternates with jazzybroken chords and syncopatedrhythms to create a very visualand dancelike aural story.Students move quickly aroundthe piano, exploring ever-changingtextures and articulations. The few pedal markingsfor sonority do not require a legato pedal tec...
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A bravura piece for the left hand

Melody Bober's multivolume set of Grand One-Hand Solos for Piano (Alfred) offers some really cool pieces for the intermediate-to-late-intermediate pianist.  ​Although they are written for one hand (either right or left), the compositions are interesting, musical, and highly motivational. Many teachers will use this collecti...
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The day of the thirty-two: Stewart Goodyear performs a Beethoven marathon

I recently endured something that probably no human should attempt. ​I heard, on Saturday, October 5, 2013, in Davis, California, at the University of California, Stewart Goodyear perform ALL of Beethoven's thirty-two piano sonatas IN ONE DAY. Since this was Mr. Goodyear's fourth reading of the "New Testament"—he had already performed thi...
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"Kamarinskaya” from Tchaikovsky’s Album for the Young

What exactly is a "kamarinskaya"? (The word is pronounced with an accent on the second syllable—kaMArinskaya.) In his Album for the Young, Tchaikovsky* gives each piece both a Russian and a French title. In French, he identifies his Kamarinskaya as a Chanson populaire—a folk song. But the kamarinskaya is certainly not a "song" (just try to sing it!...
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What a Find!

My mother, who is also a piano teacher, enjoys finding and buying piano music for me —even to this day—and she usually finds really great stuff at her public library. Go figure! "Pizzicati" (a polka from the ballet Sylvia) was one of her recent finds. Written by Léo Delibes and arranged by Hans-Günter Heumann, this piece of music was on the top of ...
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Imagination and mischief

Students who love stories of magical worlds and mythical creatures will jump at the chance to learn William Gillock's early-intermediate "Elfin Pranks." This whimsical piece set in E minor and cut time is loaded with teaching opportunities. Although "Elfin Pranks" is available in solo form, I prefer to use the version in Gillock's collection Accent...
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Gretchaninoff's musical gems

My teacher Eugene List once commented, "The piano literature is so vast, that at any level pianists can find beautiful music they are able to play." As a teacher, it is so easy to teach the same pieces over and over and not explore what is available today. Yeeseon Kwon has extensively studied the music of the Russian composer Alexander Gretchaninof...
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Let's order in!

Occasionally I have a student who is reluctant to move past the first method book, or is easily discouraged when things get the least bit challenging. Some are unwilling even to explore past a C-major pentascale. Fortunately, I discovered "Pepperoni Pizza," a captivating little piece from Mona Rejino's elementary-level collection, Just for Kids (Ha...
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Bartók's Rhapsody from For Children

The eight-some pieces in Bartók's For Children, based on Hungarian and Slovakian folk tunes and intended for young learners, cover a considerable range of difficulty. Because finding pieces of musical substance at the early levels is difficult, it is understandable that the simplest of these are the best known (the showy "Swineherd's Danc...
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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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