HAPPY NEW YEAR!
NEW for JANUARY 2017! "A Sailor Went to Sea" in Level 2A
This version of "A Sailor Went to Sea" lets you share the fun with an easy duet part. Your new piece is short and easily memorized for friends to play and sing together. Teachers, assign this to siblings and friends, or switch off parts between yourself and your students. To make the piece longer, repeat it taking turns soloing, changing octaves and dynamics. Be creative, have fun and have a Happy, Happy New Year!
NEW music for December! "Va, pensiero" or "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" from Verdi's opera, Nabucco, in Primer Level A and in Level 3C
painting by Gebhard Fugel
"Va, pensiero", by Giuseppe Verdi, is inspired by Psalm 137 which recalls the story of Jewish exiles in Babylon after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem. The opera with its powerful chorus established Verdi as a major composer in 19th-century Italy. Psalm 137 is also the inspiration for the painting to the left and the round, "By the Waters of Babylon" which concludes, "we lay down and wept for the Zion."
Verdi was a popular leader in the movement to unify Italy and much of his music reflects his patriotism. This chorus has been proposed several times to be the Italian National Anthem, and the line, "O mia patria" (Oh my fatherland) resonates deeply with Italians.
This site was taken down for a while following the recent US election. It was important that everybody take a break from business as usual to reflect on the outcome. We must always remember that there are people less fortunate than us. For some of them access to a piano or keyboard or piano music are irrelevant luxuries. This site was down to remind us that:
It is more important to be kind than to play the piano
It is more important to understand people who differ from us than it is to play the piano
It is more important to help others who are in need than it is to play the piano
If you see powerful people making statements or even laws that seem to harm people of a certain race or religion, you need to think very carefully. Learn about these people. Maybe you could play the songs they sing which are on this site.
My family was forced to leave their home because of laws like these. That should never happen again, and we should be kind to people who were forced to leave their homes because of violence or because they were too poor.
There has been much discussion about the decision to take down the site on the facebook group.
NEW music for November! "Steal Away to Jesus" in Level 2B
You can think of "Steal Away to Jesus" as a gospel tune, an African American Spiritual or a Hymn. In any case it seems clear that, whatever the prevalent meaning is now, stealing away to Jesus was originally a metaphor for slaves stealing away to freedom.
Your thumbs will share middle C in this piece, but unlike "thumbs share C" position finger 2 will be on E (not D), 3 will be on F (not E) and so on. It may take some practice for your third finger to refrain from playing its note when your eyes see an E on the staff.
"De Colores" celebrates the colors of the great out of doors. In the first verse the singer exclaims,
"In colors the fields are dressed in the spring.
In colors are the little birds that come from outside.
In colors is the rainbow that we see shining."
The next verse marvels at the calls of the rooster, the hen and the chicks.
Wikipedia also explains, "Today, in addition to being used as the unofficial anthem of the Farm Worker Movement and as an inspirational song in Cursillo workshops [retreats of a Christian religious movement], the song is often taught in schools in the United States as an example of a common Mexican folk song."
A mid-October BONUS! "Lazy Dracula" by Cori Jackson in Level 2A
Our guest composer, Cori Jackson writes, "My young students always ask for Halloween music and there just aren't many songs out there, so I started making a few of my own." She also wrote us a piano accompaniment. Thank you Cori!
A cute twenty-first century android tries to keep up with the gang, all portrayed in a mid-twentieth century style of music. Unexpected sharps and flats in the melody suggest other-worldly obstacles for the struggling robot to contend with.
ALSO for October! "Moonlight Sonata" (arranged) with color coded dynamics in Level 4C
This is the same music you have come to know and love now displayed with the colors you have found so useful. What a great piece for teaching balance! The steady eighth note accompaniment is all light blue (soft) while the melody has colors indicating louder dynamics and shading. As with all color coded pieces, print with the best quality (or photo quality) to see the gradations in color.
NEW Music for September! "The Old Gray Mare" in Level 3A
"The Old Gray Mare" will be a fun way to familiarize yourself with F position, with left pinky and right thumb anchored on F's. Remember this tune during some silly antics in old cartoons? "Free Piano Music!", until Level 3A, has provided you with only a few pieces in this position--
After all, when you arrive at the top of the C major scale you're actually in F position, the one difference being that the C scale has no B-flats while pieces in F position usually do have B-flats. Beware, forgetting this B-flat is a common error, so remember: all B's are flat in "The Old Gray Mare"!
NEW for AUGUST! Develop your listening skills with a new flashcard app for both iPhones and Android phones
If you want to hear more in the music you love, "Hear That Music!" provides you with the practice you need. This unique flash card app plays real music performed by live musicians and quizzes you on the aural identification of musical concepts in the excerpt: What interval was that at the end of the phrase? What scale degree was the last note? What meter is the excerpt in? No sterile isolated tones. No chords divorced from their musical phrases. Hear that Music! helps you with the real musical skill of listening to real music.
Your NEW August Music! "What's this Feeling?", a song for Yom Kippur in Level 4A
This Yom Kippur song is for you to sing and play with the children in your family and synagogue. It refers to feelings of guilt and forgiveness, feelings which are at once serious but natural and appropriate for young children. Central to the words is the hope that the child will "get a new chance this year."
Also NEW for AUGUST! "La Bamba" now also in Level 2A!
Now if you are beyond primer level (see the arrangement described below) you can still enjoy playing this exciting piece. You will never leave C position though your hands will also be moving up to an A and down to a B. It's also a bit longer than the Primer Level version.
For additional background about this song, see the blurb below.
Originally a traditional dance from the Mexican state of Veracruz, this music became wildly popular in 1958 when it was recorded by Richie Valens. Valens was proud of his Mexican heritage and wanted to share his music with the rest of the world. According to Wikipedia, "Valens' version of 'La Bamba' is ranked number 354 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is the only song on the list sung in a language other than English."
When danced, the fast and continuous stamping of the feet, the insistent and repetitive chord pattern and the women's full and showy white dresses combine to make an exciting spectacle. In addition wedding couples often use their footwork to tie a symbolic bow with their feet. See both Richie Valens' version from a movie by the same name, and the traditional dance in these videos.
Right before Clementi's famous first sonatina of Opus 36 you will find a new piece explaining the mysteries of sonata form. In "It's Sonata Form Fun" colors are used to identify the four large divisions of sonata form (including the Coda) and an extra bonus page is provided illustrating the subdivisions. My original piece is designed to be the standard textbook sonata form, knowing full well that most sonata forms in the literature have variations.
Compare this piece to the first movement of the Clementi. Can you find the sectional divisions in this piece as well?
Balkan music is full of "irregular" meters. Time signatures in 7 or 5 are not uncommon, and the Lesnoto you get this month is a dance notated in 7/8. While counting to 7 may at first be helpful, eventually it is best to count three beats to the measure, with beat 1 lasting three eighth notes and beats 2 and 3 each lasting two eighth notes. The irregular length of these beats reinforces the feeling that beat 1 is heavier or stronger than other beats, whatever their length. Listen to the rendition in the video to the right to get a feel for this meter. You can also find this video on YouTube. Just search for "Green Valley Lesnoto."
What a fun song for kids! Each time you repeat it, play the first part softer and the last part louder. The score suggests three times, but it can be repeated as many times as you want. If you do many repetitions, the first part can eventually be played by lightly tapping the keys with no sound at all while the last part can be played super-duper loud--try also playing the end an octave or two lower!
NEW for APRIL! From Mexico, "Arroz con leche" in Level 2C
This month your free sheet music adds to your already numerous songs from outside the United States. Thanks again to mamalisa.com. for the songs and the inspiration.
The Mexican song, "Arroz con leche," or "Rice Pudding" is arranged in the keys of F and G, though--watch out!--the hands are not in the beginner's F and G positions. Some serious note reading is needed here, so make sure you (or your students) know the notes on the staff. Play the version in F, play the version in G or play them both!
ALSO NEW for APRIL! The Syrian lullaby "Yalla Tnam" in Level 3B
Listen to this beautiful lullaby with its long improvisatory introduction. The actual tune as transcribed in your sheet music begins at 0:40.
This piece is your perfect introduction to 16th note (semiquaver) rhythms. With easy steady octaves in the left hand, the right hand can concentrate on the frequent two-sixteenth-eighth rhythms, and the one instance of one-eighth-two-sixteenths.
Here's a fun way to learn these rhythms! Each rhythm on the right has a word under it. Chanting these words for the first two measures of this piece results in naming these pies:
NEW for MARCH "The Bluebells of Scotland in Level 3A
Folk song or written by a known composer? Apparently "The Bluebells of Scotland" is both: "The song ... was written by the actress Dorothea (Dora) Jordan. ... Originally named The Blue Bell of Scotland (a tangential reference to an inn mentioned in the song) it was quickly adopted into the folk tradition and rechristened after the Scottish flower." (notAmos Performing Editions)
If you enjoy pieces which are early in Level 3 or in late Level 2, you should give "The Bluebells of Scotland" a try. Written in the key of F, the right hand mostly plays outside of what we like to call F position. It's great practice for reading notes! Make sure you review the names of the notes in treble clef!
NEW for FEBRUARY! "Là ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni in Primer Level B
arranged by Claudio Bianchi
Grazie, Claudio, per quest' arrangiamento così bello e facile. Ho aggiunto parole in inglese e in italiano in due pagine .pdf separate. In questo duetto, cantato da Don Giovanni e la contadina Zerlina, il signore Don Giovanni riesce a far Zerlina seguirlo alla sua villa. Zerlina, già fidanzata con Masetto, non può stare fedele mentre questo Don sta cantando così sinceramante e così bene per lei.
Thank you, Claudio, for this beautiful and simple arrangement. I have added words in English and Italian in two separate .pdf pages. In this duet, sung by Don Giovanni and the peasant girl Zerlina, the noble Don Giovanni succeeds in making Zerlina follow him to his villa. Zerlina, already engaged to Masetto, can't remain faithful to her fiancee while this Don is singing so sincerely and so well to her.
NEW for JANUARY 2016! A Frog Went A-Courtin' in Level 4A
This old English song first made its appearance in print in 1548. Over the years many words have been put to the tune, but they all involve a frog proposing marriage to a mouse who must in turn ask her Uncle Rat's consent (or "she would not marry the president"). As part of my old "SingAlong" collection you also get guitar chords and quite a few verses--19 in all! Enjoy learning this song and playing and singing it with friends!
Also, you can now download mp3 audio files for all pieces in Level 3A, including slow playback, and hands separately. You can get announcements like this from the facebook group. which is associated with this site.
NEW for DECEMBER! "(We are Climbing) Jacob's Ladder" in Level 2C
I love the way you can hear Jacob climbing higher and higher as this song ascends in pitch. Reinforce Jacob's climb by playing the first part--with low notes--softly, and play the middle part--with high notes--loudly.
"Jacob's ladder" is a spiritual which draws a parallel in the ladder's steps, representing the upcoming exiles of the Jews, with the tribulations of American slavery. I have two videos of this song. Listen to how different they are.
NEW for NOVEMBER! "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah in Level 4A
This Christmas standard is a thrilling piece of music no matter how many times you hear it. The loud and proud opening statement of the theme, the contrast between full four part harmony and the single line singing "For the Lord God omnipotent...", and the dramatic pause near the end, all combine to make a perfect show-off Christmas piece.
If you watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing "Hallelujah" you will notice that the soloists and audience stand up as it begins. The story behind this custom is that when the King of England first heard it, he felt the presence of God so strongly that he had to stand, just as a royal subject would be expected to stand in front of his sovereign. Then when the audience saw the king rise, they were all compelled to rise as well, out of respect for their own king.
Also NEW for NOVEMBER! "Amazing Grace" with color coded dynamics in Level 4C.
The second page of this version pops out with notes of contrasting colors as they reflect extremes in dynamics. This page is a variation of the tune which had been presented more traditionally on page one with no contrasting colors. Enjoy this new color coded version of an ever-popular song.
The judge has ruled "Happy Birthday to You" is in the public domain! Now you can download three arrangements at three different levels from this site. Finally all legal, and all brought to you here before any of the traditional publishing houses can get them to the stores. Teachers, make a habit of assigning these versions every time a student's birthday rolls around. They'll love playing it!
New for SEPTEMBER! The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond in Primer Level C and in Level 4C. Download the color coded version!
A song strongly identified with Scotland, this nostalgic tune tells of a time when two lovers would meet on the banks of lovely Loch (or Lake) Lomond. Though the narrator and his comrade take the high and low roads back to Scotland, he knows all too well that he will never see his love again.
Like my "Sonatina Piccolina" in Level 1C, this gavotte will appeal to beginners who want to play serious classical and baroque music, but have no sheet music appropriate to their level. A gavotte is a French dance used commonly in Bach's suites. It can be identified as having a pick-up consisting of two staccato quarter notes in 4/4.
ALSO for August! Color coding for dynamics in Level 4C has begun!
Download "Cielito Lindo" and "Voici venir la nuit"
Now that all pieces pieces have color coded dynamics in Intermediate Level 1 and in Keyboard Classics, I am beginning to do color coding in Level 4. Click the green dot in column 2 under this symbol in Level 4C:
So why use a key signature with a C sharp in it when C's are consistently made natural? Good question! Some arrangers in fact would notate this piece, with the very same pitches, with just one sharp, F, in the key signature. The sticky point here is that "Old Joe Clark" does not use a regular scale. Clearly D's are important here--the first and last chords are D and the last note of the melody is D. But a D scale normally has a C-sharp, and this piece just as clearly does not. Actually "Old Joe Clark" is in what is called the "Mixolydian mode," a fancy term for a major scale with the seventh note (in this case C-sharp) lowered by a half-step (in the case to C-natural).
So I could have used a key signature of F-sharp only, but there is also something to be said for always associating one sharp with G as the key note and two sharps with D as the key note. With a piece at this level piece I thought it was important to reinforce those associations. So that's what I did. There you go.
Oh yeah! It's also a lot of fun to play! My music theory nerd alter-ego kind of took over there. Sorry :-)
With this month's addition of color coded dynamics in "For Michelle" by Ken Allen and "Minuet in G minor" from the notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach, all the pieces in Intermediate Level 1 are available with colored notes. If you add the pieces in Keyboard Classics, there are now a grand total of 31 pieces with colorful reminders of the importance of dynamics. If you as a teacher agree that many students at this ability level need cues which are more obvious that the traditional "mp", "ff" "cresc.", hairpins and so on, then download these pieces and give them a try!
Remember to set your printer quality to "best" or "photo." These settings are needed to print the gradations in color which denote crescendos and diminuendos.
To the right Dr. Alan Huckleberry of The University of Iowa plays the second movement of this piece. I am always looking for easy Sonatinas and I think I have found a great sounding one here. This piece is also available with color coded dynamics, as are almost all pieces in Intermediate Level 1
ALSO NEW for June! "Arctic Nights" with color coded dynamics
is now available for FREE in Intermediate Level 1
Now you can download "Arctic Nights" for free if you choose the version with color coded dynamics. Although I ask you to pay for most of my original pieces, there are a few exceptions. I decided to offer this one for free because I am so excited about the idea of color coded dynamics.
By the way, if any teachers see positive results among their students about their use of dynamics with my color coded pieces, please tell us.
Write your comments at the facebook group.
My Music in MAY! "Babies Don't Keep" in Level 1A
from the poem, "Song for a Fifth Child" by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton
These words seem to be everywhere that new parents might look. I have seen them on plaques, picture frames and pillows. So why not in song? I made up the music to this sentimental poem when my own children were very young, and a copy still hangs in our third floor hall.
The words are from the last stanza of Ms Hamilton's poem:
"Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep."
ALSO NEW for May! The complete Clementi Sonatina Op.36, No.1
with color coded dynamics! See Intermediate Level 1
"Teachers: Now your students can play all three movements of this sonatina with color coded dynamics. As they progress through early intermediate repertoire your students should not have to rely as heavily on you for expressive interpretations. Yet it is so hard to get them to play dynamics on their own! Believe me, I know from my own teaching experience! So this set of color coded pieces is the result of an effort to prod them along as they begin to make musical decisions by themselves.
Mi dispiace che c'era un errore sulla pagina "Intermediate Level 1" il mese scorso. C'era un "bottone" per "Quel mazzolin'..." con colori che non funzionava. Adesso il bottone funziona e ho scritto "Nuovo!" la sopra.
NEW for APRIL! Two versions of "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain"
One in Level 2B and one in Level 3B
This popular and lively children's song is derived from an African-American spiritual called "When the Chariot Comes." The "she" in the original song referred to the chariot which the returning Christ is imagined as driving.
This month I am giving you two versions of "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain." In Level 2 the hand position is close to "thumbs share C", except that the left thumb is on B. In Level 3 the key is G, but only partly in G position. Download whichever is appropriate for you and play for (fellow) children!
NEW MUSIC for March! "Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me" in Level 2C
"Get away from me, fly! You're annoying!" No need to read more into this song which has become a favorite among children in the United States. However, there has been a more serious side for some people who have sung this song: For instance during the Spanish-American War it was sung by US troops for whom flies were a serious health hazard--more than just bothersome. Fortunately for us, however, the song is also just plain fun!
For March: STILL MORE(!) color coded dynamics in Intermediate Level 1!
A waltz, pieces by Handel, Beethoven and from the notebook of AM Bach
You now can download these color coded scores: Beethoven's "Romanze" from his Sonatina in G, Handel's "He Shall Feed his Flock" actually arranged by me, "Shepherd's Wife Waltz" an old time fiddle tune, and the well known "Minuet in G" from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach. This brings to a total of eleven color coded pieces in Intermediate 1. In addition, all 14 pieces in Keyboard Classics are available with colors for a grand total of 25 pieces on this site. Where else are you going to find dynamics, this often neglected element, so clearly notated?
Remember to set your printer to BEST QUALITY or PHOTO QUALITY to print these scores.
NEW MUSIC for February! "Hush, Little Baby" in Level 1A
Now you--or your students--can play this simple arrangement on the piano for your little ones. Be sure to play an octave higher than written. It's more soothing that way. This was my favorite song as I was coaxing my own children to sleep. I enjoyed improvising on the simple V I harmony as I lengthened each phrase and slowed the tempo until my child slowly went off to dreamland. Now I am lucky enough to sing this for my grandchildren, inserting "Nonno" (Italian for Grandpa) for "Papa".
For February I have given you color coded scores for "Humming" and "Melody", from Schumann's Album for the Young, Op. 68, as well as Gurlitt's "Novelette". With these contributions you have available to you almost half of the pieces in Intermediate Level 1 as color coded scores.
Remember to set your printer to BEST QUALITY or PHOTO QUALITY to print these scores.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
NEW MUSIC for January 2015! "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Solidarity Forever" in Level 4A
The stirring melody of these two songs originated in religious camp town meetings in the United States. A true folk melody, there is no known composer and it underwent many variations as it was transmitted by rote from one person to another. Eventually during the Civil War, it was set to lyrics about the abolitionist, John Brown, and later still to the two sets of lyrics you are receiving this month.
These two pieces are from an old collection of mine called "Sing Along Songs" which provided beginning accompaniments specifically for singers. Accordingly you will find many verses, guitar chords, and closer attention to the vocal range than in your usual pieces on this site.
Here are four pieces edited for you so that the color of the notes reflects their loudness, or their dynamics. No longer will students mechanically play all the right notes at the same volume and then believe that such a performance is satisfactory. Dynamics are so clearly displayed on these pages that students will not be satisfied until they are able to master this important and expressive element.
For January you are getting colored notes for Schumann's "Soldier's March", Burgmuller's "Arabesque", Ellmenreich's "Spinning Song" and the Musette in D from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach, four popular early intermediate pieces.
Set your printer to BEST QUALITY or PHOTO QUALITY to print the color gradients for crescendos and diminuendos .
Of the 641 of you who responded to last month's survey there was a slight preference for colors being used to represent dynamics (loudness). Almost 42% of you preferred dynamics while 24% and 35% preferred colors to encode form and modulations respectively. However among those of you who are piano teachers, whom I happen to really respect, the results were more lopsided. Of the 61 of you who are teachers, fully 6 out of 10 preferred dynamics while only 2 out of 10 preferred form and another 2 of 10 preferred modulations. See the charts below.
Since you chose color coded dynamics I will oblige by providing more pieces with what I have been calling "dynamic colors." Look for them soon in Intermediate Level 1.