"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #53 How To Use The Free Interval Study Script Utility

You’ll find this free utility inside of my store in the “Study Materials” section in the right sidebar. It is a script that can assist you in getting to know the functional names of most of the intervals contained within any give one-octave range. For anyone who may have questions about how to use the utility, here is a short video clip of me demonstrating a few examples of how I use it.


Even with its limitations, which are documented in the script’s on-board instructions, I still like to use the script because it can be run off-line directly in your browser. It may be run manually or automatically, and it hardly takes up any hard drive real estate because of its very small file size which makes for a fast and easy download!

Download the script then “kick back” and use its hands-free mode to be quizzed on ascending and/or descending intervals within an octave.

See you next post

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #52 From My Westin Hotel Copley Place Boston Archive!

During the 14-years I spent as one of the resident pianists at the Westin Hotel, Copley Place, Boston, MA, I accumulated many experiences and stories I’ll be sharing with you from time to time about my experiences with lots of very interesting people I met at the hotel.

One such story about how I first met a very special person came back to my mind instantly while reading a post in another blog in which this person was mentioned. Let me tell you…


One night during my first set, as I was playing a few solo-piano warm-up songs before bringing out the rest of my trio,  I noticed some faint flashes of light coming from the rear of the room.

PopupSpySpecs Thinking it was someone with a camera taking tourist photos, I just ignored it. However, when the flashes continued with increasing frequency, I ruled out tourist picture-taking!  These flashes seemed to be directed at me specifically to get my attention. Was this person sending me a message in Morse Code or playing a practical joke or some kind of prank on me? I became more and more curious as it continued!

mystery-man-smilesSo, near the end of the first song, I turned my head slightly toward the back of the room and I spotted the source of this mysterious happening! It was coming from a very well-dressed gentleman also in a tuxedo who was seated alone at the very last table in the back of the room and he was looking through something he was holding in his hands which was pointed directly at me. I turned my head back towards the piano and got back into the music.

The flashing continued consistently throughout my warm-up. As I signaled for the bassist and drummer to come on up, I took a short break to introduce myself to this gentleman but by the time I arrived at his table, the mysterious contraption he had in his hand was nowhere in sight.

I introduced myself to him and he said his name was Jimmy Lyon. At that time, I had no idea who he was and I asked if he had any requests. He said not right then but he’d be back in a while after he played a set or two across the street at the Copley Plaza Hotel. That told me he was a pianist so I knew I’d go visit him on my first break but before he departed, I asked him about the object which had been reflecting the spotlights back into the corner of my eye!

He apologized for the distraction because he didn’t realize a reflection was occurring! I assured him it was very faint and that I was fine with it and not offended in any way whatsoever… I was just curious as to what it was. So he took the object out of his pocket and handed it to me.

Pop-up-01

It was a very classy looking flat rectangular box that looked much like a personal cigarette case but when a special button was pressed, it turned into a set of pop-up adjustable-focus-telescopic binoculars!

Pop-up-03He said he liked my playing and he wanted to see how I was voicing chords and making runs. Rather than stand right behind me to look over my shoulder, he said he preferred to sit in the back and watch with his pop-up specs. Both of us started laughing so hard!!! Right away I knew he was a wonderful guy with a great sense of humor!

Pop-up-05I took a look through those binoculars and though they were small, their telescopic ratio was very good with great clarity! As I recall the account now in 2014, I still laugh about it!

Shortly after introducing ourselves, both of us went back to work but as I got back to my bandstand, I asked my bass player, who was either Teddy Kotic or Rodney Richardson at that time, if he’d heard of a pianist named Jimmy Lyon. He said he certainly had heard of him and he gave me the “411”! That’s how I first met and learned about Jimmy Lyon!

Eventually Jimmy returned that night with his “pop-up spy specs” Pop-up-02to check us out again and with every opportunity I’d get, I’d go across the street and listen to him for what turned out to be MY “nightly piano lesson”! From my point of view, I believe I learned more about voicings from him than he learned from me but we continued our frequent visits with each other during the rest of his tenure at the Copley Plaza.

I was working 7-nights a week at the Westin and he was working 6-nights a week. I learned a lot from Jimmy in the short time I knew him and when the time eventually came for him to return to his home in Paramus, NJ and his gigs in NY, I thanked him for his kindness and let him know that I was very much looking forward to his next return to Boston, but it wasn’t meant to be. He passed away all too soon! What a song specialist! A true gentleman through and through! I was very privileged to have been able to count him as my friend for the short time I knew him!

Here are five audio clips I recorded of him (with his permission) that you’ve never heard, unless you were there the nights I recorded him. The audio quality is not the best you’ve ever heard and you’ll hear people talking throughout each song. if you can ignore the distractions and you want to hear Jimmy playing solo-piano in a very relaxed mood, then here you go! Ear training students, beginners, intermediates and advanced, might use these files as source material too! Pick out some melodies, or chord progressions or voicings that interest you. In any case, enjoy!

JimmyLyon-02

Looking At You (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

Begin The Beguine (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

I Concentrate On You (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

You Turned The Tables On Me (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

Memories Of You (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

Jimmy Lyon (R.I.P)
Full Name : James Frederick Lyon.
Profile : American jazz pianist.
Jimmy worked, among others with Mabel Mercer (singer), June
Christy, Polly Bergen.
Born : November 06, 1921 in Morgan Village, Camden, New Jersey.
Died : November 28, 1984 in New York City, New York. (Cancer)

See you next post.

AC #51 Block Chords Revisited: A watching & listening post!

01-B 02-L 03-O 04-C 05-K

06-C 07-H 08-O 09-R 10-D 11-S

is a subject about which I first posted in AC #22. I teach this subject in depth to intermediate and advanced students who want to undertake and learn this demanding style of piano playing.

However, in this Watching_and_Listening_Postpost, I won’t “talk shop” or speak to you about any techniques on how to play them.

Instead, I’ll focus the video spotlight on Milt Buckner and Andre Persiany (sometimes spelled “Persiani”) and let them show and give us some examples of how block chords sound and how much fun they can be as the two of them stage a very humorous and playful piano battle.

The overall quality of the video isn’t the best ever produced but the most important things about the clip still shine through! Several quotes! Lots of fun & love!

Since this is a “watching and listening post” only, let’s start by watching these two masters at work. Enjoy!


Four select audio-only clips that showcase more of Milt Buckner‘s “block chord” Style!

If you’re interested in adding more block chord stylings to your piano playing, be sure to listen to more of Milt Buckner in this context and the any of the many pianists like George Shearing who cite him as their main influence for adding the block chord style to their pianistic abilities.

Well, it looks like Milt and his friend may soon drive off in their band truck after the photo op, so I’ll hop into my Radio Flyer wagon and head home to study.

“Gotta get to my study room!”

See you next post!

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #50 Musical talent: Do you have it? Here is a way to tell!

Here’s how you can tell if you, your child, or someone you know has a talent for music.

One of the oldest and surest ways to tell is to notice if an ability to pick out melodies by ear on the piano, whole or in part, is present.  People of any age who can play and reproduce melodies on the piano, on their own, without having any music lessons, have a natural talent for music.

On one hand, there are many children who’ve demonstrated this ability at ages as young as two and three and discovering this talent at such early ages gives children a chance to get an early start on their musical journey.

On the other hand, there are many people who’ve gotten started a little later or a lot later and many of this group have often discovered they, too, have this natural ability to pick out melodies and even more.

Keep in mind that as melodies are being picked out, perfection is not required because flawless execution is not the decisive factor in determining whether or not a talent for music is present. As long as songs can at least be half-way recognized, talent is present and lessons are in order! If you can even partially pick out any of the melodies below, I’m interested in working with ya.

However, even if you feel you don’t have this ability because all of the melodies you pick out are not even remotely recognizable, don’t despair because if you like music and music speaks to your soul, chances are your talent is hidden within you and needs to be uncovered and developed. This ability can be learned through “ear training” and practice.

Picking out melodies may be described as the ability to find a starting source pitch by ear, reproduce it on the piano, and then match the intervalic movements of each subsequent melody note in relationship to the last or previous note that was played and correctly identified. Simply put, it’s a kinda “what-is-this-note-and-where-did-it-go-from-here” exercise and your success at picking out melodies depends your skill at distinguishing half steps from whole steps.

Get Adobe Flash player


As a follow-up to post AC #49, here are ten melodies on which you can practice and sharpen your picking-out-melody skills. Each song, with its multiple courses, repeats three times.

This activity works best if you use a piano, a keyboard, or some other real-world instrument, but If you aren’t near one, try using this onscreen piano keyboard just for fun to play along.

The levels of difficulty range from fairly easy to a bit arduous. Try a few! See how you do!  Ha Ha

AC-50-Song-1 (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

AC-50-Song-2 (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

AC-50-Song-3 (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

AC-50-Song-4 (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

AC-50-Song-5 (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

AC-50-Song-6 (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

AC-50-Song-7 (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

AC-50-Song-8 (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)


A short revisit post on “block chords” is coming soon, so here’s a song with a “blocked melody” .

AC-50-Song-9a (Click the down-arrow to download. A Tempo)

AC-50-Song-9b (Click the down-arrow to download. Slower)


Here’s a jazz tune with a bluesy melody.

AC-50-Song-10a (Click the down-arrow to download. A Tempo)

AC-50-Song-10b (Click the down-arrow to download. Slower)

Good luck, have fun!

See you next post.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #49 For kids of all ages! Use your ears to learn this song!

This is an “action” post where your ear training capabilities are called into action. Should you choose to accept this challenge, get your instrument ready then follow these instructions:

1. Activate the MIDI file to listen to it and play the mystery song melody by ear, note-for-note.

Mystery Song (Click the encircled down-arrow to download.)

2. Practice it until you have it memorized then you should be ready for steps three and four!

3. Solve the Maestro Jigsaw Puzzle to hear him play along with a mildly orchestrated version.

4. Your mission is to play along with the Maestro and his orchestra!

Get Adobe Flash player

The Maestro will play the song three times per puzzle solution–once for each of his admirers! This allows you to have some extra tries at learning to play the chords by ear. Also, upon solving the puzzle, an optional download link for the orchestrated version is revealed inside the puzzle!

If you aren’t near your own instrument, try using this onscreen piano keyboard to play along.

Have fun and good luck!

See you next post.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #48 Happy Birthday America! (2014)

Happy Birthday wishes out to America and all of her citizens during this July 4th holiday week!

The clips give a small glimpse into the artistry of “Papa” Jo Jones (drums), Jimmy Slyde (tap), and George Benson (guitar). Their mini-jam session is on a tune titled, “Mr. X”.


Mini jam session on “Mr.X” Listen to or work with an mp3.

* Click the encircled down-arrow to download this mp3 version of the clip to your computer.


Although there’s no piano in the clip, piano students can still interact with it and use it from an educational standpoint by doing any or all of the following challenges:

* Figure out the song form
* Figure out the key in which this tune is being played
* Figure out and write/play the melody
* Figure out and write/play the chord changes
* Write/play your own bass line for the melody/head, or the melody and solos too
* Write/play your own piano part for the melody/head, or the melody and solos too
* Do some transcription work on George Benson’s orchestral-like “hits and punches” only
* Do some transcription work on the solos of any or all three of the participants

That’s all for now. Have a great holiday week! Enjoy!

See you next post.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC#47 Major Keys and Their Key Signatures

Key signatures are the group of sharps and/or flats written on the staff at the beginning of a piece. This convention gives musicians a convenient way to organize the sharps and/or flats of the predominant scale upon which a piece, or a section of a piece, is written.

Even though an octave contains only 12 different keys, there’s a total of 15 major key signatures that are officially recognized when you’re looking through the lenses of traditional music theory. In learning about key signatures and the cycle of keys, it helps to understand major scales.

To review and play the major scales via an onscreen piano, click this drop-down link.


The bone structure of a major scale is made from an 8-note string of major and minor 2nds, mostly whole steps between each note with the exceptions of steps 3 to 4, and 7 to 8.Scale Construction The numeric information gives you an outlined overview of the scale steps. Counting each step, as you move along (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8), helps with keeping you aware of exactly where you are at each scale step.

The intervalic information places the notes in order by measuring intervals: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half. This tells you the exact spacing required between each scale step.
The construction crew discusses the major scale specifications

Legend
1-8 = scale steps
w = whole step (major 2nd)
1/2= half step (minor 2nd)
1 w 2 w 3 1/2 4 w 5 w 6 w 7 1/2 8

Start with C and follow the schematic’s instructions step-by-step to play the C major scale.
Use this onscreen piano keyboard to play a major scale on each of the 12 keys!

Cycle of keys displayed on a chalkboard graphic

Look at the chalkboard, memorize the 15 key signatures, then click here to take a pop-up quiz. Click each chalkboard key signature to hear its major scale harmonized and played “solo piano”. Click each sun glasses key signature to hear its major scale played with a virtual rhythm section. You can use this onscreen piano keyboard to play along with any of the accompaniment tracks.

I’ve been super-crazy-busy lately and I love it!  That’s all for now.  See you next post.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #46 Improve Your Memory w/ A Trip Down Memory Lane

When it comes to learning, memory and concentration are two mental skills that we all need to have, and keeping both skills in great shape is something we can all do very easily.

Memory – the ability to retain and recall information or experiences.

Concentration – the ability to focus attention on a certain subject or item for a period of time without being distracted.

Memory and concentration usually come with newborns as parts of their “standard equipment”InTheCrib. BabywithMomandDad Babies remember the voices and faces of their parents and can concentrate for considerable amounts of time on a toy or a shiny, colorful, noisy, mobile object in their crib. In many cases, babies who are attracted to music become musicians!

BabyHandonPianoFrom babgraduation-hatyhood through adulthood, having good memory and concentration abilities are valuable, life-enhancing assets for just about everyone because the better you are at both disciplines, the better you’ll be at learning things.

In piano lessons and in the field of music in general, being able to remember and concentrate will pay you big dividends because there are many, many things on which you’ll be called to use these skills.

How do you improve your memory? Just keep it active by giving it plenty of use and exercise! Constantly give yourself things to remember and things on which to concentrate!

It makes no difference whether you’re remembering the shapes and names of the lower 48 states and their capitals, or the names of piano keys and the lines and spaces of the grand staff. Your ability to remember and concentrate may be applied to anything and everything about your life.

Keep learning new things and putting yourself in situations where you need to recall and use what you’ve learned. Learn new songs! New words! From people’s names to facts about your hobby or profession, the opportunities in life to use your memory and concentration are countless!

So, with all of that said, let’s climb in the car and take a mini-trip down three memory lanes and have a little fun while we’re traveling!

Before you start, do the following warm-up activity which exercises your mind’s power of focus.

Click here to do the warm-up, then move on to explore each of the memory lanes.


Click a green arrow tip to select a memory lane to explore.

Get Adobe Flash player

If you’d like to do some additional memory exercise activities, click the following links:

Link 1

Link 2

Have fun and practice well. See you next post.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #45 Online Lessons – Do They Work? How Do They Look?

Yes! They really work and they’re fun! / What do online piano lessons actually look like?

AC_45-YourHome_00 telephone-poles ArtinLapTop

With today’s video conferencing capabilities, online lessons now work better tOnline-Schoolhan ever before! High-quality consumer-level equipment, interactive screen sharing of amazing music software programs, coupled with optional multi-angle camera viewing on larger computer screens, the online lesson experience is the next best thing to “being there”. It’s great for long-distance learners and local learners have the option to use both in-office and online platforms on an as-needed basis.

Some people feel that in-office lessons are “better” than online lessons and I’m all for people having their preferences, but let’s face and admit an obvious point. Student progress is not guaranteed just because their lessons are “in-office”!  In-office students who don’t practice, won’t progress, and it doesn’t matter if they’re under the tutelage of the world’s best teacher! Students, in-office or online, who don’t practice, don’t improve, and go nowhere. End of story!

So, the question is not whether online lessons work! I’ve been involved in online ed for quite a few years and I’ll tell you, “They work!” The real question should be, “Is the student practicing?”

As long as you practice, you’ll do very well in online lessons. Since both of us are in the comfort of our own homes, the atmosphere is relaxed and informal which is most optimal for learning. You can work at a pace that’s most comfortable for you, and flexible scheduling is a great perk!

How Do Online Piano Lesson Look?

The “face” of online lesson sessions may vary considerably from person to person because of some important equipment-related factors that need to be considered in determining how they will look to you. Does the teacher and/or student have a single-camera or multi-camera system? Things like the quality and kind(s) of equipment each teacher and student bring to the video chat room table have a significant effect on experience for the both parties.

Here’s a sample of how a few of my configurations will look to you.

I use a mid-range consumer-level, 5-camera set-up, (6 cameras including my screen cam). My main camera is my “mug-shot cam”, followed by the overhead, side-left, side-right and hand-held cams. Most of the time I use only the mug-shot, overhead and hand-held cams.

Below are 2 screen shots and video clips of how a couple of select multi-camera configurations will appear to you. My mug-shot, overhead, side left, screen cam, and hand cams are shown.

Video 1 Alternate LinkAC-45-The_Counter-with mp3 embed I like to groove to you when it’s “Your Turn” to play! Video 2 Alternate LinkAC-45-Part_3-FIGURE 8 MAJOR TRIAD TARGETS-ORNAMENTS All exercises and assignments are tailored for you.

How you look to me depends on the webcam setup configuration of your work station.

Having a webcam is pretty much a requirement for us to do our work in online piano lessons.

Webcams on laptops are almost never an issue because most laptops come with a pre-installed mug-shot cam which can easily double as a keyboard cam by carefully positioning the laptop with its lid tilted.

Webcams on desktops are another matter sometimes. However, as long as a camera-less desktop has an empty USB port, a webcam can be easily added. (Usually!)

It is not necessary for you or any of my students to have an elaborate multi-camera, split-screen set-up such as mine! The visuals I need from you can be sent with an under-$25.00 webcam.

 Logitech Webcam C160_Pic-01  Creative Labs VF0410 Live!_Pic-01A

It is helpful for me to have a good unobstructed view of your hands and fingers on your piano or keyboard. The angle at which you place your camera to achieve that end is determined by the circumstances in your home such as surrounding furniture, doorways, ceiling height, etc.

Jake, who started as an in-office student, takes most of his lessons online now because of the convenience and fun factors. Here are a few snapshots of the overhead configurations he uses.

We're about to start working on a Czerny piece. Jake takes notes on some music theory and jazz improvisation techniques we're discussing.
We're about to start working on a Burgmueller piece. Here, Jake applies the theory and jazz improvisation techniques from his notes to some chords I'm playing for him.

Willie, one of my online students who lives over one-thousand miles away from me, has a dual camera setup (mug-shot / overhead).  He agreed to let me post a clip of him practicing two assignments so you can see the overhead angle he uses most of the time during his sessions.

Channel WT-56 Alternate LinkWillieIsAssignedTwoExercises-AC45

Does your camera(s) have to be positioned overhead for me to see what I need to see? No! It does not. The overhead-cam positions used by two of my students are only samples of what works.  There are many variations and degrees of side-views, front-views and other angles that work fine.

Working out the best camera configuration angle(s) for your work station, from my perspective,  is something we do together. The first time generally happens in your introductory free lesson. Since camera positions often change from lesson to lesson for many reasons, readjusting their angles is a subject that’s frequently revisited. Giving each other this type of feedback helps both of us make sure we see everything we need to see.


Online lessons are a great idea and piano/music students, of all ages, at every level of development, can positively gain from the experience of having them. Even absolute beginners who don’t yet have a piano or keyboard on which to practice can benefit from taking online lessons as there are lots of things that can be done “pre-instrument”.

Of course, an instrument will eventually be needed, and the sooner one is obtained, the better, but an absolute beginner does not need to wait to get started with taking online music lessons. Beginner and intermediate students of all ages are always welcome at my place.

Practice well, see you next post.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #44 Art’s Virtual Yard Sale

Virtual Yard Sale-Closed

Hello, my virtual yard sale ended on December 14, 2016 with the sale of the last item.

A special “thank you” shout-out to everyone who purchased a Virtual Yard Sale item. Your business was greatly appreciated.

My general store is remains open where you may:

Purchase lessons and/or pay lesson tuition;

Purchase music study materials such as transcriptions;

Buy gifts;

Place special orders.

Please visit frequently and keep for in mind for online music lessons. All ages welcome.

 

Enter Art's Virtual Sale Backyard http://www.artmatthewsonlinepianolessons.com/arts-virtual-yard-sale/