Tag Archives: piano

AC #60 A Happy Holiday / New Year wish for you! (2016-17)

Just a quick post to say I wish nothing but the best for you in 2017 and thereafter.

I’ve been staying fairly busy lately which means I’m finding I have less time to post in this blog. However, if you’re a beginner or an intermediate student, of any age, I can always make time and room for you. I love teaching and coaching and I’d love an opportunity to work with you.

Please visit my website frequently to check out and share the videos that I post in the “Spotlight Feature” section on the site’s front page: artmatthewsonlinepianolessons.com

In the meantime, keep practicing and making great music.

Stay safe and be well.

More later!

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #56 Tempus Fugit – This Is The Way We Roll – Old School

Tempus Fugit

In my previous post, (AC #55), I stated that “I’ve been super-busy”. Well, on that point and close to a year later, nothing has changed and that’s something about which I feel very good! Cool

I love being busy because I’d much rather “wear-out” than “rust-out”–if you know what I mean!! Time seems to pass by so much faster when I’m happily engaged in something and having fun with it. Otherwise, time seems to be an endless super-slow drag!

So, even though I’ve been happily engaged in other aspects of my work and the year has flown by, the fact remains that this is my first post of 2015 and it comes out near the halfway point of the year’s 11th month, and that’s a point about which I’m considerably less happy! Cry

Ultimately, I feel that all delays between posts, that are deviations from a regular release schedule–intended or unintended, short or extended–, are really just one type of “blog vérité”–if you will–which inevitably happens from time to time, whether you’re a one-man crew conducting nearly 100% of your business’ operations, like me, or a part of a staff. John Lennon sums it up like this, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans“! (“Beautiful Boy” )

John Lennon Front Cover

As I organize the activities of my days, I give top priorities to my wife, my family, and my students, and most of the time, everything and everyone else, including myself, comes after them.

During my sabbatical from posting, the behind-the-scene logs of my website and social media properties all show that people were, and still are, reading and watching in increasing numbers. I want to thank my new students who’ve recently signed up and also acknowledge the people who decided to subscribe and follow me, despite the fact that I hadn’t posted any new material all year–until now of course!  Thanks, guys! I’ve noticed all of you and I appreciate your visits.

I am very fortunate and blessed to be in the circles of some really great people and to be able to stay busy doing only the things I absolutely love to do–namely, learning and making music at home, teaching music in class, teaching music online, tinkering with computerized music technology, posting and blogging on my website, and helping people along the way.

“This Is The Way We Roll” – “Old School”

The video project, about which I spoke in AC #55, is finally posted.  I emphasize the word “posted” because in no way do I consider it “finished“… although I’ll bet that overshooting my originally stated release date spread by 6 to 9 months, any possibilities of “project manager” jobs coming my way are probably very much “finished“! Laughing I just don’t know how the time disappeared so fast! In any case…

This Is The Way We Roll” / “Old School“!  is now viewable here and via the links on my website’s front page. It’ll go “public” on my YouTube channel on Friday the 13th!

Two-song video

The project was done for fun as part of our studies on improvisation. It is not for sale.

When I approached my students, I promised I would not do or include anything that would make them or their parents ashamed to say they know me. However, when I looked at some of the videos my students posted of their own on their website(s), I realized I had a WHOLE lot of room in which to roam!–like the whole state of Texas, which would only take up a fraction of the safe areas available to me!  It was all done in a spirit of fun and I love it all!

Overall, I’m glad our project is finally released but I can’t believe I miscalculated the time it would take me to get it posted by a factor of at least two or three! There are more things I wanted to do and include and you’ll see lots of rough edges that I could have and should have corrected or fixed.

However, I really desired to get the project out before the end of the year, so I decided to “take a page” from the modern business practices handbook of the major software companies and release it now, in spite of its unresolved bugs, imperfections, and problems.  You know how they do it!  Maybe I’ll do some “point-upgrades” and releases as time goes on. I may include a few pop-ups here and there but I guarantee that I’ll never sink to sneaking in spyware! (Just kidding!)

In closing I want to say, “Thank you“, to the folks who made many behind-the-scenes contributions, and to my students who were brave enough to participate. We had some fun in the process of putting this thing together and I hope that everyone who views the video really enjoys it or can find at least a smile or two somewhere in the flick.


"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #54 Even though you’ve never done that! Why not try it‽

During the 1990s (ancient history now!) I had several experiences with making music for a few computer/video games and other less populated outlets such as music for an ice cream truck, live “muzak” in grocery and department stores. When the opportunities were offered to me, I thought, “I’ve never done that! Why not try it‽” So I did, and I had loads of fun. I learned a lot about those particular aspects of the music business and I got to work with some great people.

Many years later, when Jason Peter, one of my local students who does in-office and online lessons, first started asking me basic questions about MIDI, sequencing, and electronic music in general, I was more than happy to share with him my experiences and what I’d learned.

Jason, who’s an awesome drummer, is still studying music with me today and I’m very happy that he has continued his involvement with keyboards and sequencing in addition to his other musical interests. On any given lesson day, he’s apt to bring a project to class on which he’s working and whenever he does, we make his project the focus of that day’s lesson.

Check him out just below in the short video he made about a project for which he composed, played and produced the music.

Jason is testing his light show systems in this clip.

So even if you’ve never taken an on-line or in-office piano or music lesson before, why not try it‽ Like Jason, you may discover that they’re fun and who needs to have less fun in their life‽

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 #34 Intervalics 101 (1sts)

Intro / Op-Ed

The first scale that beginner music students encounter is usually the “major scale” and in studying the major scale they are inevitably introduced to the core building blocks of our Western music system. What are those building blocks? Intervals!

Understanding Intervals.

A solid understanding of intervals is essential to understanding how to construct scales, chords,  and voicings. Understanding intervals also helps your ability to read music, compose melodies, construct bass lines, and improvise. Intervals comprise the bedrock upon which our Western music system is built and understanding them will help you build a solid foundation for your musicianship.

Please note that only ascending intervals will be covered in all of the “Intervalics 101” posts. Descending intervals are excluded. However, I can be persuaded to address them in the future!

Since the scope of this examination ranges from 1sts to 8ths, I’ve divided the presentation of material into a short series of eight individual mini-posts. I may add one or two more posts toward the end of the series for the purpose of giving you additional drill and review exercises. This will depend on the feedback I get from you and my students who also monitor these posts.

During this series, we’ll be taking a look at how to identify and name these intervals. From the brief examinations, discussions, and easy follow-up drill exercises in each post, you should come to have a very clear understanding of intervals.  By the time you’ve successfully completed the work in all eight mini-posts, you should have an easier time of using intervalics to assist you in things like constructing bass lines, chords, specialized/personalized chord voicings and chord scales.  

Speaking of chord scales… Let me draw your attention to the major scale again. In addition to being a chord scale, it’s also the scale upon which we base all of our musical analysis. 

To understand the major scale, you need to understand half steps and whole steps… and to understand half steps and whole steps, you need to understand major and minor… and to understand major and minor, you need to understand the major scale… and to understand the major scale, you need to understand intervals… and to understand intervals, you need to understand half steps, whole steps, major, minor, diminished, and augmented! Whew! I’ll stop there! (Smile!) Now all of that may sound like some kind of riddle or comedy routine like Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First” skit, but it’s all true! So let’s get started by defining interval.

What is an interval?

An Interval, defined as a musical term, is the measured distance between any two given musical notes. The unit of measure used to calculate the distances is usually calibrated in half steps, whole steps, or a combination of half and whole steps.

Should you study intervals? Are they a waste of you time?

Yes and no! Yes! You should study them! No! They are definitely NOT a waste of your time!

Studying intervals provides you with a way to analyze and systematically identify the precise distances between two notes. It gives you another tool to help improve and sharpen your note-spelling/music-writing skills, your transposition abilities, and your eye-to-hand coordination skills as applied to finger placement/spacing on the piano keyboard. Intervalic analysis may be equally applied to notes on the staff and keys on the piano keyboard.

The ways in which this particular area of concentration help you to elevate your skills of music-reading and music-analysis are numerous and tremendous! Whether you are a beginner or an advanced musician who could use some review on the subject, interval study is well worth your while! 

Intro “wrap-up”

I hope all that was said, in the intro-op-ed,
got you fired-up and ready-to-go!
If the info that’s ahead, is something yet you haven’t read,
then learn it well to make yourself a pro!

Intro Wrap-up; Art Matthews
(Beat Box)!

Okay! It’s time to take a look at the first interval of the series…1sts!

1sts – a.k.a. unisons or prime intervals. These intervals are easily identified because both notes share the same letter name.  When written in standard music notation, they share the same line or space on the staff, notwithstanding any accidentals which may be attached to either note. On the piano keyboard, they are either the same key or next door neighbors depending on the attached accidental. (Next door neighbors, In the case of 1sts, have zero keys in between.) 

The most commonly used accidentals are shown in the lineup just below followed by examples of the most common occurrences of 1sts in the key of C.

= natural
= sharp
X = double sharp
=  flat
♭♭ = double flat

Perfect 1st = C to C (The 1st note of a major scale remains unmodified)
Augmented 1st = C to C (The 1st note of a major scale is sharped once)
Minor 1st *(N/A)
*(Minor functionality is not allowed on any perfect interval)
Diminished 1st = C to C **(The 1st note of a major scale is flatted once)
**(Perfect intervals become diminished with only one flat)

This link will open an Acrobat/Adobe flash type of applet where you’ll be asked to correctly match ten intervals via a drag-n-drop process. Doing the exercise at least 4 or 5 times will give you an introductory workout on identifying and matching the intervals in C and other keys. 

Study well and have fun,

See you next post,

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #33 Guest Speaker’s Tips on Reading and Sight-reading (part two)

Today, I turn again to Ms. Margaret Fabrizio for part two of “Guest Speaker’s Tips on Reading and Sight-reading”. (Part one appears in AC #30). Among many other things, Ms. Fabrizio is a master harpsichordist and a very well respected music educator.

In today’s post, she continues to share her opinions and give you valuable tips on various things that pertain to beginner and intermediate piano students. She gives hints and makes suggestions as to what you should be doing and how you might be “thinking” about certain things that are pertinent to your musical development, progress, and growth. Spend the next 5-minutes with her and check out more of what she has to say.

Of all the tips and things she briefly discusses in this video, I’d like to single-out and draw your attention to the tip she offers in the form of a question at the point of the video where she asks, “Do you know intervals?” (2:25) After elaborating a little she gives you a few examples of how intervalic information is applied to piano. I’ll focus on intervals a little more in the next post.

In addition to the entertainment value of watching her play, there are things you can actually learn from simply observing her hand positions and finger movements as she negotiates her way a piece like the one I’ve linked here.

I’ll close here and say practice daily, practice well, and be patient.

See you next post.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #29: Treble Staff, Bass Staff, and Grand Staff Note Drills

Continuing from AC #28, this post is for my beginner students and you if you need to learn or review the names of the lines and spaces on teble or bass staffs or staves! Which do you say?

Is it staff or stave? Staffs or staves? Does it matter?

I’ve seen this question posted on the Internet and I’ve heard it brought up in various forums.   I’ve always written and said “staff” and “staffs”. Either way people write or say it is fine with me.  This little girl expresses her opinion on such questions by singing this song!!
For me, the more important question is how to internalize and use the information represented on the lines and spaces of said object(s).  By using some of the great music software programs available to us today, this objective can be achieved in shorter amounts of time and with much more fun than was ever possible before… provided you like computer technology of course!

That said, I’ll sign-off right here as I leave you with a brief definition of the Line and Space Sequences, and a few words about the following 10 staff note drill applets,

See you next post.

Practice Well!

Line Sequence: The following series of line-notes ascending from Middle C – C-E-G-B-D-F-A. Space Sequence: The following series of space notes ascending from Middle D – D-F-A-C-E-G-B. Memorize both sequences and use them to help you learn the staffs and answer the questions.

Online use of these applets is absolutely free for everyone courtesy of Ricci Adams. Visit his site, as your support helps him to continue developing these great music ed tools.

All questions may be answered by mouse-clicking the answer buttons or by “qwerty” key entry in conjunction with the up & down arrow keys when answering questions on sharps and flats, i.e. if C# is the question, press/hold the up arrow key first, then answer with the qwerty C key.  If Db is the question, press/hold the down arrow key first, then answer with the qwerty D key. Mouse-click once anywhere in the applet before using the “qwerty” keys to enter your answers.

1: Name The Treble Staff Line Notes
Note Identification #1: Use The Line Sequence from C4 (Middle C) * C – E – G – B – D – F – A

2: Name The Treble Staff Space Notes
Note Identification #2: Use The Space Sequence from D4 (Middle D) * D – F – A – C – E – G – B

3: Name The Treble Staff Line and Space Notes
Note Identification #3: Use Both Line and Space Sequences from C4 and D4
Lines * C – E – G – B – D – F – A  /  Spaces * D – F – A – C – E – G – B

4: Name The Bass Staff Line Notes
Note Identification #4: Use Line Sequence from C2 (2LedgersBelow) * C – E – G – B – D – F – A

5: Name The Bass Staff Space Notes
Note Identification #5: Use Space Sequence from D2 (2LegersBelow) * D – F – A – C – E – G – B

6: Name The Bass Staff Line and Space Notes
Note Identification #6: Use Both Line and Space Sequences from C2 and D2
Lines * C – E – G – B – D – F – A / Spaces * D – F – A – C – E – G – B

7: Name The Grand Staff Line Notes
Note Identification #7: Use Line Sequence from C2 or C4 * C – E – G – B – D – F – A

8: Name The Grand Staff Space Notes
Note Identification #8: Use Space Sequence from D2 or D4 * D – F – A – C – E – G – B

9: Name The Grand Staff Line and Space Notes #1
Note Identification #9: Use Both Line and Space Sequences from C2 & D2 or C4 & D2
Lines * C – E – G – B – D – F – A / Spaces * D – F – A – C – E – G – B

10: Name The Grand Staff Line and Space Notes #2
Note Identification #10: Use Both Line and Space Sequences from C2 & D2 or C4 & D2
Lines * C – E – G – B – D – F – A / Spaces * D – F – A – C – E – G – B

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #28: Piano Starts Here! Learn The Piano Key Names!

Learning piano key names is among the very first things I have my beginner students do. 

However, many times, during the preliminary stages of working with non-beginner students at varying levels of development, I discovered significant gaps and breaches in such fundamental things as knowing the names of the piano keys and/or the lines and spaces of the grand staff. 

The focus of AC #29 will be about learning the grand staff. The focus of this post is exclusively on learning the names of the piano keys! So, if you are an absolute beginner or someone who may need to go back to the very beginning to review, for whatever reason, this post is for you.

Use the four utilities on this page in their numerical order of presentation to help you drill and thoroughly learn the piano key names starting with the white keys first.

White keys and natural keys are synonymous and, as illustrated in AC #10, white keys were the only keys present on the world’s first piano keyboards. That said, you should earnestly study the natural keys first before moving on to the next step of learning the names of the black keys.

Each red-note question may be answered by using your mouse or qwerty keyboard commands in conjunction with the up & down arrow keys when answering questions on sharps and flats,  i.e. if C# is the question, press/hold the up arrow key first, then answer it with the qwerty C key. If Db is the question, press/hold the down arrow key first, then answer with the qwerty D key. Mouse-click once anywhere in the applet before using the “qwerty” keys to enter your answers.

Since each exercise utility is never-ending and presents questions indefinitely, you’ll want to set  some type of completion benchmark such as answering 100 questions correctly or you might use the clock timer, located at the top of each utility, to set a time limit, such as 5 to 10 minutes. If you use the timer method, be sure to click the Reset Score button when you start each utility. In either case, keep working until you have a success rate that’s between 90% and 100%.

Practice well!


Name The Natural Keys (White Keys)
Keyboard Note Identification #1: Your first mission is to learn the names of the white keys.

Name The Black-Key Sharps
Keyboard Note Identification #2: Your second mission is to learn the black-key sharp names.

Name The Black-Key Flats
Keyboard Note Identification #3: Your third mission is to learn the black-key flat names.

Name All of The Keys Quickly
Keyboard Note Identification #4: Your fourth mission is to name them all quickly!

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #27: “T” it up!

 ATTN: All Instrumentalists and Vocalists! This post applies to you!

As you’re listening to some music and you hear a melody, a phrase, a motif, or an arrangement that draws your attention because it “speaks” to you and you really like it, you should “T-it-up”! What do I mean by that? You should transcribe it! You’ll benefit whether you “T” all of it, or only a fractional part of it! Just get in there and “T” something up!

I borrowed the title phrase for this post from the world of golf. I’ve been a fan of Tiger Woods for a long time. Through his actions on the golf course and his interviews, Tiger has always demonstrated that he possess a deep knowledge of golf on many levels. He has frequently spoken about the high regard and respect he has for golf’s “elder statesmen” like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicholas. He’s spoken specifically about the fact that he’s watched many videos of them and studied them.

In the world of music, you’ll find many musicians, including myself, who have the same kind of high-regard and respect for music’s “elder statesmen”. For instance, whenever someone asked The Beatles and Eric Clapton questions like “who most influenced you?”, they’d always name Chuck Berry first as they spoke about their high regard and respect they had for him.  Whenever Chuck Berry was asked that same question, as he addressed it in his autobiography, he’d immediately credit his local peers, the great boogie-woogie pianists and the great Nat “King” Cole as he spoke about the high regard and respect he has for them all!

So, I was particularly delighted when one of my students, bass player Nicholas Gendron, originally an ear training student who by the time he signed on with me had already done complete James Jamerson transcriptions on his own by ear, spoke to me about the high regard and respect he has for many of the same great jazz bassists for whom I share the same feelings. When Nick expressed his interest in expanding his ear training studies to include having me work with him on “strengthening-up” his walking bass lines, I immediately suggested that he start right away on transcribing some of the great jazz bassists. I agreed to get right in there with him and do some of my own transcriptions of some of the bass veterans also to share with him in his lessons. So for this post, I decided to give you  the complete transcription I did for Nick of what the great Israel Crosby played on “But Not For Me” from one of Ahmad Jamal’s classic albums.  You can view the video and download this PDF too!

[gview file=”http://www.artmatthewsonlinepianolessons.com/wp-content/uploads/But-Not-For-Me-Ahmad-Jamal-AM.pdf”]

The information you can get from studying transcriptions is invaluable, and by all means, I strongly suggest that you, and all serious students of improvised music, should do a lot of your own transcription work! Don’t get me wrong. It’s definitely ok to draw information from the transcriptions of other people, however, the benefits of doing your own transcription work will pay bigger dividends because, in doing so, the information you derive gets planted deeper into your musical soul by the nature of the do-it-yourself process.

Whether you do one-chorus, multiple choruses, single phrase, multiple phrases, right-hand only, left-hand only, both hands, partial heads, full heads, partial arrangements, or full arrangements… you’ll be doing something that’s good for your musicianship!

The focus of your transcriptions are determined, of course, by whatever your objective may be at any given time. For instance, you might limit the focus of your transcription to getting the actual musical notes only! Or, you may want to exclude the actual notes and focus on obtaining chord progressions only, as in getting the chord changes of some particular song or tune. Perhaps you want everything… actual notes, chord changes, articulations, and dynamics too! Ear training makes it all available to you.

You can write your transcription work down on manuscript paper using standard music notation, or you might write it down in some other form on unlined or lined notebook paper for that matter! If you have a good memory, you can even skip the writing-it-down process altogether and simply keep it all in your head, as Nick did with his James Jamerson transcriptions. If you can do it, I recommend you do some of both because it’s all good!

At the time of this post, Nick is in Aruba! He’ll be starting his own page within my site soon after he returns so if you’d like to follow Nick on his page, check back in a few weeks and just type or paste his name into any search box on my site.

Remember that although your teacher or coach can point you in the direction of what work you need to do, it is YOU that has to DO the work by practicing!

Do some listening and “T” something up!

Practice well!