Category Archives: #majorlearningproject

The Piano Project: Week 8- Almost at the Finish Line

This week was all about taking the advice I received last week and applying it to my learning. Advice such as:

  • Play one hand at a time rather than learning everything at once
  • Look for the sharps and flats before I start learning a song
  • Take note of the time signature at the beginning of the sheet music

With the help from my colleagues, YouTube, and piano articles online, I am picking up a lot of skills and knowledge to help me in my piano journey. Since I’ve benefited so much from learning the theory of piano, I took some time to read some more information online in the areas I am struggling in.

Here are some things that stuck with me:

  • Before reading sheet music, I need to “stop and think” before I start playing because “it’s much easier to sight read when you are mentally prepared for everything that shows up in the music” according to Pianissimo.
  • I previously read on Daina’s blog that a metronome helped her play the clarinet. I decided to incorporate it into my practice this week, especially since JoyTunes insists that “learning how to keep time and pace on the piano is one of the most important skills a musician has to develop.” The use of the metronome helped me when I was practicing “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, the collaborative song that I am doing with Brad. I sent him a recording of the piano chords that I played with the use of the metronome so that he can follow the same beat when he plays the bass part.

I had a very productive week with my piano project! However, I still had a lot of frustrations and struggles as I practiced the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and with recording “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” You can take a look at how my practices went this week in my latest vlog. Enjoy!

The Small Victories:

  • I can almost play the right hand melody of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” without error.
  • I am becoming more fluent with playing piano chords, especially the C, D, E, G and A chords.

The Challenges:

  • When I started playing the right hand melody and the left hand chords together for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, I was unable to keep time and play smoothly. I still need some practice with this!
  • I wanted to play chord inversions instead of the chord triads for “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, but I could only manage doing it for a portion of the song.
  • It took me a long time to practice and record the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” because I am new to recording. I tried using Trackd app to collaborate, but it wasn’t as user friendly as I had hoped. In the end, I successfully recorded it on Garage Band.

The Resources:

  • I continued to use the sheet music from Music Notes to help me learn “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
  • I used the metronome feature on Garage Band and I used my new Yeti Mic to record “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I also used the chord charts on Guitar Tab to practice and play the song.

Goals for Next Week

I can’t believe my project is almost done! Even though I am “almost at the finish line” for the formal part of my Major Learning Project, I know that I will still continue to play the piano for enjoyment after this project is completed. I have so much more to learn and experience when it comes to piano and music in general! One thing I know for sure, is that this project has sparked my love for piano, for music, and for learning.

-Amanda

The Piano Project: Week 7- Experience Fuels the End Result

I had a glimpse of hope this week when I was reading sheet music and I didn’t have to say “All Cows Eat Grass” every time to remember the notes. That’s what I call progress! It helped that I practiced recalling notes through the Mad Minutes that Daina suggested. In my piano video this week, I displayed some of the work I have been doing to remember the notes in the Treble Clef and Bass Clef. Sometimes I feel as if learning an instrument as an adult is very difficult, and almost impossible, but then I receive encouragement like this: “The adult brain is also chock full of life experience, which can actually be beneficial when learning to play an instrument.”

Experience.

I have realized that all of my past experience in music, such as playing guitar, singing in choir, or just listening to music intently on a daily basis, actually helps me in my process of learning the piano. Even if it takes me a while to learn the notes, know the keys, or remember the chords, I still have a vast amount of background knowledge and skills to give me the motivation I need in order to learn this new instrument. So as I near the end of this project, and when I feel discouraged that I don’t know enough, I will rely on the beauty of my experience.

So with that, here is the video of my experience from this week.

The Small Victories:

  • I was reminded by a colleague to play one hand at a time, because then I can focus on a smaller task rather than get overwhelmed by doing many tasks at once.
  • Knowing the finger placement for the Treble Clef notes is becoming more natural and efficient.
  • When I take time out of my day to play, I feel refreshed. I am realizing that playing music is a way for me to take a mental break.

The Challenges:

  • I feel as though I have been too ambitious when starting to learn a new song. Instead of learning a lot of information at once, I need to remember to break it into smaller chunks.
  • The new song I learned had sharps and naturals in the sheet music, which took me a long time to figure out how to play them properly.

The Resources:

This week, I used these tools to help me learn:

  • I referred to the poll I put in my last blog post, which told me to learn the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” A friend found me the sheet music from the website Music Notes.
  • I practiced reading music notes with the Mad Minutes again this week.
  • I referred to the people in my life who could answer my piano questions and interject when I needed help on the spot.

Goals for Next Week

  • I am going to try using the app Trackd for collaborating on the song that my classmate Brad and I are going to play. I will add a piano track and vocals track so that Brad can add a bass guitar track. I have never used the app before, so here’s to hoping it’s user friendly and efficient!
  • I am going to focus on the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and make that my final piano song.

I am looking forward to spending the last couple weeks perfecting “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I am going to make this my main priority, instead of giving myself several small goals. Within this one song, there are many new things I can learn. Besides, who doesn’t want to get into the Christmas spirit?

-Amanda

The Piano Project: Week 6- Getting There…

Another week of my Major Learning Project has come and gone and I finally feel like I am getting somewhere. Instead of working on a variety of separate tasks, I focused on practicing “Part of your World“, the Little Mermaid song that I introduced last week. As I was practicing the song, I took into account all of the things I learned in my lesson with Danielle.

I focused on proper finger placement and reading the sheet music properly, both of which weren’t easy. I also added another goal this week- learning the chords of the song with the left hand. Even though it wasn’t an easy thing to do, with a lot of practice, it started to come more naturally. By the end of the week, I felt comfortable playing most of the chords while playing the melody with the right hand. I still feel like I can become even more fluent in playing the song, but I am proud of how far I have come in two weeks time.

If you want to see my progress with the song “Part of your World“, check out my recent video!

The Small Victories:

  • Even if it looked like a struggle, it only took me a short time to learn the chords for Part of Your World.
  • I spent a lot of time practicing this week, which helped me become more confident in my skills.
  • I am becoming more comfortable with reading sheet music!

The Challenges:

  • I am having difficulty remember the notes on the Bass Clef.
  • I need more practice with the C minor and the B minor chord.
  • It’s difficult to know the proper finger placement for new songs that I learn. I still need to refer to my piano-playing friends and Youtube videos for that part.

The Resources:

This week, I used these tools to help me learn:





Goals for Next Week

  • I will keep practicing the Bass Clef notes with the Mad Minutes I used this week.
  • I am going to keep practicing the chords for the song that my classmate Brad and I are collaborating on. Who knew B minor 7 was so difficult?!
  • I want to learn a Christmas song! I created another poll for you to help me choose.

Thanks for being a part of my piano process so far. I have learned a lot, but I still have a long way to go. However, I have realized that even if I haven’t reached a particular end goal yet, I am getting there, and that’s just where I need to be.

-Amanda

The Piano Project: Week 4

Sometimes, life doesn’t always go as planned. It can be beautiful one minute, and heartbreaking the next. This week, I received news that a friend of mine passed away. When something like that happens, it makes a piano project seem trivial. It seems to put everything else into perspective and makes everyday tasks seem small. It felt out of place to make a vlog this week detailing the piano notes I learned to read, or the major scales I learned to play. When something tragic happens, all you can really do is reflect, mourn, and feel.

Have you every been there?

This week, instead of making a vlog, I thought I would give myself permission to grieve the loss of a friend. Instead of going through the motions and pretending everything was okay, I wanted to be honest with what I went though this week. In light of the circumstances, I will postpone the goals for my piano project until next week. When death happens, the small things stop… and that’s okay.

I hope this reminds us all to take a step back, hug the ones we love, and when we face tragedy of any kind, may we all give ourselves permission to reflect, mourn, and feel too.

The Piano Project: Week 3- Technology Trials

Has technology ever failed you? Has it ever frustrated you or let you down? Well, this week it did for me. Let me explain…

I was SO excited to have an online lesson with my friend through FaceTime this week. I loved the convenience of learning piano without leaving my house. During the call, I showed her all of the major chords I have learned in the past two weeks, and most recently, the B major chord that I had so much trouble with last week. We talked about goals I was having difficulty achieving, and what I wanted to learn more of.

She spent a lot of time teaching me about chord inversions, which according to Uber Chord, are when “notes of a chord can be reshuffled in any order… (and) will still remain the same chord but no longer be in ‘root position’”. I practiced chord inversions through the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the song that I learned the first week, and played it for her during the call. As she listened to my piano playing, she gave me tips and advice on how to improve my skills.

via giphy

After the call ended, I was thrilled with what I learned from her and how helpful the FaceTime piano experience was. Which brings us to the part in the story where technology failed me.

Did you know that when you use the screen record feature on your iPhone, it doesn’t automatically record the audio?

I probably should have done a little more research before I dove right in. Fortunately, I am going to take this as a learning experience. I did some digging afterwards and found out that all you have to do is change a setting on your phone. Conner Carey lays it out really clearly in his article “How to Screen Record with Audio on an iPhone”. All you have to do is hold the Screen Record button with 3D Touch and click “mic on” for the audio to work when you screen record. It’s as simple as that!

I found another silver lining through all of this. I learned how to overlay a video in iMovie! I watched the tutorial video from CalTalks Tech and quickly picked up on this new skill. Now you can take note of this amazing feature too!

Other than my screen recording mishap, I feel like there was a lot of success this week. I am becoming more comfortable playing notes and chords because of the practice I am doing with scales. I continue to gain more confidence with my skills and I am becoming more fluent with my piano playing. I hope that you notice my improvements and see just how much I have learned in the past three weeks in my latest vlog. Enjoy!

The Small Victories:

  • I can play the B major chord and the B major scale!
  • I learned how to play chord inversions for the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • I figured out how to turn audio on for Screen Recording on the iPhone
  • I learned how to overlay a video onto another clip in iMovie

The Challenges:

  • Technology… enough said
  • Playing more than 3 major chord inversions
  • Reading sheet music properly for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, since I am used to playing piano by ear. Similar to Daina’s experience with the clarinet, I have also “not spent enough time becoming familiar with sheet music”, which makes it hard to understand the notes I am supposed to play

The Resources:

This week, I used these tools to help me learn:

Goals for Next Week

  • I want to learn another song with the focus on reading sheet music and using proper finger placement, considering I only played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star again this week
  • I want to have another lesson with someone through FaceTime, Skype, or in person, but with the technology working properly this time!
  • I want to learn and play all major and minor chords comfortably. I was thinking in order to practice the chords, I could get someone to say a chord to me (in person or through FaceTime again), and I will have to play it on the spot with my keyboard.

So my question for you is:

  • What song should I learn next? Should I start preparing a song for Christmas? Should I do a classic? Answer in the poll and I will choose the winner!

I am looking forward to my fourth week of learning piano! It’s been a learning experience so far, especially since I am using a vlog to document my process. Hopefully my improved piano playing skills next week will be music to your ears.

-Amanda

The Piano Project: Week 2- Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect

Have you ever practiced something over and over, but still had trouble succeeding with it? That’s me and the B major chord. The B major chord is the bane of my existence. This week, my goal was to learn the tonic triad of the 6 major scales- C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. Some of the chords were simple and easy to learn. Other chords, like the B major chord, took a lot more practice. They say practice makes perfect, but at this point, it sure isn’t perfect.

Luckily, you don’t have to “master every skill you learn” and “you can usually achieve the goals you set yourself in around 20 hours of deliberate practice” according to the article by Josh Kaufman called “It Takes 20 Hours Not 10,000 Hours to Learn a Skill”. Thanks to my classmate Brooke for posting this article on Twitter to encourage and help us with our Major Projects. With a little persistence, I’ve realized that just because I don’t master something within the first week, it doesn’t mean that I won’t succeed at it. So as for the B major chord, I won’t let it get me down.

Just like week one, I created a Vlog to demonstrate my process and experiences, including the frustration with the B Major Chord. I hope this video gives you a little more insight on what I’ve been learning this week.  

The Small Victories:

  • I learned the melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the right and left hand with proper finger placement. Thanks to Catherine for suggesting the idea of speaking the notes out loud as I play the song. It really helped me learn the notes quicker!
  • I learned how to play the tonic triads with 6 of the major chords
  • I can confidently play the D scale with proper finger placement

The Challenges:

  • The B major chord!
  • I found it hard to read the notes in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star instead of playing it by ear (which comes more naturally to me)
  • I still need a tripod… which means filming can be a balancing act at times!

The Resources:

This week, I used these tools to help me learn:






  • I also used Thomas Lemmon’s video to help me understand the finger placement for the D scale

Goals for Next Week

  • In Josh Kaufman’s article about learning a new skill, he suggests that we will have more success if we “break the skill down into smaller parts” through “deconstruction”. I have decided that, since I am still not confident in playing the B major chord, I will learn the B scale next and tackle it head on so that I know the notes that go into the chord
  • I want to meet with a piano player in person, over Skype, or through FaceTime to make sure I am on the right track and to learn more about finger placements with scales and chords
  • I will learn the melody of another basic song so that I can practice reading sheet music and finger placement

Even though I have a desire to master the piano, I know that it doesn’t have to be perfect. So here goes another week of practice, patience, and soon enough, triumph over the B major chord. Stay “tuned’!

-Amanda

The Piano Project: Week 1- The Struggle Was Real

This week, I focused on the basics with piano because I am fairly new to the instrument. Oh yeah, and did I mention I’m new to vlogging too? That in itself was a learning curve! In my vlog, I share a bit of my process during the first week of my Piano Project. Don’t forget to keep reading after the video because I give some more insight on what I did this week, what challenged me, and what my goals are for next week. Enjoy!

The Small Victories:

  • I learned how to read the notes on the treble clef
  • I successfully played the melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • I learned how to play the chords and melody together for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • I successfully edited my first vlog! (with the help from my friend)
  • I learned how to use the Picture over Picture feature on iMovie

The Challenges:

  • Playing a repetitive song over and over on piano can get frustrating (and annoying) at times
  • Finding time to practice piano on top of homework and teaching can feel overwhelming
  • It’s hard to film yourself for a vlog and not feel ridiculous sometimes!
  • It’s also hard to be authentic and real on camera. Sometimes I would film a clip over and over because I felt like I didn’t look good enough, or I didn’t sound intelligent enough, or I just wasn’t satisfied. In the end though, I went with all of the original clips (what you see is what you get)

The Resources:

This week, I used these tools to help me learn:

Goals for Next Week

  • Learn finger placement on the piano
  • Learn the D scale
  • Learn the D, E, F, G, A, B chords
  • Learn another basic song

Stay tuned for more progress, and hopefully, less struggle!

-Amanda