Blog

Inspiring piano videos

Amazing examples of pianists overcoming adversity to produce incredible music or taking a new approach to playing the piano. Truly inspirational and heart warming.

Autistic girl plays piano and sings with Katy Perry

Jodi DiPiazza shows how playing the piano can be an incredibly effective vehicle for children with autism to achieve amazing results and make deep connections with others.

 

Armless pianist wins China talent competition

An incredible example of human spirit – it is hard to watch this amazing video without a tear coming to your eye.

“For people like me, there were only two options. One was to abandon all dreams, which would lead to a quick, hopeless death. The other was to struggle without arms to live an outstanding life,” Liu Wei

Liu Wei from Beijing lots both his arms as a child when at the age of 10 he was playing hide and seek and touched an electric wire. Faced with incredible adversity, he learnt to use his feet to perform tasks he had previously done with his hands and started to learn to play piano at the age of 19. Despite being told by a piano teacher that he would never succeed, Liu Wei overcame his adversity and won China’s Got Talent Show on 10th October 2010 playing an amazing version of You Are Beautiful by James Blunt on piano.

 

Amazing 7 year old pianist

Amazing performance by 7 year old Shuan Hern Lee – playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsarov. Child Prodigy on Australia`s Got Talent 2010.

 

Inspiring piano videos encourage

It is important to watch inspiring piano videos on a regular basis to encourage you to continue on the journey which is learning to play the piano. Every now and then we all get distracted by hustle and bustle of everyday life however every time we see something outstanding it touches a special part of our heart and reminds us what is important in life.

Like any skill, learning to play the piano requires effort, dedication and persistence up front, before we enjoy the rewards that follow. Sometimes during the journey, we experience challenges or become disheartened and lose sight of the dream, so we need reminders of why we are making this effort, to re-energise our motivation in order to ensure that we persist with the effort that level of effort required to achieve success. The `noise` of everyday life and responsibilities which require our attention, can make it difficult to hear the music of our soul and it can be easy to bury our heads in daily activity and start to forget what makes us feel inspired, what makes us unique and what gifts we can give to others to bring joy to them – and by doing so, bring true fulfilment to ourselves.

These gifts are all around us every day and we have the opportunity to develop our creativity and artistic expression, no matter how technically `talented` we think we are. It is simply a matter of deciding to do something about it, taking action and then persisting with our efforts.

I never cease to be humbled by witnessing outstanding achievement in the face of seemingly overwhelming adversity, which makes me reflect on how fortunate I am and makes my own challenges or doubts seem mere ripples on the ocean of life, which are to be either accepted as a natural part of life, or overcome but never used as an excuse for giving up on my dreams. I hope these videos will bring joy and encouragement to you.

 

Amazing Autistic Pianist

Derek Paravicini, is a blind severely autistic pianist, who at the age of four, could play by ear to an incredible level – memorising extremely complex songs after only hearing it once, note perfectly. This ability to instantly play any song he has heard, has earned him the title the Human iPod. This ability was recognised at the age of 4 and how as an adult, David is able to play over 25,000 songs. This video shows David taking requests from the audience and is a remarkable example of the incredible abilities and talents that autistic people can have, that can often go unrecognised.

 

Chinese Girl With no Fingers on Right Hand

Inspiring piano performance by a Chinese girl playing “Souvenir D’enfance” by Richard Clayderman, showing what can be achieved despite physical disability – having no fingers on her right hand.

 

Amazing Pianist – photocopier delivery man from Romania

Bogdan Alin Ota makes a living delivering photocopying machines in Romania and stunned audiences with his amazing piano skills on a national talent show.

 

3 Girls, 6 hands.. 1 piano!

fantastic co-ordination and teamwork!

 

Realise Your Dreams – Learn to Play Piano Today

If you have ever dreamed of playing the piano – take action NOW and learn with DecPlay Piano’s rapid results method. Using the unique numbers and patterns method – you can learn your first song in 1 hour – by avoiding the need to learn traditional notation. Learn online with videos and downloads or at DecPlay tuition events.

 

Spotlight

Be in the spotlight

Once you’ve registered and started learning why not join our online network? Upload a video of your performance or chart your progress with a video blog-diary. Follow us on twitter, become a facebook fan or even have your story published on our site.

Its great to hear so many people getting a positive experience of learning to play the piano with DecPlay Piano. We are really interested in your feedback so we can continue to improve the method and help others to learn piano too, so let us have your thoughts and suggestions and reviews.

Don´t forget to try out the Christmas Carol song sheets and National Anthems to impress your family and friends over Thanks Giving and Christmas. If you get caught on video – send us a link and you appear in our ´Spotlight Feature´ and win a free premium song sheet.

Contact us with your feedback.

 

Spotlight Stars!

 

Relative or Absolute (Perfect) Pitch?

When you learn to play by ear, most people learn to hear the music in either ‘relative’ pitch, although a few people are able to hear the music in ‘absolute’ pitch (sometimes known as ‘perfect’ pitch).

Relative pitch is where you can identify the melody (and usually the chords also) relative to the musical ‘key’ or scale being used, without being able to identify what the actual ‘key’ or scale is. For example – if you listened to a recording of the opening melody of Three Blind Mice, you could express the melody in relative terms as:-
Mee Ray Doh – Me Ray Doh – Soh Fah Fah Mee – Soh Fah Fah Mee or in numbers:-

321, 321, 5443, 5443.
By being able to identify the melody in relative terms, you would be able to walk up to a piano, select a key to play in eg C and play the melody so that other people would recognise the tune. Whatever key you choose to play the tune in, may or may not the same as the key in which the original recording was played.
In contrast, if you were able to identify the tune with absolute pitch, you would be able to identify the original key and the actual notes, rather than just the relative notes eg if the original key was C – the notes of the melody for Three Blind Mice would be E D C – E D C – G F F E – G F F E

Or if the key was G – the notes would be B A G – B A G – D C C B – D C C B

 

Practice Makes Perfect!

Some people believe that the skill to identify music with absolute pitch (perfect pitch) is a skill which requires certain genetic qualities or ‘natural abilities’ whilst others believe that like relative pitch, it is a skill that can be learnt. Ether way, most agree that both skills require practice to improve accuracy and ease at which you can play by ear.

 

Piano lessons tips and advice

Piano lessons motivation

The single most important factor to consider when learning to play the piano is maximising motivation to practice. The 2 key aspects to motivating someone to learn to play piano are:-

  • a belief that they can achieve the desired outcome
  • having fun during the process.

The easiest way to ensure that practising piano is fun, is to choose a piece of music that you want to learn. It is much more fun to learn a song that you love than it is to learn a song that you have never heard before (as is often the case when children learn classical music).

Different piano music styles

There is sometimes an element of snobbery in piano music whereby some teachers consider classical music to be superior to other forms of popular music, folk, jazz etc

From my point of view as someone who has been trained classically and has also played for many years in pop bands, the skill of playing music is totally unrelated to the the type of music being played .

For example playing a blues piano piece with a very simple three chord structure can be more complicated than a classical pieces if the player ad-libs complex rhythms and runs. To write down syncopated blues piano style would be very complicated however teaching somebody some simple rules and patterns, around which they could improvise, leads to a very advanced and impressive style of playing, much quicker than by traditional teaching methods. This is evidenced in several styles of music for example traditional Irish music, which usually does not involve reading any traditional notational at all, yet often incorporates very complex and advanced playing styles.

Surely the most important outcome from playing the piano, is that a player has fun and the audience enjoy the music. In my view it is not important how technically a difficult a piece is, more ‘how good it sounds’. For example in my view it would not be ‘better music’ if the player was blindfolded with one hand behind their back – although this would be technically more difficult than if the same player was not blindfolded and use both hands. Similarly I do not think it is important to place emphasis on how somebody holds their hand in relation to the keyboard, or focus on bad posture etc .. as everyone can have their own style, just as singers and dancers can have a non-traditional style which is appreciated by the audience. It is far important to be comfortable in whatever posture you wish to adopt. Placing an emphasis on technical skills and posture can kill one of the two key elements in progressing your skills ie having fun.

Three tips to maximise motivation and piano lessons success

In summary – some key tips to maximising motivation and therefore the rate of progress of learning piano are: –

  1. let the students choose the music to be played without any restriction on the style of music
  2. teach some quick wins such as patterns of chords which give the pupil a feeling of achievement at an early stage
  3. utilise the students existing skills for example teach them how to play based upon knowledge they already have, such as numbers colours and patterns instead of jumping straight into classical notation which is totally new to them and meaningless to them, until they have spent a considerable amount of time becoming familiar with it. Notation is the biggest barrier to learning piano and in some cultures is not required whatsoever (such as traditional Irish music and several other types of folk music).

Traditional vs Alternative Piano Sheet Music explained

Introduction to Piano Sheet Music

Piano sheet music can be known by various names eg piano score, the dots, and is available in various formats such as printed versions in single song sheets or in compilation books, downloadable files eg PDFs, viewable files (displayed online within applications) or mobile device versions.

Sheet music specifies which notes are to be played, the sequence in which they are to be played, the rhythm with which they are to be played and also other performance guidelines such as which notes are to have accents, are to be played staccato (short and sharp) or legato (smoothly joined), crescendo (getting gradually louder) or diminuendo (getting gradually quieter). It usually shows the treble clef (showing the higher notes – usually played by the right hand) and bass clef (covering the lower notes – usually played by the left hand).

Do you Need to Learn to Read Notation?

The ability to read or write notation does not prevent you from being able to compose music as proven by several successful composers who were unable to read music sheets, such as Sir Paul McCartney and Irving Berlin (one of the most successful songwriter of the 20th century). The Beatles Complete sheet music book series is a good example of notation that has been created many years after the original performance of the songs by the artist as an interpretation of the original recording. It is very possible for someone to play music without having ever mastered reading musical notation and there are software programs eg Sibelius which can automatically produce a written score, based on the notes played by the musician – or a score can be manually produced by an arranger, as is common when pop songs are arranged by sheet music publishers.

How Acurately Does Sheet Music Reflect Original Recording of Pop Songs?

 

Indeed, the piano sheet music published for pop songs are often an arrangers version or interpretation of what the keyboard player in the original band played. Sometimes the music is simplified to enable pianists of modest ability to play and sometimes the original music is embellished to include other accompaniment or riffs that are played by other members of the band, the absence of which would make the song sound incomplete, when played by the piano on its own. It should also be borne in mind that certain styles of music (eg blues, jazz, Irish traditional) and certain musicians (eg many solo guitarists, Elton John, Jools Holland etc…) ad-lib eg improvise as they play ie they change the notes and rhythms that they play every time they play it, keeping the essence of the song through the chord sequence – so sheet music can only attempt to convey one version of what the musician might play.

What is the Alternative Approach to Learning to Read Sheet Music?

 

An alternative approach to teaching a didactic style such as teaching notation, where the pianist is instructed to play individual note in a particular way, is a ‘skills and patterns’ approach such as DecPlay, which teaches a set of skills eg playing chords and playing melody, around a set of patterns eg a chord pattern within a song and bass riff patterns, so very quickly, the pianist can ad-lib in a professional style and put their own interpretation and style on the performance.

View DecPlay rapid results piano sheet music list

Playing by Ear

Reading Notation vs Playing by Ear

How do the different method of playing piano compare ie reading notation and playing by ear? As someone who can both read notation and play by ear, I find the 2 methods opposite approaches to the same end goal – like any different approach – one method will suit different people better than another – with both being equally valid. I learnt to read notation and play classical music from the age of 6 to 14 and then joined a band and learnt to play by ear.

I think standard notation is great if you want to play classical music or jazz. If you want to play popular music – the way I learnt, was to focus solely on the chord structures and the melody line – which is far easier than trying to work out each individual note. Once you start doing this – compare what you think with the actual chords (there are lots of free sites online that tell you the chords – e.g. for guitar etc..) and you hone your accuracy skills. The melody becomes easy when you consider that there are usually only 7 different notes used in pop (the same as the do, re mi scale). If you think in relative terms, rather than absolute terms e.g. number the notes and chords are 1, 4,5 (in C this would be C F G) and in the key of G they would be G C D. This way it becomes easy to work out songs in your head instantly and use a few simple patterns and rules, to create your bass riffs and style to jam around the chords and create a professional sounding result.

Playing By Ear

I find that playing by ear is much more enjoyable than reading ‘dots’ and is relatively easy when you discover the simple patterns and patterns within patterns that the vast majority of popular (and a lot of classical music) is comprised of. Typically, songs may often use less than 5 different chords and the melody often sticks to the standard 7 note scale – so realising this makes it pretty easy to work out what the chords, melody and harmonies are. Many chordal and melodic patterns can be understood as a ‘whole sequence’ in a split second – just as when listening to speech – we recognise phrases instantly, instead of only hearing each individual letter or syllable, then mentally calculate what words these form and then work out the meaning of the sentences. For me – it is the pattern recognition that makes plating by ear so quick and with a few simple rules, enables you to add bass lines, fills, and accompaniment, around a framework of a few chords.

Reading Notation

By comparison – for me, reading the dots is the opposite approach – where each individual note, timing and pitch is dictated to you, to be followed as closely as possible to the arrangement written down. The chordal patterns are not easily identifiable and the music is taught in a didactic approach which does not encourage improvisation with the objective to produce a faithful reproduction of the written arrangement. This method works well for new music which you have not heard before, group ensembles where specific musicians are required to play specific arrangements, or pieces with very technical and complex musical passages, which do not follow obvious ‘patterns’ or chordal structures.
In my experience, reading notation is more suited to classical music – where playing by ear is more suited to popular music. By using the process that I use to play by ear – I have created a the DecPlay ‘relative’ pitch methods of teaching music using numbers that take the best bits of playing by ear and the best bits of notation which dramatically reduces the time taken to learnt to play (typically to less than 1 hour) for complete beginners.
Learning to play by ear bring a whole new understanding to music. It is a fantastic feeling to hear a new piece of music and immediately recognise the chords and melody and the constituent parts that the song is built from. It is even more fulfilling to be able to walk over to a piano and start to play this song for the first time – adding in your own interpretation and style.

Free Piano Sheet Music

Copyright Free Piano Sheet Music

The question of what sheet music is copyright free and what is copyright protected is often one for hot debate! Many people assume wrongly that if it is a folk song, then it must be copyright free. Although it is true that in general, old songs are copyright free, many traditional songs such as ‘ride on” and ‘Song For Ireland’ are copyright protected. Puff The Magic Dragon written by Peter, Paul & Mary is copyright protected and the copyright for sheet music in the UK is handled by Faber Publishing.

According to the Berne Convention, songs are protected by copyright for 50 years after the death of the author or composer (or the last living composer if it was co-written by several composers). Different countries can apply their own laws to amend this, for example but the UK law extends this further to 70 years. After this, the songs are considered to be public domain and can be used without restriction.

Occasionally, there is an exception to the rule, for example with Peter Pan, which was composed by J M Barrie, which was due to expire in 1987, but which was extended by an amendment to 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act so that the copyright is extended indefinitely in the UK. The reason for this is to provide ongoing royalty payments to the Great Ormond Street Hospital charity.

A common misconception is that ‘copyright free’ song sheets can be obtained ‘free of charge’. Arrangers and publishers of this music often incur costs in creating and publishing the music which means that they need to charge for the sheet music.

DecPlay online lessons makes piano playing as easy as 1, 2, 3

Recently launched Manchester-based DecPlay provides online piano lessons that teach novices to play their first song in just one hour, using its ground-breaking FastPlay method.

Founded by FastPlay inventor and M.D at Bite Digital, Declan Cosgrove, with his Bite colleague Jason Cozens, DecPlay is offering potential musicians a faster, simpler and cheaper way to learn to play the piano.

Using an ingenious combination of techniques, including numbers and patterns to harness our inbuilt cognitive and creative abilities and removing the complexity of traditional notation, DecPlay is an incredibly simple method that enables fledgling pianists to play their first song within minutes.
Players can then choose to develop their playing ability with additional DecPlay skills, learn more songs or progress to alternative styles of playing, such as ‘playing by ear’ or learning to read classical notation.

Declan Cosgrove said: “Playing the keyboard or piano is incredibly rewarding and so much fun – it enables you to create deep connections with others and is highly effective in improving creativity, brain training and self-confidence. Our mission is to empower one million people to experience the joy of playing piano without having to save up for expensive lessons or spend years practicing.

“With The FastPlay system, which has been used to teach thousands of people to play the piano already, all people need is a keyboard and the ability to count to seven, then within a few minutes they’re able to play songs.

“DecPlay is designed for popular music, not for classical or jazz, yet has been used by some classical piano teachers to provide beginners with confidence and a sense of achievement within their first lesson. ”

DecPlay’s commitment to make music accessible to everyone is supported by its ‘Buy a Course, Give a Course’ initiative. Partnering with non-profit organisations, such as Able Disabled in Ireland and Being Children in Goa, the campaign gives someone in need access to music via a free online course for every course purchased.

The Importance of Music – National Music Plan

Today, the National Music Plan NMP has been published by MICHAEL GOVE, Secretary of State for Education and ED VAIZEY, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, outlining their vision for the future of music in education and the plan for music tuition and music lessons in in schools.

Brief Summary of National Plan for Music Education

Desired Achievements

  • Inside a framework of broad and balanced curriculum, teachers to have a high level flexibility in deciding how to teach music.
  • All children in England provided with opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument
  • Opportunities for group playing and advanced level tuition to be offered.
  • Consistency of music education to be improved across the regions, ensuring a high level of quality tuition
  • hubs to take over activities from LEA music services, wef September 2012.
  • National level delivery will be monitored by a National Plan board.

Desired experience for children

  • Subject to the National Curriculum review, all children aged 5 to 14 in maintained schools will experience National Curriculum music, with support within and also outside school hours.
  • A minimum of 1 term (ideally 1 year) whole class group teaching programmes
  • Opportunities to access higher level tuition and focus on encouraging all children to sing regularly
  • Emphasis being placed on use of technology to support the music tuition.

Music Education Quality and Standards

  • Local needs to be audited by Music Education Hubs
  • Dual approach of access for all children to experience music tuition with further opportunities to advance to higher levels.
  • Maintaining National Youth Music Organisations and Music and dance Scheme as aspirational achievements.
  • Promoting music through In Harmony Sistema England to children in areas of exceptional deprivation.

Music Educators skills

  • Leadership qualities to be key priority when forming new hubs
  • Communication and CPD to be encouraged both by the Hubs and also school to school.
  • New module to be introduced to Initial Teacher Training to enhance music tuition capabilities and skills.
  • By 2013 Music educator qualification to be developed

Funding and Monitoring

  • DfE funding per pupil (weighting for free school meals) – funding parity across all areas by 2014-15
  • Funding to be provided for existing providers eg LEA music services from 1/4/12 to 31/7/12 – and from 1/8/12 to 31/3/15 for the new hubs
  • New hubs to cover each LEA to improve consistency of music education across the regions, utilising national and regional music and arts resources to meet needs of local children.
  • process to award select hub leaders and distribute funding to managed by Arts Council England, reporting to DfE with revised Ofstead music inspections to monitor performance

Comment on NMP from Declan Cosgrove

It’s finally here! The long awaited National Plan for Music In Education and it is surprisingly more positive than many had expected …. Depending on where you stand!

Following on from Darren Henley’s report in February, which made some valuable recommendations and suggested the creation of music education ‘hubs’, some of the contents are not unexpected and have already been in open discussion, whilst others come as more of a surprise.

What is not unexpected is that ‘more is expected for less’. In the current economic climate, the fact that the budgets are reducing from just over £ 82 million this year, to £ 77m in 2013, £ 65m in 2014 and £ 60m in 2015 in perhaps a bitter pill that has been expected. What is significant, however, is that music is the only subject that has ring fenced money, a welcome status which is reinforced by the recognition of the wider educational and social benefits that musical ability can bring.

The ‘elephant in the room’ is the question as to whether music will be a core subject in the National Curriculum, after the review early next year and this is not resolved by the report. An encouraging sign however is that irrespective of the outcome of the National Curriculum review, there are clear requirements made on schools to provide specified music education opportunities to all children with every child having the opportunity to sing regularly, to learn to play an instrument and be offer the opportunity for advancement ie:-

• Whole-class ensemble teaching programmes for ideally a year (but for a minimum of a term); opportunities to play in ensembles and to perform; clear progression routes available and affordable; and for a singing strategy to ensure every child sings regularly.

An interesting and arguably subjective word is ‘affordable’ and in view of the relatively high costs currently involved in providing music tuition, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. There is a clear instruction to offer subsidised or even free tuition for pupils who could otherwise not afford to pay.

On the subject of budgets – one big change is the move towards more transparency in respect of allocation of funds – now being linked to pupil numbers, with a higher weighting for pupils on free school meals. This ‘per-pupil’ method of allocation instead of the more opaque method of allocation to the Local Authorities at present, will undoubtedly mean that there will be winners and losers – but for the losers, there is some transitional relief cash to soften the blow.

Staying on the theme of budgets, the biggest winner is the Arts Council England (ACE) who are the fund holders and who will be responsible for appointing and monitoring the Music education hubs, which are to be set up by Sept 2012 – with national level delivery to be monitored by a National Plan board. The hubs are to be created to co-ordinate the provision of services between local partners.

Participation in The National Youth Music Organisations and Music and dance Scheme are held up as aspirational achievements for pupils and the importance of promoting music through In Harmony Sistema England to children in areas of exceptional deprivation, is emphasised.

What is encouraging is that the wider personal, inter-personal and social benefits of music education are recognised, notably the ability of music to improve confidence, self esteem, self expression, social interaction skills, overall communication, creative ability and even reading ability.

An interesting, if a touch unexpected inclusion is the expectation of all Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils to experience performance from professional musicians. Another very welcome inclusion is cash to provide for additional training to increase the confidence and skills of primary school teachers in relation to music tuition. The recognition of the power of IT and technology to support music education is also welcome.

Irrespective of the National Curriculum review, school heads can still play a hugely important role in influencing the level to which music plays a part within the school, both in and out of school hours. A challenge of the hubs will be to engage and motivate the heads and also music teachers in collaboration with other music educational organisations and parents to ensure that musical achievement Is given the priority and support it deserves.

There is a pretty tight timescale in which to implement these changes and a lot of the success will be down to how well the hubs engage with local music educators and organisations, not least music teachers and heads and how well ACE promotes excellence in leadership within the hubs. There are already voices expressing concern about there not being enough money to deliver on the promises and whether the new hubs will increase rather than decrease the administration costs and red tape. The jury is out …..