Beginning Years Audio Samples

ABOUT THE 32 PIECES

In this book, there are 32 pieces divided into 8 groups of pieces with 4 pieces in each group. I have chosen pieces that can supplement the typical major-key pieces in method books. Here are the groups:

ARRANGEMENTS — Four familiar, timeless melodies made into piano pieces.

BIRTHDAY — Four birthday greetings in jazz idioms.

WORLD —  Four pieces that take you around the world.

MINOR —  Four pieces in a minor key.

MODES — Four pieces that are not in major or minor keys, but in four modes.  If the modes were seasons, Dorian is like autumn, Mixolydian like summer, Phrygian like winter, and Lydian like spring. 

SAD — Somber—yet hopeful—music to help move through times of loss, grief, or sadness.

JAZZ/POP— Pieces that are in jazz or pop idioms.

ETUDES  — These four etudes (“studies”) are focused on one essential yet neglected aspect of piano technique.  In order to be able to play as long and as quickly as we like without strain, it is essential that we learn to play with our fifth (little) fingers correctly. These pieces help develop the correct movements. 

ARRANGEMENT — Little Star

This is an arrangement of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star using modern, complex harmonies.

ARRANGEMENT — Amazing Grace

This is a simple hymn-style arrangement of this most-popular hymn in the key of G major.

ARRANGEMENT — Prelude to Canon in D

This Variation is in the “three-handed” style of Franz Liszt. The melody is played in the middle of the piano by either hand, creating the illusion that three hands are necessary to play this piece. (It would sure help!) Liszt was born October 22, 1811. . Watch a video.

ARRANGEMENT — Scarborough Fair

This is an arrangement of this timeless English folksong in the key of D minor.

BIRTHDAY — Birthday Ballad

This is an arrangement of the Birthday Song featuring complex harmonies like those frequently used by jazz pianists such as Bill Evans. Watch a video.

BIRTHDAY — Birthday Blues

This blues-style arrangement of the Birthday Song can be played as a birthday lament for someone who just can’t believe they are getting that old.  For ideas on how to improvise on this piece, see Too Late Blues in Pattern Play 1.

BIRTHDAY — Birthday Boogie

This is an arrangement of the Birthday Song in boogie-woogie style.  Play it in swing rhythm (as on the recording below).

BIRTHDAY — Birthday Waltz

This is an arrangement of the Birthday Song in the style of a jazz waltz. The left-hand part is easy to learn because the left hand uses the same hand shape for nearly the entire piece.

WORLD — Cuba

This sounds like the famous Cuban folk song Guantanamera because it has the same chord progression and rhythm. This piece can be learned quickly once the first measure is learned (the teacher might help the student in the lesson) since the rhythm repeats, and the right hand plays only sixths throughout.

WORLD  — Paris, 1890

This features some of the rich 7th-chord sounds used by French composers in the latter 19th century. Though the harmonies are rich, the piece is easy to play because the left hand only plays one note in each measure, while the right hand plays just one or two. On the repeat, the right hand plays the same notes up an octave. This piece is in 3/4 time. It is the key of F major, and is written using just quarter and half notes.

WORLD — Persia

This uses an exotic scale from the Middle East. Once the performer is able to play measure 3 (the teacher could help the student in the lesson), this piece becomes easier to play than it sounds because that same rhythm then recurs in the piece many, many times. If you are playing this piece on a grand piano, try this for an exotic sound: lay pencils over the piano strings that sound whenever you play the right-hand notes. Then lay a thin music book over the bass strings that sound when your left hand plays the notes that are above the whole notes in the bass. You can hear how this sounds on the recording of this piece. To learn to improvise on the patterns of this piece, see Persia in Pattern Play 1 published by RCM Publishing.

WORLD — Sakura

This is an arrangement of the famous Japanese folksong, Sakura. The key signature has no sharps or flats. The piece is in 4/4, and is written using 8th, quarter, half, and whole notes.  If you are interested in improvising in this style of music, see Japan in the book Pattern Play 2 published by RCM Publishing.

MINOR — Haven

This pieces features harp-like chords played with both hands. It is in the key of A minor and is written using 8th, quarter, and half notes. If you are interested in improvising on the Patterns of this piece, see Haven in Melody, Volume Two of the original Pattern Play series. In that book, the piece is played down a half step in the key of G-sharp minor.

MINOR — Quiet Voices

This soft, introspective piece is excellent for teaching relaxed wrist and hand movements at the keyboard. The middle section asks for the performer to voice out the left-hand melody. This piece in the key of A minor and is written using quarter, half, and whole notes.

MINOR — The Journey

This is one of those pieces that sounds much more complex than it is. Once you learn the right-hand pattern in the first two measures (a teacher might help a student do this), the same pattern repeats over and over.  The piece is in A minor, and written in cut time using 8th, quarter, and half notes. For ease of playing, the performer should play the groups of three ascending notes with a relaxed hand and a single rising movement in the arm.

MINOR — Under a Glass Sky
This features a repeating four-chord progression used in many popular songs. It is another piece that sounds much more difficult to play than it actually is. Once the performer learns the one-measure rhythmic pattern in measure 9 (a teacher might help a student learn this in the lesson), that pattern is then repeated over and over throughout the piece.  This piece is in A minor. It is written in cut time using 8th, quarter, half, and whole notes. If you are interested in learning to improvise on the patterns of this piece, see Under a Glass Sky in Pattern Play 5 published by RCM Publishing. In that book, this piece is played down a whole step in the key of G minor.

MODES — Ancient Doorways

This evokes the chanting of monks in towering cathedrals. This piece is an excellent introduction to the Dorian mode, a mode that was more popular than the major scale in medieval times. This piece is relatively easy to read and learn. It is written using only half notes and whole notes. Both hands play fifths throughout the piece, and the arms move together.  Watch a video of this piece. 

MODES — Hope

This introduces the Phrygian mode, the “mood” of the white keys when E is prominent in the bass.  The Phrygian mode is a wintery mode.  The word “Phrygian” even sounds like “frigid.”  This mode is especially good at expressing grief and other strong emotions. This piece has one flat in the key signature and features A in the bass, so it is in the key of A Phrygian (rather than F major or D minor). It is written using just quarter, half, and whole notes.

MODES — Spring

This conveys the bright nature of the Lydian mode, the scale created when you play on white keys while featuring F in the bass. Whereas the Phrygian mode (heard in the piece Hope) is at home in winter, the Lydian mode is made for spring. And whereas the Phrygian mode is a darker shade of minor, the Lydian mode is a brighter shade of major. Since Spring is in the key of F Lydian, the key signature looks just like C major or A minor. For ease of reading, this piece is written in cut time using 8th, quarter, half, and whole notes. The performer is encouraged to play each four-note group in the left hand with a flowing, circular motion of the arm.

MODES — My Piano, My Friend

This provides a fitting introduction to the Mixolydian mode, the “mood” of the white keys when G is the featured tone in the bass. The Mixolydian mode can be considered a darker shade of major because it is like a major scale with a flatted seventh tone. Because of that flatted seventh tone, this mode is used a lot in various jazz and blues styles. Debussy also often used it in his compositions.  This piece begins in G Mixolydian, then moves to C Mixolydian and D Mixolydian at times. This piece is written using 8th, quarter, and half notes with some ties. If you are interested in improvising in the style of this piece, see My Piano, My Friend in Pattern Play 2 published by RCM Publishing.

SAD — Grief Softens with Time

This piece for beginners explores how grief changes over time, and so it may be of benefit for those in the early stages of grief. The opening mood is a somber A minor, but gradually the mood surrounding the melody changes as time goes on. 

SAD — Loss

This is another piece that explores the feelings that accompany loss and grief. This piece is in the key of E minor. It’s written using only quarter, half, and whole notes.

SAD — Valentine, No More

This has a chord progression similar to the one in the classic song My Funny Valentine.  It is easier to learn than it sounds because the accompaniment is quite patterned and the rhythms in the melody often repeat. You can watch a video of this piece. 

SAD — Why?

This explores intense feelings and may help to release them. This piece can be learned quickly because the left-hand plays only fifths throughout, while the right hand plays the same rhythmic pattern (quarter, half, quarter) in measure after measure. This piece is in E minor, and is written using just quarter, half, and whole notes.

JAZZ/POP — A Bit of Bop

This is an introduction to the bebop style in jazz. Play this piece in swing rhythm! Once the performer learns the first eight bars, the rest is easy. The left hand plays the same 8-bar accompaniment two more times, while the right hand plays melodies using the same notes as before.  If the performer wants to extend the piece, he or she might then repeat the accompaniment and vary the melody further.

JAZZ/POP — Stepping Up

This is an introduction to the “walking bass” style in jazz.  Once the performer learns the syncopated rhythm in measures 3 and 4 (a teacher could help a student in the lesson), the rest of the piece is relatively easy because the same rhythm recurs.

JAZZ/POP — Fourth Quarter

This features what is called quartal harmony—chords built using fourths rather than the usual thirds. This is a frequent sound in modern jazz. This piece is more challenging than Stepping Up, and therefore should come after it. Play this in swing rhythm! 

JAZZ/POP — No Limits

This has a driving, rock beat. Though this piece sounds difficult to play, it can be learned relatively quickly because it is so patterned. Once the performer has learned the right-hand part in measures 3 and 4, these same notes return again and again. (I suggest that teachers help students learn to play these two measures in the lesson.) The performer may wish to vary the melody on the repeats, or even improvise new melodies using the A blues scale. The notes in this scale are: A, C, D, E-flat, E, and G. If you are interested in learning more about improvising on the patterns of this piece, see No Limits in Pattern Play 1 published by RCM Publishing. 

ETUDES — Coral Reef

This is the first in this set of four pieces that explore an essential movement at the piano. On the first page of this piece, the pairs of right-hand notes are to be played with a single, rising motion. On the second page, it’s the same with the notes played by the left hand.  The hands should relax and rest during the rests. Why do you think they call them rests? 

ETUDES — Fire Storm

This continues to cultivate the relaxed movements encouraged in Coral Reef. This time, the relaxed movements in the hands are combined into a single, flowing movement. The four 16th notes in each beat should feel like a single flowing motion. Despite the appearance (all those 16th notes!), this piece is easy to learn because both hands play fifths throughout, and one hand stays put while the other moves stepwise.

ETUDES — Color Waves

This is a companion piece to Fire Storm. It explores the same movements, but this time the right hand goes first and the piece is longer.  As in Fire Storm, both hands play fifths throughout.

ETUDES — Flight

This is the final piece in this family of four etudes. Once the previous pieces have been learned, the student is ready to add in more notes while moving in the same, relaxed way. Though this piece may sound difficult, it can be played at a much slower tempo than heard in the recording and it can still have the same benefits. The main thing is to lift the arms and release the tension in the hands at the end of each measure.