Have ʻuke, will travel

Tiny Tenor of Romero Creations (mahogany)

This past January, I introduced myself in Joel Katz‘s intermediate ʻukulele class by announcing that I was downsizing from the nine foot grand piano to the less than two foot ʻukulele. People laughed.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t giving up the piano by any means. Rather, I was embracing the ʻukulele. It has my namesake after all: KU in ʻukulele.

In truth, I didn’t know what I was getting into. A few of my music students had shared their love of the instrument. One even gave me a hand-built ʻukulele stand as a parting gift. Eventually I succumbed to my usual thirst for novelty and variety.

Continue reading “Have ʻuke, will travel”


College students react to “Following the Ninth”

Part two of Kerry Candaele’s Beethoven trilogy is under way. I pledged $35 for the Kickstarter Project which ends on May 19th, 2016. The way this crowd funding works is that if the goal is not reached, the fundraiser gets nothing. It’s my sincere hope that my friends and readers click on the above link and preview the next film in the making. It’s about Beethoven’s only opera – Fidelio.
Continue reading “College students react to “Following the Ninth””

Star Spangled Banner for not so easy piano

Anne Ku’s arrangement of Star Spangled Banner for not so easy piano was inspired by the book “No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love” and subsequent visit to the USS York Town in Charleston, South Carolina and a meeting with the author.

The National Anthem of the United States is neither easy to sing nor play. It’s not easy to sing because of the wide octave range. It’s not easy to play because the melody and bass move all over the place. What motivated me to arrange the American anthem for piano? Fourth of July?

Continue reading “Star Spangled Banner for not so easy piano”

Unfamiliar music as background music

What kind of music is best as background? the familiar or unfamiliar?

What kind of music is most effective in the background?

It should suit the occasion and not interfere, certainly not defeat its purpose.

Think about the reasons why venue owners and managers put on background music. Usually it’s to fill the dead and uncomfortable silence. Another is to set the mood. Imagine a cocktail party where people are not chatting but listening intently to the background music. No, the purpose of background music is to set the tone and encourage people not to listen but to do what they’re there to do. In a restaurant, you want your customers to enjoy the food. In a shopping mall, you want people to move around and shop. If you’re trying to write but can’t because you are listening to the background music, then it’s not effective.

Earlier I posted a blog about choosing music as foreground or background.  Is unfamiliar music more effective than familiar music as background? 

I put on music that I’ve not heard before thinking that I’d just have it as background while I write. I started this blog post, thinking that I found the answer. Unfamiliar, atonal music as background —! I was wrong. I am listening to it because it’s the music of a composer I know. Perhaps it should be music of a composer that I don’t know or care about, music that I can’t hum to, performed by musicians I don’t know or care about. Only then can I write with background music.  As for background music for other activities such as cooking, cleaning, or washing dishes, I’d prefer the music to accompany me.

Online course about social media for educators

Taking an online course for educators on teaching via social media helps legitimize and make sense of the amount of time spent in it.

I’ve attended webinars. I’ve even organized online conferences and moderated presentations. But I’ve never participated as a student in an online class until yesterday evening. I’ve heard my colleagues talk about the challenges of giving an online class, but as a student, it was dead easy to participate.

…. please visit the new blog about this course at WED628  — as we meet Wednesdays from 6 to 8 pm HST !!

Teaching multiple genres in group piano class

Adult beginners not only have different levels of proficiency but also different rates of learning. In a group piano situation, the challenge of teaching multiple genres of music is analysed in this blog post.

In this blog post, I think out loud, just like the colorful clay objects of food that I created in my week-long writing workshop on Maui.

In their student evaluations last semester, my piano students indicated they’d like to learn more than just classical music. My students consider everything from renaissance to modern contemporary as classical music. What they want is the non-classical variety, i.e. rock, pop, new age, jazz, blues, etc. Little do they realize that within classical music itself are different genres, and by far the broadest group to offer the biggest variety of genres!

Other than what is already given in the textbooks, how do I best introduce different genres to beginning piano students?

First start by perusing the extensive music genres list. How about presenting this as a lecture, or better, a homework assignment where they have to choose 3 genres to listen to and discuss in class? The result is a menu that students can select and study for the semester.

Adult beginners prefer playing music that is easy but sounds difficult and not childish or silly. Here is where I can explore rock, pop, country, jazz, blues, world music, new age music, etc and find simplifications for piano. If I can’t find these, I’d have to arrange them myself. Here is a good starting point though.

I should add that adult beginners learn fast but get frustrated when they have to spend too long at a piece. It’s much easier to have short pieces that challenge them in one specific way than longer pieces that challenge them in 10 different ways, forcing them to study for a long time.

Students learn at different pace. Some start slowly but speed up later. Others improve very quickly. In a group piano class, I have limited time for individual instruction, which is the preferred way to address different rates of learning. Instead, I need to weave what I want students to learn in group situations, such as partnering with another student of a different level. The more advanced student can help the less advanced.

Is there a book for adult beginners that covers different genres? Why reinvent the wheel if it already exists?

I would need to do some research to find which genres are most appropriate. And then find piano solo works of the right levels of difficulty, or shall we say, challenge?!

Creating something out of clay in writing workshop
Creating something out of clay in writing workshop