My A to Z of learning the Piano

llegro – the name of one of the piano pieces I am playing for grade five. Written by Carlos de Seixas. I like this piece but it’s fast. You can find it on the Internet. Try yorkshiremusician on Youtube. (Just be aware there are pieces in both the grade six and the grade 8 exams called Allegro too so make sure it’s grade 5 2017-2018)

Beautiful – apparently my rendition of Allegro (see above) was too beautiful and needed to be more – ow, ow, ow (my piano tutors words not mine). Some pieces on the other hand do need to be beautiful and smooth and lovely.

Chord – I quite like chords, they form a pattern which appeals to my Aspie brain. A major chord can start on any note and then the next note is 4 half notes higher (counting black and white keys) and the final note is three half notes higher (again counting black and white keys). Play them all together and you have a major chord. It means you can work out any chord really quickly.

Dynamics – how the volume of a piece goes up and down throughout. Sometimes it will get suddenly loud (crescendo) and then quiet again. I like playing dynamics in pieces.

Espressivo – apparently this tells you to play expressively but I would have thought you usually play expressively if you want the music to mean something and sound good.

Flat – a b symbol next to the note in music that tells you to play a half note lower than usual. B flat is common where instead of playing B you play the black note to the left of B which is half a note lower.

Grade – Piano grades go from grade 1 (easiest) to grade seven. Grade five is approximately equal to a GCSE. I am currently studying for grade five however I haven’t taken any of the previous exams.

High – the pitch of the note is either high or low in comparison to the last one played. High notes are on the right of the keyboard, low notes are on the left.

Improvisation – making something up in a performance. I am terrible at this, I just wouldn’t know where to start.

Jazz – a type of music that originated in New Orleans, America. It’s not something I play but maybe it’s something I need to learn more about.

Keys – the black and white things you find on a piano. If you look you will see they are arranged in a specific way with alternating three black keys, then two black keys, then three, then two and so on.

Legato – smooth, lovely, beautiful. I’m better at playing like this as opposed to staccato (jumpy)

Metronome – I hate these things. They tick to keep you on an even time but they make me panic and I lose my place every single time.

Notation – how we write down music. I quite like sight-reading which is where you play and read at the same time. Some people can memorise music easily and then play without reading. Other people can just play the right notes after just hearing the music – I can do this but it takes me a while and I still have to write it down. It does mean if you hear something you like you can reproduce it though.

Octave – eight notes that make up a scale (see scale below). The first and last notes are the same but the last note has double the amount of vibrations as the first making it the same note but higher in pitch.

Pedal – my piano (that I love and is very pretty) has three pedals. One is a sustain pedal, one is a loud pedal and the third is a practise pedal that quietens the sound.

Quaver – a type of note that is half the length of a crotchet. Other notes include minim (two crotchets) and semibreve (4 crotchets).

Repertoire – my repertoire is quite small but I hope to expand it so I can play more pieces from memory. Sometimes you just want to sit down and play a piece of music you know well.

Scale – a dreaded part of the ABRSM exams where you have to play a pattern of notes with both hands at the same time crossing the thumb under the hand and the middle finger over the hand so you can play 21 notes up and down the keyboard. The easiest scale C, plays 21 adjacent white keys then comes back to the C you started on. You only have five fingers so you have to twist your hand loads. Can you tell I’m not a fan of scales?

Teacher – you need one of these to progress. I got to grade three on my own without a teacher but then plateaued. A good teacher will make it great. I’m really lucky and really like my piano teacher.

Upright – a type of piano. I have an upright piano and they take up a lot less room than a grand piano (I know it wouldn’t fit in our house but it would be amazing to have a grand piano, even a baby grand)

Vibration – how you get noise. In a piano the keys cause a hammer to strike a string and it is the string vibrating that gives off the noise. Thus why you can affect the loudness by how hard you press the keys.

Whole note – an American name for the semibreve (a note worth 4 crotchets, 8 quavers and 2 minims)

Xylophone – not technically a piano but it has the same keyboard features as a piano with sets of three and two notes set higher than the others which act as sharps and flats. I have an amazing, huge xylophone I love to play. Okay, so I was struggling with x and it’s tenuous but at least it’s in there!

Yesterday – a Beatles Song I can play on the piano. (Okay very tenuous this time but at least I didn’t just miss it out)

puZzle – to me, playing music from listening to it or hearing it in my head is a puzzle. You have to work out whether the next note is lower or higher, which exact note it is and then which chord goes with it


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