Indispensables of Piano Teaching #1 – Highlighter Tape

Indispensable_  TAPE
Welcome to the new weekly series “Indispensables of Piano Teaching.”  Like me you probably have several teaching manipulatives, tools, gadgets, or maybe a reference book that you always find yourself reaching for during lessons.   I’ll be sharing one of my “can’t do without” items each week here on the blog for the next several weeks (not games or a specific activity, but an actual tool or gadget that I can’t do without). Please comment if you use any of the same tools and don’t hesitate to tell us how you use them in your studio.   And maybe later I’ll highlight one of your favorite tools!


I have found more uses for this tape than I could have realized!  It’s fantastic for highlighting troublesome spots in a student’s music.  You can write on it, see through it, remove it when a problem is corrected, and then reuse it!  Students love the colors (pink, green, blue, yellow, red or purple) and I find it the MOST useful in guiding their home practice.   Read More


Don’t Miss It!

MEC GraphicFEBRUARY 4 – 7, 2015

For the second year, 15 nationally-known presenters are all coming together, in a powerful LIVE online event, focused on one thing – getting you inspired and motivated for teaching in 2015!

The MusicEdConnect ONLINE national conference is hosted by Michelle Sisler and her team from Keys to the Imagination and she has gathered a top-tier list of experts that include Scott McBride Smith,  Leila Viss,  Jennifer Fox, Fred Karpoff and more!

How Do You Participate?  Register HERE and then VIEW LIVE on Feb. 4-7 from the comfort of your own computer or mobile device.  If you can’t make it, you get to view later on your own time (thru Dec. 31, 2015)

Any Other Benefits?  No travel expenses!  Network with other teachers around the world.  Visit exhibits. See new products. Take advantage of conference-only specials.

Cost?  Less than $130, depending on which option you choose.

COUPON CODE!  PCPT blog followers receive a $10 discount on registration NOW thru Friday, Jan. 23 at midnight! Just use coupon code: “EG1” at registration.


SAVE $20 BY DOING THIS…..BEFORE MIDNIGHT on TUESDAY, Jan. 20!  Head over to INSTAGRAM on your mobile phone or tablet and FOLLOW me, Elizabeth Gutierrez.  Enter “@pianoprof” in the search box and you’ll find me.  Click on “Follow” and then click on the photo of the MusicEdConnect event to view your $20 discount code!  Give me a shout-out (comment) when you get there, OK?

NEW TO INSTAGRAM ? This LINK will tell you more about IG and what makes it so interesting as a social media tool.  You can download the app for FREE at the App Store.




Happy Holidays! and Update

Many apologies for not posting in almost 2 months!  I know many of you have been wondering what happened to our Bartok Play-Along.  GOOD NEWS! – it will resume the first week of January 2015 and I promise, we will indeed finish the entire set!  🙂

So where have I been?  Well….an opportunity to create some new piano materials arose and I’ve been busy writing and arranging like mad.  I am pleased to announce that I am editing and arranging piano publications for a new digital piano publishing firm , Piano Passport. There is so much coming up in 2015 that I’m ready to bust my buttons!

* View the first 4 Piano Passport publications here and read about the focus of the company:

* Please LIKE the Piano Passport Facebook page here, and share, share, share!:

* And sign up for the Piano Passport email list here.  There will be discount opportunities for subscribers.  Emails will not be shared.:

Many of you may know I’ve been an avid researcher and proponent for Latin American piano music.  Here is one of my discoveries from Brazil that is now in print via Piano Passport.  It will lift your spirits and start your toes tapping.  It’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds.  My students at the high-school level have really enjoyed it. Great rhythmic training and students never tire of it.  Enjoy!

Tango Brasileiro by Alexandre Levy

Wishing you a MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, and a joyous NEW YEAR filled with beautiful music!


Khachaturian “Adventures of Ivan” Piano Play-Along: Post Three (Nos. 3 and 4 Reaction)

These next two in the set were less familiar to me upon my reading.  How about you?

Quick scan thoughts:

  • Khachaturian seemed to like the idea of not including a keysignature and just filling a piece with accidentals.  Perhaps this is due to his frequent use of chromatic harmonies.  It does keep you on your toes during the reading process.
  • No. 3 looked quite s-l-o-w moving…

Thoughts while playing….

No. 3  –  Ivan is Ill (sometimes seen in other collections as “Ivan is Sick”)

Listening to all the unexpected dissonances made me think Ivan must have been quite queasy.   Nothing felt settled in this work, at least not until the end of the piece.

Three things went through my mind as I played (tempo at quarter = 58, which I thought offered a convincing “lento.”):

  1. Would any of my students find this piece too dissonant for their predictable ears?
  2. How could I convince a student to play a piece that moves this slowly?
  3. What about the control needed to spin out this slow-moving melodic line in the RH? including the voicing of the soprano?

This piece wouldn’t be an instant “sell” to a typical student.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t care for the piece.  I actually like it for all its quirkiness and find that it lends itself to the imagination quite well.  I would have to paint a real sound picture, through my own vivid performance, to entice a student to give it a try.  You never know.  Some students like pieces that are different from all the rest.

I would sell this piece on the fact that it sounds “queasy” and that Ivan may be feeling a stomach issue in progress, so to speak.  Young students can relate to that, right?  As I demonstrate the piece I would ask the student:  “What do you think could be happening here?” and continue with this type of questioning all the way to the end in order to create a story or scene.  With a picture in mind and the imagination activated, I think students then become far more interested and maybe inclined to illustrate an interesting picture like this one with colorful sounds.

A few details to keep in mind:

1. Notice the shift in the LH articulation from legato to tenuto (detached) in mm. 1-2 and 5-6.  The resulting effect is quite different.


Measures 1 and 2 


Measures 5 and 6

2.  Measure 11 – I’m convinced the the C-natural in the soprano is a typo.  I couldn’t embrace it.  C-flat sounds like the intention. Your thoughts?


Measure 11

3. The dynamics, especially the swells (hairpin cresc. and dim. marks – see Measures 1 and 2 above), help shape the long melodic phrases and give them direction.  I would ask the student to insert this type of “swell shaping” in all of the phrases, even where it’s not indicated, to prevent the piece from sounding flat and vertical.  Most of the phrases here are either 2 or 4 measures in length.

And what finally happened at the end?  —  I would ask the student to describe the scene. It gradually calms down. Perhaps Ivan was finally able to fall into some restful sleep after a tortured spell of nausea.  Poor guy.

No. 4  –  Ivan Goes to a Party (subtitled “Waltz” and sometimes referred to as “The Birthday” or “The Birthday Party” in other collections)

This piece falls into the category of “sounds harder than it plays” especially once you sort through all the accidentals and get it your fingers wrapped around it.  Both the MCA and Schirmer scores indicate the tempo of quarter note = 72, but surely they meant the dotted-half-note.  This waltz requires some lilt!  I enjoyed this bouncy, colorful waltz the more I played it.

How many pieces do you know in the standard piano repertoire that start on the leading tone and resolve downward (see RH below)?


Measure 4 – D# leading tone

Notice above how the editor is quite clear about the LH’s lightness (PP, staccato, and senza ped.) with beat 1 to receive some length and emphasis.

Unique features:  I especially enjoyed Khachaturian’s tasty harmonies throughout, but especially during places like the rit. in mm. 33-35.  Play these measures quite slowly a few times to notice how the chords change color and resolve to B-flat minor.  I would ask a student to “listen for” these color shifts while creating a smooth meltdown.

This “party” is  full of interesting twists and turns (or “characters” or “events”) which is why I think students would really enjoy it.  The unexpected hemiola in mm. 61 – 64 is refreshing (indicated through the use of accents).

I also enjoyed the back-and-forth from E Major to D-flat Major in the Coda (last 15 mm. of the piece.).  Party’s over.

What are some of the features you enjoyed?

I leave you with a YouTube video I found of a young pianist who has captured a good spirit for this piece.





Welcome to Piano Camp for Piano Teachers!

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If you’ve found this post, you have probably just watched my webinar “Discover the Magic of Teaching Young Beginners” at the inaugural online music teachers conference:  MusicEdConnect (  I hope you enjoyed it! or enjoyed your recording of it if you missed the LIVE session.

As promised, I have 2 GIVEAWAYS for all participants!  LEAVE A REPLY (see it above) and tell me what you thought of the session &/or what you thought of the conference.  Enter your reply by midnight, Saturday, Feb 8.   I’ll then do the drawing and will contact the winners by email.  Winners will be announced here!

Stay tuned for more from Piano Camp for Piano Teachers.  This is just the first day of our blog so pardon our appearance!  We’ll be adding more bells and whistles soon and look forward to serving piano teachers everywhere!

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