Monday, May 31, 2010

Music Theory

I recently finished my 1st theory book Fundamentals of Piano Theory - Level 1 by Keith Snell and Martha Ashleigh.

I reviewed:
  • Note names
  • Time signatures and rythms
  • Accidentals
  • Intervals
  • Whole and Half Steps
  • Key signatures
  • Form
  • Ear training
  • Sight reading
I actually learned:
  • 5 finger patterns and triads
  • Tetra chords
  • Primary triads
  • Inversions
  • Accompanying with I and V Tetra chords
  • Transposing
  • A bit about the 4 periods of music history
It's amazing how much you discover you don't know.  When I picked up this book in the store I thought "I know this stuff, maybe I should start with book 2 or 3."  Then, I figured a review would be good, so I bought book 1.  I am so glad I chose to start at the beginning!  There was obviously so much that I didn't know.  It was a bit of a humbling experience.  I have 12+ years of musical background, and yet there were so many things I didn't know at a beginner level.  Things I chose not to learn or pay attention to, which really set me back.

My piano teacher tried to get me to learn these things years ago, but I was not interested.  Now that I'm old enough to appreciate the lessons she tried to teach me, I am much more confident that I will accomplish my goal of becoming a better musician.  I am also grateful for her initial attempts, as much of the lessons did sink in.  So, a heart-felt "Thank you" to Suzi!  (Also, thank you mom for assisting me with the ear training portion!)

What lessons surprised you when you discovered you didn't know them?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


A few weeks ago I wrote down a few places I was interested in volunteering.  Eventually I whittled down my list to one - I want to volunteer in the Emergency Room at the local hospital.  However, since that decision was made, my mom asked me to help her with a large scrapbooking project.

I've decided that for now I will use the time I'm helping my mom as my volunteer time.  Additionally, once this project is over, I'll already have this time carved out of my schedule.  Transitioning from one project (helping my mom) to another (the hospital) will be pretty seamless - time wise at least.

So far we have been through 3 boxes of pictures and papers, etc and separated them in to 5 other boxes.  Each box is for a different scrapbook.  We still have so many boxes to go through and separate out.  It's amazing how much stuff there is!  A few more weeks (no, really!) of sorting, then we get to organize each box into a time line.

Honestly scrapbooking is not my thing; but I am looking forward to spending time with my mom and learning more about my family.  Not to mention, she can occassionally assist me with my piano, so it's kind of a win-win situation.  I'm really excited to continue this project - even if I don't find the actual activity all that thrilling.

There are so many skills that I will be able to develop while doingt his project.  Patience comes first to mind.  I am not a very patient person, but working on something that overal doesn't light my fire will definitely help me practice this.  This will also help boost my creativity and organizational skills.  All three of these skills will help me no matter what I do in life.  I've quickly discovered that volunteering isn't just about improving another person's life; it's about improving yourself as well.

What projects do you do that increase your skills?  And please share any scrapbooking tips/ideas in the comments too!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing

During one of my recent self-induced piano lessons I decided that I had given myself too much to practice in a 30 minute time frame.  Actually, I realized this during my practice sessions, but during my lesson I made the decision to decrease the amount of things I practice during the week.  I also decided that I needed to re-do a few of the pieces that I didn't get to practice as much during the week.

There's something to be learned here.  Don't bite off more than you can chew.  You'll only frustrate yourself if you try to accomplish too much in a single day.  You'll also find that you won't make as much progress if you try to do too much than if you break down your efforts in to manageable chunks.

I feel that if I work on practicing well (taking things slow, correcting mistakes instead of playing through them, etc) I will get better faster and I've seen evidens in this pretty quickly.  My sight reading has improved quite a bit and I make fewer mistakes, even on new pieces.

Hearing yourself improve is a great boost!  If possible, record yourself so you can hear your progression over time.  Recording yourself and listening back on it will also help you correct your mistakes.

If you find yourself not making the kind of progress you hoped for, take a deep breath and step back.  Have you tried to accomplish too much too quickly?  Pare down your project into smaller tasks and focus on one thing at a time.  Really hone in on improving one skill at a time.  It may seem small and tedious at first, but as you get better, you'll get faster and when you move on, preforming that skill well by rote will save you huundreds of hours later.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eating Healthy

I used to eat a lot of potato chips, pizza, macaroni and cheese, McDonald's and drink tons of soda.  You'll notice that there weren't a lot of fruits or vegetables in my previous diet.  Fast forward a few months, and now I try to eat several servings of fruit and veggies a day.

A typical day now is:

Breakfast:  yogurt or applesauce (I sometimes add 10-15 almonds to my yogurt)
Snack:  carrots and/or apple slices
Lunch:  salad (with light or fat free dressing), a sandwich (with cheese, mustard and spinach - no mayo!), carrots and/or apple slices
Snack:  light or fat free cottage cheese with tomatoes and salt and pepper, or a snack size bag of microwave popcorn
Dinner:  chicken, brown rice, and vegetables, or stirfry, always a salad and sometimes more carrots and/or apple slices (can you tell what fruits and vegetables I do like?)
Desert:  Weight Watchers or Skinny Cow ice cream snacks - so far every treat I've tried is delicious

I also drink a LOT of water.  I decided when I changed my eating habits that I wanted to eat my calories, not drink them, and I happen to like water so this is not hard for me.

I know what you're thinking, and yes, I do eat a lot - and there are several things I could do even better in regards to my eating habits, but trust me when I tell you that I am eating so much better now than I was 4-5 months ago.  Not only am I eating better, but I feel better as well.  I still occassionally have a burger and fries from McDonald's, but that is an exception rather than the norm, and I can tell the difference when I do. 

I have found that what is easiest for me is to have my snacks ready to at.  So, yes, I spend more on pre-sliced apples than a person should - but if all I have to do is reach my hand in the bag and pull out an apple slice, that's just as easing as reaching in and pulling out a potato chip, but it's better and much more filling.  I have tried to make healthy eating as convenient as possible for myself so that I'm more likely to stick with it. 

What do you do to make healthy eating a habit for you?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Achieving Your Goals

I came across a really great article recently.  It is from Trent Hamm's personal finance blog The Simple Dollar, titled Eight Simple Tactics for Achieving Your Big Goal.  This article reflects exactly what I'm trying to do in my own life.  I've bolded Trent's main ideas, but please check out his site to see what he has to say.

Stop Thinking about Failure - This is such a great and oft overlooked idea.  Who cares if I never become a concert pianist or run a marathon?  Just trying to accomplis these goals will be worthwhile, because it's the journey that's important.  Even if I never make the ultimate goal, I'll still become pretty darn good.

Keep Your Goal Within the Realm of Reality - I really tried to do this when I set these goals.  I know that not everyone is going to be a concert pianist, but I believe I have the potential.  Am I right?  I honestly don't know, and as I progress, I may have to tweak some of my goals to better reflect my capabilities.  But how will I know if I don't try?

Take Small Bites Every Day - What if you have a lot of goals?  Even if you're taking small bites there may not be enough time in the day even for that.  Do you have any goals that you could multi-taks?  If you want to get in better shape, and be a better spouse like I do, why not take a walk with your spouse?  Or use some alone time to clean the hous and really work out while doing it (do squats while waiting for the pasta water to boil when making dinner, mop the floor with a rag and bucket not a mop, take the laundry up and down the stairs 2 or 3 times before putting it away) so you don't have to clean when your spouse is home.  Despite multi-tasking I have found that I still don't have enough time in the day to do everything.  Some things I can only do every other day or only once or twice a week.  If you're in the same boat, don't get discouraged.  Just do your best with the time you have available. 

Find a Mentor - Trent suggests using your doctor, social network and your work environment as a starting place for finding a mentor. This is a great idea, one that I have started to implement a tiny bit.

Find Positive Support - I think you can go to your social network and work environment to find this as well.  Friends and family are pretty supportive of anything that makes you happy.

Shred Your Routine - This is something I definitely need to do. I really need to do better about getting things done before work and watching T.V. so much.  Making these kinds of changes will really help me to accomplish more and take more small bites on a daily basis.

Share Your Goal Widely - Hello blogosphere! :)

Know Your Motivation - This is another point I need to work on, and keep my focus on others.  Trent really hits the nail on the head when he says "Learning something new because it fulfills you is an easy thing to put off.  Learning something new because it brings value to others is much more urgent."  It would be easy to put off practicing if I'm only doing it for myself, but if I change my focus to the people I want to perform for, it makes practicing much more urgent.  The sooner I get better, the sooner I will be able to share with others and bring them beauty and joy.

Good luck and don't give up!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Feeling Productive

Today was a giant leap forward for me.  I woke up earlier than normal and instead of rolling over and going back to sleep like I usually do, I stayed up.  I ate a little bit of breakfast, got on the treadmill for 30 minutes (working towards Destination #2 - being healthy and active), took out all the trash in the house (working towards Destination #3 - being a better spouse), got ready for the day, and went to the music store to pick up a D string for my violin (working towards Destination #1 - gathering tools to become a better musician) before coming to work.

Accomplishing these things has really given me a boost today.  I feel more productive overall, have been more productive at work, have been in a better mood and I know that all of these small steps are getting me closer to the person I want to be.

I hope that you have also been able to revel in your successes (whether they be big or small) today!

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I have practiced the piano every day for a minimum of 30 minutes.  I finally feel confident enough with the fingering on the C Major scale that I have progressed on to G Major.  I am almost halfway through 3 beginner books and have learned a lot of theory.  1st and 2nd inversions are finally making sense to me!

Additionally I have played for my mother (she has been playing the piano since she was 4 - my mother is my piano expert), who tells me that my technique and posture are very good.  So far I am not practicing any bad habits and my mom is quite proud of me.  (Thanks Mom!)  I am pround of me too.  Lastly, I have memorized Prelude No. 1 in G minor by Catherin Rollin.

I have done all of this in less than two weeks.  I am so pleased with the progress I have made thus far.  I know that in the beginning I will move pretty quickly with the piano, and I am confident that these small successes in the beginning will propel me forward as things become more challenging.

What successes have you had thus far?