Is this the end of my piano journey?

Looking back at my piano learning journey, words cannot describe how thankful I am. I never thought I’d have a chance to experience what it feels like to play even the most simple song on the piano, let alone read sheet music. Me, who sang in the school choir without being able to read the notes, I was able to acquire some basic knowledge. I feel truly blessed. I feel I got a gift that will stay with me till the end.

After three months, if I ask myself what is it that I am proud of, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I did not get stressed out when hitting road blocks in the learning process. Not knowing anything about this instrument probably helped, because my plan was very vague. I didn’t really know how to make a plan, neither did I have a vision where I would like to see myself at the end of the first three months, because I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I took one step at a time and enjoyed the journey.

Throughout this learning project, there were a number of people who shaped my learning. I connected on Twitter, through blog posts and comments, as well as Zoom discussions where my peers offered ideas and support. Catherine Ready was truly inspirational. Although I tried to “copy” her, I failed big time. But I absolutely loved listening to her play jazz piano. It was always like a breath of fresh air. Daina Seymour inspired me with her perseverance and great music practice sheets she shared from Denise Gagne. Dean Vendramin also played an important role modelling podcasting. But the list could go on and on with my peers offering professional and emotional help throughout my journey that made this experience truly valuable.

With so many MOOCS available, I was able to find a wide variety of resources. I found this process very time consuming, and overwhelming not knowing what to look for, until I started taking face-to-face piano lessons. Although some of the online resources claim to be free, this is many times valid only for the trial period. Since I invested in my piano lessons, I chose to look for free online materials. One of the biggest sources of learning through social media, was YouTube. I found several quality resources that I organized in Wakelet. These tutorials and podcasts played an important role in my “real learning” by offering valuable, high quality information for free.

It was interesting to observe myself learn a completely new skill while trying to find the most effective and enjoyable path. I am thankful for my Prof. Alec Couros who opened up the world of possibilities and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. I feel blessed to find such a supportive network in my peers. The person who was my true guide throughout my piano learning journey is my amazing piano teacher, Trevor Flemings, whom I would like to introduce to you in my last podcast of A New Beginning in the World of Music.

Thank you for being part of my journey! I cannot wait to share some of my dream songs with you in the near future. I will probably start with Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Stay tuned!


This week my piano teacher and I decided to look at songs and he suggested to try learning “Edelweiss”. Although it seems to be a challenging piece, I am going to give it a try. My wish list of songs keeps growing, and I hope that soon I do get to accomplish some of them.

Being a support staff, I often find it hard to implement the things I am learning in my Ed. Tech classes. I just started co-teaching with classroom teachers at the beginning of the school year, and right now we are working on a unit on Newspaper writing in a grade 7/8 classroom. While looking at the text features and the purpose of writing, I decided to do a recording with examples of entertaining-, persuasive-, and informative texts. The topic of these recordings is the same as my learning project. All recordings are based on piano learning. I also created the script so our beginner English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners can follow the text easier. Listening to a recording without seeing the person, not being able to read off their lips, makes it quite hard to understand all the details. Beside the listening and reading activities, as part of the unit, the students will also be discussing and writing their own newspaper articles. Incorporating the four domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing are key when it comes to language learning. I am excited about the opportunity to co-teach with my colleague and I am looking forward to creating new, engaging ways when it comes to supporting our EAL students.

In this week’s podcast, I mainly focused on ways I can implement what I had learnt through my learning project into my teaching. I also tried to play with the idea of spicing up my podcast a bit, so I included a story that I often listen to in the Philosophy of Piano podcast focusing on the importance of state of mind and believing in the power of inner voice. This is especially helpful for me when I am thinking of my final project, the Summary of Learning.

For the Summary of Learning, I am planning to interview my piano teacher on the topics of piano learning and playing using social media and face-to-face interactions, open educational resources and open educational practices. I am preparing myself for this BIG step ahead of me with Buddha’s inspirational words.

Thank you for being part of my journey! 🙂

Time signature and intervals

Keeping my head up and moving forward with my slow and steady pace, I did make a bit of a progress and learnt a few new concepts this past week.

I had a chance to learn about these interesting numbers that one would see at the start of a line when looking at a music sheet. These symbols are called time signatures that tell how many beats are in a measure. I was mainly focusing on 3/4 and 4/4. In a 3/4 measure you’d count 1, 2, 3 and in a 4/4 measure you’d count 1, 2, 3, 4 with a major accent on 1 and a fairly minor accent on 3 in the 4/4 measure.

Although there are other time signatures in piano, such as 2/4 and 6/8, at this point I am only ready to demonstrate the 3/4 and 4/4 measures in my weekly podcast through the “Theme by Mozart” and “Party Time” songs.

Another new concept I became familiar with is the interval. Interval is the space between two notes used to create different feelings. Intervals are called 2nd (C to D), 3rd (C to E), 4th (C to F), 5th (C to G), 6th (C to A), 7th (C to B), the octave (C to C) depending on how many spaces are between the keys. There are two kinds of intervals, when the keys are played separately it is called melodic interval, and when played simultaneously, it is called harmonic interval.

Since I am only focusing on the white keys at this point, I am planning to learn more about intervals as well as continue to work on finger independence through various finger exercises. This is going to be my goal probably for the next year. Lol

I am also planning to speed up my sight reading through BAGE Mad Minutes that I learnt about from Daina Seymour’s blog. I am also determined to play the 2 octave with parallel hands. After three weeks, I am at the point where I am getting mad with this thing. How is it possible that I can play it with separate hands, but cannot put it together? I hope I will have some good news for you by the end of next week.

Thank you for being part of my journey, keeping me strong with your kind words and encouragement and sharing wonderful ideas that help me move forward. As a sign of my appreciation I’d like to end this blog with a piano joke:

Thanks for reading my blog! Stay tuned 🙂

the messy middle

Looking back at my week’s piano progress, I feel I’ve arrived to the period often described as “the messy middle”.

Yes, when I started to finally see progress, since I got to a point where I was able to play three pages from my piano book, I thought this was the time to set a goal. After I spent a fair amount of time thinking, I figured out which song I’d like to learn by the end of my EC&I 831 ed tech class. I chose an Ellie Goulding song “How long will I love you”. I first heard this song in the movie “About Time”. I felt a strong connection between the movie and my piano learning, so I printed the music sheets and shared my idea with my piano teacher.

And listening to the song, you probably already know what my piano teacher’s response was. He said it is doable, but not by this December, but next April. I know, I did not set a reasonable goal, but how could one set a reasonable goal when there is not enough knowledge in the respective area? Then I reached out and asked for my colleagues’ advice regarding choosing a beginner level song.

Thanks to my supportive colleagues, I came across “Heart and Soul” which seems to be doable.

You’re probably asking that after working on the parallel motion of the five scale and practicing the octave and three songs, how did I get to the point where I started feeling discouraged and dissatisfied? As I started learning more complex concepts, I realized that my fingers not only fly, but I am also struggling with finger independence. My fingers just won’t move separately. A friend of mine came up with a brilliant idea of getting finger extensions Hmmmmm…..

Instead, my goal is to focus on finger independence and finger dexterity by doing various finger exercises which means I am literally back at square one.

Beside building finger independence while working on the five scale and octave, as well as practicing my new Mozart song, I am constantly reminding myself not to compare myself with other piano players, stay positive and enjoy the journey. Please listen to my podcast to get a feel of what I am really going through.

Thank you! Until next time…

Challenges and little successes

I made it through the first three weeks of my learning journey, and as I look back, I can definitely see progress. I started my learning project without knowing ANYTHING about pianos and today, I have already two songs that I can play. It is a very rewarding experience and I am cherishing every moment of it. This doesn’t mean that I am not facing any challenges, though.

In episode 4 of my podcast I share how I ended up buying an 88 note Yamaha keyboard. Having easy access to a piano definitely makes a difference, since I can practice whenever I feel like it, over and over again. But making this purchase was quite overwhelming.—Shopping-for-the-right-keyboard-e7rcvr

After getting my own keyboard, I started experimenting with the sustain pedal.

Since the keyboard has only one pedal, I feel quite lucky, only having to learn how to use one pedal. Modern pianos have three pedals.

In episode 5 of my podcast, I shared the five finger scales that I finally managed playing with a parallel motion. It took a lot of practicing with separate hands, till I managed to put both hands together. What I really need to work on is avoiding the “flying fingers”. When I shared my challeneges with my friend, she told me about the way her 6 year old son was taught. His teacher recommended holding his hands as he was holding a hamburger. Currently I am trying to constantly remind myself of holding my fingers correctly as well as the correct posture: sitting up with straight back, relaxed shoulders, as well as having the proper distance between the piano and the bench. They seem to be little things, but they do play an important role when it comes to playing this unique instrument.

My teacher encouraged me to try playing the five finger scale both legato and staccato. The staccato I find quite hard since it requires bouncy arms, which can cause difficulty when trying to find the right notes.

I also learnt about music dynamics and I found playing forte, mezzo forte, and piano a lot more manageable. All the above described skills I tied together and demonstrated by playing the song Backpacking in episode 5.—Challenges-and-little-successes-e7s9g9

In episode 6, I had a chance to face more challenges by taking the five finger scale to the next level and learn how to play the octave. The difficulty of the octave is that there are finger crossovers included. In order to “avoid breaking the finger” it is important to move the hand slightly at the same time of the crossover. At this point, I am trying to master it doing it with one hand at a time, so I can do the parallel motion. I am also working on a new song, called Alouette where the focus is on timing since there are quarter notes, half notes, whole notes and dotted half notes.

Although I am still far away from mastering the songs: Backpacking and Alouette, please check out my progress in my weekly podcasts.—Octave-and-timing-e7sb3l

Thank you for all your support!

Melinda 🙂

New Beginning in the World of Music

My EC&I 831 Ed. Tech class, just as the previous class I took (EC&I 834), has been given me a chance to learn about technology as well as myself. After my Prof. Alec Couros introduced the option of a learning project, I knew this was the time to finally accomplish my childhood dream and learn how to play the piano.

Growing up, I was given the option of playing the violin or nothing and I chose NOTHING. I had a violin in the house and I didn’t even want to try it. When I listen to Hungarian folk music, it breaks my heart that I missed out on this opportunity.

But I am very thankful for the opportunity to learn how to play the piano and I decided to share the challenges and successes of my journey in a podcast, a completely new medium to me. Beside feeling lost in the field of music, I also have to become familiar with podcasting. After several retakes, I finally decided to share my introductory episode with one of my friends to get some feedback. It has been challenging since, as Michael Wesch described in An anthropological introduction to YouTube, it feels like “talking to the unknown, an invisible community”, which makes me feel awkward and terribly vulnerable.

So here I am at the beginning of my journey not knowing ANYTHING about how to play the piano and if you know a little about notes and mnemonics used to remember the place of various notes, you will agree with me.

After I went for my first face-to-face piano lesson, I realized that this is actually not a song my son was given, but mnemonics that help to find the notes easily on the piano.

I can already feel that this journey will be quite the ride full of mixed emotions. Hopefully beside feeling embarrassed and vulnerable, I will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as well.

Talking about embarrassment, after the first two weeks, I felt I needed guidance since there was no structure, nor a plan in my head. I was jumping from YouTube tutorial to YouTube tutorial without knowing what to look for. So, I went for my first piano lesson and during the lesson my teacher, Trevor Flemings was explaining the basics of piano and he was talking about the “treble clef” without writing the word on the board. As a non-native English speaker, I kept thinking why is this symbol called “trouble clef“??? I could not wrap my head around this concept. So I went home and Googled it, when I finally figured out the correct term. A couple days later my friend and I met for a visit, and I told her how awful I felt that I literally had to Google these new terms, since I was not familiar with them. Then she asked me, don’t you know the Meghan Trainor song about the “bass” and the “treble”? That’s when I realized how many things I miss out on because of English not being my first language…

The first three weeks, probably the hardest part of this learning project, I documented in three podcasts with the help of Anchor.Fm. I find this tool very user friendly providing a number of tutorials that help with getting started. In my first, second and third podcasts, I tried to share more about my experiences to give a better understanding of why I chose to learn how to play the piano and some of the resources I came across. I found a few web sites and tutorials quite helpful. Such as Treble Clef and Bass Clef – Lecture and Notes

I also downloaded the Simply Piano App. I quite like this interactive app and it has a few free tutorials. Pianote has a number of easy to follow very effective YouTube tutorials as well. They also have lesson plans as part of the membership. I came across a number of great and not so great tutorials. I find it very time consuming to find the right ones. The Philosophy of Piano podcast actually played a huge role in not loosing my interest. It served as a great example for podcasting as well as focusing on myself on this journey. The most useful tool getting started was the Regina Public Library‘s instrument borrowing program, since it gave me the opportunity to take the very first steps of my journey by having a 61 note Yamaha keyboard in my house for three weeks.

Thank you for being part of my journey! In case you come across some great resources please send them my way. Coming soon with more updates 🙂

Podcasting my piano journey

A few weeks ago, when my Prof. Alec Couros suggested to do a podcast on my learning process, all of a sudden I realized I am in for a double challenge. I decided to learn how to play the piano, having no musical background at all AND share my journey in the form of a podcast, a term I wasn’t familiar with three weeks ago.

So, when I heard of Anchor, I couldn’t wait to learn more about it, with the hope of finding the right tool to share my journey.

Anchor is a podcasting platform for making and hosting content. There are a number of things I like about Anchor. First of all it is a completely free platform without storage limit, trial period or any form of strings attached. The goal of Anchor is to enable anyone to start a podcast providing different tools and features, as well as automatic or manual distribution.

What is a podcast?

Anchor gives a great explanation of the term “podcast” and its meaning as well as several podcast tutorials that can serve as examples for people who are not familiar with podcasting. It is a tool used to tell a story alone or with a cohost in a creative way that is engaging for the listener. Some hosts invite guests and some share their own experiences. There are more polished podcasts and ones that are more like a hobby. Some podcasters like a more structured, scripted form while others like to leave room for flexibility with a semi-structured, semi-scripted version. It is recommended though, to have an outline for guidance, as well as a few questions in mind to help using the time effectively creating a recording worth of the listeners’ time. When it comes to recording, there is an option to import your already existing file created with the help of the phone microphone or create new recording using the creation tools from Anchor. Anchor gives people the opportunity to practice, experiment, and adapt throughout the process. Even after publishing, there is the option to make further changes and editing. 

What is needed in a podcast?

As a beginner podcaster, I found it very useful to know the key elements of a podcast. Anchor provides a checklist of the most important elements of a podcast, such as:

  • Podcast name that is related to the message
  • Podcast description
  • At least one episode (with a title!)
  • Episode descriptions
  • Cover art. There is also access to Unsplash, a library of high quality, free photos to help podcasters create a visually pleasing view.
  • Anchor also provides advice regarding cover art such as using high resolution photos, simple, high contrast imagery, avoiding the use of too much text and/or different colours and fonts. There is also a colour guide regarding the messages colours communicate and a guide to understanding colour theory.

Favourite Features

I really like the idea that as long as the guest or cohost has the Anchor app downloaded, they can record with you from anywhere in the world. Listeners can also phone in and leave a voice message that can be incorporated into later podcasts. Another neat feature is that in need of guests (under cohosts, after entering the topic) there is an option to post a short recording that will help with finding other users interested in the same topic. 

Anchor also provides the opportunity to track performance using the analytics dashboard as well as options for monetizing podcast. The Anchor episode builder helps you craft your episodes using a visual list of segments where no editing is required. It can be used to record, add other types of audio (like transitions or voice messages from your listeners), and rearrange the segments. It also provides a variety of sound effects to choose from and background music from Apple Music or Spotify.

Final Product

After reading and experimenting with Anchor, I decided to give it a try. Please enjoy my not so polished reality podcast: A new beginning in the world of music

Photo Credit: <a href=””>PMillera4</a> Flickr via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

Never stop believing

The goal of my learning project is a childhood dream of mine. I loved music all my life. As a little girl, I was always dancing and singing and whenever people asked me what I would like to become when I grow up, I would tell them the Romania singer, Corina Chiriac.

Quite young, I had this dream of learning how to play the piano. At that time and place, I am guessing that would have been quite the challenge for my parents, and my only option was to play the violin, since I got a used violin from my cousin. I just couldn’t imagine myself playing the violin, so I picked nothing. Later on, my mom would tell me that the piano wasn’t a good fit for me because of my small hands and short fingers. I never even tried it later on knowing that I wouldn’t succeed anyways.

At the age of 40, I was finally able to learn how to ride a bike. Both of my children learnt before me and I just didn’t want to miss out on knowing what it feels like riding a bike. I remember going outside after dark to practice and one day the magic happened and one of my elderly neighbours started screaming inside her house “You, did it!”

It is a great feeling to learn new things. Am I proficient bike rider? Get out of the way if you see me coming! Haha…  But I did the hardest step, overcoming my fear. Fear of falling, fear of failing, and fear of being judged. Looking back, I learnt many things, and most of them I had to figure out on my own without having an instructor telling me what to do and how to do it properly. I often wonder what it would feel like to know these things proficiently. 

So here I am taking EC&I 831 at the age of 41 and I am feeling extremely happy to have the chance to learn something new. I am going to focus on learning how to play the piano. I feel so fortunate. Looking at my own life, I see this as once in a lifetime opportunity. I know it is going to be a complex journey since I have to overcome a major negative thought in the back of my mind that has been following me since my childhood but I am confident, because I am learning it together with my children. We pretty much started around the same time at the beginning of September, the only difference is that they both had played an instrument before. 

From a great podcast on learning how to play the piano, I got three very valuable pieces of advice: be patient with yourself, never compare yourself to others and trust yourself.

I am planning to use social media and face to face interaction as part of my learning process. This time I am also going to have a piano teacher by my side, since I want to feel that I am doing things the right way, by having the opportunity to get guidance and answers for my questions. I think that it is crucial to learn the basics well and correctly to be able to build on in the future.

I am very excited about my learning project. It literally brightens my days giving me something to look forward each and every day. I cannot wait to see how far I can get in the next three months as well as in a couple of years.

Thank you for being part of my journey. I will keep you posted!