Animatedpiano challenge: fanfare for health workers

Today (26 March 2020) people in the UK are being asked to applaud health workers. See the full story here:

If you can play the piano and make a YouTube video, there is another way that you can show your support for all health workers, wherever they may be. Take part in our challenge to play a ‘fanfare for health workers’. This is open to all pianists and keyboard players anywhere in the world, from beginners to professionals. You can do it at any time, any day.

Please don’t worry about your ability level or video quality, it’s the spirit that counts. If you can play major chords in a good strong rhythm, you can play a fanfare. Even if you’ve only just started learning and don’t yet know what a major chord is, you can still take part. Watch our ‘Animated piano note chart’ (see below), find the notes C, E and G in the middle of the piano, and play them separately or together in any combination. Congratulations, you’ve just played a fanfare!

When you’re happy with your fanfare, record it to video and upload it to YouTube with the title ‘Animatedpiano challenge: fanfare for health workers’. There is no time limit for submissions, so do it when you feel ready. Every so often we will search YouTube for entries and feature some of them on this site. So come on, what are you waiting for? Get to work on your fanfare and show your support. Let’s hear it for the health workers!

Coronavirus update: we’re staying online!

You may have noticed that things have been very quiet recently on, but we’re hoping to change that very soon. We’re working as hard as we can to create and source lots of new content to support piano learning in the pandemic crisis. And don’t worry, we’re staying online! So, apart from technical difficulties or periods of website maintenance, that content will be here when you need it. More details will follow when new content is ready.

For now, read on to the next post. It will give you an idea how you can show your support for health workers all over the world… by playing the piano.

One-horse Open Sleigh

This piece can be played as a solo or as a duet part for Jingle Bells (level A0, featured in the previous post). It may look a bit complicated, but don’t panic! Just remember that fingers 2 and 3 of each hand are on black keys. The only exception is in bar 7, where the right hand plays D natural.

Here is the sheet music and the video:

Here is the teacher reference sheet for Jingle Bells (level A0) and One-horse Open Sleigh (level A3):

Jingle Bells for absolute beginners

What, yet another version of Jingle Bells for easy piano? Yes, but this one’s a bit different. It’s a very simple ‘pre-notation’ arrangement, which is centered around Middle C. Hand positions are shown in the video.

A companion piece, ‘One-horse Open Sleigh’, is coming up in the next post, together with a teacher reference sheet for both pieces.

Clavichord performances (Byrd, Bach, Mozart, Grieg)

William Byrd (c1540 – 1623) was one of the leading composers of the English Renaissance. The Carman’s Whistle is his setting of a popular tune from the time of Elizabeth I. Note that the performer in this video is reading the music in a very 21st-century way – from an iPad!

Here’s an arrangement of a Prelude (originally for solo violin) by J.S. Bach. It’s played on a replica of a clavichord from 1670.

Larger clavichords can be used to perform many piano pieces from the early Classical era (Mozart and Haydn, for example). Here’s Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca (Rondo in Turkish style):

Hearing late 19th-century piano music played on a clavichord is unusual, to say the least. However, here’s a clavichord performance of Grieg’s Wedding Day At Troldhaugen, from book 8 of Lyric Pieces (1896). The performer has had to adapt the music slightly, due to the clavichord’s short keyboard range and lack of sustaining pedal. Even so, it’s surprisingly effective.

For comparison, here’s Wedding Day At Troldhaugen again, but this time played on the piano. In this recording (audio only), Leif Ove Andsnes plays a Steinway piano which was owned by Grieg (see

Keyboard instruments before the piano, part 2: Clavichord

The clavichord is a small keyboard instrument which was designed for private enjoyment. It’s more expressive than the harpsichord, but it’s very quiet. In recordings, clavichords may actually seem to be quite loud. This is because they tend to be recorded at fairly high volume levels.

Clavichord strings are struck by small pieces of metal called tangents. The tangents remain in contact with the strings while the keys are pressed.

In the following video, Steven Devine introduces the clavichord… from his kitchen!

As shown briefly in the video above, a clavichord allows the performer to produce a type of vibrato. That means making the note ‘wobble’, as a violinist can do. On the clavichord, this is known as bebung. Here is a very good demonstration:

There are two types of clavichord, fretted and unfretted. In this next video, the difference between the two types is explained and demonstrated.

Harpsichord performances (Bach and Scarlatti)

Here’s a well-known minuet in G from the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook. Old printed editions of this piece attribute it to either ‘J.S. Bach’ or ‘Anon.’, but it is now believed to be by Johann Christian Petzold. It’s played here on a single-manual harpsichord.

Next, a performance of a sonata by Scarlatti. A 2-manual harpsichord is used to great effect here. Notice how the upper manual can be ‘coupled’ to the lower one. The upper keys can be seen going down as the lower ones are played. And in this video, you can see the notation as well!

Although the harpsichord has limited dynamics, it can still sound very expressive if played beautifully. Here’s a lovely performance of a Bach prelude, played on a 2-manual harpsichord, but using only the lower manual.

If you enjoy the sound of the harpsichord, you may feel that one is not enough. OK, how about 4 harpsichords! Here’s J.S. Bach’s concerto in A minor for 4 harpsichords and strings. It’s actually an arrangement by Bach of a concerto for 4 violins by Vivaldi (op.3 no.10).

Resources to liven up piano learning: sheet music, videos and more!

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