Lydia, why the piano calls her to return.

Monday, March 20, 2023 by Becky Reesor | Interview

Lydia, at her home in Manitoba.

Piano practice has become a heart-beat to your regular routine. 

Why is this?

Piano practice nurtures my inner core, my well-spring of life. Like sit ups, it lends stability. I love music, so it is a wholesome source of pleasure.

There's no quick fix. Throw out the successful, final dream scene. This is “never” going to be fast effortless flowing music as when I was younger. I accept it. 

I tell myself:

"Pick up your hands. Lay them evenly over the keyboard. Handle bar palms. Scissor fingers. Curving tips. Now practice. Practice again. This will take a long time, and lots of communication. No guilt. No knuckle rapping. Stay calm. Carry on."

New patterns become the norm: the power, the delight, the knowledge that I can make things happen. Careful attention to finger positioning is like being more objective with daily decisions. I pause. I think more carefully first. It's like a finishing school to polish you up: a perspective of listening and problem-solving.

I've come to drop my defences and just be present as I am. I'm discovering that less effort gives you more song. It's staying closer to the keys, rather than rushing and running away for errands. It's learning to accept the attention of someone listening to you play it again, again and again, soaking in the goodwill of being seen.

Learning piano at 58! A student's perspective.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 by Becky Reesor | Interview

As a child, cartoon and commercial music caught her attention in a snap. The familiar music called and she ran to join in, singing.  

“I noticed that it was more what the cartoons did," Johanne describes, "that they had music to amplify what was happening.” And so began Johanne's life-long love of music.

Her favorite musical memories are those of the Ed Sullivan show, and hearing the organ. She describes a concert at her childhood school, “…at one point, it became a train. I heard everything — It blew my mind! How was she doing it? I thought - me, I would like to play like that.” Today, Johanne dreams of performing music she loves for family and friends. Her most loved tune is Color My World, and she adores Elvis's music.

“I always wanted to learn (piano), but for one reason or another, it didn’t happen. I listened to music all the time… all the time.I was always drawn to it. It made me feel good.”


Johanne’s love of music never wavered. At 58, after a career as a cook, she began her first piano lessons. It’s not easy starting at that age, but she said, “If I can’t do it, it’s no big deal and at least I’ll have tried.”

“I liked it right away… and I developed a sort of respect for pianists.”

What an eye-opener. Over her lifetime, her hands had learned to master the art of making delicious food. Now she was slowly and patiently teach them to make music. The process was gratifying, exciting and humbling all at the same time. “I realized a lot of things. Like, the easier something looks… the more I say - hey, there are hours behind that!’”

And her work pays off. She opens her books and enjoys playing the music inside. “I’m really having fun. It’s my time. No matter what’s going on, I forget everything else and I’m in the music.” 

Working to develop her skills, she spends at least an hour a day. Why? “Because it’s fun to play,” she says. “Because I hear my music. Because I learn what I want to play.” 

“I do it for myself. Because I feel like it! It’s for me, no matter what anyone else thinks.”

People have wondered why she wants to spend so much time learn piano at her life stage. But her way of looking at it keeps her going. “I have a brain and I’m capable to learn! If I’m shown patiently, I’m sure I’ll be able to. Either way, I’ll find out.”

After 4 years of piano lessons, Johanne is a proficient reader and has recently performed an arrangement of Gymnopédie No. 1 by Eric Satie. She can chord and learn by ear, and is learning to improvise. She’s always learning more how scales and chords are used in each piece she learns, and is gaining control of her piano technique. It’s soon time to tackle one of her main goals: having “Color my world,” by Chicago in her performance repertoire.

I asked what she would say to anyone on the fence about starting to learn piano. She said, “If it’s something you really want, do it. Go for it. For me it’s been positive. It’s so fun. Above all with a good teacher.”


Use your imagination... surprise yourself.

Saturday, June 12, 2021 by Becky Reesor | Musician's Artistry

It’s a pretty amazing feeling - expressing yourself at the piano. It feels horrible when your fingers, arms and head are all tied up in knots. We can get so caught up focussing on the technical side. Even with music flowing in the imagination, trying to keep track of it all while playing can just lead to brain overload. The piece might even be played well, but feel like it never quite flows or comes to life no matter how many times it's practiced. It’s strange: concentrating on the "how-to" can really get in the way. At times, technical difficulties can actually be solved by focussing on what the music should sound like.

There are always the fundamentals — both for the physical how-to and for musical interpretation — but they aren’t the goals. They are the foundation. 

At some point it’s time to recognize that you’ve established them, and get started on letting your own voice ring through.

Music expresses emotion, character, concept, personality, narrative, etc... and how? By the way in which notes relate to each other through rhythm, pitch and volume (bear with me here). We also experience the world through how things relate to each other. For example, the sound and feeling of ocean waves has a particular regularity in how they feel (rhythm) and sound (pitch and volume). Popping popcorn also a predictable feel and sound. If I ask you to find the sound of these images on the piano, you could likely find a way to represent those images. Without much effort, you’d process how fast/slow, long/short, high/low, loud/soft the notes should be compared to each other. 

Now think of the vast repertoire each of us hold in terms of emotions (happy/sad/angry/tired), atmospheres (misty, sunshiny, busy), sounds (speech, nature or urban sounds) and storytelling. We are experts in expression! We just need practice letting it out at the piano.

Practicing this is actually quite simple. Just finish the sentence:

"Play it as if….."

Whichever way you finish the sentence, it will activate your repertoire of knowledge of how things relate to each other, and your imagination will kick in to influence how you play notes to resemble this image. The only catch is you have to put in the effort to really believe you see or feel the image you are choosing. Otherwise it’s just another busy brain exercise.

Literally, this influences how your fingers interact with the keys, which is super cool. By applying what you already know about everything in life, you can discover new sound and technical possibilities in a way that is totally unique to you, and your experience of the world. The sounds that emerge are 100% your artistic expression!

I have some examples for you to try on your own -- remember that this is super open-ended. I encourage you to just throw random images at yourself to really see what sounds come out! In a lesson, your teacher might strategies the images, but there's a lot of value in just being outrageous.

3 Steps to implement this in your home practice:

  1. List a bunch of images (it’s ok if they seem ridiculous and un-related)
  2. Reflect on how they impacted your playing. 
  3. Keep what you liked and keep exploring.

3 Example idea lists for ADULTS

1. Play as if you are playing under water…

     .. in a still, murky pond.

     .. deep amidst strong currents.

     .. in an effervescent natural pool.

2. Play as if you are…

     .. telling the story to children.

     .. trying to recall each moment from the depths of you memory.

     .. a courageous warrior at battle; or a hummingbird flitting about; or alone & abandoned.

3. Play as if you can feel…

     .. thick lava flowing throughout the veins in your body.

     .. cold winds whipping all around you.

     .. down feathers beneath your fingers, hands & arms.

3 Examples idea lists for KIDS:

1. Play as if you are:

     .. happy, sad, angry, tired, mysterious or excited

2. Play like a…

     .. sloth, cheetah, elephant or butterfly

3. Play as if you are:

     .. running away

     .. relaxing on the trampoline

     .. flying through the sky!

Have fun... surprise yourself :)

Today's tango hero.

Saturday, June 12, 2021 by Becky Reesor | DocuVlog

At long last! 
Months ago, I was fortunate to enjoy the beautiful performance of the tango piece "Danzarin" by Mayu Funaba. As I watched it I just wondered "What is the story behind this piece?" I had the opportunity to interview both Mayu & the man behind the piece, Pablo Estagarribia, and was so grateful to learn a bit more of the mysterious and alluring tango.
Enjoy the short doc!

Story-telling & evolution.

Saturday, February 29, 2020 by Becky Reesor | DocuVlog

Telling stories is central to human self-expression. The art of storytelling is an incredible influence in societies around the world; in their politics, religions and arts. Music therapy is a discipline that has, among many other things, recognised the power of helping people to express themselves: to tell their stories. Mr. Gilles Tamboa Perrault, instrument inventor/maker at Tamböa, has taken inspiration from the great story-telling cultures around the world. He has furthered the evolution of these instruments, sprouting new life and legacy into contemporary society.  


PRACTICE?? Analyse vs. Rehearse.

Saturday, February 29, 2020 by Becky Reesor | Music Tools

"HOW TO PRACTICE" is a life-long pursuit. Even professional pianists want to always accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. Whatever your skill level, define the purpose of your practice at each moment. In this video I explain to a student how to split their practice into "analysis" versus "rehearsal" modes. This way they will learn to both fix mistakes and be more confident in delivering a performance without stutters and hiccups.


Sound Bytes: Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet

Sunday, August 18, 2019 by Becky Reesor | Music Appreciation

Listening delights for you:


Sergei Prokofiev: easily a top 5 favourite composer.  
His colourful drive, energy and “lyrical bite” entrance me. Today, the 2 piano 4 hands (piano duet) performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet by the legendary Martha Argerich and Sergei Babayan struck as pure delight; I feel spun into another world. 

Excerpts for your listening pleasure in today’s assembled order (but please do not feel limited):

  1. No. 10, The Young Juliet:  
    48 seconds to whet the appetite. Follow the running lines and feel how Juliet’s youthful vitality pulls your sense of gravity.


  2. No. 48, The Morning Serenade:  
    Time to relax; look in your mind’s eye to the sunbeams, the birds and the bees and the couples’ brief moment of morning bliss.


  3. No. 35, Death of Tybalt:  
    Because life is not all sweetness… and games can bring bitter endings.


  4. 3 Dance numbers from the ball:   
    No. 25, Dance of the Mandolins:  
      Quirky & playful dance of the socialite.  

    No. 22, Folk Dance:  
      Rustic & playful dance of the youth.  

    No. 13, Dance of the Knights:  
      Sinister & foreboding dance of the Imperial Death Star… ahem… Montague’s
      vs Capulets. Also heard with MUSE, Iron Maiden & Deep Purple   


  5. No. 18, Gavotte:  
    I leave you to depart alongside the guests of the ball. Walk with cheeky grace into your day!



Chick Corea on Rhythm

Wednesday, July 24, 2019 by Becky Reesor | Music Tools

Practical and on point: Chick Corea addresses rhythm... our key building block.

Without rhythm music becomes garbled. Without playing in "the pocket," a musician forever sounds amateur. WITH rhythm which grooves and is well structured (no matter the genre), the human response is to relax and/or move with the music. Ever fall asleep during a performance? In all likelihood the performer placed and structured the rhythm to flow from before the first note to after the last key release.

Try not to overthink and drown in academia about rhythm. Hear it.. FEEL it before you play. Develop the sense and it will grow.

Drawing & Music

Wednesday, July 3, 2019 by Becky Reesor | Musician's Artistry

Engaging with visual art alongside music is a great tool for deepening artistic vision.It can fuel the imagination to spark more vivid sounds and nuanced storytelling, refining musical ideas.

Below is a video of my recent drawing and performance of Cordes à vide (Open Strings) by György Ligeti. The direct reference is to the open strings of an instrument (violin, viola, guitar, etc), however, when the opening melody notes sound it really evokes someone playing crystal glasses  with their finger. Open-fifth intervals glide out of melody tones like light fractals reflecting in and through pieces of glass.

I hope you enjoy the drawing and the interpretation of Cordes à vide!

What are your ways of exploring music?


Sunday, June 16, 2019 by Becky Reesor | Uncategorized

Improvising is a great way to develop self-expression at the piano, while also freeing spontaneity and sensitivity for playing composed music. If you are new to this it can feel uncomfortable, but the only way to learn to improvise is to just do it... and often! 

1) Begin with any note.  
2) Listen to the sound you made and ask, "what do I want to hear next?" (i.e. move up/down, close/far).  
3) Make your move!  
4) LISTEN, RESIST the urge to FIX.  
5) Repeat and loop steps 2-4. 

This is teaching you to listen and respond through trial and error --- much like how we learn a new language. You are training your ears, eyes, fingers and inner ear to speak "piano" extemporaneously! Do this every day for a few minutes.. maybe first thing in the morning or last thing at night... and you will soon see yourself feeling more comfortable to just "play" what you feel. 

I started solo improvising (i.e. not within a band) mid-way through my Master of Music degree in classical piano performance. Daily (or most days) pre-practice improv became a ritual... albeit not always satisfying... that made me feel more in tune with myself personally and musically. Ultimately, it has definitely made me a freer and better musician. Here are links to the first and last improvs of my master's degree:


What are your tips for improvising?I'd love to hear from you! :)