Category Archives: Reviews

The Ultimate Worship Keyboard or Digital Piano

worship keyboard

In January of 2011, I wrote a blog called “Finding the Ultimate Worship Keyboard” hoping that my experience as both a worship leader and a professional piano consultant would help other Music Ministers better navigate the confusing waters of piano (and keyboard) retail.  To my surprise, that blog quickly exploded into the most read – and one of the most commented upon – blogs in Gist history.  Now, over six years later, new technologies and considerations have given me reason to revisit this topic and (perhaps) expand upon it.  As always, it is my sincere hope that my experiences will help you find the worship tool that best fits your needs and those of your ministry.  I am sure some folks will disagree with my conclusions, but (God willing) the meat of these discussions will nourish all of us!  Thank you for reading and God bless!

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Faber and Alfred Supplemental Materials Top the List at Gist

As a music educator for over 17 years, including running my own piano studio, I have often been up to my shoulders in music books. But, until recently, I never realized how many options there were for supplemental piano materials (outside of traditional method books).

We recently conducted a Materials Questionnaire among our piano teachers, both local and in-house, and were quite surprised at the results. This was especially true when it came to supplemental piano books and supplemental series.

One of the supplemental series that was highly rated – and is a personal favorite of mine – is Alfred’s Famous and Fun Collection. For each level, the series contains genres like pop, rock, classics, Christmas music, Jewish songs, and duets.

These colorful books give students a little extra enthusiasm to practice. Many of the books include songs that students have previously heard and the arrangements are entertaining and easy to learn. As an added bonus, the duet parts fit well with each piece and are fun to play. These books work nicely for both young students and adults.

Another popular supplemental series for both young students and adults is the Faber Pre-Time through Big-Time collection. Like the Famous and Fun books, the Faber series also includes books focused on pop, favorites, classics, jazz and blues, rock, hymns, Christmas music, and ragtime/marches.

These books are delightful as supplemental materials, especially if a student is already playing in the Faber Piano Adventures series. The books include a wide variety of songs with simple and enjoyable arrangements. For more variety, Faber also has the Faber Studio Collection which includes pieces from all the genres for each level.

Are you interested in more traditional supplemental material? A few classical books that topped the list were Hanon, Melodious Masterpieces, Classics for the Developing Pianist, Journey Through the Classics, specific composers like Bach and Debussy, and specific compositions such as sonatinas and inventions.

Whatever your supplemental materials preference, there is lots to choose from. And remember, if we don’t have it in the store, we can order it for you. You can also go to Gist’s website and Order Piano Takeout.

Best of luck in your material exploration!

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New App Makes Roland Digital Pianos Even Better

Roland Piano Partner 2 App

Roland’s FREE “Piano Partner” app is available now for iOS and Android devices.  Click photo for details.

Last weekend, Roland introduced the highly-anticipated sequel to their wildly popular “Piano Partner” app:  Piano Partner 2… and we couldn’t love it more.

Unlike the original Piano Partner, Piano Partner 2 is available for BOTH iOS devices (like the iPad) and Android devices.  Also, unlike the previous app, Piano Partner 2 connects to the piano wirelessly via Bluetooth (instead of the quirky and less reliable WIFI technology featured in the previous app).  These two upgrades alone would be praise-worthy, but the biggest news is what the new app does!  Like Piano Partner, Piano Partner 2 allows compatible Roland Digital Piano Owners to change the sounds on their piano or play on-board songs with a simple pp2-rhythmstouch of the tablet screen.  Users can adjust the playback speed, mute one or both hands, and play along with metronome or customized accompaniment.  Also like the previous app, Piano Partner 2 includes a powerful flashcards game that challenges the player with either note recognition or ear training skills at a variety of experience levels.  NEW to Piano Partner 2, however, is the Rhythms feature.  With Rhythms, Piano Partner 2 users can build their piano skills with intelligent accompaniments that follow the chords you play.

…and the best part?  Piano Partner 2 is FREE.

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Roland Digital Pianos: SuperNATURAL Piano Sound

Probably the most common question I get online is “What the heck is so SuperNATURAL about Roland’s piano sound?” …and it’s a fair question! Since Roland invented the first digital piano in 1975, they have been known throughout the World as a leader in digital music technology. If they’re excited about a technology, then it must be something big!

Well, I decided that SuperNATURAL Piano was too intricate to describe in a text blog. Who’d want to read that anyway?! …so for all of you who’ve wondered but never asked – and, of course, for all of you who asked, here’s my latest video: “What is SuperNATURAL Piano by Roland?”

Enjoy!


…and check out the entire line of Roland SuperNATURAL digital pianos!

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The Latest in Piano Teaching Methods

As a clarinetist, I am often envious of all the different method, technique, and even performance books available to pianists. With everyone having different teaching and learning styles, it makes sense to have different method books available. And in that spirit, I would like to introduce you to a few new additions to two popular piano method book series.

At the beginning of March, Helen Marlais released the Grade 3 books for the Succeeding at the Piano series. A relatively new addition to the piano method “family,” (although Marlas is not), Grade 3 is a welcome addition to the series. Grade 4 is scheduled to be released sometime next year, and that will complete the series. From the FJH Music Company, “Grade 3 expands on the concepts introduced in earlier levels and teaches new ones, such as: new time signatures of 3/8, 6/8 and cut time; compound meter; triads and inversions; IV chord and I-IV-I cadence; I-IV-I-V7-I in C, G, and F Major; syncopation; intervals of a 7th and an octave; alberti bass; triplets; swing rhythm; chromaticism; and the three forms of the minor scale in the key A and D. Healthy technique resulting in tension-free playing, conventional and intervallic note reading, engaging music by six leading composers establish a passion for playing piano.”

Each level in the Succeeding at the Piano series includes a lesson, theory and activity, recital and Christmas book. As an extra, you can also get a sticker book and flash card friend set for each level. A teacher guide is available for the preparatory and grade one book.

The next new addition to the piano method family is the second edition of Level 2A and 4 of Faber Piano Adventures series. The second edition of these two levels follows the new editions of the Primer and Level 1 books. With additional pages and studies, both the Level 2A and 4 will expand upon the changes made in the previous levels and continue in a natural evolution (don’t worry, you can continue using first edition and second edition books together). Most exciting for Level 4 is the introduction of a Level 4 Technique and Artistry book. The aim of this book is to combine the real “secrets to virtuoso playing with the objective of artistic performance.” While all of Level 2A second edition books have been released (lesson, theory, technique and artistry, and performance) and are available in stores, the Level 4 Theory book will be released in July 2012. The Level 4 Theory book will be the last second edition book released for 2012.

A couple “extras.” Piano Adventures has also recently released a Primer Level Teacher’s Guide. This is an attractive book that includes a DVD with Nancy Faber demonstrating teaching techniques with students. Also, we now have updated PreTime and BigTime, Popular, Rock’n Roll, Jazz & Blues, and Kids’ Songs books. Stop by either Gist locations in Louisville and Lexington to see these exciting new additions to the Succeeding at the Piano and Piano Adventures series!

FJH Music introduces level 3 of the Succeeding at the Piano method series by Helen Marlais

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