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Oct 31 11

Improvising and the Pattern Play Series

by Bruce Siegel

Do you want to learn to improvise? Do you need help in teaching improvisation to others?

If the answer is yes to either question, you may be interested in the Pattern Play series of books by Akiko and Forrest Kinney, read more…

Oct 4 11

The Top Three Myths About Learning to Play the Piano

by Bruce Siegel


I keep this very old post up top because, as one of the commenters says, it looks at the BIG picture of how we learn to play. You’ll find practical tips here as well as exercises, resources, and the philosophy behind the DoctorKeys piano courses.

Whether you’ve been playing the piano for years or are just getting started, what you think you know may be holding you back.

Here are the common fallacies we’ll debunk:

• It all starts with learning to read music.
• It’s all about the fingers.
• Practicing means playing a piece over and over.

read more…

Jun 3 11

New Ode to Joy tutorial: Beethoven made simple but beautiful

by Bruce Siegel

So far, the lessons on have focused on piano accompaniment–using chords to back up your own singing. But this lesson is different. It teaches you to play a piano solo. read more…

Jun 3 11

New theory tutorials on DoctorKeys

by Bruce Siegel

It’s been a a while since I’ve blogged and I’d like to fill you in on some new videos. All these lessons can be accessed by subscribers from the main course list. read more…

Dec 10 10

Accompanying yourself: it’s a giggle

by Bruce Siegel

Here on, you can learn to use chords to accompany your own singing. To show you how approachable and fun this can be, here’s 8-year-old Ali to demonstrate. (I couldn’t bear to edit out the opening moments of this video, and I think you’ll understand why when you see it.)

read more…

Nov 18 10

Catch me on YouTube &

by Bruce Siegel

My new YouTube channel has two playlists: one for tutorials, and one for videos in which I’m performing music my students and I love to play. In the second category you’ll find everything from baroque to jazz.

If you’d like to hear me playing standard (more difficult) repertoire, you can do that at, where I’ve recently become a contributing artist. read more…

Nov 15 10

Two secrets to better sight-reading

by Bruce Siegel

I sometimes participate in the great forums at Recently, one of the posters wanted to know how she could improve her sight-reading. I responded, and since I’m basically a lazy guy and this is easier than writing a new blog post, here’s what I said to her. read more…

Nov 15 10

An academic recommends learning music by ear

by Bruce Siegel

One of my biggest gripes about piano teaching as a whole, is that students are almost always taught to read music before they learn to play by ear. That’s why I was thrilled to hear this interview with Rob Cutietta, Dean of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, read more…

Sep 22 10

Playing Chopin and Clementi on the Steinway (that lives in my Mac)

by Bruce Siegel

It’s a quandary. I need to make recordings for this site, and I’ve been trying to decide what to use: my Yamaha upright piano, or my keyboard-plus-virtual-Steinway setup.

The Steinway in question is the library of recorded samples from Garritan. I trigger them by playing my Roland FP7 keyboard and record my performance as a MIDI file using ProTools.

Here are two movements of a Clementi Sonatina I just recorded using the Garritan.


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You can hear the Chopin (a gorgeous mazurka) on this page. read more…

Sep 11 10

Big leaps made easy. (Video)

by Bruce Siegel

Whatever kind of music you play, you need to be able to re-position your hand on the keyboard quickly, accurately, and without losing control of dynamics. Here’s a strategy that can make a huge difference in your playing.

You’ll hear some pretty cool pieces in this lesson (parts of them, anyway), including music by Satie and Joplin. I especially enjoyed playing the Bartok at the end of the video.

Sep 10 10

Music for what ails you.

by Bruce Siegel

My session got off to a good start today, but when it came time to let go of the practicing and play for pure pleasure, it seemed there was nothing I really wanted to do.

I thought about the music I’ve been playing recently, and also how much fun I’ve been having improvising, and none of it seemed appealing. I was feeling a bit down, actually (post-vacation blues, perhaps), and the fact that I had no appetite for playing didn’t help. read more…

Aug 10 10

Really listening (and its rewards)

by Bruce Siegel

I keep a journal about my playing and practicing. This is from today’s entry.

I spent some time with the well-known Sonatina in G. (Probably not by Beethoven, as it turns out.) One of my students is playing it and I want her to hear how beautiful this little piece can sound.

It took me a while to get caught up in the music and enjoy it, and for a while, I thought I never would. But as I listened more and more closely and found little things to do that pleased me, I perked up. read more…

Jul 28 10

Practicing again and it feels so good.

by Bruce Siegel

I’ve been playing the piano regularly for much of my life. But exactly how I spend my time at the piano continues to evolve. read more…

Jul 21 10

Deep Basic #4: Prepare.

by Bruce Siegel

This is the fourth in a series of posts on the core essentials of piano playing.

When I’m teaching, it often seems that every other word out of my mouth is about preparation. Though the specifics vary, the message always comes down to this:

Be ready for the next note well in advance, touching the key, with your body poised to get the sound you want. read more…

Jul 13 10

Deep Basic #2: Let gravity do the work.

by Bruce Siegel

This is the second in a series of posts on the core essentials of piano playing.

In a nutshell, technique refers to how you use your body to get the sounds you want from the piano. And the starting place for good technique is relaxation.

Now if you’re wondering how you can relax while doing something as complicated as playing the piano, the answer is simple: let the weight of your arm do the work. Don’t use your muscles to push keys down—let gravity do it for you.

Releasing arm weight into the keys:

• Keeps you pain- and injury-free.
• Helps you control dynamics (loudness and softness). read more…