Category - Digital Editions

Solemnity: A new and appropriate piano solo arrangement for the times

Hurricane Harvey etched a devastating path of destruction throughout the southern United States. Our son who lives in Jupiter, Florida, is now anticipating the arrival of Hurricane Irma. He’s on staff at the Loggerhead Marine Life Center which rescues and rehabilitate sea turtles.

A biologist cares for a 200-pound turtle injured by a boat.

The center is shuttering doors and filling and stacking sand bags. At the same time, our son Carter, is packing up his own things and plans to evacuate his 2nd story apartment today.

With 3/4 of a tank of gas, it looks like he’ll make his way to a friend’s house in Tampa on the west side of Florida. We are not sure if that will be much better than Jupiter (on the East coast) as Irma is twice the width of Florida. From all appearances, it doesn’t look good for any one in the path of Irma.

Sometimes words aren’t enough. On sobering days like these something more solemn is appropriate and strangely comforting.

Contrary to what you may think, my latest contemporary setting of Beethoven’s symphony movement was inspired long before these unnerving days. I was reminded of this pensive movement a while back when watching the movie, The King’s Speech. The music powerfully sets the scene when King George VI, played by Collin Firth, awaits the delivery of his speech announcing that Great Britain would be joining World War II. The repetitive melody and soulful counter melody made such an impact on me that I wanted to play it myself. After months of doodling with it, my abridged interpretation has been completed.

Over a year ago, I knew I wanted a cover image to fit the pensive mood of the piece, and decided upon a photo of a window painted with raindrops taken by my mom, Joanne Alberda.  It reminds me of one of those days filled with resolve to get through whatever the tasks and trials that lie ahead. Sometimes words just can’t express the determination and dedication of resolution. Music and images speak when words can’t.

Solemnity is an arrangement “owed” to Beethoven and dedicated to all those resolved to get through a day, a month, a year,—a storm—that is anything but sunny.

ALL the proceeds generated from the sales of Solemnity during the month of September 2017 will be donated to the MTNA benevolence fund which supports musicians and teachers devastated by disasters like Hurricane Harvey.

Because of this, I’m offering only a studio license priced at $10.

When a “feel-good” tune just doesn’t seem right, Solemnity will. Listen to Solemnity here.


Purchase it here and your $10 will be donated

In case you’d like to hear the full symphony, I’ve included a video of it below.

New Arrangement for Piano Solo: “It is Well”

Perhaps you know the tragic story behind the lyrics of the hymn, When Peace Like a River? They were penned in 1876 by Horatio G. Spafford after losing four daughters in a shipwreck. His wife survived the wreck. This was just one of many tragedies this couple endured. You can read more about their life here.

Unfortunately, and as you know, tragedies are a common occurrence. I’m surrounded by family and a community in which I witness the faithfulness of saints—despite dire circumstances—on a daily basis.

Photo by Joanne Alberda

Photo by Joanne Alberda

“A river might bring to mind a damaging flood, but the paradox of being flooded by peace is the rich insight of the poet.”   – Joanne Alberda

The testimony of saints who persevere and profess “it is well” although it may seem anything but, inspired me to write this arrangement. You’ll hear calm waters, ripples growing into rushing rapids, the rolling of sea billows and the trumpets resounding.  The simple yet profound tune composed by Philip Bliss, lends itself to wonderful possibilities for harmonic and rhythmic color! Read More

Make Rhythm Count in Your Studio with THIS Resource

It’s hot off the 88PK press: Rhythm Make It Count!

Many readers have asked how I organize my Off Bench time. In a nutshell, Off Bench time is when two students arrive at the same time and while one works with me at the piano, the other completes tasks off the bench usually with iPad apps or various manipulatives or games.

Rhythm Make it Count is my attempt to answer your questions. App assignments and off-bench activities are mapped out with consideration for scope and sequence. You’ll have a resource at your finger tips devoted to just about any rhythmic concept you can think of–except polyrhythms–blog coming about that soon!

Even if you aren’t crazy about the iPad or technology or don’t feature an Off Bench time in your studio, you’ll appreciate the innovative activities included in this resource that you can use during private or group lessons.

In addition, if you have an aversion to the printer, ink, paper, and laminator, no worries. I do, too. My go-to activities use standard, household items usually found in the recycle bin.

Call me crazy but look what I like to do with paper plates! Click here if you can’t see the video.


The planning has been done for you in Rhythm Make it Count, now you just have to do it! If you need no further convincing, buy your copy here for a mere $20 (until September 10th). If not, watch the next video below (or click here) and keep reading.

Why rhythm?

Why a comprehensive resource devoted to rhythm? Why rhythm first over any other skill like pitch reading or scales or chords? And furthermore, why combine app assignments with off bench activities?

Let me start with a confession: For years, I hated sight reading and had if it's the right note at the wrong time, it's a wrong noteresigned myself to the fact that I would never be good at it. As I took an accompanist position, suddenly, I had no choice—sight reading was mandatory. What I discovered? That when my rhythm reading became more fluid and confident, my ability to find the right pitches on the keyboard improved dramatically.

How does this connect with a resource devoted to rhythm for students? My ability to comprehend rhythms was not based on my proficiency at counting aloud or even reading pitches. It was based on my ability to feel, locate and isolate each beat in a measure and determine how it was added to another beat or how it was subdivided.

I discovered that counting “1e&a” for four 16th notes didn’t help. But, when I saw beats (for example, quarter notes) as columns and each one divided into 4 equal parts and let myself count “1234” or say “watermelon” for each column, reading tricky rhythms became “easy.”

Overcoming my reading inadequacies has made be passionate about demystifying this complex rhythmic notation for my students.

Yes, reading pitches from the grand staff is tricky but pitches always remain the same. The bottom space of the treble clef will always be an “F” and nothing else. However, the “F” could be played in countless ways—as a quarter note, two 8th notes or a whole note or…you get the point.

None of this intricate knowledge of rhythm will matter until it can be locked into a steady pulse. A pulse is best felt through the body–walking, marching, clapping, drills away from the piano and of course, drumming. Combining the abilities of subdividing and feeling a groove will eventually build strong rhythm readers or RHYTHMANIACS!

What you’ll find in my first tech-savvy, off-bench resource (there’s more to come) is a mix of activities and app assignments that won’t necessarily teach—you’ll still have to do that. It will assist you by providing carefully sequenced strategies for you to build strong “rhythmaniacs” and eventually excellent sight readers and musicians for life. 

What’s in it?

Rhythm Make it Count is a comprehensive, downloadable studio-licensed PDF which comes in sections so you can print or duplicate only the parts you need. Make sure to download them all as soon as your receipt comes in your email inbox!

Part 1  A cover page, Preface and Table of Contents.

Part 2  A Teacher’s Guide which features:

  • My “secrets” about off bench time–or at least most of IMG_1247them.
  • Alphabetized pictures and links to all the hottest rhythm apps featured in the resource.
  • Off bench activities I use to reinforce rhythm in private or group settings usually using repurposed items. I prefer that over printing and laminating.
  • An organized index of favorite activities related to rhythm by creative teachers and bloggers.IMG_1244

Part 3 Round One assignment grid that reviews quarter, half, dotted half, whole notes and rests, 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures.

Part 4 Round Two assignment grid that reviews concepts of Round One and covers ties, upbeats, 16ths, subdivision, 6/8 time, simple vs compound time, triplets, syncopation.

The unique feature of both grids? All assignments are organized into categories. Those that train the eye, those, that train the ear, the hand, the musical imaginations and even the feet!

Part 5 A Get Inspired! Episode featuring unique rhythm-based videos guaranteed to inspire with guide questions to keep viewers engaged.

Part 6 Large pics of app icons to post in your studio so students can recognize and find apps easily.

Who is it for?

1) Those who want to integrate the iPad and top apps into their teaching.1468887168

2) Those who began Off Bench time in their studios and are feeling unsure about what to do like my friend Amy Watt who helped create this resource.

3) Those who want dynamic, engaging off bench activities to reinforce their teaching.

How is it used?

1) Begin by reading the Teacher’s Guide.

2) Study the assignment grids, decide on the apps that appeal to you and learn how to use them.

3) Print off the grids and create folders for each students. Highlight the assignments for them to complete each week and ask them to check it off when finished.

4) Solidify and reinforce the concepts with the supplemental activities on the bench at private or group lessons.


1) Import the assignment sheets into Notability.

2) Create a divider for each day of the week and a folder for each student.

3) Then duplicate the assignment grid and place one in each student folder and continue the process as listed above. More tips are included in the resource.

Where is it?

Order your copy here at the 88PK Piano Teacher Planning Center now and save $5. Rhythm Make it Count can be yours for a mere $20 until September 10th . It’s a price tag that’s hard to resist and will offer endless hours of fun for you and your students.


Hear what fellow teachers are saying:

I think the best part of this resource is that you’ve given teachers a step by step guide of how to implement. You even give them the lesson plan for what to do on the first day. Brilliant! That will build confidence in teachers and get them and their students off to an exciting start. -Marie

With 130 off-bench activities plus 24 games and activities and 27 bonus activities, teachers will know exactly what apps and activities they to need to get their students’ eyes, ears, brains and bodies trained to rhythm! -Heather

Ad1What’s to come?

Stay tuned for two exciting things!

1) The developers of SproutBeat (their worksheets are featured repeatedly in Round One and Two assignment grids) have graciously agreed to create a special folder of all the worksheets in their app.

2) Join me for a Google Hangout in September or watch the free recording of it afterwards where I’ll show specifics on how to use the apps.

One more thing

Don’t miss an opportunity to learn more about connecting successfully with those who warm your bench–especially those who may squiggle and wiggle a little too much. That’s why I like having apps and paper plates up my sleeve! Wendy Stevens just released a new workshop called “Have you Forgotten What It’s Like to be a Child?” Find out how you can register for it here.

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Is it Time to Beat Some Rhythm Into Your Students?

Guess what happens when three teachers discover that they are all looking to add some bucket drumming into their curriculum? They team up and compile a resource designed specifically the way they want it and decide to share it with you!

This substantial and exceptionally organized bucket drumming resource requires a price tag and so I’ve set up shop atpiano teacherplanning center I’ve held off on this endeavor for quite some time but it feels like a good time to dive in and offer exciting products that are worthy of your investment in a store called Piano Teacher Planning Center.
I don’t take this addition to the blog lightly and because of that, the first resource to be officially for sale is Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers.
Yes, you heard me. I said drumming with buckets and sticks and for that matter, any other junkyard items you might find that create an interesting sound or “timbre.”
Why would three piano teachers–Marie Lee and Heather Nanney and I–feel so compelled to compile such a resource? Because we see a need. A need for students to experience rhythm in which they can

Groovin’ with his junkyard drum set

Move away from the piano.

Solidify a pulse.

Explore their creativity.

Build ensemble skills.

Share in a fun opportunity with peers and friends.

Bring what they learn back to the piano.

If that doesn’t sell you on the idea think about these three MAJOR reasons to integrate bucket drumming into your studio curriculum. You’ll…

Retain students with your “off beat” approach.

Attract new students with summer camps that set your studio apart.

Brighten up private or group lessons with loads of versatile fun anytime during the year.

The video featured at the top gives you a preview of the fun in store for you and your students–I mean drummers.
With Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers, you’ll be equipped to do all of the above because you are given 80+ recipes for success. I couldn’t be more grateful to Heather and Marie. They have SUCH innovative and fun ideas. With this customizable and thorough resource you’ll
Screenshot 2016-05-18 10.00.57

Sample of 4 recipe cards

Learn why bucket drumming is THE perfect solution for your summer camps, group and private lessons.

Have access to buckets full of resources so that you can learn how to teach bucket drumming in style.

Be ready to integrate bucket drumming into any of your current plans with pedagogically sound and guaranteed-to-rock activities.

C’mon, if I haven’t sold you already, I’ll throw in a pun:
Happy students stick around.

Let’s Drum This!

Purchase your copy of

Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers


Want to see bucket drumming in action and learn how to use this resource first hand? Then join Bradley Sowash and me (Leila) at 88 Creative Workshop this summer in Denver. Marie Lee will also be there to share how she uses bucket drumming in her group classes.

It’s not too late to sign up but hurry, there’s only a few benches (and buckets) left.



Favorite Christmas Music to Celebrate the Season

I know it’s a little late to be sharing this list. If you’ve already chosen all of your music for your students, various church services and gigs, then consider these options for next year. That’s the nice thing about music–it never goes out of style! In fact, I’ve included links to my favorite holiday sheet music from years past so you can check those out, too.

From Leila Viss

Life happens and I’m SO happy to share that I will have a lovely flautist (and another female) in the family! In June 2016, my son is marrying Brittany who is a senior in college earning a degree in education and music. This called for an arrangement for piano and flute to celebrate the occasion!

Here’s my setting (with some expert input from Brittany) of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.” It IS notated–anybody need a Christmas piano and flute duet? Read More

The iPad Pro: This Changes Everything!

Yep, I got an iPad Pro. Here’s the background on why it changes everything.

Digital scores have become increasingly more common. They immediately download after purchase. There’s no waiting for a delivery from the post man or the UPS truck. Even better, when it comes to reading the scores, I have purposely avoided printing them and instead, view them on my iPad Air 2 with the help of the app forScore. Once the digital score is opened in forScore and my iPad is paired with my Cicada pedal I enjoy the luxury of hands-free page turns. It’s a combination made in heaven. Follow this link to read more about my gushing.

I’ve been growing accustom to this way of viewing digital scores but always appreciate my reading glasses as the notation on the iPad screen is comparably smaller than that found in hard copies. So, I still mostly read from hard copy scores when I play for weekly Sunday services.

Besides the smaller notation being more difficult to read, another reason that I’ve avoided reading more scores from the iPad is the tedious process of scanning hard copies. Scanning is converting a paper document (hard copy) into a digital copy. Taking a picture of a page with a mobile device is really not that difficult thanks to the easy-to-use scanning apps. But, it does take time and since I border on the side of always feeling I like I don’t have enough of it, I’ve not been a fan of the process. That was…until I opened my iPad Pro and saw the size of a score on the GIANT screen. That changed everything.

But there are some questions to be answered… Read More

A Free Ebook! A Perfect Tool for YOUR iPad Piano Studio

Are you looking for ways to offer your music students tutorials on theory concepts? Although there are excellent iPad apps that drill and improve ear skills, they don’t always teach. That’s why I’m so excited about my latest project: Understanding Intervals. With this interactive iBook platform you can offer a flipped classroom approach to learning intervals. It’s divided into parts so you can customize assignments to suit your students’ theory level. Bonus, I’m a huge shoe fan and thought it would make things more interesting by comparing intervals to shoes. I think you and your students will enjoy learning how intervals and shoes TIE together! Read More

Free Christmas Piano Solo and More!

Garden ColorIt seems my creative juices kick in on occasion. In fact, I’ve recently arranged a couple of hymns but need to make time to notate them. Hopefully it won’t take me 11 years for that to happen. Read on…

This setting of “Go Tell it On the Mountain” was originally conceived in 2003, and was finally notated in Finale this year. I still find it appealing after all these years, so I figure you might, too.

Make sure to sign up HERE for my newsletter (if you haven’t done so already) to receive your complimentary score. The score will be delivered in the upcoming newsletter out by this weekend. If you don’t see the newsletter in your inbox by Monday, November 24th check your spam folder. If you still didn’t find it, then contact me and I’ll email you the link to the score.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and THANK YOU for hanging out with me at 88pianokeys!

Looking for more Christmas arrangements for the upcoming holiday season?

As the season is short, I try not to add too many Christmas books to my already full shelves but each year I can’t resist the temptation.  Here are some I purchased this year that I know you and/or your students will enjoy as well.

From James Koerts, Koerts Music10702096_10152561006137981_3210811240333681638_n

Koerts keeps kicking out great arrangements for church musicians. Here’s a digital edition that will only take space on your iPad in the forScore app but not your book shelves!

Sacred Christmas Volume One

From Wendy Stevens, Compose Create

You can count on Wendy Stevens to provide innovative and imaginative arrangements and she has not let us down this year with her setting of  “Oh Christmas Tree.”

O Christmas Tree

From Larry Shackley, Hope Publishing8622

The title intrigued me so I purchased Shackley’s latest release. Turns out the hymn arrangements are fresh and energetic. Shackley writes in his foreword: “In this collection you’ll find carols from several countries and centuries, all interpreted with the harmonic and rhythmic colors of Celtic folk music.”

Celtic Hymns for Christmas

One more piece of good news! For those of you who have not secured your copy of The iPad Piano Studio or have a friend that would appreciate the book as a gift, below is a promo code for a 20% discount code.

Hurry as the offer ends November 30th!


iPad Revolution-Book-Comp-4 2

Piano Maestro and Supersonics Piano: A Winning Combination

Recently, I learned that Piano Maestro (today’s hottest app for piano teachers) functions as a sheet music shopping mall!?  Unbeknownst to me, two of mye2e7b299-8bbc-45a3-a4d5-c084ec77e4c6 young maestros eagerly used the app to browse and select new music. Once they downloaded the app on their iPad at home, they immediately visited each “department,” discovered their favorite pieces and returned to lessons with urgent requests to learn them.

Only a beginner, one of the family members named Grant was determined to play “Going Undercover” by Daniel McFarlane. As he is in Alfred’s Premier Piano Course Book 1A, this piece is obviously out of his league according to my sound pedagogical upbringing. However, being a realist, I knew that allowing Grant to begin this piece would ignite those practice jets. Using the practice features of Piano Maestro in tandem with my lesson instruction would offer unquestionable support for progress. I couldn’t resist and immediately allowed him permission to begin “Going Undercover” found in McFarlane’s Supersonics Piano Digital A book. I placed my digital sheet music order at, and printed the score for Grant. (Someday paper will be a thing of the past thanks to the iPad and my favorite score-reading app forScore. Stay tuned for more info about that below.)

Make it Simple

When broken down, the piece is really quite manageable. The descending pattern is similar to a C-5-finger pattern with the flat 3rd creating the sound that immediately appealed to Grant. As Grant and I have encountered 8th notes in previous project pieces, it took just a second for him to recognize that there were two groups of four 8th notes in each bar.

Write Lyrics

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An Ancient Tune Stands the Test of Time

This past week I received a request from a congregation member to play “Be Thou My Vision” as communion music since he was dedicatingbethoumyvision his meditation on that particular celtic hymn.

Here’s a portion of what he read before I began playing this favorite hymn beautifully crafted into an arrangement by James Koerts.

“This is the story of the song:  It was the night before Easter in the year 433.  St. Patrick defied an edict by High King Leary that no candles were to be lit until the lighting of the blaze on Slane Hill that would usher in the Spring Equinox.  Patrick chose to honor God in spite of the threat of death, and the first flame was lit by him to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  Instead of executing him, the King was so impressed with St. Patrick’s brave devotion that he allowed him to continue with his missionary work.

Inspired by these events, a 6th Century Monk penned the words to “Be Thou My Vision” as a tribute of St. Patrick’s loyalty to God.  The poem was not translated into English until 1905 and then coupled with an old Irish folk melody.  The inspiration found within the words of this hymn is a reminder of the sovereignty, the strength and the joy of Jesus.” -Bob Cox

I’ve included the historic setting of this old hymn because I’m fascinated with how words and tunes unite to create timeless hymns. In addition, I’m amazed at music’s powerful thread that continues to bond and inspire generations of believers.

Below is an informal video of me playing Koerts’ fresh arrangement of this ancient tune that continues to withstand the test of time. If you haven’t done so, make sure to take advantage of this promo code, good through October 15th, and share James Koerts’ timeless music with your friends and congregation.

Special Offer for 88 Piano Keys readers! Be-Still-COVER-115x150

Receive 30% off virtually everything in the store (except for the $50 bundle package) using this code:

Code: 88pianokeys

The code must be entered at checkout. Reminder: enter the code BEFORE you check out.

Offer is good through October 22, 2014

Click HERE to purchase your copy of this arrangement found in the book Be Still