Category Archives: Personal Improvement

Getting Started: How to use the Teachable Platform

Welcome to the courses!  Here is a quick-and-dirty tutorial on how to utilize the Teachable Platform.  Teachable is such a user-friendly and intuitive platform, which is why I chose it as the home of my entire suite on online courses!  Check out this short tutorial to get oriented!

Want to check out the courses? 

CLICK THIS LINK to see the entire suite of online courses and get started learning piano TODAY!

Which Piano and Voice with Brenda online course is right for me?

Now that there are FOUR courses live at Piano And Voice With Brenda, I have been getting a lot of questions about which course to choose.  This quick little list should help you get started choosing the perfect course to help you get secure at the keyboard.  If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at brenda(at) pianoandvoicewithbrenda (dot) com. I’m here to help!

Piano Skills for Singers Level 1 is for you if:

  • You have never played piano before
  • You haven’t taken piano lessons in a long time
  • You want a simple starting point
  • You want to get back into a practice routine and regain some technical fluidity

Piano Skills for Level 2 is for you if:

  • You have completed Level 1
  • You have piano experience, but there are a lot of gaps in your ability
  • You need to learn how to play chords
  • You need to learn how to create your own accompaniments
  • You need to learn how to play voice exercises in 12 keys easily

Do you have to be a singer to take Piano Skills for Singers?

Absolutely not!  Although these courses are geared towards singers, anyone would benefit from these well organized and easy-to-use courses.

Jazz Piano Accompaniment is for you if:

  • You have taken Level 2
  • You are a classically trained pianist and want to learn jazz
  • You want to learn how to play from a fake book
  • You can play chords and you want to play authentic jazz accompaniment

*If you can’t play chords fluidly, you can purchase the “Learn to Play Chords Symbols” course at a deep discount.

Piano Improvisation for Everyone! is for you if:

  • You are a classically trained pianist who wants to learn how to improvise
  • You are looking for a fresh new way to explore your creativity at the keyboard
  • You are a piano teacher looking for a new bag of tricks to share with your students
  • You want to develop your technical fluidity on the piano in a more creative way
  • You are a jazz player who wants to develop a deeper connection to improvisation
  • You are a circle singer or vocal improviser who is looking for a deeper toolkit
  • You are a songwriter or a composer looking for more inspiration

Private lessons are best for you if:

  • You are having technical difficulties, like tension, discomfort when you are playing, etc.
  • You have a specific set of concerns that are not covered by the courses
  • You prefer one-on-one instruction
  • You want to kick start your online course experience
  • You want to work on your singing (I teach that too!)
  • You have completed one or more of the courses and are keen to find the next step
  • You want to take occasional or regular lessons via Skype, FaceTime or Zoom

If you need help deciding which Piano Skills for Singers Course is right for you, please email me at brenda@pianoandvoicewithbrenda.com and I’ll help you!

Introducing…Piano Improvisation for Everyone!

Drumroll please….I am excited to announce the launch of my brand new online course called Piano Improvisation for Everyone!

Piano Improvisation for Everyone! is a course designed to get you improvising satisfying music at the piano. In this unique curriculum, you will learn a variety of techniques to get started improvising exciting music at the keyboard. Learn how to explore different harmonic material, melodic ideas, accompaniment techniques and started points for creating improvisation compositions. In addition, we cover how to improvise pop piano solos and jam on the blues!

This course is perfect from pianists of any level, from experienced beginner too advanced. Piano teachers will also get some great ideas and exercises to work on with their students. Discover the enjoyment of developing your technique, harmony and rhythm in a creative environment. Experiment with new sounds and ideas to apply to your songwriting or composing. The exercises are structured, but open ended enough that you could take the work in whatever direction you want to go.

Check out the course HERE!

Video: What is your why? Strategies for Success

It is easy to get bogged down with lists of things you have to do, but before that you need to identify your “why”. Why do you want to learn piano? Leave your comments below…

Want to know more about my work?  Check out my suite of unique online  piano courses  –     Piano and Voice With Brenda. Find out why hundreds of people worldwide are raving about this work!

On Getting S**t Done: Advice from the Trenches

            I have had several friends and colleagues tell me that they are amazed by my ability to juggle so many different balls at the same time.  I take is as a huge compliment and also am quick to point out that for the past several years I have been doing a lot of personal work trying to get myself to be able to function this way.  Thanks to the myriad of changes during the Covid-19 Pandemic, I find myself juggling even more balls than ever before.  (I’m guessing you are having the same experience?!?!). This blog post is written to show you exactly what I did to make my life more productive.

I am naturally a messy and disorganized person (just ask my Dad or my college roommates).  My disorganization has often been a source of frustration and has held me back in a lot of aspects in my life.  Now that I’m a mom, I basically had no choice but to get my bananas together so I could actually get something done in my life.

HOW DID I DO THIS?!?!?!

  1. Everybody contributes.  I’m lucky to have a great partner in my husband who is willing and able to do whatever needs to be done.  It took us time to figure out a balance that works, especially because he has a crazy job, but we did and it means that I’m not stuck in overwhelm getting everything done.   Our 7 year old also has a role to play in upkeep.  We have taught him to tidy his room, tidy    up after himself, he sets and clears the table and loads the dishwasher, in addition to putting his own laundry away.  It took a lot of work to teach him how to do it, but his help means I’m not doing every damn thing.
  2.  Simplifying and Minimizing.  Over the past several years, I have made it my mission to simplify every aspect of my life.  I have consumed a great many books, podcasts and blogs about minimalism, which have completely changed my life.  We have gotten rid of so much stuff, from clothes to toys and books.  I even did a huge overhaul of my studio space, getting rid of mountains of sheet music, paper and over 200 music books. (Check out my blog post on The Paperless Studio for more insight on how I did that!). I have simplified meals by choosing more straight forward dinners, which also simplifies our grocery shopping.  Our schedules are more simple too, as we are careful not to say yes to everything.  We do miss birthday parties and even the odd school or (gasp!) family event, but we do it so that we can enjoy our lives and focus on the things we really want to accomplish.
  3. Deciding what I want to do and only doing that.  My time is so limited and it has taken me until now to realize that I can’t possibly do everything I want to do.  This means that I prioritize my time to save my sanity.   A few times a year I make a master list of everything I want to accomplish, which are broken into categories like performance, teaching, online course and family.  On this list I brainstorm and dream.   Every month or two I take a look at this list and decide how much I can tackle.  If I have a lot of performances or a recording session, I prioritize practicing.  If I have a lot of open time, I may take one a larger project like creating additional material for my online course Piano Skills for Singers.
  4. Batching work.  I try to organize tasks that that I do a bunch of the same things at the same time.  If I’m going to edit and post performance videos, it makes way more sense for me to do a bunch of them at one time.  By the time I’ve remembered how to use the editing softward and have gotten the branding right, I may as well tackle 10 of them.  This also works great if I’m entering songs into Finale, sending emails to promotors for gigs or even writing blog posts. I try to choose a block of time when no one’s around (sometimes at 5am!!) and bang a bunch of similar tasks out in one sitting.
  5. Throw money at the problem.  When things get particularly busy or I’m in the middle of a lot of work, I sometimes just throw some money at the problem.  No time to do laundry?  I can send out a huge bag of it for $30.  No time to cook?  Time to pick up a rotisserie chicken or a damn pizza.  House is a mess?  Time to call a cleaning service.  My family isn’t super spendy, so if we do this now and then it’s not going to destroy us financially.
  6. Avoid procrastination.  Motherhood has taught me that I no longer have the luxury of procrastination.  My kid is in school from 8:40 until 3pm and if I don’t get done what I need to do then, it’s NEVER going to happen.  I have managed to (mostly) overcome time sucks like social media use and rampant email checking, mostly by going cold turkey.  Procrastinating is no longer a luxury I can afford, and somehow everything seems to get done.
  7. Letting it go.  Sometimes you have to make like Elsa and “Let it Go.”  (Cue eye rolling from my kid).  Some days all Hell breaks loose and getting things done just isn’t in the cards.  Take a break, say some bad words and move on.  Tomorrow is another day.

Hopefully this list helps you.  I work at all of this on a daily basis, trying to balance and juggle my family life while also trying to stay productive in my work life.

What do YOU do to get s#%t done??

Which Piano Skills for Singers course is right for me?

Now that there are FOUR courses live at Piano Skills for Singers, I have been getting a lot of questions about which course to choose.  This quick little list should help you get started choosing the perfect course to help you get secure at the keyboard.  If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at brenda(at) pianoandvoicewithbrenda (dot) com. I’m here to help!

Level 1 is for you if:

  • You have never played piano before
  • You haven’t taken piano lessons in a long time
  • You want a simple starting point
  • You want to get back into a practice routine and regain some technical fluidity

Level 2 is for you if:

  • You have completed Level 1
  • You have piano experience, but there are a lot of gaps in your ability
  • You need to learn how to play chords
  • You need to learn how to create your own accompaniments
  • You need to learn how to play voice exercises in 12 keys easily

Jazz Piano Accompaniment is for you if:

  • You have taken Level 2
  • You are a classically trained pianist and want to learn jazz
  • You want to learn how to play from a fake book
  • You can play chords and you want to play authentic jazz accompaniment

*If you can’t play chords fluidly, you can purchase the “Learn to Play Chords Symbols” course at a deep discount.

Piano Improvisation for Everyone! is for you if:

  • You are a classically trained pianist who wants to learn how to improvise
  • You are looking for a fresh new way to explore your creativity at the keyboard
  • You are a piano teacher looking for a new bag of tricks to share with your students
  • You want to develop your technical fluidity on the piano in a more creative way
  • You are a jazz player who wants to develop a deeper connection to improvisation
  • You are a circle singer or vocal improviser who is looking for a deeper toolkit
  • You are a songwriter or a composer looking for more inspiration

Do you have to be a singer to take Piano Skills for Singers?

Absolutely not!  Although these courses are geared towards singers, anyone would benefit from these well organized and easy-to-use courses.

If you need help deciding which Piano Skills for Singers Course is right for you, please email me at brenda@pianoandvoicewithbrenda.com and I’ll help you!

My Teaching Philosophy and wish for you.

This video is pulled directly from my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment, which was released in December 2019.  This is the final video, where I wrap up what we learned and also shared some insight about my teaching philosophy and motivation behind creating these courses.

Want to learn more about my amazing suite of online courses?  Check out THIS LINK!

Take the OMG out of DIY

I know I’m not alone when I say that there are a lot of things in business and life that I have zero affinity for.  I’m not a tech person, my administrative skills are so-so at best and I am not a naturally organized person.  At the start of last year, I made a big list of a bunch of dream projects that I have been wanting to tackle for a long time and I realized that there was one thing separating me from achieving them:  they would all require skills I don’t have.

I considered my options.   I could either:

1.  hire someone to do them or 2. Figure it out on my own.

Not having thousands of dollars at my disposal, I had no choice but to take the “figure it out” route.

Somehow in the last 18 months, I have managed to tackle several impossible-it-will-never-ever-happen tasks in a pretty successful way.  I learned how to record video and audio, how to edit multicamera videos, resulting in a successful online course and dozens of videos posted on my YouTube channel.  I also managed to do all of my own publicity and radio distribution for a new album, which got 10x more press and radio interest then my last album, which I paid a professional publicist thousands of dollars to promote.

Now I’m not bragging (well, maybe just a little…), I’m just trying to promote the idea that if I can do it, literally anyone else on Earth can.  It took some serious elbow grease, and some swearing at the computer and vowing never to take on a project like this again, but even though they felt totally undoable, these projects actually got done.  I’m going to share a few tips on how you too can tackle some of your dream projects in a DIY fashion.

  1. Figure out what skills and equipment you need. 

In order to tackle promoting my new album, I needed to gain some administrative skills that I didn’t have.  I learned that in order to send mass emails, you needed something called a “mail merge”.  For my video work, I researched which cameras and software would be effective and easy to use for my purposes.

  1. Ask for help.

Do you have a friend who is an expert at a skill you lack?  Ask them for tips on how to get started.  My friend Jan is an admin wiz and she was super helpful in answering a few questions about how to get started creating and Excel spreadsheet.

  1. Give yourself lots of time.

You’ll need time to get comfortable as you work through these new skills and you will make a lot of mistakes along the way.  Don’t give yourself a too-tight deadline, as it will take some time to use these new skills.

  1. Take an online course.

As I was getting my mind around learning how to do my own publicity, I heard of a fantastic online course called JazzFuel.  Taught by one of the top jazz managers in Europe, I learned step-by-step to prepare and execute this huge project.  It was time and money well spent!

  1. Don’t forget YouTube.

You can pretty much learn anything on YouTube as there are video tutorials for pretty much any topic under the sun.  I taught myself the video editing software Final Cut Pro using a variety of YouTube videos.

  1. Take notes as you go.

I have kept elaborate records of each step of my DIY learning, from which YouTube links I used, to step-by-step directions on how to do everything from setting up the audio on a video shoot to how to print mailing labels.  I keep all of this in a file on my computer called “How to do things” and saves me hours of time.  You can also make notes on what worked and what didn’t work, so you don’t have to repeat the same mistakes for the next project.

As we move into a new year (and new decade), everyone is starting to think about what is on the horizon.  Consider what you would be able to achieve if you weren’t hindered by the skills that you lack.  What would you accomplish if you could DIY?

Summer Reading List (and my new favorite app!)

One of my goals for 2019 has been to devote more of my time to reading.  This goes along with my digital detox, where I have chosen to spend less time mindlessly scrolling and bingewatching, and finally tackle the massive list of books I’ve been wanting to get through.  I have always been a huge reader (an old boyfriend once looked at my bookshelves and said, “Have you read any of these?”  The answer – all of them)

How am I keeping up this pace?  I am tackling my bookshelf one book at a time, and I have recently become obsessed with the Libby app.  The Libby app is a direct line to read e-books from the public library.  You can borrow and place holds on books and read them on your e-reader.  I replaced the Facebook app on my phone with the Libby app and now whenever I’m waiting in line, taking the bus or sitting at the park while my son runs around, I can read instead of mindlessly scrolling.

(I also snagged 2 free months on Kindle Unlimited, which means I have another place to score the books I need for free.  Yippy!)

My 7 year old son is a voracious reader and keeping him in books was costing us a holy fortune.  So, I downloaded the Libby and Amazon Kindle app and he is able to search and download the books that he likes.  This had made travelling a lot easier, since we no longer need a suitcase just for his reading material. (If only there were an app that covered Legos!). My husband has also upped his reading game, and is now reading some of the books that I have finished.  If this keeps up, we’ll have to cancel cable!

Just for fun, I have posted the list of books that I plan to read this summer, noting which ones I have already read.  I will be adding to this constantly all summer. Long live the Libby app!

Personal Improvement

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

The Confidence Code – Katty Kay

The Year of Less – Joshua Becker

How Children Succeed – Paul Tough

Your Money or Your Life – Vicki Robin

Grit – Angela Duckworth

What If This Were Enough? – Heather Havrilesky

Shrill – Lindy West

The Year of Less – Cait Flanders

How To Break Up With Your Phone – Catherine Price

Business

Eat That Frog! – Brian Tracy

Do It Marketing – David Newman

The One Week Marketing Plan- Mark Satterfield

30-Minute Social Media Marketing – Susan Gunelius

Off The Clock! – Laura Vanderkam

168 Hours – Laura Vanderkam

Juliet’s School of Possibilities – Laura Vanderkam

Biography

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Born A Crime – Trevor Noah

Daily Rituals – Women at Work

Q – The Autobiography of Quincy Jones

Good Things Happen Slowly – Fred Hersch

Fiction

Little Bee – Chris Cleave

Educated – Tara Westover

The Perfect Nanny – Leila Slimani

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

Less – Andrew Sean Greer

My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh

Non Fiction

Gut – Giulia Enders

Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrasse Tyson

VIDEO: Singers and Voice Teachers – Protect Your Ears!

As singers and voice teachers, we spend a lot of time listening to sound, a lot of which can be loud. In this video I address the topic of hearing care as it relates to singing and teaching singing, but this is a good start for anyone in the music industry (band directors – I mean you too!).  Don’t forget to subscribe and leave a comment below.

Did you enjoy this content?  Check out my entire suite of online courses HERE!