Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Sneak Peak at the Entire Suite of Online Courses!

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!

Video: Live solo performance of Weaver of Dreams

In June 2019, I recorded my first ever solo album.  We recorded the entire album in just 4 hours in my hometown of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.  Just me, my voice, a couple of microphones and a gorgeous Steinway piano.  Engineered by my old friend Adam Miner, it felt like I was recording in my living room and I was able to open up in a way I had never felt able to again.

Here is a video shot live from the CD release for that album, performed at Pangea in NYC.  This is one of my favorite jazz standards of all time and I tried to use everything available to me on the piano.  This is a celebration of my love of jazz!

To buy the album, check out my Bandcamp page!

Want to learn how to play jazz?  Check out my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment and you’ll be playing before you know it!

VIDEO: How I get my son to practice every day (and how this will help YOU!)

My 8 year old practices the piano every single day without fail and (almost) without tears.  How did I get him to do that?  How will this help YOU to practice regularly?  Watch the video to find out!  Make sure to hit subscribe and leave a comment below.

Check out my amazing suite of online courses called Piano and Voice With Brenda and find out why hundreds of people worldwide are raving about this work.  Get your piano skills together!!

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??

VIDEO Quickie #3: Piano Improvisation 101: The Ostinato

Practicing technique at the piano is often boring and requires a lot of scale running and Hanon playing.  Over the years, I teach less and less rote technical work and spend more time teaching people to improvise.  NO – there is nothing wrong with scales and arpeggios if you are training to be a concert pianist, but what if you are using the piano to accompany yourself singing, or you are a songwriter or someone who has non-classical music on the brain.  What if you just need something new to practice?

If you are a piano teacher looking for a new set of activities to work on with your students (especially now that we are all teaching remotely and need some new tricks up our sleeves!). What if you are just needing a new outlet to reconnect with your muse and find some enjoyment with your music again?

Improvisation is an incredible skill that people of all levels and genres can and should experience.  (You don’t have to be a jazzer to improvise, people!!)  In this short tutorial, I show you a great technique to explore improvisation: using an ostinato.  You can use this technique in its simplest form, or make it more complicated if you are a more advanced pianist.  Give it a try!  (Don’t forget to hit subscribe and leave a comment!)

   Like this post?                     Check out          Piano Improvisation for Everyone! – a unique course that explores improvisation on the piano in many different forms.  Perfect for pianists of every level – from beginner to advanced.  It’s also jam packed full of tools that are perfect resources for piano teachers to try with their students.

VIDEO Quickie #4: Piano Improvisation 101: Erik Satie

This is the fourth video in a new series called “Quickies” – short, info-packed tutorials designed to give you great information you can use TODAY. In this tutorial, I show you how to explore improvisation using a left hand pattern inspired by the Impressionist composer Erik Satie. This improvisation is so easy and creates a satisfying and meditative space for you to explore improvising at the piano.  (Don’t forget to hit subscribe and leave a comment!)

 Like this post?                     Check out          Piano Improvisation for Everyone! – a unique course that explores improvisation on the piano in many different forms.  Perfect for pianists of every level – from beginner to advanced.  It’s also jam packed full of tools that are perfect resources for piano teachers to try with their students.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Online Courses

I have had so many people asking me questions about my popular online classes, that I thought it was time to write a blog post answering some of these questions!  I hope this is helpful!

When do the courses start and finish?

They start immediately and never end!  You get lifetime 24/7 access to the course and you can take the lessons as many times as you like.  Many students even practice along with the video lessons!

Each course contains video lessons with closeups of the keyboard and meticulously notated print materials that you can download and print or read from your computer or tablet.

How long have you been doing what you do?  Why did you create these courses?

I have been studying piano for over 35 years, and have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in jazz piano.  I have performed as a pianist, singer, singer/pianist and conductor all over the world in the fields of jazz, music theater, classical and pop/rock.  I have taught every imaginable level from early childhood, through high school, to the college level and teaching professional development to established teachers.

After many years of teaching voice and piano, I decided I wanted to make my unique teaching methods available to a much broader audience.  I had witnessed so many incredible musical transformations that I thought I could help so many people make music at the piano and develop skills that would help them with their businesses.  I taught myself how to shoot and edit video (I had never done it before!) and created Level 1 in Spring of 2018.  A couple of years later and now I have hundreds of students worldwide.  It’s been a dream come true!

How are these courses different from conventional piano training?

Each one of these courses has evolved from my private teaching.  I have taught hundreds of students from every imaginable background, level and musical genre.  While I am classically trained, I borrow much of my pedagogy from my experience as a performer and trying material out one-to-one with students.  These courses are unique, because they are designed from a lifetime of teaching and exploring the most efficient ways to learn to play piano.

I borrow from jazz, classical, music theater, pop (I was a piano bar entertainer on cruise ships) and combine technical and theory work in the most playable way possible.  I have left out a lot of the busy work, and just give you the material that you need to be successful in way less time.   I have distilled the necessary skills into an easy-to-use, straight-to-the-point curriculum that will have you playing the piano in a hurry!

What if I am already a classically trained pianist?

The Jazz Piano Accompaniment and Piano Improvisation for Everyone! courses are perfect for you.  Both courses build on your classical background and help you to gain authentic skills that will deepen your playing.  If you are a piano teacher, they are also perfect courses to help you expand your offerings to your students!

What results can I expect?

The methods in these courses have evolved over 20+ years of private teaching and they have been “tested” on hundreds of students of differing experience levels.  The courses are designed to be easy-to-use and get you playing the piano quickly and comfortably.  You can expect the best results if you commit to daily practice and take your time going through the material.  Keep a positive attitude and watch the videos as many times as you need to!  Most people notice a huge change in their playing within a couple of weeks – you just have to practice!

What ages are best for these courses?

These courses are ideal for people aged 13 and up.  For younger people, I suggest private lessons, unless they are super self-motivated and have some musical background.

Do you have to be a singer to take Piano Skills for Singers Level 1 or Level 2?

Absolutely not!  These courses are perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to play the piano quickly and effectively.  Many of the course participants are singers, songwriters, voice teachers and choral conductors, but the courses also serve general music teachers, music therapists, instrumentalists and music enthusiasts.  The skills taught in this course can serve anyone who is interested in learning them!

How much should I practice?

Generally, you can work your way through this material pretty well with only 30 minutes a day, but you can make a lot of progress with even 15 minutes a day.  The key is to be deliberate and focused with your practice, and I even include practice guides with each course to help you structure your practicing!

Do I have to be able to read music?

For Piano Skills for Singers Level 1 you don’t have to at all, but for the other courses it is helpful to know how to read notes on a very basic level.  All of the courses have print materials included, but the videos show a close up of the piano so you’ll have no problem learning from watching the keyboard.           

What if I choose the wrong level?

The entire suite of courses has a 30-day no-questions-asked money back guarantee, so you can always return the course and get one better suited to you instead.  If you aren’t sure which course is for you, read this blog post.

What if I need help?

Each course gets you an invitation to a private Facebook group, where you can ask questions, get exclusive content and interact with other course participants.  You can also reach out to me personally (brenda@pianoandvoicewithbrenda.com) if you need specific help.

Intrigued?  Check out the courses page HERE.  Find out why hundreds of people worldwide are RAVING about these amazing online courses!

Frequently Asked Questions About Piano Skills for Singers

I have had so many people asking me questions about my popular online courses, that I thought it was time to write a blog post answering some of these questions.  I hope this is helpful!

When do the courses start and finish?

They start immediately and never end!  You get lifetime 24/7 access to the course and you can take the lessons as many times as you like.  Many students even practice along with the video lessons!

Each course contains video lessons with closeups of the keyboard and meticulously notated print materials that you can download and print or read from your computer or tablet.

How long have you been doing what you do?  Why did you create these courses?

I have been studying piano for 37+ years, and have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in jazz piano.  I have performed as a pianist, singer, singer/pianist and conductor all over the world in the fields of jazz, music theater, classical and pop/rock.  I have taught every imaginable level from early childhood, through high school, to the college level and teaching professional development to established teachers.

After many years of teaching singers how to play the piano, I decided I wanted to make my unique teaching methods available to a much broader audience.  I had witnessed so many incredible musical transformations that I thought I could help so many people make music at the piano and develop skills that would help them with their businesses.  I taught myself how to shoot and edit video (I had never done it before!) and created Level 1 in Spring of 2018.  A couple of years later and now I have hundreds of students worldwide.  It’s been a dream come true!

How are these courses different from conventional piano training?

Conventional piano training is meant to train pianists to play challenging piano music, which takes a lot of years.  This course is all about giving singers, voice teachers and choral conductors the skills they need to be successful in their work.  I have distilled the necessary skills into an easy-to-use, straight-to-the-point curriculum that will have you playing the piano in a hurry!

What results can I expect?

The methods in these courses have evolved over 20+ years of private teaching and they have been “tested” on hundreds of students of differing experience levels.  The courses are designed to be easy-to-use and get you playing the piano quickly and comfortably.  You can expect the best results if you commit to daily practice and take your time going through the material.  Keep a positive attitude and watch the videos as many times as you need to!  Most people notice a huge change in their playing within a couple of weeks – you just have to practice!

What ages are best for this course?

This course is ideal for people aged 13 and up.  For younger people, I suggest private lessons, unless they are super self-motivated and have some musical background.

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

Absolutely not!  These courses are perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to play the piano quickly and effectively.  Many of the course participants are singers, songwriters, voice teachers and choral conductors, but the courses also serve general music teachers, music therapists, instrumentalists and music enthusiasts.  The skills taught in this course can serve anyone who is interested in learning them!

How much should I practice?

Generally, you can work your way through this material pretty well with only 30 minutes a day, but you can make a lot of progress with even 15 minutes a day.  The key is to be deliberate and focused with your practice, and I even include practice guides with each course to help you structure your practicing!

Do I have to be able to read music?

For Level 1 you don’t have to at all, but for the other courses it is helpful to know how to read notes on a very basic level.  All of the courses have print materials included, but the videos show a close up of the piano so you’ll have no problem learning from watching the keyboard.           

What if I choose the wrong level?

The entire suite of courses has a 30-day no-questions-asked money back guarantee, so you can always return the course and get one better suited to you instead.  If you aren’t sure which course is for you, read this blog post.

What if I need help?

Each course gets you an invitation to a private Facebook group, where you can ask questions, get exclusive content and interact with other course participants.  You can also reach out to me personally (brenda@pianoandvoicewithbrenda.com) if you need specific help.

Intrigued?  Check out the courses page HERE.  Find out why hundreds of people worldwide are RAVING about these courses!

Why faking is the answer to all your piano woes

The art of faking is all about approximating an accompaniment part.  We do this by using our knowledge of the harmony and we use rhythms to estimate the basic gist of the piano part.  There are several compelling reasons while this is the most useful skill that you can have.

  1.  You don’t quite have the skills to play a written accompaniment part.

You may think that because you are not a virtuoso pianist, that means you are limited in the songs you can work on with your students.  So many songs, especially in the Music Theater genre are very difficult (we’re looking at YOU, Jason Robert Brown!).  By faking, you have a lot more repertoire available to you, because you will be creating your own accompaniments.

2.  You don’t have a lot of time to practice.

I have hear of voice teachers and coaches spending hours and hours each week trying to learn complicated piano accompaniments.  Who has that kind of time?  Unless you are doing a concert with Audra McDonald, you will be perfectly fine faking some (or all) of the accompaniments.

3.  You want to customize the accompaniment to suit your performance situation.

If you are accompanying a less experienced singer, simplifying a busy accompaniment part will help them to sing their best without being overwhelmed by what the piano is doing.  If your singer has a softer voice, if there is no sound system or if the piano or performance space are loud, a simplified accompaniment part with help the singer be heard.  If you are self accompanying, simplifying the arrangement can help you to be present in your vocal performance instead of having to concentrate too much on playing piano.

High level professional pianists fake all the time.  I myself am constantly customizing the accompaniments to suit the situation and I know for a fact that this is commonplace in the industry.  Faking will also buy you time while you develop your sight reading skills at the piano.

   Faking requires only two skills:

1.  ability to play a variety of chord qualities in different keys,

2.  ability to play different rhythmic patterns to represent different music styles.

In order to fake effectively, you just need to play the chords in a rhythm that is approximate to the written accompaniment part.  It truly is as simple as learning how to reach chord symbols and play them on piano, plus a few different rhythmic patterns divided between the hands.  Put them together and you’re good to go.

Want to learn how to fake?  Check out Piano Skills for Singers – the only online piano courses for singers created by a singer.