Alice Letts

Home » Articles & Interviews » Piano and music resources

Category Archives: Piano and music resources

Learn to Read and Write Music

Well the workshop has come and gone.  It was a great success all round.  This introduction to music theory for beginners was held at Banks Mills Studios next to the Derby University Corporate Enterprise Centre.  It was just one of the many events being held across Derbyshire for the Inspiring Derby 2012 Week.

This week Derby is celebrating the arrival of the flame (London Olympics 2012) with the torch relay.  The Olympic torch is due to stop in at Chatsworth House today, and Matlock, Buxton and Bakewell before arriving to the Darley Abbey Park in Derby.  Then at 7.30pm there will be a parade for the Olympic Torch, to take it from Darley Abbey Park and into Derby City where there is music and a myriad of entertainment.  A Brazilian dance group will be performing at 9pm tonight and free Salsa dance classes are on offer too!

Some recordings on the electronic piano

I wrote out a list of some pieces from my repertoire, but then thought it would be useful to also provide videos too.  These pieces are performed on an electronic piano, the Casio Privia PX-310.  Below are just a few pieces from our repertoire.  As you can see the pieces are diverse in style.  To see a more comprehensive list, click <here>.


(source: image via accessed at 19.58 on 03.02.2012)

My friends and I have been looking for music to play for the band we are putting together.  We had some beatles pieces and a couple of pop songs.  I have some old time music too.  Clive suggested we think about “Adele” for the type of music we play and the way to sing.   My introduction to Adele was the time she performed at Brits Awards at the Royal Albert Hall.  It was an extremely moving and very beautiful performance.

Adele’s latest album, Adele21 was released in the UK on the 24th of January.  My friend Fei has already purchased the CD.  We are all very familiar with Adele’s music now, as it is played on the television, the radio, in the shops, on the planes, and so on.  Fei already knows the lyrics.  I was wondering where to find the music score.  I was very happy when I found the song book almost immediately with a search on the music room website (click <here> to see Adele’s music score).  Fei’s favourite song is “Someone like you”.

I think the most popular song of the album though, is rolling in the deep.  I don’t have a favourite, I like them all equally.  Clive suggested we choose songs to do solos instead of trying to harmonize.  So Clive has reserved the Beatles and Fei has reserved Adele’s music.   Adele is giving away a free “app”.  If you are interested in the official Adele app, click <here>.

I’m not sure whether I will do any solo’s, but if I do, I think I  may stick to the older classics or musical theatre pieces.  I just adore Alicia Key’s music and Diana Krall too.  Its so difficult to decide!  Won’t it be interesting to see what our final selection will be.

Elly Lucas

(Source:  image via accessed at 12.01 on 03.02.2012)


On Wednesday the 19th of Derby local, Elly Lucas and David Gibb were interviewed by the BBC.  This is an opportunity not to be  missed.  Elly and David together are known as the Gibb and Lucas duo.  They are well known to the national folk scene.  Having just last year they won the BBC Young Folk Awards 2011.  If you click <here> and press the play button you can listen in on their interview with Mike Hardy.  During the BBC radio interview, Elly sings solo.  She plays the violin too, and David Gibb accompanies on the guitar.

Live performance

If you would like to see Elly and David perform live, they will be in London on Friday, 9 March 2012 – 8:00pm.  They are performing at the Folk/London Guitar festiva.  For more details on this event click <here>.

You can also watch Elly and David perform live in the below video.


In addition to their performance work, Elly and David also run workshops in schools and community groups across the UK.  Watch the video below to see them in action working with a school group.

For more details see their website below:

  • Gibb and – click <here>

NZ Singer and Songwriter … Anika Moa

Anika Moa who resides in Auckland, New Zealand released another album in 2010. You will find more details from her official website at   You can listen to previews of her songs on her myspace page by clicking <here>.
If you are keen to connect with Anika and learn more on recent developments, you can “like” her page on facebook by clicking <here>.

The above song is called Running through the fire. Some background to this song can be found from an interview with Anika Moa on the NZTV news clip below

The Piano Guys – Short Film

To my delight, I came across this fabulous short music film from “The Piano Guys”. The combination of piano, cellos, movement, and rhythm are a winning combination, and sure to get your feet tapping!

The pianist, Jon Schmidt also has the music score and music clips for sale from his website – click <here>.  He also has some free downloads available too.
Jon Schmidt has his own page on youtube where you can listen to his playlist of music.

For more information on the Piano Guys

  • Piano – click <here>

Jazz on the piano

Easy listening piano music

Isn’t it a great skill to be able to improvise. This is essential when you are playing jazz music. It is even useful when you are entertaining and playing background music, also when you are playing church music.  To see more of the gorgeous music from Gabriella Montero click <here> to visit her website. You can see Gabriella’s concert schedule on her website. She also takes requests for improvisation.

This video below is of Gabriella on a radio programme, and she improvises on Debussy’s Clair de Lune

The Rowing Song and Fat Freddy’s Drop

When I saw this video on facebook I just could not resist the tempation to put this up on this blog. It is a long story how I came across this video by Fat Freddy’s Drop. I was introduced to this video by one of my very best friends (actually the same one who introduced me to my now husband!). Well, she came across Fat Freddy’s drop from her boyfriend, who found out about it from his sister who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Fat Freddy’s Drop are from Wellington. I almost said then that I’m from Wellington, but that’s not quite true, although it sometimes feels like that. I lived in Wellington for almost 10 years when I moved down there to study and then stayed on to work.  To see more on Fat Freddy’s Drop, click <here> to visit their website.

It was when I was at the Governor General’s House attending a dinner in honour of Prince William who was in Wellington at the time and supporting the British Lions at the big Rugby game. During that month, Wellington in particular had been invaded by the British, mostly men and mostly young, who had come to support their favourite team. We met quite a few different people while we were out in town. Quite a number of which were in their GAP year or taking time off after finishing their studies. Getting back to the Governor General’s House, the evening was very enjoyable. It started with Singapore slings and finger food, followed by speeches, dinner and then dancing all night. I received my invitation from the Governor General through my work, and around ten of us from work attended. It seems that a number of invitations had been given to people in a selection of government departments, the chamber of commerce and legal sections. While I was there I bumped into a lot of people I knew from law school days. What a very small world.

The band at the Governor General’s house was playing a sort of jazzy, soul, funk pieces, and I was intrigued by them. It was perfect background music, but also very popular with everyone to dance to. The lead guy of the band who also sang reminded me a lot of one of my best and dearest friends Nardus. They didn’t look similar exactly, or maybe not at all, but there was something about this lead guy that reminded me of Nardus. The name of that band was Fat Freddy’s Drop. Ever since then, one of my most favourite bands of all time has been and still is Fat Freddy’s Drop.

When I went home that evening to report on events to my friends, I could not get the band Fat Freddy’s Drop out of my mind. Naturally I had to go searching for their CDs and have been collecting them with each new release. Since then I was very happy to see Fat Freddy’s Drop again in the harbour area beside the Wellington rowing club as part of a outside festival that was being held there. The weather was blue skies, warm and sunny, and with the music, the ideal way to pass your time. Oh, those were the days 🙂

Interview with Franis Engel – Part 4

—– Part Six —–

ALICE: I understand you’re writing a book, please tell me more?

FRAN: I actually have two books and I might combine them. One is something I’ve been giving out to my students that I’m making into a print-on-demand book. The other was an article for smart people that got too long to be an article so I decided to turn it into an e-book. Both are slightly different to what is already available. Different because I give the benefit of the doubt to the public for being smart learners. In the book one, there are three sections; theory, comments and experiments. The long article is a fast ride of the complete picture. As in any field, there are specialised terms and some of these terms may be some confusing. So I spell these out in both books.

—– Part Seven —–

ALICE: Would you please explain some of these terms?

FRAN: I’ll explain the most important one. It’s about how a cat learns the right moment to spring for the mouse, instead of jumping at any old time just because the cat is hungry. In Alexander Technique, we call this “inhibition.” Inhibition is not just hangups, impulse control, or self-control. Control is a limiting word. Alexander’s idea of inhibition is about freedom. The basic idea is: can you pause before doing the old same thing the old same way? If so, then you can free your routines to choose a better means.

Alexander found that tricking his habits stopped them from running the show. Once habit is interrupted, what you want do happens sort of accidentally on purpose. It’s a wonderful feeling.

For instance, a musician in the workshop complained how he had learnt all these improvements to put into place in the singing workshop, but he couldn’t do get himself to do them when he needed them to work. Once he started singing, his old habits were irresistible .

—– Part Eight —–

“Inhibition is the most important key of Alexander Technique.” said Fran

The secret is to find a way to interrupt the routine that flies under the radar. If the old habit doesn’t notice there’s a need for it to happen, it is isn’t triggered. The skill of inhibition prevents, sneaks under, fools or just stops outdated routines – so we can perform however we want.

ALICE: What can people do now to practise this?

FRAN: Alexander Technique is about a bunch of these principles, working together. Alexander Technique is different because it is meant to be used during any action. It’s generally not something with a form like yoga or Tai Chi that takes a special hour out of your day to practice because it has no exercises. Forms of movement are not it’s content, strangely enough.

A very simple thing teachers recommend people do is to take a break regularly. Everyone learns this studying Alexander Technique. It’s really a way to practice inhibition, because if you do it, you’ll learn the value of interrupting your routines. This tip isn’t an exercise because there are no movements involved, only thinking. It’s practised by merely lying down on your back on a firm surface, with a book under your head and your knees in the air. The function of the book under your head is to raise your head a little, in relation to the width of your rib cage. There’s actually more than one youtube video about this subject you can learn from, if you’d like to know more. If you can’t lie on your back because it hurts, then ask a properly trained Alexander teacher for help tailored to your needs.

The time you spend can be just 90 seconds or twenty minutes, it doesn’t matter how long the break lasts. It’s remembering to do it that matters. Just lie down for a moment to pay attention to your head and neck and how much of your back is lying on the surface. Pay attention to how your hips and arms feel. Think your body is getting longer.

ALICE: Longer? What does that mean?

FRAN: Remember how when muscles lengthen, they feel like nothing? Turns out that purely thinking about it will lengthen your muscles. Sense where in your body that you feel you are doing “something” and tell those muscles to get longer, to lengthen. That’s all. Just think. Don’t try to “relax” yourself. You are just lying down and thinking of the lengthening of muscles. You don’t have to feel it happening. You’re undoing it.

If you feel some sort of a catch or tension, then that means that part of your body is not following your intention. Somehow, you have trained yourself to add another habit pulling in the opposite direction. It can be very innocent things. Maybe you cut your hand so had to hold your hand up; even though your hand healed, you still hold up in the air. There you are with your hand up for no reason. Habits disappear, that’s how humans are made. Forgive yourself for being human.

You can just rest for a moment and tell your muscles they don’t have to try so hard. Give them a break. We don’t have to leave the kitchen lights on all the time. We can turn them off when we go out of the room and then turn them back on when we want some light again.

—– Part Nine —–

ALICE: People do seem to leave on kitchen lights. This could be very relevant to people suffering from sore muscles who usually go to Physiotherapists, Massage Therapists, and Acupuncturists.

FRAN: The Alexander Technique is not a substitution for the benefits of doctors & other specialised healers. It can only free up how you respond, which can be significant. It’s especially useful when you get mystery tension or stiffness problems with no specific cause. Or when a doctor tells you “since it hurts, don’t do that action again”. It can’t change structural problems, but it can help people cope with them.

—– Part Ten —–

ALICE: Can you give me some more details about your new book?

FRAN: When I write, I try to simplify ideas. The Alexander Technique is a very subjective, complex topic. I would like it if readers could just look at captions with pictures, and understand the content. I’m not sure if I can show everything effectively that way, but I’d like it to be as easy to read as a comic book. But right now I’ve only got ten illustrations and I’d like three times as many more. I can illustrate, but coming up with ideas to communicate complex abstract concepts such as “effortlessness” without “end-gaining” – It’s challenging.

ALICE: That is very clever. Yes I know people learn in different ways. Some people are aural learners, some are kinaesthetic, and some are visual.
FRAN: Yes. People learn in different ways. The more ways you can teach, the more people you can reach.

ALICE: What topics do you cover in your book?

FRAN: Hey – for many computer people, this interview is almost a book! Well, we just talked about one principle of inhibition. There are more. Then there is how they all work together. You’ll learn that. These are principles that all Alexander teachers do, no matter what their style or who trained them. Unlike other books on the market, this book doesn’t “talk down” to the beginner. My book gives you the secrets of how to practice for yourself. This book will make you curious – and you will want to get lessons from the hands-on of a properly trained Alexander teacher. It will help you make sense out of lessons and be able to explain what you’re learning to someone else. You’ll learn faster because of it.

Great ideas make no difference if you can’t remember it exists and can use it. So my book is designed towards helping the reader remember it. My book distils Alexander technique into only three steps. These three steps become richer and expand with meaning as you do them again and again and the sky is the limit. Or you can use it once in awhile when you think it would be handy tool to use and it will work.

—– Part Eleven —–

ALICE: You said when we talked before that Alexander Technique is not a form of exercises like yoga, but more like experimenting. Are there videos available for people to watch, like you would get on a Pilates or yoga video?

FRAN: There are lots of Alexander videos on youtube. But these videos are not made for people to copy body positions. Most are introductions. Many videos on Alexander’s work seem like a sales pitch of testimonials. Some of the videos document the process of teaching & learning, but you can’t tell what is happening. It’s tricky to catch the significance of what is going on, because the medium is only very slightly visual. It’s my speculation that, among other discoveries, Alexander actually invented the field of visualization. Because he was dominantly an auditory learner and speaker, he described what we now call visualization, only in terms of deliberately influencing the words he thought to himself. So, how do you see thoughts?!

Some of the best Alexander Technique videos are demonstrations about a spin-off field that was designed by musicians called “Body Mapping.” These are sort of a living anatomy course. Turns out that how you think you should move, it shapes how you actually do move. Watching these, you’ll get a jewel you can use. For instance, some adult musicians can still be holding their instrument how they did when they were kids.

Worth seeing is a double video set made after there was a study published in the British Medical Journal in August 2008. A randomised trial that found the Alexander Technique was extremely effective for lower back pain. Feeling younger without pain is only one application of Alexander Technique, but it’s getting lots of attention.
So – pain relief, performance skills, learn poise and effortlessness, an integrated mind-body practice offering psychological maturity and longevity. It makes you taller – sounds like snake oil! [laughs] Well, hope we’ve said enough for you to want to check this out. Join an ongoing class or get at least twenty private lessons to give yourself a chance to learn it. Alexander Technique – It’s the real deal.

You can get in touch with me and get my new book when it’s available at my blog from my website: My next round of classes are in the CA SFBay area, but I live in Hawaii Jan-Sept.

ALICE: I’ll be sure to look it up. Thank you very much for your time Fran. Good Bye.

—– End of Interview —–

Playing Yankee Doodle …

Playing Yankee Doodle …



first, clap the rhythm


%d bloggers like this: