April 1st: Happy Birthday Rachmaninoff!

S. Rachmaninoff, Symphony no. 2 (3rd Movement)

Today, we celebrate the 146th bithday of the Russian composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff! We will be listening to the 3rd movement of his 2nd symphony.

This piece is a wonderful example of Rachmaninoff’s iconic ability to build and develop music to a climactic moment. A favourite moment of mine is the buildup beginning from 6:38 - the buildup so exciting and climax so satisfying, one is not sure if one wants the music to continue, or to reach its peak! Romantic, passionate, and beautiful, enjoy one of Rachmaninoff’s most well known works and let your heart melt away.


  1. What are some words you would use to describe this music?

  2. How does it make you feel and why?

I’ve also included a bonus video by Nahre Sol titled, “How to Sound Like Rachmaninoff”, for those of you who are curious to hear more which features a Happy Birthday in the style of Rachmaninoff as well. You may recall her work from the Mary Had a Little Lamb listening activity from last year where she plays the well known tune in the style of various different classical composers. Nahre Sol also did a video, “How to Sound Like Chopin”, also with a Happy Birthday, which is included as well.

March 17th-23rd: 10 Levels of Difficulty

Lucas Brar plays Autumn Leaves in 10 increasing levels of difficulty on the guitar. Enjoy!


  1. What are some similarities between guitar playing and piano playing?

  2. Can you play any of the musical figures the guitarist played on the piano?

March 3rd-March 9th: From Beethoven to Bieber

Lucas Brar demonstrates the evolution of music from Beethoven to Bieber on guitar using “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as the theme. Enjoy!


  1. Which were your favourite styles and why?

  2. Can you describe some elements of the style you liked? What was distinctive about the music in your favourite style?

December 16th-December 22nd: Moonlight Sonata


L. Beethoven, “Moonlight” Sonata, Op. 27 no. 2 (3rd movement)

Beethoven’s 14th piano sonata, nicknamed “Moonlight” sonata is one of his most well known. The first and most famous movement was featured in a previous listening activity, Moonlight Mood. This week, we will be listening to the 3rd movement which is the most technically demanding of all movements.

“Of the final movement, Charles Rosen has written "it is the most unbridled in its representation of emotion. Even today, two hundred years later, its ferocity is astonishing."

Beethoven's heavy use of sforzando notes, together with just a few strategically located fortissimo passages, creates the sense of a very powerful sound in spite of the predominance of piano markings throughout.”


  1. What does “sf” stand for and what does it mean?

  2. The tempo marking gives us much insight as to how a piece should be performed and what feeling we should be practicing to achieve. It is found at the beginning of a piece in bold letters on the top left side. What is the tempo marking here and what does it mean?

Bonus Questions - The first 3 students to successfully answer all questions and bonus questions win a prize!

There are various figures/patterns utilized throughout this piece and many other classical compositions. While it is much faster and more difficult here, it is present in music from the early levels of study in elementary sonatinas and scale books. You have likely played these figures before!

  1. What is the left hand figure found at 1:30-1:45 on the first video? You can view the same pattern at 1:25-1:35 on the second video.

  2. What is right hand figure played in the opening of this piece until 16 seconds? This is something you can find in your scale book.

  3. Harmonic analysis, or learning the chords/harmony in the music we play is very important. It can simplify learning, aid memory, and offer a deeper understanding of the composition’s structure. While there are an incredible amount of notes, the music is actually only made up of 4 different chords up to the 7th bar. What are the first 4 chords found in this piece?

Hint: Use the score of the music on the second video and remember the key signature!

December 9th-December 15th: Scriabin, Part Two

A. Scriabin, Prelude in B major, op. 11 no. 11

This week, we will enjoy another piece by the Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin. While this week and last week’s piece is from the same composer, they are drastically different. I’ve included a live performance, as well as a video with the score for your enjoyment.



  1. Did you like this piece? What mood or feeling does this piece give you?

  2. Describe an image, scene, or story that you feel would fit with this music.


November 25th-December 1st: Sound of Silence

This week, we will enjoy another delightful video from the YouTube channel, AcousticTrench. Music has a huge role in underlining beauty in visuals. Things we see with our eyes are often enhanced by what we hear with it - imagine how the movie watching experience would be…without the music!

The Sound of Silence


  1. What images come to mind when you play music? Name at least one image to connect to each piece you are working on.

  2. At the 19 second mark, the guitarist plays a group of notes that sound like a ripple. Try to play some notes that sound like this on your piano!

Bonus Question

  1. What musical sign indicates you should play as the guitarist does at the 19 second mark?

  2. What are these types of chords called?

November 18th-November 24th: Miniature Delights

Please enjoy the following short clips of music played on the Kalimba accompanied by delightful videos. Two simple, short videos showcasing how music can be a part of every day life.

Can’t Help Falling in Love

La Vie En Rose


  1. Did you enjoy watching and listening to this type of instrument? What did you enjoy or not enjoy about it?

  2. The musician manages to play a melody, as well as accompaniment on this instrument. Can you tell which hand is which?

Bonus Question

  1. What type of accompaniment is being used in Can’t Help Falling in Love?

November 11th-November 17th: Wild Hunt

Franz Liszt was a rockstar - a showman and a virtuoso. Reaching levels of fame comparable to modern day rockstars, he was often depicted in concert with swooning fans and snapping strings. Liszt revolutionized piano performance and is the reason we perform from memory today.

You may remember him from previous listening activities: La Campanella and Lyrical Lisztening


F. Liszt, Transcendental Etude no. 8, “Wilde Jagd”

Earlier this year, we listened to an etude by Chopin. This week, we will listen to an etude by Franz Liszt.

“Wilde Jagd” is the 8th out of 12 “Transcendental Etudes”. The title of this piece translates into “Wild Hunt”. This piece features many dramatically contrasting sections with different moods and personalities, each with unique challenges of their own.

I’ve included a live performance, as well as a recording including the score for those of you who want to try and follow along or perhaps, try to play some of the piece - good luck!


  1. What musical elements evoke the theme of a hunt? Think about rhythm, dynamics, range, etc.

  2. You will notice there are a few different sections/themes with contrasting moods repeating throughout the piece. How many different sections can you hear?

  3. Describe each section and name at least one challenge for each section. If you’re stuck, think of what you might work on while practicing your own pieces. (“Fast” is not an acceptable answer)

Bonus Questions

  1. Identify the scale on the score at the 35 second mark. Can you play this scale?

  2. Identify the chord in the second bar of the music.

  3. Identify the scale in the first bar of the music


As you may recall from the Astounding Sounding Arpeggios listening activity…

An etude (pronouced “ey-tood”) is the French word for "study". Studies/etudes are written to focus on specific technical challenges at the piano.  They began as only exercises; however, as the piano developed in the Romantic Era, composers such as Chopin and Liszt elevated the etude from a practice room exercise to dazzling masterpieces fit for the concert stage!

October 14th-20th: The Erlking

Franz Schubert, Der Erlkönig

Der Erlkönig was originally a poem written by the famous poet Goethe. The poem describes a story of an Erlking (a mythological supernatural being) who terrorizes a young boy as the boy rides home on horseback with his father. Schubert, a prolific Austrian composer, then used the poem as the basis for this song, which features piano and voice. Throughout almost the entire song, you'll hear a persistent rhythm in the piano which sets the uneasy and tense tone. 

I’ve included a performance with vocalist and piano as well as a transcription for piano.


  • Pay close attention to the piano's opening passage. Which hand features the melody? When you are playing, how can you ensure that the melody is heard clearly?

  • Can you guess what language that this song is sung in?

  • The following is the rhythm that continues through the piano part. What is this rhythm called? (ie. quarter note, half note, whole note, eighth note, triplet, sixteenth note?) If you haven't seen it before, guess!


September 30th-October 6th: Pianos Galore

L.V. Beethoven, Turkish March

2 successive performances of Ludwig van Beethoven's Turkish March from "Die Ruinen von Athen", arranged by Richard Blackford for 8 pianos.


  • What kind of challenges would be presented while performing this piece?

  • How many hands are performing all together here?

  • Bonus: How many piano keys are there all together?


September 16th-22nd: Wonderful Waltz Week

Erik Satie, Je te veux

A new composer to ring in the new piano year - Erik Satie is a composer we have not yet explored in the past 2 years of listening activities! If 1 a week isn’t enough, listening activities from previous years are accessible through the student page.

Satie is a French composer and pianist who lived from 1866 to 1925. You may know him from the Gymnopedies, his most famous compositions. This week, we explore a delightful waltz with a light and bright mood. This is interesting coming from Satie - a contrast from his usual melancholy melodies. For your enjoyment, I’ve included a piano version of this piece and an orchestral version.

Please listen to the following recordings and be prepared to answer the questions at the following lesson.

It is essential to listen to the pieces with undivided attention and not as background music. Focused listening and observing details of the music will allow greater enjoyment and appreciation.


  1. Which recording did you prefer (the piano or full orchestra) and why?

  2. What is the time signature of this piece?

  3. Describe the mood or feeling of this piece.


Waltz of the Flowers

Here is a favourite listening activity from last year!

P. Tchaikovsky, Waltz of the Flowers

Waltz of the Flowers is an orchestral piece composed by Tchaikovsky.  It is from the second act of his ballet, The Nutcracker.

Visualization is a very important technique in music - it can assist in many things, from preparing for performance on stage, how to physically play the piano, or how to phrase the music you play.  Connecting visual experiences to music helps us to seek out effective musical intentions - for example, deciding how to phrase or what dynamics to use.  We do not phrase simply for the sake of doing so, or only because it is written in the music.  We must seek further meaning - why we should play this way?  We can crescendo to create a momentary sensation of floating, such as the ping pong ball bouncing upwards (seen at 1:45).  We can adjust dynamics and push the tempo to create a sense of danger and suspense (seen in the video shortly after). 

 It is nice to see this creative visual take on music - I found it very enjoyable and hope you enjoy as much as I did!


  • Were there any visuals in this video that enhanced the musical experience for you?  (Excluding the ping pong ball/sense of danger discussed in the description) What were they and why did they enhance your listening experience?
  • Look at some of the musical decisions (phrasing, dynamics, articulation) in the pieces you are working on now.  What are some visuals that connect to this way of playing the music?  Why does playing in such a way enhance the music?

Introduction to Listening Activities

Weekly Listening Activities

An initiative to expose students to a wider variety of music - to spark inspiration, imagination, and cultivate a better understanding of genres in the musical world.

  • Short selection of pieces to listen to during the week (not only Classical)

  • A few questions for reflection and brief discussion in the following lesson

Weekly listening activities are designed for students to explore music beyond the current level of repertoire and learn by observation. 

Listening is a necessary learning tool in creating the music we desire.  Listening calls concentration to our creation.  It acts as the road map guiding our practice and also the plane that allows us to explore a world unknown. Much like watching a sports game to see how players move and carry out a play, learning by observation is just one more way to gain a better understanding of an art, craft, or anything for that matter.

Reflect - Develop a greater sense of musicality, cultivate an understanding of music history, genres and style periods.

Observe - Watching fine pianists who have perfected their art offers valuable lessons both technically and musically for students of any level.

Active listening is essential – undivided attention allows the listener to hear how phrasing, articulation, and other musical devices come together in unity.

Take a look at one of last year's favourites, Waltz of The Flowers

I understand this requires time and music education is not be the sole activity of most students.  Active listening can be a part of your week without taking up much, if any additional time.

Suggestions to integrate Active Listening into a busy schedule:

  • Directly before lesson (while waiting) to settle down

  • In the car on the way to school, sports, etc.

  • During a meal or snack time

  • While doing chores

  • Before or after practicing at the piano

  • Before or after a bedtime story/activity

  • Before playtime on a tablet/phone - listen first, then carry on with free time