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Piano Lesson 8: A Murder Ballad and Goodnight Ladies!

By Gaili Schoen April 26, 2023 Hobbies

NOTE: If you are just joining us for the first time, you will find the list of my previous Sixty and Me Free Piano Lessons at the bottom of this post. You can join our lessons any time!]

It’s Lesson 8 and today we’re debuting a new note Bass F in the song Goodnight Ladies. Remember the song Goodnight Ladies from the musical The Music Man? I loved the original film starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett and of course little Ronnie Howard as the lisping Winthrop.

Click to see The Buffalo Bills sing Goodnight Ladies while the townswomen sing Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little (Goodnight Ladies starts at 2:05). We are going to play Goodnight Ladies soon, but first let’s review the CLEFS in our book, Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 1, on p.11.

8.1 Reviewing Bass Clef F, p.11

Remember that the BASS CLEF has two dots beside it. The line in between the two dots is the F line. This is the F below (to the left of) middle C. Think of Bass F as a touchstone; you can count up or down from that F to help you figure out other notes on the staff. Here’s my video reviewing Bass Clef F and Treble Clef G:

8.2 Goodnight Ladies, p.34

Ready to play Goodnight Ladies? Here’s my demonstration video, but try playing it on your own before watching the video:

On the bottom of p.34 is a tricky MUSICAL MIND GAMES puzzle. It looks like a Word Search, but it’s actually a PENTASCALE search! The first PENTASCALE is C. You can see the 5 notes of the C PENTASCALE — C D E F G – in pink/purple. The G is in purple because it is the first note of the next PENTASCALE, for G. Find the G A B C D, then next you will find the 5 notes of the D PENTASCALE, and so on.

Using the PENTASCALES chart at the back of the book you will find the PENTASCALES in the puzzle in this order: C, G, D, A, E, B and F#. The last note of F# is the C# in the upper right corner of the puzzle. Remember the squares must touch horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Check your work for p.34 on the ANSWERS page of my website,

8.3 On the Banks of the Old Pedee, p. 35

On p.35 you are playing On the Banks of the Old Pedee, also known as On the Banks of the Ohio. It’s an old Appalachian “murder ballad” about a man who murders his girlfriend after she rejects his marriage proposal! Some of the versions have some pretty gruesome lyrics, but I only included the original nice verses!

8.4 Consistent Practice

In her book, Better Than Before, author Gretchen Rubin shows that we have much better success in doing something if we make it part of our routine, rather than trying to rely on self-discipline. I try to pair my piano/accordion practice with dinner (I practice right after dinner dishes are done), which is great except when we go out or I have a late lesson.

It might be better to pair it with something else earlier in the day. I schedule my morning exercise at 7:30 every day, and on Sundays I schedule my French practice and my cooking time in my calendar for the coming week.

There are some emotional roadblocks involved in piano practice. Sometimes it takes feeling in a good mood to be able to face the difficulties of playing the piano.

In his book The Now Habit, author Neil A. Fiore says, “People don’t procrastinate just to be ornery or because they’re irrational. They procrastinate because it makes sense, given how vulnerable they feel to criticism, failure, and their own perfectionism.”

Ouch. It’s so true. If we could just play the piano in the spirit of curiosity, just from an interest in learning, instead of judging our intelligence, ability, or self-worth by the speed of our progress, we might be more consistent.

When she was young, my daughter used to laugh every time she made mistakes when practicing Beethoven’s 5th on the piano. That was a real eye-opener for me. How wonderful it would be if we could just laugh at our mistakes! And to simply go on and correct them without self-recrimination.

I suggest that my students play the piano for as little as 10 minutes each day. Over the years we have done several 30-day challenges to Pledge To Play 10 Minutes A Day. During those 30 days, piano students and teachers have reported amazing progress, simply because they have played every day.

Scientific research bears this out – you will make better progress by playing daily for 10 minutes than from playing once a week for 70 minutes. That is because the brain learns better through daily exposure than from one long session.

Of course, playing more than 10 minutes is even better, but if you practice for at least 10 minutes every day, or for 15-20 minutes for at least 4 days per week, you’ll see real progress! Whatever you think you can commit to, schedule it in, make it a habit and stick to it. And if you didn’t get to practice on a day it was scheduled, put in your 10 minutes before you brush your teeth and go to bed. For more about consistent practice, watch my parting comments:

Passion Practice!

  1. Exercise #2 in F-sharp and D-flat, and review C-B occasionally (Appendix iii, and use the PENTASCALES chart at the back of the book if you are not sure about what the five notes in each position should be.)
  2. Goodnight Ladies p.34 this week, On the Banks of the Old Pedee p.35 next week. Please watch my demonstration videos 8.2 and 8.3 to check your rhythm.
  3. Review p.19-20.
  4. Review The Irish Washerwoman (if you have time).








Let’s Have a Conversation!

Are you able to carve out time to practice at least a few days per week? Do you schedule it in your calendar or just practice spontaneously? What are your favorite pieces to play?

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I really needed the pep talk that you gave this week about consistent practise. Gaili, you are inspiring and motivating. You make no judgment and give much encouragement. You certainly understand your students and human nature. Thank you so very much for all you do for us!

Hi Patricia- I’m glad I said the right thing at the right time for you. Yes, it’s just getting to the bench that is the hard part – away from all of the other demands on our time. Once it becomes a habit it’s much easier. You are so welcome! I do understand my students, having been one for so many years, and presently a French language student. So cahallenging!


for me, it’s a second hand guitar. i admit i only scanned this (as i’m not piano), but the ‘better 10 minutes a day than 70 in a week’ is the same mindset as my instructor in the online refresher course. and sometimes, as i’m sure you know, if i sit down for 10 with something i truly like, i often stay – sometimes for that 70 – but i come back next day for the 10 again. lovely learning philosophy.

i’m currently practicing ‘The Circle Game’ by Joni Mitchell 7 ways from Sunday. learning picking. practicing chords, plucking out the melody line repeatedly.

thanks for the new tips here as well!
in Joy!!

Gaili /

Oh that’s wonderful. Guitar is another great instrument. How wonderful that you are playing Circle Game! Yes sometimes all we need is just to get ourselves to the instrument. Once we start to practice we’re so happy to keep going!

The Author

Gaili Schoen is a passionate piano teacher and learning science researcher. She has written a piano instruction series called Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul. Learn more at Follow her blog for free monthly sheet music and practice tips:

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