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Piano Lesson 19: Remember the Count-Off!

By Gaili Schoen September 27, 2023 Hobbies

Welcome to Lesson 19, friends! Today we are talking about count off and covering pages 61-62 in our Upper Hands Piano, BOOK 1.

[NOTE: If you are just joining us for the first time, you can find my previous Sixty and Me Free Piano Lessons on my Author page. You can join our lessons any time and move at your own pace!]

19.1 Remember the Count-Off

In music, we generally “count off” or “count down” a measure or two before we start playing to establish the tempo internally. When we play in bands, ensembles or orchestras we always count off a measure or two to make sure that everyone starts together. When there is a pickup in your music, you might count a full measure plus a partial measure, as with Did You Ever See a Lassie, on p.62.

For the next two weeks, I suggest that you play Did You Ever See a Lassie and review or start Listen to the Mockingbird. Both are tricky to play, so play them slowly for a while. If you have time to review an old song in the book, remember that when you first play it, it might feel as though you have never played it. Don’t get discouraged, play it through a few times and you will find that it’s coming back to you.

Notice that when you review a song it IS NOT truly as though you have never played it (it just feels that way at first). You will relearn it much more quickly than the first time you played it. Acknowledge your progress and notice how much you have learned since starting our lessons together!

19.2 Did You Ever See a Lassie, p.62

I counted a measure plus a partial measure for this song: “1 & 2 & 3 &, 1 & 2 &” then came in with the pickup for 3 &. I suggest you count this many beats as well. It’s a great way to establish the beat, and start to feel the tempo in your body.

19.3 Finger Drill with Hands Together, p.62

Play the finger drill forwards and backwards with each hand alone first, then play with your hands together. Here I demonstrate what it will look like when you play with hands together.

Passion Practice!

  1. Exercise #3 in B-flat (review) and F (new). Play each exercise 3 times: 2x Forte (loudly) then 1x Piano (softly) with each hand. Use the PENTASCALES chart at the back of the book if you are unsure of any hand positions Review Ex #3 in all 12 keys, when you can. Next week we will be moving on to Exercise #4!
  2. Chord Calisthenics #3 – Play the major/minor/major triads in D-flat & A-flat, and review B and F#.
  3. Review or start (if you haven’t already) Listen to the Mockingbird on p. 61. You can watch the demonstration video here.
  4. Play Did You Ever See a Lassie on p.62. Play the Finger Drill at the bottom of the page with hands separately, then together.
  5. Review The Irish Washerwoman, or any song in BOOK 1 that you find challenging or enjoy playing.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you understanding the concept of a count-off? Do you know why we start counting the pick-up for Did You Ever See a Lassie, with “3&” instead of “1&”? If you have any questions or need any further explanation on anything in our book, please post your questions below! I am here to help!

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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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