Imperial March

This post is about the Imperial March piano arrangement for the beginning piano student (children that already enjoyed 1 to 2 years of frequent piano lessons).

It includes my three part video training series that shows how to learn and play the Imperial March Theme (Part 1) from Star Wars on the piano.

Imperial March Piano Training Video 1 shows how to play the piece with both hands in different tempi, and is great as a play along.



Imperial March Piano Training Video 2 shows how to learn and perform the melody with the right hand.


Imperial March Piano Training Video 3 shows how to learn and play the accompaniment part with the left hand.


Important note:

In video 2 I simplified the rhythm in the melody a little bit. Once the pupil masters the melody as taught in video 2, it is time to replace the two consecutive 8th notes with a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note, as shown in the image below. (The top staff shows the new version).  It is a little more challenging to play, but it is the original melody after all.


Exercise for performing from chord charts

In popular music we use chord symbols to indicate the harmony of a song. One of the most important skills for a contemporary pianist to have is performing from lead sheets (melody + chord symbols) and chord charts.

The following images show two versions of the left hand accompaniment of the Imperial March arrangement.

On the left you see the actual written out arrangement with chord symbols added (click on it to enlarge the image).

On the right you see a chord chart with chord symbols and slashes only.

Tip: The slashes indicate the beats in the measure. (Quarter notes in our example). IMPORTANT: A chord symbol is valet until the next chord symbol appears.

Imperial March – Left hand with chords

Imperial March left hand

Imperial March chord sheet

Imperial March chord chart

Practice What You Don’t Know

One of the most common mistakes beginning piano students make is practicing what they already know over and over. I don’t mind them playing songs over and over they know well from top to bottom. That means they are having fun, which is actually great. Let me explain what I mean instead.

When you observe a child practicing you will probably notice that he wants to play those passages that already sound pretty good rather than working on those he doesn’t know well yet. By the way, we adults have the tendency to do the same.

THat’s why the first thing I teach my students is not to always start at the beginning of the piece they are working on. It takes persistency on the teacher’s and the parent’s part to get this into a child’s head, but it is well worth the effort.

Dear Parent: Please remind the child to begin practicing from different measures until she does it on her own.

Children that don’t follow this strategy often get stuck further down in the piece and are not able to perform a piece well in its entirety, which ultimately leads to frustration.

Tip: The reason why they don’t like starting in the middle of a song is often because they don’t know where the fingers go and which finger to use, unless they start from the very beginning and play up to that measure. The teacher or parent can help by indicating the fingering and note names at the beginning of significant starting points in the piece. Eventually the child will be able to write in the fingering and note names for those bars.

Tip: Mark up a new piece by dividing it up into smaller practice segments. Number the different segments randomly and ask the student to follow the order of the number when practicing. When monitor you child remind them not to start practicing from the first bar, but instead working on a different segment every time they start practicing.


Practice Frequently

Tip Of The Week (July 17, 2016)

It is much better to practice every day for only 15 minutes, than once a week for 2 hours.

There are many reasons for that. Here are a few:

  • When practicing daily, we refresh our memory every day which makes it easier to remember what we learned in the previous session.
  • Short and frequent practice sessions are the best way to get information into our long-term memory.
  • It is much more likely, that we keep our focus during short practice sessions than during extended sessions which  makes your practicing much more efficient.
  • Long practice sessions exhaust our muscles and lead to tension, pain, and maybe even longterm injury.
  • Personally, I find it much more fun to practice in short intervals.

What do you think about that? Start a discussion below!

Why We Should Avoid Practicing Piano When In Pain

This article warns pianists about practicing piano while being in pain. It gives advice how to deal with pain, how to analyze the reasons for that pain, and how to avoid serious injury.

You may have heard the old saying no pain no gain. Unfortunately, many ambitious musicians take this literally, when in reality the exact opposite is true:

With Pain, No Gain!

A women goes to the doctor. The conversation goes like this:
Doctor: So, where does it hurt?
Patient: It hurts when I do this (the woman lifts up her arm)
Doctor: So don’t lift it!

That’s actually really good advice for musicians too. When it hurts, stop doing it.

We must never continue practicing our instrument while experiencing physical pain. Pain is our body’s warning signal that something is wrong. It tells us that we are using our body the wrong way. When we continue ignoring the pain, we may injure our body permanently. At the least, we won’t have fun playing our instrument any more.

Avoiding physical pain must therefore be the prime directive of any practicing!

What to do when pain sets in

Here are my recommendation for how to deal with physical pain:
When you experience pain, stop practicing immediately and analyze what most likely causes the pain. There are many possible reasons for why we may feel pain when practicing. To figure out the exact cause, follow this checklist:

Checklist of reasons for pain during practicing the piano

  • Are you tense while practicing?
    If YES loosen up, walk around, breath easy.
  • Have you played for an extended period of time without taking a break?
    If YES take a break, relax your body and mind.
  • Have you repeated the same passage over and over?
    Stop practicing it, when you come back to it later do less repetitions.
  • Are you playing faster than your brain can process it?
    If YES, your muscles tense up because they don’t get a clear signal from your brain. Slow down until it feels comfortable.
  • Do you twist certain bodyparts into an unnatural position during practicing?
    If YES, stand up, stretch a little, shake your hands out, and sit back down properly.
  • Do you experience the very same pain during activities other than playing piano?
    If YES, see a doctor.
  • Did you have a piano unrelated injury that may cause this pain?
    If YES, you know where the pain comes from. It just means you will have to take it easy with playing the piano for a while.

By answering all those questions you should have gained a pretty good understanding of what causes your pain, and how you can avoid it.

Other things I do when I feel pain

First, let me tell you what I don’t do:
I don’t ever take painkillers, and I certainly don’t rationalize why I should continue practicing with in pain by saying things like”I’m not a wimp”, or “I will get through this, I’m a big boy”.

I found the most responsible and also most beneficial way to deal with pain is to stop practicing for a while until the pain subsides, before it becomes a serious issue.

See a doctor if the pain won’t go away

Of course, when the pain continues, you must see a doctor immediately. Don’t think it’s okay to get used to the pain. You will possibly insure your body permanently when ignoring the pain. The consequences maybe horrible. I know concert pianists that hat to quit playing the piano because they injured their body irreversibly by not paying attention to the first signs of pain.

Bottom line: avoid practicing with pain at all costs!


5 Mistakes Beginning Piano Students Make

See also Learning Objectives from Week 1 + 2

5 Mistakes Beginning Piano Students Make

Mistake 1: Lifting several fingers when pressing one key

Playing the piano is all about playing economically Continue reading “5 Mistakes Beginning Piano Students Make”