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Musical People Keep Me Motivated


I can’t believe a year has gone by since our last Sonatina Festival. This year it will be divided into two locations. It’s so great to see so many students stepping up to the challenge. Good luck to all them tomorrow!


Piano bench……me.  Piano bench……student…….me.   This is often how it is at my studio.  It’s a great business.  I set my own hours, rates, policies, and who I work with.  On the flip side, it can get a bit lonely.

Recently, our local teacher group hosted our eighth annual Sonatina Festival.  I have been chairman of this event since its inception.  After months of planning, scheduling, inviting, enrolling, ribbon ordering, juggling Excel files, not to mention teaching my own students some of the toughest piano literature on the planet, the day finally arrived.  The four judges from the Houston area represented professionals who teach, compose, present, improvise, write articles, accompany at church, and perform.  They arrived with enthusiasm for the students and smiles on their faces.

In between listening and critiquing, we all had a chance to enjoy some food.  That led to wonderful conversations that included exchanges of ideas…

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Wee Folks Recital


October 24th two students from our studio participated in the Wee Folks Recital sponsored by the Katy Music Teachers Association.  Both James Cupp, who performed Little Lost Kitty, and Juliana Anzora, who performed a Faber arrangement of Ode to Joy by Beethoven, did a marvelous job performing for the parents.  They were among 30 Katy students that performed in this event. Lopez Piano Studio applauds them for their hard work and performances.



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New App We’re Using in the Studio


WOW!!! Can’t believe how much time has gone by since my last post!! So much has happened, starting with the fact that I had two strokes in July. Doing fine now. I’ve also completed the certification requirements to be a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music with the Music Teachers National Association. Unfortunately, due to my strokes, I am no longer teaching at The Conservatory at Cinco Ranch. But I am proud to announce that I have opened up my own private studio here in my home. I presently have 7 students but there are more that have notified me that they want to sign up.

So, I thought now would be a great time to start using the Piano Maestro App with my new students. I love it! We’re just getting started with it. In fact, some of my students haven’t even connected with it but I expect they will love it once they start.

If you’re interested you can find the app at My students will be connected to it through my studio. Each month I will feature a Star Student. This month it’s James Cupp!!! Way to go James!!

Attended a Great Workshop


This past Saturday I attended a workshop on How to Teach Skills Instead of Pieces. The presenter was Dr. Beth Klingenstein, NCTM. She also presented a session on Creative Curriculum for the Piano teacher. I love attending these workshops on behalf of my students. It really motivates me to be a better teacher!

My favorite new quote: “Fast practice, slow progress; Slow practice, fast progress; No practice, no progress.”

Circle of Fifths


The Circle of Fifths: A Brief History

In the sixth century B.C., the Greek scholar and philosopher Pythagoras decided to try to make things easier for everyone by standardizing, or at least dissecting, musical tuning. He had already discovered pitch frequencies in musical instruments by vibrating different lengths of string, and he had defined what exactly an octave was, so he figured this was the next logical step and created something that is now called the Pythagorean Circle, which eventually led to the more common Circle of Fifths.

Each of the 12 points around the circle was assigned a pitch value. This roughly corresponds to the present system of an octave with 12 half steps. So far, so good.

In mathematical terms, the unit of measure used in his Circle is cents, with 1,200 cents equal to one octave. Each half step, then, is broken up into 100 cents. Western music theorists have since updated Pythagoras’s Circle, as shown in Figure 1.

circle of fifths

Figure 1: The Circle of Fifths is a foundational tool in Western music theory.

The creation and use of the Circle of Fifths is the very foundation of Western music theory. Along with all the technical things the Circle predicts, it’s also your best friend in the world in deciphering key signatures on sight. It’s just as essential in writing music because its clever design is very helpful in composing and harmonizing melodies, building chords, and moving to different keys within a composition.

Just as Pythagoras had it, the Circle of Fifths is divided up into 12 stops, like the numbers on a clock. Each stop is actually the fifth pitch in the scale of the preceding stop, which is why it’s called the Circle of Fifths.

For example, the fifth pitch of the C scale is G. If you look at the Circle of Fifths in Figure 1, you’ll see that G is the next letter to the right of C. If you keep going clockwise, you’ll see that the fifth note of the G scale, D, is the next stop. And so on.

The Circle of Fifths helps you figure out which sharps and flats occur in what key. The name of the key being played is the letter on the outside of the Circle. To figure out how many sharps are in each key, count clockwise from C at the top of the Circle.

C major has a number value of 0, so that means it has no sharps. G has a value of 1, so it has one sharp. When you play the G major scale on the piano, you will find that you play only white keys until you come to the seventh interval and land on that one sharp: F sharp, in this case. D has two sharps, A has three, and so on around the Circle. The number value by each letter on the right-hand side of the Circle represents how many sharps are in that key.

To determine the number of flats in a key, go through the same process, but count counterclockwise. The key of E-flat major, therefore, has three flats.

You can also use the Circle of Fifths to figure out the key signature for minor keys. Starting with the key you want to use, just move three spaces counterclockwise and use the key signature for that major key. For example, to figure out the key signature for E minor, find E on the Circle of Fifths and move three spaces counterclockwise, which lands you on G. This tells you that E minor uses the same key signature as G major.

Major and minor keys that share a key signature are considered relatives. In this example, G is the relative major of E minor, and E is the relative minor of G major.

Taken from