Archive for the ‘Stories from The Semper Method’ Category

What happened to my piano lesson?

Friday, November 1st, 2013







We do a lot of very different things at our version of a piano lesson. We sing, we clap, we listen, we make up songs and of course, we do play too. But today was different.

It’s Halloween and Ryan and Lily brought their horns to their piano lesson.

Very impressive. New songs, good sound and one very startled terrier. Vinnie has never heard such good stuff!

Nice playing, you guys!!!


13-10-31 Vinnie and the sax 13-10-31 Lily on trumpet


Can you sing Happy Birthday? Just listen…

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Can you sing Happy Birthday? Just listen…

This is about Erica, Sophia and Diana who all did something amazing today!

Most people just “hear” music. Students of music actively listen to music in a different way. This allows them to do amazing things. Yesterday was a banner day for listening with The Semper Method.

Most of us have a pretty good idea of how Happy Birthday goes. Three of my students all called upon this familiar song that they knew in their heads. By listening to themselves sing it, they were able to figure out where the pitches were and play it on the piano.  Not a big deal, you say?

Well, imagine. There are countless melodies out there in the universe. On the radio, the web. Some of your own that you haven’t even composed yet.

What if you could just really change the way you listen to music and then play ANY melody you can think of? These students ranged from 8 to 20, so anyone can do this. You connect the idea to your voice and your voice to the keyboard and BAM! There it is!

You should have seen the look on their faces (and mine!) as they hit the last note. They are well on the way to just being able to play anything by ear!  Good work Erica, Sophia and Diana!

So try this yourself. Just actively listen to any melody you can think of. Then find the notes on the piano. You can ask these two questions to help you find the notes:

Is the note I am playing higher or lower than the note I am singing?

By how much?

This song we started on Middle C. Try starting it there.

Have fun!

The simplest ear-training exercise ever

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The simplest ear-training exercise ever

Have someone who is musical play a note on the piano, and don’t look at the note they played.  Somewhere in the middle of the keyboard is good.

Now hear it in your mind. Hum it so you hear where it lives in your voice. Have them play it again. Keep it locked in your mind. Hum or sing it.

Now turn around and try to find the note. Start by playing any note. Now, ask just two questions:

1. Is this note higher or lower than the one you are trying to find?

2. And by how much?

If you get confused, turn around and have them play it again. Hum it again.  Take your time. Repeat till you nail it.

This simple exercise is the beginning of tremendous relative pitch and ANYONE can do it. If you can’t hum the note at first, just have them help you till you find it in your voice.

Your voice is basically just a muscle. (Well, other stuff too!) Making it vibrate at different frequencies makes different pitches, higher or lower.

This is the most basic element of ear training: hearing and reproducing a pitch.

You can make it get progressively more difficult too!

Don’t be fooled by how simple this is. Try it for 10 minutes a day for a month. Do it a lot and you will become great.

Find out more at

Learning to Play Music at Any Age

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

an article from Michigan Prime magazine

People wait. And wait. And find excuses. Go off to school. And grow up. Get married. And have kids. And move six times.

And then wish they’d taken a few music lessons and been able to play or sing for all those years.

All I can tell you is that the more mature folks I teach are really happy they finally took a plunge.  Here are a few thoughts from a recent article on folks of Boomer age  and beyond who are having a bit of fun, just because they can.

Article from Michigan Prime -June 9-2013

Playing by Ear. What? You’re tone deaf?

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Singing in Tune: Awakening Your Sense of Pitch

For all the folks that dismiss any vocal ability, saying they are “tone deaf”, here are a few  thoughts.

Some people grew up with that little bit of tissue and those nerves in the brain quite stimulated by a great deal of music of all kinds. These folks may have an easier time of it as they learn to refine their sense of intonation. Sometimes this is natural, sometimes people need to learn it. However, I believe that anyone can do this. And the rewards are worth the effort.

We do this with people 4 years old to 84 and beyond. It is the instrument you were given and it is great fun to discover it!

Let’s begin by finding some songs that you may have already internalized. We will sing and play them.

If you are not hitting the notes and the intervals in between them, it is more than likely that no one has ever shown you how to find the address of the note in your voice. Every note has an address-on a keyboard, on any instrument, on the musical staff and in your voice.

You probably know

  • Happy Birthday

  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

  • Frere Jacques (Two Tigers)

  • Row Row Row your Boat

We will pick them out on the keyboard, by ear, all in C for now. Then sing as we play.

Steps to Focus on the Pitch of a Note

A refined sense of intonation is a critical part of the path to learning to play by ear.

  1. First, we play the Cue note

  2. At first, you just hear it.

  3. The next step is active listening. If you don’t instinctively know how, don’t worry. We’ll show you.

  4. Next, the job is to increase the length of your focus on actively listening to the pitch.

  5. Once it is internalized, you feel like you are humming it in your head

  6. Now you can vocalize it.

***Recording and playing back your efforts is an invaluable tool. A smartphone can be a tremendous tool to see where you are and make instant course corrections.

The end use of all this is to feel how the sound vibrates in your throat so that you can reproduce it again, once you have it already there at your disposal. It takes repetition. Once you get it, you will likely always have it.

Focus in Listening

Focus follows hearing and begins at the onset of active listening, through the application of the listening process until focus is lost by distraction or mental fatigue. At first you may only be able to focus for a tiny moment. With practice, you can focus longer. Repetition cements it into your brain and then you can “just do it” without thinking about it.

Mental practice:  Conceptualizing the process and vocalizing the sound in your mind.

One student’s observation that helped him

  • Hum the starting note of any interval

  • Then soften it till you are only hearing it in your head

  • The reproduce it

This needs repetition. Like basketball, mental practice works only after you sink quite a few baskets; at least enough to get the feel.

Caveat: Timbre and Pitch

Do not confuse timbre or the sound of a note with the pitch of a note. For some people, the thin sound of a tuner playing from your phone makes you think you need to sing in the higher part of your range. Focus instead just on the pitch of the note.

This process is similar to a baby learning which muscles are needed to pick up a spoon. They have to be concentrating on the spoon and the muscles needed to ensure that their fingers are in the right place.

Here is a summary I heard from a diligent student. It is a good analogy of the process of learning to sing in tune.

Development of “flow”

  1. unconsciously incompetent  – baby does not care about spoon

  2. consciously incompetent – baby tries to pick it up but has not put it together-and fails

  3. consciously competent – with concentration, the baby can pick up the spoon and sometimes even get food near face, mouth (and not so much on the wall)

  4. unconsciously competent –  eats using the spoon, but without thinking about the spoon.

Playing by ear.   Singing by ear.  Fun stuff!

Learning Music Should Be FUN!

Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

~ James M. Barrie


Some testimonials on learning music

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

I have been singing a long time but Randy helped me to look at my both playing and my voice in a whole different way. We made a great record together.   Trevor N.

Randy taught me how to play better from the first day we met. We are getting deeper into theory and I write my own charts now. It has been a blast the whole time.   Steve K.

My biggest thanks goes to you for mentoring, caring for and guiding my son during his young adult days. You are a very powerful figure in his life, and for this I am most grateful.    Lynn M.

I got a lot of inspiration and encouragement from Randy to express myself and create my own music. In fact, I am now a film composer.    Ryan S.

Randy has worked with my partner and I for 15 years. He took our melodies, arranged them, and turned them into songs that were actually singable.  Watching Randy run a rehearsal and teach people songs is a sight to behold. He makes it happen quickly and efficiently, and we always have fun.

In all sincerity, I consider Randy to be the most talented musician I’ve ever known.  He is a great teacher, even of inexperienced adults, and fun to work with.  A winning combination all the way around.    John B.

Randy brings a unique combination of strengths to music instruction. He’s a classically-trained musician with a talent for improvisation, and has spent years arranging jazz and pop charts. Besides teaching kids and adults in both formal and informal settings, he has decades of experience in studio engineering and production, which has allowed him to hone his skills at “real-world” musical instruction — giving musicians and singers in-the-booth skills which they can immediately translate into successful recordings, and which they can then go home and practice.

Randy understands both the theory behind the instruction and how students can quickly integrate these theories to become better musicians. Plus, he makes the whole process fun to learn. I wholeheartedly recommend him as a music instructor on any level — beginner through graduate.   Steve K.

Wish you could PLAY BY EAR? it’s not too late!

Monday, April 8th, 2013
  • Are you frustrated because you are full of music but can’t express it?

  • Don’t you wish you or your child could just sit down and play?

Learning music should be FUN! It’s just not that big a deal! This is a unique approach that really WORKS.

You know, when we were children, we learned to speak before we learned to write. So we do the same for music. We play first and enjoy it.

My only job is to make sure you are having fun. Then you’ll do the rest!

  • Learn at YOUR speed!
  • Whether you’re 4 years old or 84, have FUN from the start!
  • Play by ear using The Semper Method: Take piano lessons from a pro.
  • Get some coaching for your voice.
  • Improve your songwriting skills.
  • A safe, professional studio in Beverly Hills and in Troy or at your home.
  • Flexible scheduling.

Whether you once took piano or voice lessons or are just starting out, this will forever change how you listen to and play music! You will focus on achieving your personal best rather than competing.

If, from day one you learn to listen, and play by ear, you will have a lifetime of enjoyment from it. You won’t be tied to a sheet of  music in order to express the music inside you.

That said, when you learn to read and write music, you’ll be far ahead of those who don’t. You will be able to capture your own musical ideas, communicate your ideas with other musicians and play tremendous music by other people: classical, rock, standards or anything at all.

This is music education customized to the individual student since 1971.
Our goal for you? Just sit down and play. Or sing. For yourself, for others, for the fun of it!

My credentials?

  • Royal Conservatory of Toronto
  • Queens University Music Ed courses
  • Professional musician and teacher my whole life
  • Toured nationally with Motown acts
  • Session musician, producer, musical director
  • Performed music around the world
  • and….I love to teach.

Letters of reference available upon request.

Come on, it’s just not that big a deal! You must be here for a reason!

Just call us and see if we’re a good fit. (248) 561-5176

Student Recordings

Nothing helps motivate students like great recordings of their work. Find out about our amazing studio here.

Technology we Use

We use all kinds of modern tools to help your on your path. Apps for smart phones that help you tune your voice, play in time and improve faster than you ever thought possible. We create and email you custom-recorded MP3s to for you to play and sing along with. We record you at several levels: with smartphones for reference and with with professional gear to document your progress.

The Big Picture: Goals for the Professional Musician and the Hobbyist

Although a percentage of students will become a concert pianist or symphony member, there are a multitude of other ways to become involved with music. If you choose to make music your profession, this provides another demanding set of parameters. If you make it your hobby, it’s a different story. We inform students of the choices available so that they may choose wisely.

“Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact… It turns out that choices lead to habits. Habits become talents. Talents are labeled gifts. You’re not born this way, you get this way.”

~ Seth Godin