The "5-P's" of Practicing

The 5-P’s Practice Method

 By Ramona

In the past few years, our studio has come up with a practice method that I call the “5-P’s”, aka “Pick a Piece of Practice Paper, Please!”  Some students have even added “Pretty”, making it “6 P’s”! It’s easy and fun, and I guarantee improvement!

 Here’s what you have to do:

1    Print out the practice suggestions.

2    Cut them out in strips.

3    Fold them up and put them in a small jar by the piano.

4    Grab one before you start your practice, and do it!

Have fun!

Practice Tips:

Small Sections

Be very disciplined! Practice one measure at a time. Stop at the first note of the next bar. “Sign off” before you move to the next bar.


Change Tempo

Practice “SUPER SLOW”. It will help motor control, clean up messy spots, help you think and plan.  

Practice slow pieces fast to give you an overview of the piece, or “Bird’s Eye View” of it.  


Ghost Playing

Only touch the keys, don’t press down.

This helps you hear inwardly.

It will help your memory.


Change Character

Choose a different mood or character for your piece.  

This will help you find freshness to your piece, make it more creative!


Go on a Pedal Diet

No pedal, practice using only fingers to make legatos.

When you finally add pedal, it will sound so lush and luxurious!



Use dotted rhythms in groups of 2 or 4.

Try rhythms with staccatos and accents.


Count…out loud!

Start doing it slowly, then up to tempo.  It doesn’t count if you don’t do it out loud!

Using your voice and hearing it, great feedback, great for rhythm!

This can be very challenging at first, but stick with it and soon it’ll be easy!


Backwards Practice

Start at the last 4 measures of your piece.  Play it until you like it!  Then move back another 4 measures.  Repeat until you are at the beginning.


Table-top Playing

Prop your music on the table, then finger your piece as accurately as possible!


Hands Alone


You might be surprised at what is going on in your LH!  And RH!


Play Completely Straight

Deliberately remove all rubato, ritards, rallentandos, etc


Start Anywhere?

Use a random number generator to start at any measure of your piece.  


Change Up Dynamics

Exaggerate all dynamics.

Play without any dynamics, all pp or ff.


Practice Performing

Imagine you are in front of an audience, all the details!

Video yourself and watch it as your own audience!

New Pianos by Sky...made out of LEGOS!

Many in our studio enjoy or have enjoyed LEGOS in numerous creative ways. Sky created two pianos, made completely out of legos. You should check out her amazing LEGO collection sometime!

I like the music rack detail! Check out the piano painting in the background…from summer camp.

I like the music rack detail! Check out the piano painting in the background…from summer camp.


Seattle Bach Festival - Lilia Gold Medalist

Sunday, September 29, 2019: Two hundred sixty-four young Washington musicians participated in the Seattle Bach Festival Competition held a the Forest Ridge High School. Each age group was featured in various categories, ie. Anna Magdalena Notebook, Little Preludes and Fugues, Inventions, Well-Tempered Clavier, Italian Concerto, Partitas, etc. Keyboard and String concerti were also featured. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote well over 1000 works, so there was a huge variety of pieces to choose from!

Representing our studio, Lilia won the Gold Medal in the Well-Tempered Clavier 2 Division! She performed the Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 875 beautifully! Congratulations!


Article featuring 5-year, 10-year, Sonatina and High School Diploma National Winners!

This article will appear in the National Guild Magazine in the upcoming months. I will repost after publication!

Allen Studio Presents National Winners

Sixteen young pianists from the studio of Dr. Ramona Allen (Olympia, WA) performed a recital for a welcoming and appreciative local senior center.  The students also performed National-level Guild Auditions the week prior with Judge Preta Laughlin, passing with Superior and Superior Plus ratings.  

Special mention goes to three 5-Year National Winners.  They are:  Gavin Skoog, a 6thgrader, who along with his piano skills, is a clarinetist and saxophonist and has a black belt in taekwondo.  Isabella Shields, a 7thgrader, enjoys creative wordsmith-ery and is known for her compositional talent and ideas.  Chloe Song is accomplished in both piano and violin, and has won many awards in the past 3 years.  She has also challenged herself by doing two National auditions per year for the past three years, also earning the Sonatina Plaque (15 movements) this year!  

Lilia Allen, a junior, finished her 10thyear as a National Winner, earning the High School Diploma from the American College of Musicians with a 90 minute exam, and also earning the Paderewski Medal.  In addition to her musical activities, she is a competitive gymnast, an honors student, and a big sister to three siblings, with a special interest in foreign languages, calligraphy…and chocolate!  She has been honored to perform twice with a local orchestra, playing concerti by Mendelssohn and Shostakovich.  She has appreciated the musical opportunities and challenges provided by the ACM.  


Lessons begin on September 9!

Mondays: 2:15 Madison; 3:15 Luke; 4:00 Judson; 4:45 Sky

Tuesdays: 4:30 Linnea; 5:00 Landon

Wednesdays: 1:30 Megan; 2:45 Alex; 3:45 Gavin; 4:30 Lilia

Thursdays: 2:45 Lucas; 3:30 Calvin; 4:15 Chloe

Piano Ensemble Camp 2019!

What a great week of Piano Camp 2019! An energetic group of middle and high schoolers joined together to play duets, trios and quartets for a week, culminating in a final recital, where a supportive crowd cheered them on! Newly composed jazz and dance influenced trios by Dennis Alexander and Martha Mier were on the program, featuring piano, trumpet, clarinet, cello and violin. Two sibling duos performed Mozart’s famed Rondo alla Turca, as well as the C.S. Variations by Hartsell. The finale was a quartet (8 hands on 2 pianos) of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’". Great performance, everyone!

Other camp activities included: Piano World Records (highest, fastest, longest, etc), Music Theory Games (spoons, anyone?!), partner drawings and art (very impressive results!), musical water balloons, mango/neapolitan/choco/vanilla cookies and snacks, Videos of famous duos, and much much more!

Our recital also brought in 50 lb of food to donate to the local Food Bank! The Thurston County Food Bank provides groceries and other assistance to thousands of individuals in our community. Thank you all for supporting our city with your music!

Piano paintings with a partner - impressive!

Piano paintings with a partner - impressive!

Making letters in groups…it totally looks like an “R”!

Making letters in groups…it totally looks like an “R”!

TRIO Benefit Concert UPDATE!

THANK YOU, WONDERFUL FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!!  The recital is over now, and we had a GREAT TIME!  Performing solos, duets and trios by classic to modern composers. we played our hearts out for an enthusiastic audience!  Because of you, we were able to raise $2,596 for UNICEF, which as you may know, is more than 3X our original goal!  We are so excited!  We are amazed at what we can do with our MUSIC! If you would like to see examples of UNICEF's work, please check out this website for pictures and articles:  

We thank all of you again for your overwhelming generosity and support! 

Hair by Anna Sophia!

Hair by Anna Sophia!

All smiles after the recital is over!

All smiles after the recital is over!

UNICEF’s color is blue, which is why the girls chose their dresses.

UNICEF’s color is blue, which is why the girls chose their dresses.

TRIO Benefit Concert, July 14!

Three of our students - Lilia, Megan and Madison - will perform a benefit concert, “Keys for Kids”, on behalf of UNICEF’s Education Fund.

Date: Sunday, July 14, 2019

Time: 3 pm

Place: Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Olympia

Free admission and reception following!

These girls would like to bring awareness to the fact that 27 million children are living in war zones and are affected by war. In these areas, UNICEF is a humanitarian organization that provides schools, books and school supplies. All donations will go to this fund. Their original goal was $714, as the concert is 7/14/19. Within 4 days, due to the generosity of friends and family, they surpassed that goal, inspiring them to go bigger, with a goal of $1714! Please consider donating at the concert or at: 

Thank you for your support!


16 young Olympia pianists presented an inspiring Spring Studio Recital at Panorama’s Quinault Auditorium on May 29. Elementary to Advanced students performed pieces of many styles, from Bach’s Italian Concerto and Inventions, to a Clementi Sonatina and Fur Elise, Mendelssohn’s Hunting Song, Copland’s Cat and Mouse Scherzo Fantastique and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in D to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Theme from La La Land, Pachelbel’s Canon, Debussy, Shostakovich, MacDowell and more! Ramona & Jenny finished with Lecuona’s Malaguena. What a great audience we had!

Even more photos from the recital are available here:

Read More

National Guild 2019

National Guild 2019: an unequivocal success!

May 30 was a BIG day as the National Guild Auditions took place in our Studio with judge Preta Laughlin.  Whether this was your first (Calvin & Madison) or 10th (Lilia) and everyone in between, this is no small feat!  Each student prepared 10 or 15 memorized pieces and technical phases.  Gavin, Isabella, and Chloe have reached 5 years of Auditions at the National Level--this milestone will be noted in the National Piano Guild Magazine.  Chloe took on a double program with the Sonatina Plaque, 5 complete sonatinas (15 movements), as well as the National Level Audition.  Lilia tested for her 10th year and High School Diploma/Scholarship, which 15 advanced level memorized repertoire pieces and technical phases, a 90 minutes marathon test.

EVERYONE PASSED WITH SUPERIOR OR SUPERIOR PLUS! HOORAY! You students all amaze me! You should all feel proud of what you accomplished this year!



Madison, Isabella, Lucas, Calvin, Sky, Viveka

Superior Plus:

Lilia, Luke, Judson, Gavin, Chloe, Chloe Sonatina, Megan

17 Young Olympia Pianists Learn and Master over 550 pieces! 

40-Piece Challenge Results for 2019!

Yes, this number is true!  Five hundred fifty!  Each student keeps track of pieces they have learned over the year as part of the 40 piece challenge.  40 pieces, you ask, is this for real?  It is a huge challenge, especially as they advance and pieces become harder.  Even if a student learns 10 pieces, this is a substantial accomplishment!  30 pieces... Astounding.  And 40 is positively Monumental! 

As a teacher, I love to have students learn pieces of many styles and periods.  It broadens their repertoire and helps them learn to read on sight.  The more one reads through music, the better reader they will become!  They also learn more composers’ styles and ways to express themselves.

There was one problem with this challenge:  beginner students had much shorter pieces to learn, while some advanced students are tackling pieces that may be 500+ hundred measures in length!  So to make it more fair, this year we allowed for advanced students to count each 50 measures as a piece (75, if it was a concerto, due to the orchestral tutti sections).  

We have a tie for first place with 36 pieces:  congratulations go to Lilia & Linnea!  Good job!  2nd place with over 30 pieces go to:  Chloe and Landon!  3rd place, yet another tie with 26 pieces:  Judson and Gavin! There were quite a few others not far behind that, and with every piece, each of you accomplished something with the amazing and beautiful pieces you learned.  These are now *your* pieces!  WAY TO GO, EVERYONE! 

Scale Olympics 2019!

Our final group class of the year featured the SCALE OLYMPICS! Everyone had 3 minutes to demonstrate their Guild Technical Requirements. They included scales (major, all modes of minor, contrary), chords and inversions, arpeggios, plagal and authentic cadences, and dominant and diminished 7th chords. Wow! You guys know your “stuff”! It was a fun way to have a practice run before the Guild Auditions. Even those who did not receive the top three spots did AMAZING. Anyone who can do this technique has accomplished much and will improve their music-making!


4-5pm Class:

Gold: Sky (40!)

Silver: Chloe (36!)

Bronze: Isabella (30!)

5-6pm Class:

Gold: Lilia (41!)

Silver: Viveka (36!)

Bronze: Lucas (31!)

MCE Competition Results!

Masterworks Chorale Ensemble hosted their 18th annual Young Musicians’ Competition on May 4, 2019. Students from 3 divisions (Elementary, Middle School, and High School) participated, with four distinguished judges on the panel. The level of energy and nerves was high, and the level of playing was very impressive! Sky and Chloe represented our studio; both played so well. Maya (student of L. Henderson) and Ramona played in the HS division.

WINNER: Congratulations to Chloe, winner of the Middle School division! As a winner, she will receive a scholarship and a performance at a MCE concert in the 2019-2020 season. Congrats to Maya as well, winner of the High School division!

So proud of these talented young musicians!  Sky played an exquisite “Meditation from Thais” and Chloe won over the judges with her “Fantasie Impromptu”.

So proud of these talented young musicians! Sky played an exquisite “Meditation from Thais” and Chloe won over the judges with her “Fantasie Impromptu”.

Music Artistry Program 2019 with Jee Wong

The 2019 M.A.P. was a huge accomplishment for all of our students! Every student participated, including a student of student teacher Lilia. Our visiting artist, Jee Wong from Las Vegas, had some wonderful comments for each young pianist. A few are listed below. Congratulations to everyone: Landon, Linnea, Gavin, Sky, Madison, Megan, Judson, Calvin, Lucas, Lilia, Alexander, Luke, Viveka, Isabella, and Chloe! What an enjoyable way to spend a day, listening to all of you!

Winners were chosen for the OMTA Honors Recital. Congratulations to these wonderful young pianists! Click below to see their performance:

Sky, Handel Sonata

Chloe, Chopin Fantasie Impromptu

Megan, Chopin Polonaise in AM

Alternates are: Lilia, Calvin, Isabella

Good job and thank you for all of your hard work!

Some comments by Jee Wong:

Keep your bridge firm. If a spaceship were to land on your bridge, would it hold it up or collapse?

Press into this molding clay. That’s how hard you need to press the keys.

For accents, imagine I’m going to suddenly put an ice pack on your back!

How do you say the same thing 4 times loudly? Scream, yell, scold, raise voice.

Feel the forward momentum of the music. Make a wheel with your arm and spin!

Bounce your wrist, like you are dunking a teabag into a cup of water.

You know your notes, now let you and show FREEDOM!

Big chords and accents: grab a dandelion and yank it out by the roots!

Chopin NW 2019 News

Due to the 2019 “Snow-pocalype”, Chopin NW was moved forward a week to Feb. 16. Lilia had planned to play her Scherzo #1. Megan performed the Polonaise in A Major and Prelude in F# minor. Chloe played Trois Nouvelle Etude #1 and Fantasie Impromptu.

Video clips will be available soon!

Update: Chloe won a Silver Medal in Division 3. Way to go, Chloe!


At last month’s group lesson, students filled out a short questionnaire about themselves, then were secretly assigned a “pal” to compose for. The results were amazing! Everyone was able to write something meaningful and delightful, despite finals week for our high schoolers!



This year, we had 8 students participating in the Concerto Festival: Luke, Viveka, Calvin (Lower Intermediate); Isabella, Sky (Upper Intermediate); Chloe (Advanced A); Megan and Lilia (Advanced B). Every one of you played VERY WELL! I’m so proud of all of you! Of course, with 60 of the best young pianists in the region, not everyone will get a prize, but you should all be proud of your efforts and your ability to do your best under pressure. You are all fantastic young pianists!


Lower Intermediate: Calvin, 3rd place.

Upper Intermediate: Isabella, Honorable Mention.

Advanced A: Chloe, 1st place!

Advanced B: Lilia, 1st place!

Advanced B: Megan, Honorable Mention.

The first prize winners in the Advanced A and Advanced B sections win a performance with the Olympia Chamber Orchestra in February. It is always a spectacular concert, and I hope many from our studio will be able to attend to watch and support Chloe and Lilia! They will be performing from Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto and Mendelssohn’s 1st Piano Concerto.

Calvin (3rd prize), Luke, and Viveka: Lower Intermediate Division

Calvin (3rd prize), Luke, and Viveka: Lower Intermediate Division

Sky and Isabella (Honorable Mention): Upper Intermediate Division

Sky and Isabella (Honorable Mention): Upper Intermediate Division

Chloe (1st prize), Advanced A division:  she performed Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto, 3rd movement.

Chloe (1st prize), Advanced A division: she performed Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto, 3rd movement.

Lilia (1st prize) and Megan (Honorable Mention):  Advanced B division.  Lilia performed Mendelssohn’s G minor Concerto, 3rd movement, and Megan performed Shostakovich’s Concertino, Op. 94.

Lilia (1st prize) and Megan (Honorable Mention): Advanced B division. Lilia performed Mendelssohn’s G minor Concerto, 3rd movement, and Megan performed Shostakovich’s Concertino, Op. 94.

All smiles after the competition!

All smiles after the competition!

Concerto Recital and Competition

As you may know, the OMTA has put on a Concerto Competition for many years. This year, it will be Saturday, Nov. 17, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (1601 North St. SE). It is free and open to the public. There are 5 divisions and start times are listed:

Elementary - 8:05am

Lower Intermediate - 9:55am

Upper Intermediate - 12:30pm

Advanced A (Baroque/Classical) - 2:10pm

Advanced B (Romantic/Contemporary) - 4:40pm

We will be having a Concerto Recital the week before on Friday, Nov. 9, 7-8pm (at my house) featuring 8 students from our studio. Please feel free to come to either, or both! The level of playing is fantastic, and I know you will enjoy hearing these young pianists! I especially encourage anyone considering next year's Concerto Fest to come. Cookies will be served!

For the students performing at the competition on the 17th, please check in 10 min. before your division's start time. Bring your music for the judges and make sure the measures are numbered. As discussed in lessons, it's time to get into "performance practice" mode! Thank you all for your hard work!

It's been an exciting fall, full of good music learning. I am thankful to be working with such an amazing group of kids!

Tiny Piano Creations!

Judson came to his lesson today with some of the tiniest pianos I have ever seen, all created by himself!

The first piano is made of nano blocks of his own design. Since he also plays the cello, note the little white cello leaning on a chair, and the music stand. So creative!

The first piano is made of nano blocks of his own design. Since he also plays the cello, note the little white cello leaning on a chair, and the music stand. So creative!

The black piano and bench is an origami design he found online.

The black piano and bench is an origami design he found online.

Note the black endpin detail for the cello.  P.S. You should ask Judson about his ship designs sometime…amazing!

Note the black endpin detail for the cello.

P.S. You should ask Judson about his ship designs sometime…amazing!