Self taught learner has questions? - Learning piano and need advice

Share your piano experiences with other adult students

Postby 77-1076694718 » Thu Feb 19, 2004 1:39 pm

Thanks for stopping in...this is long, but I think I should explain things before my questions...

I have played piano for many years, mostly by ear, however I have also learned a few songs from sheet music topok a year of piano lessons in my early twenties and took one semester in college as well...I also played bass in an orchestra and have sung a fair shair of songs and written a few songs(mostly pop) in my life...

After a 10 year retirement, my interest for playing the piano and composing songs has re-ignited and I promised my self to stick with learning the piano and one day writing songs...I have set my direction and goals and have been commited in playing the piano on a daliy basis for at least an hour...

Now that you know my background just let me tell you a little bit of my study habits and I hope that someone can give some advice in my journey...

I currently practice at least an hour and in most cases this can be 3 hours nightly...I have been using the Alfred's adult series and I am in Book 2, additionally I have the Kern Choice Adult book but I bought because I was able to obtain it for a good price and have reviewed a few of the lessons...Additionally I have Alfreds Chords, Apperggio, and Scales book and of course a stack of begininer music and a few flash cards that I am using for memorization of keys, terminology etc...And of course I have a couple of theory type books from the library that I am reading as well...

Now that you have some background and see my materials a few questions...

My nightly routine is that I am practicing scales (30min)( just finished learning all the # Scales but am having problem playing both hands at the same), learning all the major chords (15min), Practicing Alferd's lessons (30min), Learning Appeggios (15min), playing beginner sheet music (20 min), and then I usually play songs I have composed written, compose a song, record a song, or read some theory from my library books.

I have inquired recently in taking lessons at our local music conservatory, but they are bit expensive at $90 month for group and $180 for private...my main concern is that I am not progressing fast enough and of course I become frustrated that I cannot read music as quickly as I would like...Am I doing something wrong? I am playing music that is for a beginner and seem to be struggling to read...Any tips on reading and playing music??? Also what should I be focusing on, my thought is I am trying to learn to much at one time...

I am sure many adults go through this because we want to learn to read music and be knowlegable quickly...

One other question, additionally I would like to start to play some classical music, since I am a beginner can you recommend any books or music that I should start with?

Sorry this is so long, I hope someone give me some guidance here...
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Postby Mins Music » Thu Feb 19, 2004 9:12 pm

Welcome to the board Melody Man.
It sounds like you've got a great routine going. That's what I love about adult students - they've learned organisation and disciplin. :cool:
To help with sight reading, make sure you have a solid understanding of what the note is called (eg, middle C) and exactly where it is on the piano and then exactly where it is on the staff. Here's a few ideas to help concrete it in your brain.
1.Take out the most difficult piece of sheet music you have, and try and find all the C's )I'll use C as an example)as quickly as possible.
2. Write down the note on manuscript paper.
3. Do the same with treble D and E.
4. With just three notes (yes, this does take a long time but is worth it in the end) write them randomly on manuscript, saying the notes out loud as you write.
4. Take your notes to the piano and play them, saying the notes out loud. Try not to look down at your hands.
5. Progress with bass c b a, doing exactly the same thing.
6. Now that you're completely confident you know these 6 notes, grab some beginner's method books - Denes Agay's Joy of First Year Piano is brilliant for this purpose. First, say the notes out loud, clap or tap the rhythm, then play the melody.
7. Keep adding three notes at a time. Be patient with yourself and the routine.

The two basic elements of sight reading are note identification and rhythm execution. Practise both separately at first.
1.Write up many different rhythms yourself to clap.
2.Use a variety of time signatures. Incldude different note values in the one bar.
3. Start to count s l o w l y out loud - eg if in 4/4 count, 1-4 etc
4. Keep the beat very steady. When you FEEL the pulse, begin to clap your rhythm. If you go slowly and steadily you'll have more chance of success.
5. Listen to the rhythm as you clap.

I know this sounds very basic, but it really is a good (though a little time consuming) way to lay a good foundation for sight reading.
Try and get as many 'simple' pieces as you can. Sometimes it's just too frustrating to sight read if the level of music is too high.
I'll give you other pointers a little later. :;):

For classical music, go to thesheetmusicarchive.com. You can only download 2 pieces at a time for free. If you buy their CD you get the entire collection. It is worth the money!!!
To begin, start with a bit of Bach, anything from the Little Notebook is good. The most well known is Minuet in G No.1
I'll have a look around for some easily achievable pieces. You need plenty of these, while on the other hand, it's a good idea to work on 1 challenge piece.

All the best with your teaching Melody Man! :)
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Mins Music » Thu Feb 19, 2004 9:42 pm

oooh, sorry I forgot your other questions.

Maybe your practise is a little top heavy with technical work. And I agree, adults usually are eager to take in as much information as they can. However, tackling everything at once is a little like ordering EVERYTHING off a menu - we couldn't possibly eat all that food all that once, and if we forced ourselves, we'd feel sick - maybe even be sick (hope that's not too graphic :D )

1. Reduce your scales from ALL the major, to just three major. Introduce 2 minor scales. (Suggest: C G F major. E and A minor.)
2. Be content to practise these five scales for at least two months.
3. Don't worry so much about the TIME you spend on them. Instead, tell yourself, I'm going to play C major, four octaves, ascending descending 5 times in a row. Then, move on to G major. Then F major. Then E major. THen A minor.
4. Next, play the corresponding arpeggios, two octaves, five times in a row.
It's not the time you spend that will make you progress. It's doing the exercises correctly. Make sure all the physical aspects of playing are correct - position of your bench, feet flat on the floor, fingers adequately curved, elbow same height as wrist etc
5. Change your touch - legato, stacatto, loud, soft. Do your scales without looking down at your hands (or at least have this as a goal)
Write out the scales, first using accidentals and then with a key signature.
Your goal with scales and arpeggios should first of all be accuracy, then touch (count to yourself, 1234, to keep the notes smooth and consistant) then lastly, speed. Gradually work up. (A metronome is a pianist's best friend
:laugh:

Keep 'shopping around' for a good, affordable teacher. There's some great advice on the PEP's web about what to look for in a good teacher. Remember, expensive doesn't always mean the best, nor does the cheapest mean you're getting a 'bargain.'
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Mins Music » Thu Feb 19, 2004 9:46 pm

Lastly, check out the forum on 'teaching tips' - there's a thread for 'teaching yourself'.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 77-1076694718 » Fri Feb 20, 2004 11:08 pm

Mins Music, thank you for all the advice, I really need the help until I can find a teacher, but I will be coming here quite often even when I find a teach because I see a wealth of knowledge here.

Great advice on the scales and the appeggios, I will follow this...

Yes I understand the commitment it takes and being organized and having a routine is a must if you want to progress...

Thanks also on the approach to site reading and I will begin that immediately as well as the rhythm exercises you mention.

Also thanks for the classical recommendation, I will look for the Bach music...I may have it already...I am not sure I understand what a good challange piece would be for a Classical beginner...I have a couple of classical sheet music books for Mozart...let me know if you have a recommedation...

Once again thanks for this great response...I am very excited and I am sure I will have other questions...
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Postby Mins Music » Sat Feb 21, 2004 3:34 am

Glad to help Melody Man.
It's a little difficult to recommend challenge pieces when I'm not really sure how you play/learn etc. But I'll give it a go, and you can have a look through. A Challenge piece is something that looks a little scarey to you at first, but isn't too far above your current level. In other words, you'll need to recognise the majority of the notes and rhythms, but is too complex to sight read. (And this is different for every player.)

You mentioned Mozart, so I'll start with him.

Menutto in G KV (1e)
Menutto in C KV (1f)
Allegro in Bflat KV
(These are a similar level to the Bach piece.)

A Ground in Gamut G major by Henry Purcell might be more challenging. It has a 'swing' rhythm, works the left and right hand pretty equally, includes semi-quavers, and is longer in length than the above pieces.

Courante in G major by Handel. 3 pages long. Opportunity to experience melody in similar motion, harmonic accompaniment and pedal point. Also has sections where you're playing boths hands reading treble notes.

Sonatina No.1 by Clementi. This 'mini' sonata has three movements - Allegro, Andante, Vivace - each using a different time signature and key signature (C major to F major, back to C major. The Andante (walking pace) is good for practising triplets. It also has a lot of dynamics for expression work.

If you like, choose one of these works and I'll give you some tips on how to tackle them.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 77-1076694718 » Tue Feb 24, 2004 4:04 pm

Thanks Mins Music...I will see if I can pick up the sheet music or find it for free from a legal site...

I will let you know what piece I select and I will be careful since I know that if the piece is to challanging then I will just become frustrated with it and give up...

I have a friend who is the manager at my local piano store and maybe he can help me select one of your choices...

Thanks for helping me...hmmmm since I have the ability of recording and can save as an MP3 maybe I will find somewhere to either host the song and you could take a listen once I learn the song...just an idea
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Postby Mins Music » Mon Mar 01, 2004 5:14 pm

Hi Melody Man! How are you going with your pieces? Have you decided on one? If you need help finding any of the above, let me know and I can get them to you. The great thing about classical music is that the composer has been dead for more than 75 years, so their work is 'public' property, so to speak. Some arrangements have copyright, but you can get the originals from the net for free.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Mins Music » Mon Mar 01, 2004 5:17 pm

MelodyMan wrote:...hmmmm since I have the ability of recording and can save as an MP3 maybe I will find somewhere to either host the song and you could take a listen once I learn the song...just an idea

A good one! :cool:
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 110-1079111554 » Sat Mar 13, 2004 10:46 am

I have studied using the Michael Aaron series, prior to moving on to London College syllabus exams. This series of books is very detailed and methodical, and may mean that some of your serious technical study may be reduced. Worth a look - however try the original series, not the adult series ( of which I think has a few gaps ).
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