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Author Topic: Hello Everyone - care to help an absolute beginner get started?  (Read 2168 times)
knew bee
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« on: July 17, 2006, 02:56:15 PM »

Hi All,

I've decided I want to learn piano, and I'm looking for as much assistance I can get!

I'm 26 years old, and I already play guitar and drums to a reasonable level. I taught myself by ear and never really got too involved with theory or sheet music, but I'm looking to change all that and I've just bought "Piano for Adults - Book 1" by Bastien.

I don't yet have a piano (only a Yamaha PSR 295 keyboard...) but I'm thinking that's enought to get me started.

I know a teacher would be the best way to learn, but I don't really have the spare cash to spend on lessons so I'm hoping to find enough free stuff on the web to keep me busy...

In the meantime, I'm looking for any tips or assistance you guys would care to offer, specifically the following questions:

1) Does anyone know if the book I bought is any good? If not, what should I be looking for in a beginner's book? Any recommendations for the next one I buy?

2) How long before a piano becomes an absolute necessity? I know I can't use the keyboard forever but I'm hoping to get to a decent standard before shelling out on a proper piano. Obviously the sooner the better, but at what point would you say that it was crucial to my development? Is it acceptable to learn the fingering, chords, reading etc first and then go back and work on the performace subtleties once I have a piano?

3) Is there any way to gague myself against a standard syllabus? I've heard about Grade 1-8  etc but don't really know what each entails - is it possible to download the "coursework" and "exam" anywhere? I know I wouldn't actually get the grades if I "pass", but I'd like to see how I'm progressing and I figure this might be the best way?

4) I'm worried about sightreading. I seem to take a long time to play what are quite simple pieces and it's almost as though, by the time I'm playing it properly, it's because I've practiced it so much and have memorised it rather than because I'm reading it? (if that makes sense?) Is this normal for beginners or should I be able to play it pretty quickly given that the pieces aren't that difficult?

5) I can probably only put in around 30 mins a night practise. Is this enough to get to a decent level? I'd like to be able to jam with my guitarist friends, and play some nice classical ballads and stuff.  Any ideas how long this might take? (I realise it's an impossible question, but I'm just looking for a ballpark answer!)

Thanks a lot for any assistance given - it is much appreciated!
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pianistimo
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2006, 03:52:24 PM »

ur not lying about ur age are u?  some people try to pass for 26 on the internet when they're actually 40.  i knew a newby that was supposedly 35 or 38 and voila, the very next year he had a 40th birthday party. 

well, if ur new on the forum, we have to give u the benefit of the doubt.  ur really 26 - you really want to play piano without a teacher and get lessons via a mutitude of counsel.  good luck.  i'll say one thing and then the very next person will say 'no no no - that's not the way to do it - do it like this.'  how are u going to decide who's right?  ur just going to get majorly confused.

go get a teacher - stop playing the guitar.  eat less food (to save on teh budget)  say - skip lunch and spend ur lunch money for the week on piano.  tell ur piano teacher when u come that you are very hungry and would like  a morsel to eat as you are spending ur lunch money on her/him.

ok.  from my perspective - i think u chose a good book.  bastien is very self-explanitory.  also, go to the music store and just check out things that appeal to you. go through each letter and composer and buy three pieces (sheet music) that look like level 1 or say level one (ask the counter help to help u find this level of music). 

play the bastien, dozen a day exercises, and three pieces of ur choosing.  then, ur teacher will take u from there.  unless ur really serious about not having time.  in which case - i will continue to fight for my position on the beginning lessons with you.
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jas
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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2006, 04:04:52 PM »

ur not lying about ur age are u?  some people try to pass for 26 on the internet when they're actually 40.  i knew a newby that was supposedly 35 or 38 and voila, the very next year he had a 40th birthday party.
Grin I think she means "Welcome to the forum".

Although you say you can't afford a teacher, it really is the absolute best thing you can do to get started properly. Some books are very good but they can't demonstrate things for you. However, having just graduated I know all about being skint, so I'll leave my teacher rant there. Good luck. Smiley
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donjuan
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2006, 01:08:22 AM »

Hi All,

I've decided I want to learn piano, and I'm looking for as much assistance I can get!

I'm 26 years old, and I already play guitar and drums to a reasonable level. I taught myself by ear and never really got too involved with theory or sheet music, but I'm looking to change all that and I've just bought "Piano for Adults - Book 1" by Bastien.

I don't yet have a piano (only a Yamaha PSR 295 keyboard...) but I'm thinking that's enought to get me started.

I know a teacher would be the best way to learn, but I don't really have the spare cash to spend on lessons so I'm hoping to find enough free stuff on the web to keep me busy...

In the meantime, I'm looking for any tips or assistance you guys would care to offer, specifically the following questions:

1) Does anyone know if the book I bought is any good? If not, what should I be looking for in a beginner's book? Any recommendations for the next one I buy?

2) How long before a piano becomes an absolute necessity? I know I can't use the keyboard forever but I'm hoping to get to a decent standard before shelling out on a proper piano. Obviously the sooner the better, but at what point would you say that it was crucial to my development? Is it acceptable to learn the fingering, chords, reading etc first and then go back and work on the performace subtleties once I have a piano?

3) Is there any way to gague myself against a standard syllabus? I've heard about Grade 1-8  etc but don't really know what each entails - is it possible to download the "coursework" and "exam" anywhere? I know I wouldn't actually get the grades if I "pass", but I'd like to see how I'm progressing and I figure this might be the best way?

4) I'm worried about sightreading. I seem to take a long time to play what are quite simple pieces and it's almost as though, by the time I'm playing it properly, it's because I've practiced it so much and have memorised it rather than because I'm reading it? (if that makes sense?) Is this normal for beginners or should I be able to play it pretty quickly given that the pieces aren't that difficult?

5) I can probably only put in around 30 mins a night practise. Is this enough to get to a decent level? I'd like to be able to jam with my guitarist friends, and play some nice classical ballads and stuff.  Any ideas how long this might take? (I realise it's an impossible question, but I'm just looking for a ballpark answer!)

Thanks a lot for any assistance given - it is much appreciated!
stick with the guitar and drums; they are sexier.

If you just want to learn how to jam with your buddies, then get 'fake' books to learn the chords and scales. 

the classical stuff -people work their whole lives to play it, and when all is said and done, most realize they are still not satisfied.  Give it time, start slow, and god help you if you play 'simplified' classics as a cheap replacement for the real deal.
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jas
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« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2006, 09:41:52 AM »

the classical stuff -people work their whole lives to play it, and when all is said and done, most realize they are still not satisfied.  Give it time, start slow, and god help you if you play 'simplified' classics as a cheap replacement for the real deal.
You'll only be unsatisfied if you have unrealistic expectations about being a concert pianist within three years. If you just enjoy what you're playing rather than just seeing it as a stopgap until you can play the Rach 3 you'll get a lot of satisfaction out of it. But I agree with donjuan on the simplified classics thing. Whoever writes those things should be shot. Or at least made to listen to them instead of the real thing for the rest of their lives. Smiley There are lots of threads on easy classical pieces lurking around the forum somewhere. If you do a search you'll find something.

Jas
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knew bee
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2006, 02:37:41 PM »

Quote
ur not lying about ur age are u?  some people try to pass for 26 on the internet when they're actually 40.  i knew a newby that was supposedly 35 or 38 and voila, the very next year he had a 40th birthday party. 

No, I'm definitely 26 (although I'm 27 in August if anyone wants to send me a card...)

Quote
i'll say one thing and then the very next person will say 'no no no - that's not the way to do it - do it like this.'  how are u going to decide who's right?  ur just going to get majorly confused.

I see your point, but I guess I'd just try the different ways and see what works best for me. It was the same when I was learning guitar, some people said this and others that. At the end of the day you just take on which ideas you like and ignore the ones you don't

Quote
go get a teacher - stop playing the guitar.  eat less food (to save on teh budget)  say - skip lunch and spend ur lunch money for the week on piano.

Any money saved is being put away for the piano, so is it better to have a good teacher and no piano or a good piano and no teacher?

Quote
If you just want to learn how to jam with your buddies, then get 'fake' books to learn the chords and scales. 

I probably didn't word my first post right. I don't want to just jam with my mates, I just thought it'd be fun if, when they came round, we could jam together.
First and foremost, I want to learn to play properly - without blagging it like I did with guitar and drums.


Quote
... god help you if you play 'simplified' classics as a cheap replacement for the real deal.

Is that such a bad thing? I thought it'd be a good way to learn? (as long as you know it's simplified and that you haven't mastered anything yet)

Thanks for all the responses so far, but to return to some of my original questions:

(i) How long before I MUST get a proper piano (and do digital ones count)?
(ii) Should I be struggling with sight reading the easy arrangement in the Bastien books?


Thanks again folks!

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garetanne
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2006, 03:42:29 PM »

As beginner, I can tell you my experience with some of these questions! 
I started playing this past Feb. so I'm truly a newbie.


 How long before a piano becomes an absolute necessity?

I used a keyboard to get started but once I actually went in for my first lesson I knew I needed a real instrument.  The touch is so different on a keyboard than a piano that when I would try to play at my lesson I wouldn't hit the keys hard enough.  I found a great deal on a new piano where I was able to rent it monthly.  The first 6 months of my rental fees go towards its purchase should I decide to buy the piano. 

4) I'm worried about sightreading. I seem to take a long time to play what are quite simple pieces and it's almost as though, by the time I'm playing it properly, it's because I've practiced it so much and have memorised it rather than because I'm reading it? (if that makes sense?) Is this normal for beginners or should I be able to play it pretty quickly given that the pieces aren't that difficult?

I'd say this is pretty normal and I actually just posted about it recently.  I didn't feel like I was learning anything so much as being trained to play a piece by rote.  Give it some time, and when you look back at stuff you struggled with a few weeks ago and are able to play it easily you'll realize it's just part of the process. 

30 minutes is all alot of people with other responsibilities are able to dedicate to practice.  Some days it will be less and others more.  How long will it take?  Who can say but everyone has to start somewhere right?  At almost 27, by the time you reach MY age you should be a damn fine player!  ~wink
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knew bee
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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2006, 04:55:17 PM »

OK, scrap my first post.

I've shopped around and managed to find a teacher who won't break the bank, and I've got my first lesson booked for Wednesday!

My worry now is that, as this guy is the cheapest, he might be the "worst"?

So... what should I look for in a teacher?

He also says it should take around 1 year to get to grade 1, then allow 9 months each for the other grades which seems to me a little long?

I thought 4 years would be enough to get to level 8 - am I being over optismistic? I realise that everyone is different, but what's the average time from beginner to level 8? (with around 30mins per day practice)

Any other hints/tips before I go along?

As always, any replies much appreciated.


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donjuan
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« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2006, 06:42:00 PM »

OK, scrap my first post.

I've shopped around and managed to find a teacher who won't break the bank, and I've got my first lesson booked for Wednesday!

My worry now is that, as this guy is the cheapest, he might be the "worst"?
In north america, that very well may be the case.  In third world countries - no. 

Let's assume you are in north america: If it's a new teacher, then there is no way of knowing because he is just getting started.  If it is an experienced teacher, then we start to wonder if he is having a hard time finding students.  See how it goes, I hope he works out for you

Here is a sign of the worst teacher:  he just says 'great!  Keep it up!'  no matter how badly you play.  Good teachers sometimes have to scare and anger their students to push them to succeed.

He also says it should take around 1 year to get to grade 1, then allow 9 months each for the other grades which seems to me a little long?

I thought 4 years would be enough to get to level 8 - am I being over optismistic? I realise that everyone is different, but what's the average time from beginner to level 8? (with around 30mins per day practice)
Your goal is ambitious, but not impossible.  I would certainly need more like 1.5 hours of practice a day to do that.  You must have patience or else you can pretty much guarantee it's not going to work out. 

and here's to your previous post:

simplified classics rob you of the magic the composers put into the music in the first place.  those people who simplify the music change the key signature, the rhythm, and sometimes even the melody just to make it easy for impatient people to play.  But after playing a few of these pieces, you will find they leave you feeling ridiculous and like you wasted your time.

Digital pianos are getting better.  If you are willing to splurge and spend over $3000, you can get a very nice digital that will certainly serve you better than a spinet or a console piano.  I think nowadays, they have progressive hammer action, and even some have aftertouch.  The only serious downside to digitals is the insensitivity in the sustain pedal.  It seems to be either 'always on' or 'always off.'  In acoustic pianos, music falls into a pedal gradient and controlling it is truely an art of the instrument.

I suggest you buy yourself a decent digital (Roland is a good brand, imo) , and in 2 or 3 years, if you are still interested, look at buying an upright or a grand.  Basically, my message is that I think a good digital is more satisfying than a bad acoustic (eg. spinet/console).  Five years ago, I wouldnt say something like that, but believe me-digitals are getting much better.  For all I know, they have already come out with something to fix that pedal problem I was mentioning
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bernhard
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« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2006, 01:52:25 AM »

Hi All,

I've decided I want to learn piano, and I'm looking for as much assistance I can get!

I'm 26 years old, and I already play guitar and drums to a reasonable level. I taught myself by ear and never really got too involved with theory or sheet music, but I'm looking to change all that and I've just bought "Piano for Adults - Book 1" by Bastien.

I don't yet have a piano (only a Yamaha PSR 295 keyboard...) but I'm thinking that's enought to get me started.

I know a teacher would be the best way to learn, but I don't really have the spare cash to spend on lessons so I'm hoping to find enough free stuff on the web to keep me busy...

In the meantime, I'm looking for any tips or assistance you guys would care to offer, specifically the following questions:



Quote
2) How long before a piano becomes an absolute necessity? I know I can't use the keyboard forever but I'm hoping to get to a decent standard before shelling out on a proper piano. Obviously the sooner the better, but at what point would you say that it was crucial to my development? Is it acceptable to learn the fingering, chords, reading etc first and then go back and work on the performace subtleties once I have a piano?

Of course it is not acceptable. But if that is all you can do for the moment, then “acceptablility” is not going to be one of your concerns, is it? I assume you are talking about a keyboard as opposed to a digital piano. Digital pianos are perfectly all right, and a very reasonably priced one with good tpucn and sound quality is Yamaha´s P60. I am almost sure you could stretch your budget towards it, instead of purchasing a keyboard.

3) Is there any way to gague myself against a standard syllabus? I've heard about Grade 1-8  etc but don't really know what each entails - is it possible to download the "coursework" and "exam" anywhere? I know I wouldn't actually get the grades if I "pass", but I'd like to see how I'm progressing and I figure this might be the best way?

Yes, you certainly can gauge yourself. You can take an exam, if you pass then that is that. Go to the ABRSM site and have a look at the syllabus for each grade (ABRSM grades go from 1 to Cool. Or you can roughly estimate the difficulty of the pieces you are playing at the moment. There are several threads in the forum where the most common pieces have been graded. Have a look at this spreadsheet for a summary:

http://www.pianostreet.com/Graded_Pieces_All.xls
(Torp’s graded pieces excel spreadsheet)

Or here:
http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5078.msg48203.html#msg48203
(summary of links for graded pieces)

Quote
4) I'm worried about sightreading. I seem to take a long time to play what are quite simple pieces and it's almost as though, by the time I'm playing it properly, it's because I've practiced it so much and have memorised it rather than because I'm reading it? (if that makes sense?) Is this normal for beginners or should I be able to play it pretty quickly given that the pieces aren't that difficult?

Sight reading takes time – just like it took time and consistent effort to learn how to read fluently. Use the same approach. A very good resource is Richmann´´s book. Have a look at the threads below:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,1871.msg14384.html#msg14384
(Reading notation – Richmann’s book – Cambridge word scramble example)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,1976.msg15962.html#msg15962
(Sight reading – Richmann’s book)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2406.msg20820.html#msg20820
(the grand staff)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2577.msg22247.html#msg22247
(Keyboard topography – how to find notes by touch)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2713.msg23282.html#msg23282
(Teaching bass clef – the full explanation for the grand staff)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2751.msg23710.html#msg23710
(detailed explanation of the sight-reading process)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2757.msg23890.html#msg23890
(Sight reading techniques – Good post by faulty on the folly of pedagogues)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2763.msg25148.html#msg25148
(music to develop sight reading from scratch)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3205.msg28255.html#msg28255
(how not to look at the keys – Richmann’s reviews)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3334.msg29381.html#msg29381
(Reading both staffs as a single grand staff - Reasons for working on scales - Detailed discussion of Richmann’s book)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4461.msg41580.html#msg41580
(Looking at the keys: Good or bad? exercises to help finding notes by touch. Good contributions by Chang).

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4506.msg42967.html#msg42967
(accompanying as a way to teach sightreading)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5090.msg48850.html#msg48850
(the score is tabs for piano)

http://www.pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,6704.msg66349.html#msg66349
(graphic illustration of how the grand staff relates to the piano keys)

http://www.pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,7466.msg74462.html#msg74462
(Sightreading – Comparison with reading – St Augustine reading skills)

http://www.pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,9786.msg99290.html#msg99290
(collections of repertory for sight-reading practice)

Quote
I robably only put in around 30 mins a night practise. Is this enough to get to a decent level? I'd like to be able to jam with my guitarist friends, and play some nice classical ballads and stuff.  Any ideas how long this might take? (I realise it's an impossible question, but I'm just looking for a ballpark answer!)

Yes it is, if you stick with a single piece, maybe two. But as you can surmise your acquisition of repertory will be slow. The reason for hours of practice is simply to cover as much repertory as possible. Anyone who spends several hours doing the same thing is either compulsive or does not have a clue about how to practise (often both). Most difficult sections in pieces can be mastered in 10 –15 minutes.

Have a look here where you will find much of interest:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5767.msg56133.html#msg56133
(huge collection of links)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
ronatello
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« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2006, 07:54:35 PM »

Hi Knew Bee.
It looks like most here got your questions covered but speaking as another one that previously self-tought and is now taking lessons, allow me to reply Smiley
1. Age is just a number. I'm 35 years old. Some people even start *much* later than that. But congrats on starting on piano. I'm a noob and I'm enjoying it. As for starting out, the Bastien book you mentioned I haven't seen so I can't comment. My piano teacher is teaching from a Faber & Faber book called "Adult piano adventures". She started me off on the 2nd book after determining that I can play the material (albeit at a slow pace for now). I like the material in the Faber book after skimming through it last night. It gets pretty challenging toward the end.
Some can learn from self-teaching, and I have learned some by going to music theory sites and reading posts here and at other sites. However, my method was scattershot at best. I feel that I can learn quicker if I had a teacher to guide me and check my technique. My teacher's musical background is mainly classical so I'm cool with that. Cool
2. While you can get started with your Yamaha PSR keyboard, I strongly advise you to at least consider a good digital piano with weighted keys (I'm currently using a Yamaha P-90). It will feel more natural when playing with dynamics (pp to ff) Of course, nothing beats a good piano for learning on. That's my next thing to get once I get the basics down...
3. When looking for a teacher, ask questions like their musical background and what material do they teach, how much they charge and so on. Others here can help (Bernhard has a gold-mine of info posted here.!!)

4. Don't get into a hurry when playing and practicing. Having a patience of Job helps Smiley.
Play / practice material hands separate (and slow!) at first. My teacher stresses that and others here will also stress that.
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pianistimo
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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2006, 12:54:19 AM »

dear knew bee,

i see you have gotten actually some great answers.  the yamaha P-90 does sound good and probably a bit less expensive.  maybe you can work up to the piano you want by buying and selling?  or just keep the P-90.

one thing you do need to work out is the correct height.  and, to probably at least buy a regular bench.  those benches that come with the electronic pianos are probably not very sturdy.  the best thing to make you feel confident - is to not feel like you are going to tip over at any moment.

ok.  now, i'm sort of disappointed you found a teacher because i came back to this site after forgetting about it - and realized you hadn't had a lesson in two days.  but, really - you'll be very happy you found your own teacher.  even if the worst happens and you don't like the teacher and have to move on - at least you are getting some advice.  usually teachers with the best advice have some sort of degree or taken a lot of piano lessons themselves.  ask them to play something for you. don't be afraid of switching teachers (moving up incrementally in how much you pay) every three years or so.  start cheap - go towards expensive.  if a teacher is only asking $6.00 per lesson -- i would be suspicious.

what area do you live?  sometimes you can look up teachers on MTNA site.  music teachers national association.  they are usually moderately priced and some high priced.   www.mtna.org/skipintro.htm  click on the red MTNA 'enter'  then look to the right (find music teacher) red section.
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