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Topic: Back to the piano and need some tips for improving  (Read 3013 times)

Offline zantetsukenn

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Back to the piano and need some tips for improving
on: March 27, 2017, 10:42:01 AM
So I've bought a digital piano and started to play the piano again. I'm self-taught piano player because of my job I just can't find the time for a teacher. I actually tried to learn piano with a teacher but after first few visits I just couldn't find the time any more. I'm saying this because I know that piano teacher is the best way to learn to play the piano without making bad habits

I can read sheet music but I can't sight read so I memorize every piece that I learn. I now want to start the right way and learn the fundamentals and technique correctly. Is there any suggestions for piano book series that teaches the very basics all the way to the more advanced stuff. I've heard a lot of positive feedback about Alfred's piano books. My goal is to learn to sight read or play by ear so I could maybe on the spot play some pop music etc. (of course it will take a lot of time and practice before I can do something like that). Also if there's any other method other than piano books I would like to hear them also. I just want to learn the correct way to play the piano without making bad habits.

Also I've heard that you can test your skill level by taking RCM or other tests. Is there any other ways to test your progress that you could maybe do by yourself?

I just want to add that I stopped playing the piano really because I didn't know where to start really so I just started to learn how to read sheet music, which note is where and after that I started to learn pop music etc w/o practicing scales, and probably learned some bad habits. This is why I think (and probably all of you agree) piano teacher is the most efficient and the best way to learn piano at least to start with. Although when I showed my piano teacher how I played the piano she was impressed so that was really nice to hear.

I'm really dedicated to learn and this time I want to do it right and for that I need your help with this thumb

Thank you.

Offline adodd81802

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Re: Back to the piano and need some tips for improving
Reply #1 on: March 27, 2017, 03:48:05 PM
Requests like these are always actually very risky due to the huge levels of interpretation from either side.

What you think your ability is VS what it realistically is
What you think your end goals are VS what they need to be

Then advice wise
What someone suggests to you can be greatly mis-interpreted.

Unless situational, as a hobby pianist, there is no need for you to learn play by ear, and sight read is not the same as playing by reading VS playing by memory.

Sometimes you need to actually workout what you should be asking rather than ask the wrong questions and receive the wrong answers.

If you're not going via the piano teacher route, of which there are obvious cons, but also some pro's then it is often overwhelming to look at the bigger picture of what learning the piano actually is if you're trying to do it yourself, so i'd suggest start small. Here's a plan of sorts you can consider.

Pianostreet has a substantial list of music, most certainly including all of the well known pieces, and these have been arranged by 'level', but you can also arrange by composer, if you have a particular composer in mind.


I'd say first spend some time doing some listening, check out pieces from level 1 and listen to a bunch of pieces, see if there's anything in particular that you like, find the score for these pieces, if not from pianostreet (as a gold member) then look up on IMSLP.

Obvious targets for these pieces initially
Playing pieces by reading only - as in firstly by not having listened to the piece already - can you accurately play what's on the page, rhythmically and accurately.
Can you sight read these pieces? as in could you play through completely at tempo or near tempo as you read for the first time (sight reading is aimed at pieces at least 2 levels below your ability)
Can you play these pieces at all? do you experience any particular technical difficulty? (note this for skipping levels)
Understand that levels isn't simply about the speed of notes or complexity of chords, but many attributes of a piece put together, you shouldn't consider yourself after completing 3 pieces ready to move up a level, look for different pieces that you think may test you for different reasons.

Reading new pieces as mentioned above, reading them without trying to play them, maybe not even at the piano.can your head sound any of the notes, can you get a feel for how the piece should sound
Try reading the notes along with listening to several interpretations, get your head to know how this should sound so you already know what you want to achieve from your fingers.
Research - learn everything theoretical you can about this piece, what's the key, what's the harmony, what was the composers intentions, where was it composed, does it modulate, what actually is this piece - e.g. what is a prelude? Learn as you go
Start to plan your own little tasks when learning a piece that help you e.g. if a piece is in A major, set up some exercises in running the a major scale and arpeggios before starting the piece.
Always take thought into why you are doing something with clear aims out of any session of practice particularly if time is a factor.

I wouldn't feel comfortable with just giving you a book and saying "here give this a go and see how you get on" too many things can go wrong here. Pro-Hanon vs Anti-Hanon comes to mind... You have to be intelligent and thoughtful about improvement. You have to understand and believe in the purpose of what you are doing and blindly following books do not always provide this value.

Hopefully you can take something useful from my waffling. We can't assume a one book-fits-all style particularly for what is a theoretical instruction on a practical subject (hence why teachers are recommended)

Google is your friend.
Learn as you go
Start off small
Set Clear goals
Be completely comfortable before moving forward
Be completely aware of any arrears that require improving
Ask the right questions

"England is a country of pianos, they are everywhere."

Offline indianajo

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Re: Back to the piano and need some tips for improving
Reply #2 on: March 27, 2017, 04:44:47 PM

Unless situational, as a hobby pianist, there is no need for you to learn play by ear, and sight read is not the same as playing by reading VS playing by memory.

I couldn't disagree more.  
Not every great piece was written 100 years ago and is out of copywrite.
Most of the pop arrangements for sale are ****.  If you like popular music, playing by ear is required.
Welcome to the site and the keyboard hobby.  
My piano teacher wasn't very good at teaching me to sight read.  She refused to teach me to play a pop song by ear, once, saying "you don't want to play that old thing".  Which old thing earned a second pop life in a famous movie about year 2000.  
The teacher  was excellent at posture, correct hand motion, physical tricks of playing piano, and finding me classical repretoire of the proper level that I would enjoy.  
I would say study a method plus exercise books independently, but get checked by a school trained teacher every 6 months or so of hard practice, to have bad habits pointed out to you.  Bad habits can cause injury besides limiting what pieces you can play.  
Hanon exercises are okay, but they don't come with teaching points or in order either.  In the mid-west we have used Edna Mae Berman, whose books line up by number with the methods.  In 2nd year scales are important, two octaves minimum.  Turn-unders are critical.  In fourth year I went on to Czerny School of Velocity for the exercises.  
As far as playing by ear, studying chords and playing from fake books is the way to learn that.  I took chord theory which had no ear training as a piano student, which was worthless.  When I worked through a play guitar in 6 weeks book, the chords started meaning something to my ear, and I am now able to make up arrangements off a record much faster than in my first 60 years.  
I don't see why people care what "level" they are. once you get out of the method books, on beyond six usually, each piece has challenges you should spot by viewing it.  Some are too hard, some are easy.  For example, many skills I play at the graduate school level, but anything requiring rapid trills over a certain speed, I will not be able to do it. That is a grade 6 skill.    I stay away from repretoire requiring that skill, or limit my performance to home where 3 against 4 doesn't offend me.  
Albert is a popular method, John Thompson used to be the standard in the mid-west, that I learned on. Past book three there are more fun pieces you could learn that aren't in those books.  
Somebody knowledgeable anwsered a similar question with some other method he highly recommends, read through the old threads.  
Sight reading is a "just do it" skill.  Learn the chords off a chart or in a theory tutorial, to enable you to faster cope with music structure on the fly.  I've learned to sight read by playing hymns out of the hymnal for a tiny country church, which puts me on notice that accuracy is appreciated.  The better I get, the less time I need before the service to go over the intended hymns first. If you're not a christian, you could learn the same way out of fake books, but they are quite expensive even used, and hard to find.  I found mine in flea markets.   Django fake book is on line, but not a lot of great songs.  having a tolerant audience helps the sight reading skill progress a lot. 
Have fun with the hobby, and expressing yourself.  

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Back to the piano and need some tips for improving
Reply #3 on: March 27, 2017, 05:10:24 PM
Zante- you mention :"My goal is to learn to sight read or play by ear so I could maybe on the spot play some pop music etc."

Well i would say that just start learning all Your favorite pop stuff.. You know how to read - do simple versions of your favorites.. and build your repertoire, 1 by 1.  after a while - recurring patterns emerge, and it becomes much easier...
the only way to get good at sight reading - (and it does take a while!) is to read something new each day - for at least 5 minutes to start.. (something simple) then you back to your regular practicing..

One thing hits me, if you don't have time for a teaching session a week, how regular are your practices going to be? and would it be daily?
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