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How did you learn to play?


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This is a very interesting thread for me as I'm right at the start of the learning curve!!


I've been playing drums for 22 years, self-taught, was a pro during the 90's, semi-pro apart form that.


Piano - I've always had a portable keyboard around since the age of about 8, just for mucking about on. In my teens, when I started playing drums in a band I decided to teach my self scales and chords on keys in order to be able to contribute to original songs.

I borrowed a book called 'Improvising Jazz Piano' by John Mehegon from the local library because it had scales and chord scales in it. I set about learning scales, triad scales and 7th chord scales.

Over the years I'd always come back to that, and would occasionally pull out the keyboard and go over the scales and chord scales, I never really saw the link between that and 'playing' though.

In 2008 I decided to get a proper keyboard and learn to play properly, I had a look around for a tutor but ended up not bothering - I enjoy figuring things out for myself and by this time, the internet had everything that I needed.


I've always given it the same approach as with playing the drums - learn the rudiments.....learn it, learn it, learn it - get your techniques and rudiments down so you can play them smoothly and faster than you'll ever need to play them (but smooooooth)- then step back, put rudiments out of your mind and 'be' musical, play what you feel and your rudiments will support you.


The only drawback I've come across so far is that, in the John Mehegon book, he says that the middle finger is never used for playing chords - so a triad would be fingered 1-2-4.

I'm finding that everybody else uses their middle fingers so I'm having to re-learn - its like having extra limbs!!


For the past year I've had regular gigs playing and singing with an acoustic guitarist and I've just accepted a job for a Blues Brothers tribute act - this has lead me to the PlayPianoToday set of videos on blues playing, they're really great so far - i'm back to the 'learn it, learn it, learn it' stage with blues piano and I'm excited about using what I'm learning.


I'm slowly building up techniques and expanding my knowledge and ability - I keep telling my kids that learning piano is much more satisfying that playing computer games - its the same kind of buzz when you can play a set of scales without crashing but with the added bonus that you're developing a unique skill that sets you aside from your friends and that you can earn money with!





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Logic | Reaper | Ableton Live

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I started between 3 and 4. We lived in a duplex and there was a piano outside in the hall. I used to sit there and pick out songs that I heard on the radio. That led to my parents buying me a Magnus chord organ followed by a series of Hammond and Baldwin organs. A neighbor taught me the basics of reading music at the age of 6.


As a keyboardist, I have played a lot of ambitious stuff in bands (old Genesis, Yes, etc)...no problem. However, I never really had any formal training and I regret not going down that road. I did take piano lessons as an adult on two separate occasions, each time for about 3 or 4 months. I learned how to play scales and a couple of classical pieces, but I never felt like my teachers knew what to do with me. When I met my first teacher (about 11 years ago), I played him a perfect rendition of the intro to Firth of Fifth (which I was performing in a prog cover band at the time). Naturally, he didn't recognize it. He then proceeded to start me off with the entry level piano books.


These days I'm busy with life, work and gigging, but I'd still like to learn some new tricks. Maybe my best bet would be to find a local jazz teacher to work with.



Korg Kronos 61 (2); Roland Fantom-06, 2015 Macbook Pro and 2012 Mac Mini (Logic Pro X and Mainstage), GigPerformer 4.


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I love these "origin" stories!!!


I showed an early interest in music when I would "conduct" to my Boston Pops records when I was about 2 or 3. My parents thought I might have a musical inclination. I'd piddle around on a piano at their friends' house as their children were taking lessons from a man who would be my future piano teacher.


Anyway, I started lessons just after my 6th birthday (47 years ago) and for most of the 12 years I studied had two classes a week: one devoted to theory, improvisation and ear training, the other to sight reading and learning specific classical pieces, jazz standards and popular music.


My teacher was a graduate of Peabody in Baltimore, John M.E. Hasslinger. Great teacher and funny guy; he lived and had his studio right in our neighborhood. Took me 2 minutes to walk over. I haven't seen as much of him since he moved to a retirement community but up until the early 2000s we'd hang out every so often and I'd try to get him to play my synths and digital pianos. Made him go with me to buy a drum machine once! It was a funny juxtaposition - the old traditional pianist and his younger tech-oriented former student.


He always supported and encouraged me composing my own tunes which I'd always play as my finales at recitals. That led me to being a composer professionally. Bless him!


Got into jazz in high school and played Zappa and Hank Levy (lots of asymmentrical meter stuff) in Stage Band. Got my first electronic piano. Joined my first band at 16 with mates from school.


Studied more theory in college but became a film/video major while playing in my band. Also studied cello in high school, took guitar lessons from my cousin at 15 (he's very accomplished) and voice lessons in my 20s to save my voice from incorrect technique.

"The devil take the poets who dare to sing the pleasures of an artist's life." - Gottschalk




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I had music lessons when I was 8 years old. We had a piano in the house and it was required that every child in my house take music lessons. (I'm the youngest of 8 kids).


My first music teacher was Felix Molzer. A great, kind man, with a rotten step-daughter who later became known as the "Mayflower Madam".


Here's Felix' Obit:




After Felix I wanted to play Drums. I taught myself with instruction books and learn some rudiments.


In highschool I took up guitar because it was difficult to explain melodic suggestions to the musicians in the band from a drum set. It also was a PITA to transport drum kits around.


I was self taught on guitar until college.


I decided to take music electives rather than minor in music (history major).


Walked into an instrumental music class. Prof says "what do you play?" I tell him drums and guitar and a little piano.


The Prof was Les Hollander and he pushed me to learn bass guitar since the world was flooded with half-baked guitarists. at the time my college had a pep band and stage band, but no bass player. Les sort of tricked me into it but it all worked out.


Thanks Les!


Second Semester I decide to take Classical Guitar lessons From Francis Perry - great player, great teacher!




I became a regular fixture in the halls of the music dept.


I was getting high grades in music classes and it beefed up my overall GPA.


I credit Bill Rhodes for teaching me synth programming and challenging me to expand my reportoire into keyboards.


My college training/experience played a huge part in the musician that at I am today.





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Good stories! Lots of similarities (both here, and in the 'what is your daygig' thread), lots of telling moments about the calling of music.


I can recall the early stuff, as the latter stuff is pretty straightforward (went to college, played gigs, learned such and such genre).


On the piano side: my parents met at conservatory though neither stayed in the profession once they had kids (I was the first). I seem to recall being put into piano lessons with the local churchlady shortly after my dad's coworker gave us his monstorous, early-20th-century, Chicago-built upright. My parents had the good intuition to start me with the area's premiere jazz teacher (one of their musician pals) as early as fourth grade. I had no idea what jazz was at the time, but it's a move I will always thank my parents for, as I had gotten through the nuts and bolts of jazz theory, improvisation, repertoire building, by the time most of my peers were first discovering Bitches Brew in high school.


On the keyboard side, after not being satisfied with dinky little Casios, Christmas in third grade brought a Yamaha PSR-300. One year after that I had an Opcode MIDI interface and Musicshop for Mac (on an LC!). I had so much fun trying to imitate songs on the radio or records and transcribe and re-sequence to the best of my gear and my ear's ability. There are some blackmail-worthy cassette tapes lying around somewhere.


Both the piano and the PSR-300 still reside in the music room at my parents' house.


I'm sure this thread has happened at least once through the years, but this could spin off into a 'what were your first few boards' topic.

CP4, Stage EX 73, Ableton

Me The Beast Orquesta GarDel


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I started taking organ lessons at 6, with a really nice lady named Mrs. Martin. She had a Gulbransen full console organ with dual tone cabinets and full pedal board. She would hand notate the songs with just the melody and chords. For all I know she copied them from a fake book. I practiced the first two weeks on the 1890 Story & Camp pump organ shown as my avatar. My parents bought a little Lowrey Spinet with one octave of pedals. I never learned pedals, because if you hit the D pedal, it would sound along with whatever pedal I hit for a good 45 seconds, rendering the pedals useless.


I stayed with her for 10 years, ending on my 16th birthday.


I also took a year of college level courses in theory in 75-76


I continued to play around with keys in local garage bands until I was 21, when I went on the road. That's where my real education began.


And the education continues to this day.

"In the beginning, Adam had the blues, 'cause he was lonesome.

So God helped him and created woman.


Now everybody's got the blues."


Willie Dixon






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I wish our culture today didn't teach kids that music was hard. It would be a better world if more people sang and/or played.
IMHO, the biggest problem with our culture regarding kids learning to play is THE STEREO.


I remember going to party after party as a youth and thinking how much more fun it would be if the damn stereo wasn't playing all the time. And just think how many more musicians there'd be!

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When I joined a band it was tough moving from reading sheet music on a piano to learning pop and rock songs by ear


this is where I am at...sucks

yeah, well the flip side is for those of us who can play fine by ear, but are stymied when presented a page of lines with dots.


I know what the symbols mean, but if I try to play by reading, it's quite a few steps backwards in musical complexity.


Someday I want to find a whole bunch of great SIMPLE classical music & studies so I can learn to sight read without having to play what sounds like children's music. I know it's there. Hopefully someone has collected it.


That'll be after I'm sick of gigging, probably ... :laugh:

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I've never had any prior training, or had ever been forced to take piano lessons. My first instrument was the sax. I started taking up saxophone around the 5th grade and quit during jr. high, when I kept failing band classes.


Then came my fascination with the techno-pop on MTV during my high school years. Got heavily into the synth sounds of Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby, Eurythmics, Flock Of Seagulls, etc and bought my first keyboard, a little Casio. After a little messing around with it, I began to pick up melodies and hooks by ear.


After I left the military, I enrolled in a graphic design school and got word of a local open jam from a fellow student. I had already bought my first "axe", a Roland Alpha Juno-1, and decided to bring it to the jam. There, the music of choice seems to be either blues or rock. I knew some rock or pop tunes, but knew absolutely nothing about any blues. Became more blues-edumacated with each visit to this jam, which eventually fueled my interest in all things Jimmy Smith and beyond.

Kronos 88 Platinum, Yamaha YC88, Subsequent 37, Korg CX3, Hydrasynth 49-key, Nord Electro 5D 73, QSC K8.2, Lester K


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Which instrument?

1. Trumpet - took lessons and played in junior high and high school band, so I at least learned to read music and follow a conductor. I was never very good at it, and quit after high school.

2. Guitar - started playing at 15, mostly rock. Started taking jazz lessons at 19, and then later in college, and currently am part of a jazz ensemble. Never played in a gigging jazz band though. Some beginning classical and fingerstyle training. But I've played for years in church bands - for better or worse, LOL!

3. Mandolin - I've taken lessons for a few years with a swing/bluegrass guy, and played for a while in a church where the pastor's kids were Juilliard students on violin, viola and cello. So I can honestly say I was part of a string quartet!

4. Flute - picked it up at 16 and loved it, but then the rental period was up and I had to return it. Started lessons a few months ago with a guy who is excellent at both jazz and classical, and play it in the jazz ensemble sometimes. I wish I'd stuck with it when I was 16 and had nothing but time to practice.


And I took a few piano lessons at 18, but didn't stick with it. Like the old song says, "what kind of fool am I??" Because even if you're not primarily a pianist, you can write a SYMPHONY on a freakin' piano!


Oh yes, and there's that beautiful old Fender bass I love to fool around on. Never studied it, but I'm sure I could play bass lines to simple rock tunes at church without killing myself!



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I started on drums as a kid but the noise factor stopped that from going too far.


We had a piano in the house and my grandparents had one at their place. My grandmother was the musical one in the family. She was British and used to accompany silent movies on piano or organ in her youth. After noodling around at home on the piano as a kid I met a great player named Mark Roumelis from a band called Face Dancer. Their live rig had a Mellotron, Minimoog, RMI and a Rhodes. He later worked at Maryland Public Television where they had a Moog modular. As soon as I got my own car I would drive up to Owings Mills to hang in the studio and on occasion put a set of headphones on and start playing with the modular. I was hooked.


About the same time I met Happy The Man and started hanging a bit with Kit Watkins. That was a wonderful time. My jaw was sore from being dropped to the ground so often.


As my audio engineering career took over i didn't play too often but I certainly picked up as much as I could from the musicians I worked with. During my early engineering years I often had a drum set around to play on. Playing drums really helped my rhythmic approach to keyboards and I developed a more rhythmic style to my playing.


In the 90s I became active as a player and started a band with former Happy The man guitarist Stanley Whitaker. I also became a part time session player mostly doing sweetening to other folks tracks when mixing.


My last band, Oblivion Sun, was with Stan and Frank Wyatt (also from HTM). It was a great experience but had to end as it was costing money that I couldn't afford so engineering is once again my main occupation. I am working on a solo project in my free time and will hopefully get it out towards the end of this year.

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This is going to sound repititious by now, but ...


Grandma was a church pianist and Mom was a symphony violinist. Grandma always had a spinet in her home and I would play it every time we visited. Mom inherited that piano upon Grandma passing. I started playing acoustic guitar at 7, took up the trumpet in school band in the 2nd or 3rd grade. Moved to another state in the 4th grade and the new state didn't have band until 7th grade. I chose sax (or it chose me)and I proceded to be one of the top 2-3 chairs all the way through school. About 13 years old, I heard ELP and Deep Purple and was doomed. My Mom bought a Hammond Cougar? organ and I bought a Leslie 760 to play it though and a Korg M700 on top. Picked up a Rhodes soon after. I thought I was in heaven but still wanted an Odyssey or 2600. I had an inate ability to listen to records and pick out the parts (unless it was beyond my technical ability). I have played in bands ever since. Mostly Rock, Country, Beach, Blues, Soul, Funk & Classic Rock and feel like I've been able to "bullshit" my way through it based on my ear. So even though I learned to read treble clef back in school, I still don't read and my left hand generally plays octaves. Tried piano lessons in the early 80's from a Juliard graduate who started me from square one after me insisting she take into consideration what I already knew. That lasted 2-3 lessons and I was done. I have learned from watching others play or from memorizing songs. Sad tale indeed ... lol


That's my story and I'm sticking to it. lol

: MODX7 | Korg: Kronos 88, Wavestate | ASM: Hydrasynth Deluxe | Roland: Jupiter-Xm, Cloud Pro, TD-9K V-Drums | Alesis: StrikePad Pro|
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After noodling around at home on the piano as a kid I met a great player named Mark Roumelis from a band called Face Dancer. Their live rig had a Mellotron, Minimoog, RMI and a Rhodes.


OMG I remember Mark! My band Sabre opened for Face Dancer at The Sandbar and I met Mark and saw his rig.

"The devil take the poets who dare to sing the pleasures of an artist's life." - Gottschalk




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How many of you remember the names of your piano or music teachers? I can remember most, but there was one I had in MI whom I cannot remember, and a couple with whom I only had one lesson or so.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck


"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Great stories!


Mine is not especially original. Here's an overview:

There was a classical guitar around the house, and I received a little organ as a present for my 7th or 8th birthday - so I started learning my chords on both guitar and keyboard at the same time. I sometimes played little duos with my sister on guitar. I more or less learned music theory with the help of a couple of books, until I start asking my parents to get piano lessons. After one year of pestering, they got convinced that I was serious and rented a piano for me. My first teacher was a classical pianist who lived nearby (she also was a gorgeously beautiful woman, to the point that it was difficult for me to concentrate on music sometimes! Ahem... let's skip that bit). After about three years I got into the conservatory - but in a different town. It was hard to reconcile that with school. After a couple more years, I was then able to make the switch to the Rome conservatory.

I always played pop and rock while pursuing my classical education - plus at 15-16 y.o. I got the jazz bug and started investigating how improvisation worked.

I studied irregularly with several jazz teachers. The first couple of jazz schools in Rome had just opened doors, so I got into those, too.

At 19, before getting my final conservatory diploma, I packed my stuff and just went to London to play jazz. I went back and forth for a while, then I started playing jazz gigs in Italy.

Then it followed a rather dark period, culminating with the then-mandatory year in the army. It took a bit of time to recover from that - then I just started working no stop. Jazz gigs, theatre tours, pop stages, studio work, writing music for tv, arranging, the occasional classical concert...


Of course, you never 'learn' to play. A musician has to be a permanent student - so that's what I'm trying to pursue too. :)





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