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Practice / How to become a decent piano/keys player


LiveMusic

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If you think you are a decent player, say good enough to gig, for instance, how much daily or weekly practice did you put in and for how long? How many months or years before you "arrived?" Ever know of someone who put in more time than you? If so, how much? Just curious about the general subject... as in, what is reasonable to expect to be able to do... i.e., is 1/2 hour a day as much as anyone can expect, on average? One hour? Two? What's the upper end? Four hours a day? More?

 

I am not taking lessons and at this time, have no intentions of doing so. I do have several books and CDs, though. Plus the Sudnow method I've mentioned on here. But what would you say is the most important things to do to learn to play well?

 

- Scales, obviously but which scales?

- Chords and their inversions... how should I practice these?

- Sightreading... you think this is crucial?

- Transcribing songs... working out the voicings by listening to the record and working it out?

- Nashville chart system or other chart system?

 

And general advice? Can you recommend any home study course?

 

I mostly want to play pop/rock/country/boogie styles.

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I think ear training is the most important thing. If you can hear a tune and then play it, you are on your way. Of course, you must know scales and stuff to go with that. Unless....., you are the organist at our church. He can play any song after just hearing it once. He don`t know scales(by name), he doesn`t know chords. He says, push these four keys. I don`t get it. How can people play music like that and be that musically un-educated. Casey

 "Let It Be!"

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Originally posted by kcbass:

I think ear training is the most important thing. If you can hear a tune and then play it, you are on your way. Of course, you must know scales and stuff to go with that. Unless....., you are the organist at our church. He can play any song after just hearing it once. He don`t know scales(by name), he doesn`t know chords. He says, push these four keys. I don`t get it. How can people play music like that and be that musically un-educated. Casey

Annoying isn't it. One seems to run into that with Harmonica players too - you say "what key is it in" and they say "I don't know" and you say "Is it a quick to four" and they say "what's that" and you say " does it go up to the four chord in bar two", and they say "what's a four chord?"

 

But actually for these people, music is just like talking. How many people talk but can't describe a gerund, or the pluperfect tense? (For that matter, I can't tell you what pluperfect is - could have once :-( )

 

This is where we all want to get to. (Musically, not grammatically - I really must go and relearn what pluperfect is)

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Duke:

 

Please take a FEW lessons, at the very least. There are important mechanics that you need to know - hand and arm positions, posture, arm movements, crossover finger sequences, etc. It's a lot harder to go back and unlearn bad habits.

 

I'm not much of a keyboardist, but if I can throw in my one cent it would be that you should be able to play any of the following cleanly and comfortably without looking at the keyboard.

 

Major or minor scales in all twelve keys (over two octaves), each hand alone and both hands together. Move through the keys both chromatically and in the circle of fifths.

 

Major and minor arpeggios in twelve keys (same conditions as above).

 

Major and minor chords in twelve keys in root, first, and second inversions.

 

All seventh chords (7, m7, maj7, 7b5, 7#5, m7b5) in root, first, second, and third inversions.

 

Chromatic scales, two octaves up and down starting on any note, each hand or both together.

 

Octave jumps, either hand.

 

Being able to play all of the above comfortably is more difficult than it sounds, but this would give you a solid technical foundation that you could use in ANY style.

 

Be patient. You can get all of this under your hands in six to eighteen months depending on how often you practice. Remember that dynamics are extremely important on the piano(forte). You should be able to play all of these at any dynamic marking and/or with crescendos and decrescendos. Clean technique is more important than speed.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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The pluperfect tense describes an action that was completed before or at the same time as another action.

 

She had finished the laundry by the time I arrived.

 

Tiger Woods had won several prestigious tournaments by the time he turned twenty-one.

 

By the end of the semester, Sarah had submitted two articles for publication.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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Forget about the boring classical trained piano players habit of running scales up and down. Practice on things you will play instead. When was the last time you ran a scale up or down when you played something? I never do. What you need to practice is comping patterns. And not in all twelve keyes at once. You´ll get dead bored halfway anyway. Start with one key and sit and groove with one pattern for hours, if not even days with a metronome, drum pattern in your keyboard or with a record. Just keep on until you can do it in your sleep. Sit and watch a show on TV when you practice. Read a book. Have sex. You must be able to do it without thinking about what you are doing. Make that groove part of you.

Start by learning one thing and learn it really good.

Eventually you end up with a whole bag of patterns that you combine and change and transform in all twelve keyes. Finally a quotation from , I think it´s Modern patterns by David Baker: "The material will resist you at first, but be persistent and things will begin to happen." The persistent ones are the ones who get good at it.

 

have fun

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If you are happy playing behind someone then cords are find. If you want to solo and get into the spotlight, practice your scales. Scales are the basics that turn into nice runs. Those who don't use scales and runs are usually those who cannot play them. This is not just for keyboards. Guitarists should practice scales until they are fluid. It is hard, but it seperates you from 10 million want-a-be's.

 

Robert

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1. Listen to Dan South. I would echo everything he said, except you also need to learn sus4 and add2/9 chords.

 

2. Play with others. No this is not preschool rules. Find a group of musicians (hopefully a bit better than you are) who you can jam with. It is amazing how fast you can progress (once you have some of the fundamental technique down) by playing with others. The better thay are, the better you will get. Note - if you are jamming for the purpose of improving your playing, then avoid wanker guitarists. Your bass player is your friend.

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong: James Bryce
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Originally posted by Dan South:

Duke:

 

Please take a FEW lessons, at the very least. There are important mechanics that you need to know - hand and arm positions, posture, arm movements, crossover finger sequences, etc. It's a lot harder to go back and unlearn bad habits.

 

....

 

Be patient. You can get all of this under your hands in six to eighteen months depending on how often you practice. Remember that dynamics are extremely important on the piano(forte). You should be able to play all of these at any dynamic marking and/or with crescendos and decrescendos. Clean technique is more important than speed.

I strongly second this. I had a good foundation of a year's lessons, which helped me immensely. I too thought I could self-teach, and did, but I find with every passing year that I wish I had a stronger technical foundation. I've got the ear, and some decent chops, but it could be so much easier with better basics.

 

Good luck.

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I don't know what's good for you, but I got started without any intentions of being a piano player, I just loved the sound of piano rock and the blues.

 

I'd been playing the trombone for years so I had a little bit of ear trainning. One day after high school, my freind taught me a C blues scale, very easy. I had a crappy Yammah keyboard at home (I mean really crappy, minituized keys for like an 8 year old) and I would practice on that when ever I felt the need, no real schedule or anything.

 

Anyway, one thing led to another and I was getting better out of my love for the music, that's all u need. My recommendation is to begin practicing what you love and the rest will follow.

 

By the time I was 17 I upgraded to a Casio, my parents wouldn't help with any larger investments because they may have thought it was a phase. But beleive me, I was very appreciative. Last year I bought a 1967 Kimball artist console and aRoland XP-80! I am very pleased. The Kimball is gathering dust now, kinda sad, but I let it go to waist. I'm spoiled with the XP-80 so I've let the Kimball slip out of tune, so it's not as clean, bright, or nearly as vital in it's tonality. :(

 

So i've slipped off topic, I tend to do that when talking about music! Just focus on your love with music, or a specific form of music and the rest will follow.

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BTW, I just read Dan Souths, I think it's clear we hold different opinions. Above all, focus on what's best, or the most comfortable for you. This might even include your own arm positions. When I began playing, I only used three fingers, and worked up from their. Any teacher would have given me hell for that I know, but it worked for me, and kept me going.

 

You have to think, early and innovative piano players didn't have handbooks, or guidlines for playing the piano. All they had to go on was their own releation ship with the keyboard. So to truely understand and evolve as a player, I beleive you must walk your own path.

 

This is comparable to a math problem. When I was in junior high, they focused more on the memorization, and application of a formula more than the actual comprehention of what was going on. So do you apply someone else's formula, or do you use your own? I say you use your own, because it makes since to you.

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ok, my two cents worth

(after having a few wines) :eek:

 

without trying to sound like i am God's gift to the keyboard (which i am not), at around the age of 20 (give and take 1-2 years), i was considered quite a proficient pianist/keyboardist. about 2 years ago a guy who has lead church worship here and in the US said that i am one of the best keyboardists he had ever seen (he himself a keyboardist too). so where am i going with this in my drunken egotistical state (not)????? how did i get good?

 

1) classical. i know jojje may have a different opinion (not knocking you bro), but from my experience it has paid off immensely. i have learnt since i was a kid, stopping here and there. although it was hard at times, i finally reached diploma level in 2000. there are so many things that make classical worthwhile, most of which i can't think of at the moment because my wife just drank half my beer :mad:

 

2) technical work. even if you don't do classical, i cannot stress this enough. even if you're just doing chords, DO TECHNICAL WORK. scales, arpeggios, dominant and diminished 7'ths, chromatic 3rd's, octaves. you cannot get enough of it. buy a good metronome (electronic, not a piece of furniture). get a good technical work book.

 

3) play somewhere - church, in a band, wherever you can. another reason i progressed so quickly was because i played every week at church in some capacity or another. lots of things you learn when playing in a band.

 

4) hanon. a miriad of pianists swear by hanon, and i am one of them. if you are just mediocre in your playing, get a good edition of hanon "the virtuoso pianist". just do the first 20 exercises. they will TRANSFORM your playing, i guarantee it.

 

i just face the fact that i will never be the best. i may be good but i will never get to jordan ruddess level. maybe, if i shut myself in a room for a few years with an espresso machine.

one final thing - when you're practicing, if you find something that's hard or something you don't want to do, DO IT. DO IT. (i think that originated with guitarist steve vai).

 

go for it dude.

 

pray for peace,

kendall

"Consider how much coffee you're drinking - it's probably not enough."
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Originally posted by jimbyjoe:

...buy a good metronome (electronic, not a piece of furniture).

 

Would I need a metronome since I have a keyboard workstation? And why did you say electronic?

 

get a good technical work book.

 

Such as?

 

hanon. a miriad of pianists swear by hanon, and i am one of them. if you are just mediocre in your playing, get a good edition of hanon "the virtuoso pianist". just do the first 20 exercises. they will TRANSFORM your playing, i guarantee it.

 

Well, since you think it's important, expand on this please. Cuz I have no idea what this is.

 

one final thing - when you're practicing, if you find something that's hard or something you don't want to do, DO IT. DO IT. (i think that originated with guitarist steve vai).

 

Yeah, I keep pushing. It's getting and better very rapidly. I think one of the most important things for me right now is the chords in their various inversions. If I'm sailing along to a rhythm track with auto-accompaniment and I suddenly need a chord and I know the root position chord, that's fine but it sure makes it a helluva lot easier (closer to my fingers) to grab the nearest inversion. How do you learn these inversions? I mean, is there a drill to learn them? I can look down and figure it out but my fingers don't automatically know them yet.

> > > [ Live! ] < < <

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Hi Duke, good questions and you sure came to the right place for advice.

 

Electronic metronome: you can plug in headphones, or plug the click sound into the PA. You can exactly set a tempo and know that it won't change, unlike a spring-loaded metronome that gets slower as it winds down. You can get just a flashing light with no sound. You can tap along with a piece and discover the tempo. Etc.

 

Hanon: A series of exercises that are designed to stretch each finger and combination of fingers to build up dexterity at the keyboard.

 

If you're already a music lover, and think often of what you'd like to play, then with weekly lessons and an hour a day of practice you can be competent enough to know the basic scales and chords, and join a beginner's band, in a year or two. For most people, an additional two to five years of study and practice gets up to good proficiency. If your band rehearses several times a week and you also practice additional hours, it won't take as long to get up to speed.

 

I've never once heard of a player who regretted learning theory and improving their technique, but I have heard of players who lament that their fingers can't express the music in their heads, or that they can't find the words to discuss with other musicians what they want to play.

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How do you learn these inversions? I mean, is there a drill to learn them? I can look down and figure it out but my fingers don't automatically know them yet.

The only drill I know to learn inversions is to just play them. That is, take say a C major chord and play the root, first inversion, second inversion, root (going up and down over 2 octaves). Then move to Db major, then D major etc. When you have covered all 12 keys, start on the minors for all 12 keys. When you have these down, start working on 7th (m7, 7, Maj7) in all 12 keys. If you do this drill enough, when need to play a certain chord, it will just be there.

 

If you have ambitions to play jazz, you will need to do this drill with your left hand as well.

 

Divid your practice time into 3 equal portions for technique (scales, chords and hannon exercises), ear training and playing peices of music you want to work on.

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong: James Bryce
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Originally posted by SFOracle:

...Divid your practice time into 3 equal portions for technique (scales, chords and hannon exercises), ear training and playing peices of music you want to work on.

Keep it coming, guys, good stuff here.

 

You mentioned above... "ear training." What do you mean by that? I mean is there a technique or drills or just what?

 

Lastly, let's say I have one hour a day. If I buy your schedule above, that's:

 

20 minutes - technique (scales, chords and hannon exercises)

 

20 minutes - ear training

 

20 minutes - working on songs to play

 

Now, what if I have two hours? And the desired result (as fast as possible) is to learn pieces well enough to gig. Should I put in 40 minutes for each section or more heavily weight the song playing or just what, such as 30 minutes for technique, 30 minutes for ear training and 60 minutes for playing songs?

 

The Hanon thing... I see a Hal Leonard book with a CD. Says "ten exercises." $24. Are all Hanon exercise books all the same? Who is Hanon?

> > > [ Live! ] < < <

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Originally posted by LiveMusic:

Originally posted by SFOracle:

You mentioned above... "ear training." What do you mean by that? I mean is there a technique or drills or just what?

Yes there are drills. In my mind (not a music educator, but I have a trained ear).... its' two things:

 

1 -being able to recognize notes relative to other notes

2 -being able to recognize chords (harmonies) relative to other chords

 

Both of these are trained similarly, by practising. For example, for note recognition:

- play a C, then try to sing it. Then try to sing an E without playing it. That will teach you the major third relationship. Repeat for all other intervals. Finally, have somebody play a note and tell you what it is. Then they play another note. You get to guess what it is.

 

For recognizing harmonies, learn the important chords and progressions, study their applications in songs, then try to identify songs which use these particular progressions. Take a piece of music and try to write down it's chords, then check your 'guesses' against a score or midifile. Eventually you will progress to a level where you mind is subconciously noting the chords even while you are listening to piece of music for the first time.

 

BTW, the above exercises are just stuff I made up. I am sure there is a pedagogically correct book on the subject somewhere.

 

Originally posted by LiveMusic:

Originally posted by SFOracle:

The Hanon thing... I see a Hal Leonard book with a CD. Says "ten exercises." $24. Are all Hanon exercise books all the same? Who is Hanon?

Here is the book as I know it:

 

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0793525446/qid=1015971237/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1_1/102-1435870-8116121

 

Hope this helps,

 

Jerry

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Originally posted by LiveMusic:

If I'm sailing along to a rhythm track with auto-accompaniment and I suddenly need a chord and I know the root position chord, that's fine but it sure makes it a helluva lot easier (closer to my fingers) to grab the nearest inversion.

Duke, this is great! You SHOULD be looking for the nearest inversion, for several reasons.

 

(1) You'll be able to reach it more easily.

(2) It will sound less abrupt to the listener because of a concept called voice leading (essentially, where the individual notes from one chord lead smoothly into a note in the next chord that's in close proximity).

(3) When you're playing with a bassist, it will sound better if you AVOID playing roots.

 

The metronome on your keyboard will work fine, but for ultimate flexibility and portability, pick up a Korg MM-1 for about twenty bucks. It's so small that you can take it anywhere.

 

Regarding your practice question, I find that I make the best progress when I don't dwell on one thing for too long. It helps to switch your focus every 15 to 30 minutes. If, for example, you play nothing but scales for an hour and a half, your mind checks out and you won't be getting the maximum benefit. Think about playing on a gig. You have to be able to switch rapidly between styles and techniques.

 

You're getting a lot of good advice here. One more thought. Technique is what allows you to connect your ideas to your hands, so don't skimp. On the other hand, don't get to so focused on technique that you start to sound robotic. Always make music as opposed to just playing notes, even when playing scales or exercises. Find the music behind the notes and let that music SING!

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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Great stuff! I wonder if you guys could help me with this...

 

I learned the song "Because" by the Beatles on guitar. Man, I figured I had arrived when I got this down cuz it's hard.

 

So, I just went to the keyboard and started working on it. In about 10 minutes, I've got the notes selected for the chords. (Comprising the chords.) Yeah! I can do this now! Man, I've come light years in only a month. Anyway, what I need to know is how to "learn" something like this that is complicated (to me). These are not easy chords (to me). Such as:

 

Intro:

C#m - C#m - D#m7b5 - G#7

A - C#m - A7 - A7add13

 

Ah...

D - D(b5) - Ddim

 

C#m

 

n/c - D#m7b5 - G#7

 

A - C#m - A7 - A7add13

 

D - D(b5) - Ddim

 

etc.

 

What I mean is, these chords are not something I know by heart... I have to sit there and figure them out. Well, once I figure them out, should I write something down? On guitar, it's easy to make notes. On piano, I don't really know how to do it. Or even if I should.

 

I mean, I'm looking at my hands and "this finger has to go there, that finger's got to go there. Then I put it together and I'm playing it slowly but it's there. Now, one hour from now, no, I might not remember what I did. After many repetitions, yes. So what should I do when I figure out which notes to play... with whatever finger, if that matters.

> > > [ Live! ] < < <

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Duke, here's my technique on those chords. This is a little introduction to "voice leading" which is usually covered in first year music theory classes.

 

Write each of the chords across on a sheet of paper. Leave plenty of room above where you wrote the chords.

 

Above each chord, write all the notes in the chord in a vertical stack. For major, minor, augmented, or diminished chords, you'll have three notes. For 7th, etc. chords you'll have four notes. For the three note chords, write the root of the chord again to make four notes.

 

Draw a line connecting any note that continues from one chord to the next chord.

 

For each note that's not repeated, look for the closest note available in the new chord, and draw a line to that new note. Where possible, have different lines going in different directions musically (one goes up while the other goes down, etc.), this is called "contrary motion".

 

Now rewrite the chords with each of these lines straight across on the page. You now have your voicing ready to play, and each line is one singable melody.

 

After doing this for a while you'll be able to figure out in your head how to smoothly move to the next chord.

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Duke,

 

One way to remember a chord progression is to associate it to a scale that most of the note fit into. (Pay special attention to the notes that don't fit.)

 

Now that you have your scale, see where the ROOT notes of each chord fit into that scale.

 

Lots of people complain about scales, calling them non-musical, academic, boring, etc. I look at scales like a special filter that fits on my sunglasses and screens out the glare so I can see what's really going on. I think they'll work for you, too, once you become familiar with them.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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A good way to start practicing the nearest inversions is to go round the circle of fourths:

 

C Root F second Bb first Eb Root Ab second.....until you come back to c.

 

And then start on C first F root Bb second...

 

And then C second F first Bb root...

 

And then do the same with seventh chords, but then it gets abit more tricky...just get the Mark Harrison Pop Piano Book instead...

 

have fun

Jojje

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Livemusic,

 

I have been playing piano for many years, classical + jazz.

 

I can recommend this book that I have just bought - the Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine.

 

Also, started attending a Jazz Piano Trio course at the local conservatorium.

 

Nothing beats getting tuition in some form and playing with people or in a live gig.

 

If guys like Andre Aggassi still have a coach and they are the best in the world, surely us guys in the middle of the road somewhere would also benefit from some coaching as well.

 

You just get another perspective and a good incentive to practise and practise correctly.

 

Spending hours playing what you already can play is not really practise. Thats the benefit of doing a properly chosen course. A good teacher will focus on your weakness and stretch your range.

 

My two cents (one cent in USD's) worth.

 

Alby

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Hey, this guy wants to learn pop/rock/country/boogie styles. The jazz piano book by Mark Levine is for people who wants to play like Bill Evans. I´ts a great book but I think that´s too complicated for a beginner.

 

Jojje

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Yes - everyone will tell you what they think. But I teach young people and I really encourage them to find the sounds, chord, licks THEY like the sound of. Understand what it is they like about it. then we make up patterns and exercises that stretch them to use those ideas more. That way I try not to teach them all to sound like me (a sort of Jarrett/Corea with a bit of Pink Floyd!)

 

I you follow your own path, you will sound like you. Play classical scales to sound like Mozart. Play modal scales to sound like Miles, All Blues, etc.

 

Just mess around for hours and hours!

 

Jo

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