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Learning how to play the piano


midimacguy

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Originally posted by 88keys4me:

What style of music do you want to play? Solo, in a band, or both?

Just solo at home for my personal enjoyment.

 

Although I enjoy all music I would like to learn some jazz style playing/chording.

 

I am on the Mac system so it would be great find some computer based instructions.

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There's no substitute for piano lessons. There aren't any short cuts, if you really want to learn how to play.

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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While it is true that the best way to learn to play the piano is to have a qualified teacher show you the ropes, we should not forget that, especially in jazz, there is a whole flock of self-taught pianists who have gone on to make wonderful music. So, if you cannot find a good teacher there's an awful lot of free instructional piano stuff available on the net. I haven't used any of them so I am not recommending any. However, there are such places like http://www.pianonanny.com and http://www.learnjazzpiano.com which seem to be better known. You can always google "free piano lessons" and find hundreds of free instructional sites. You then have to do the hard work of figuring out which ones are any good. The learnjazzpiano site seems pretty good but you do need to know your scales and a little bit about harmony first. Good luck!
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy, next to my wife; it is my most absorbing interest, next to my work." ...Charles Cooke
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A piano teacher with weekly lessons is the traditional approach. It works well for some and not others. If you learn what you want to know, it doesn't matter how you do it.

 

Google phrases like "music theory", "music notation", "ear training", and you'll find a ton of resources. Add the word software to each search phrase and you'll begin to learn about MIDI, the protocol computers and instruments speak. The essentials are about as hard as hooking up a printer.

 

The software options will astound you. Me too. I use two very old programs, one for sequencing, the other for notation. That suit my needs. I can't offer specific suggestions for you.

 

After all that, I recall you said "piano". This could mean an acoustic piano. Sorry, I forgot all about those this week.

 

The most important thing is time. Practice with and without metronome.

 

Learning and practicing scales and excercises is important. There are several sets of books on scales and excercises. Don't stop after book one, but don't get too caught up in this stuff. It's just for getting in shape and getting your fingers used to going where they should. It isn't playing.

 

Reading is cool, but that can slow you down too. It's really much more efficient to nail the ear training, save time and a lot of money on sheet music.

 

Play along with you favorite records, listen carefully and be persistent. You'll start to play like them.

--wmp
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I think the main thing about playing lessons is that it will teach you the rudiments. You need to have an understanding of the basics in order to grow. Sure you can buy books, but reading music is something that a qualifed teacher can help you understand a lot better than a beginner that can just as easily play something wrong than something right. Learning the values of quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, triplets, accidentals, trills, not to mention time signatures, major and minor scales, etc.

 

You can't walk before you crawl, you can run before you walk. Not everyone aspires to be a classical pianist, so it's not like you need to "study" piano for years. But if you don't know the basics, you will be limiting your growth and not develop your full potential. Conversely, a typical classically trained piano teacher usually doesn't "teach" jazz.

 

I think a lot of method books are good and can help you further develop your skills in a particular type of music, like jazz. But if you can't even read the examples that are in these books, you won't get very far.

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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Jazzyprof,

 

While it is true that the best way to learn to play the piano is to have a qualified teacher show you the ropes, we should not forget that, especially in jazz, there is a whole flock of self-taught pianists who have gone on to make wonderful music.
Whenever I hear someone say that or something similar, I always ask for a list.

 

I know Errol Garner could not read music, but all of the pianists for whom I have the greatest respect could all read. I think there are many jazz pianists who can read but do not read very well, but I really don't think there is a 'whole flock'.

 

I am in agreement with you that the best way to learn is to have a qualified teacher and sadly there are not too many of those.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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I definitely accept that being self taught and capable as a pianist is rare. However there have been notable exceptions. Included in that list are many of the people that essentially created Jazz.

 

"ERROLL GARNER Pianist / Composer / Jazz Musician

A self-taught pianist who never learned to read music, Erroll Garner was nevertheless one of the most popular jazz musicians of the 1950s. His swinging piano and gift for melody kept him on the top of the charts, and his most memorable tune, "Misty" (lyrics added by Johnny Burke) was a pop hit for five different artists between 1959 and 1975." Source

 

"Art Tatum

Host Nancy Wilson presents this profile of pianist Art Tatum, who Count Basie called "the eighth wonder of the world."

(Courtesy NPRJazz.org)

Despite seriously impaired vision (he was blind in one eye and had only partial sight in the other), Art Tatum received some formal piano training as a teenager at the Toledo School of Music and learned to read sheet music with the aid of glasses and by the Braille method. Other than that, he was self-taught, learning from piano rolls, phonograph recordings, radio broadcasts, and various musicians whom he encountered as a young man in the area around Toledo and Cleveland." Source

 

"Duke Ellington

As a composer and arranger, he was largely self-taught, and at the very first, it seems, he was relatively conventional." Source

 

Willie (The Lion) Smith was self taught and he was a considerable influence on another famous player:

 

"Thelonious Monk

Mr. Monk was a man of unwavering musical principles, strong opinions

and sardonic wit. When a saxophonist, Sahib Shihab, told him that he

was going back to the Juilliard School to study, the largely

self-taught Mr. Monk remarked, 'Well, I hope you don't come out any

worse than you sound now.'" Source

 

Others...

 

"Emitt Slay - Born in Jackson about 1920, this highly-skilled, self-taught jazz guitarist traveled and played extensively with the Louis Armstrong Band, then later formed his own trio. He died in Detroit in the 1950s." Source

 

"Cootie Williams

A self-taught trumpeter, Williams toured with several bands, including Lester Young's family band, in his mid-teens before moving to New York in 1928. The next year he replaced the seminal Bubber Miley in the plunger-muted trumpet role in Duke Ellington's band, a role that was fundamental to the band's sound." Source

 

Show tunes and classical you ask?

 

Irving Berlin was self taught.

I'm not sure if he could read well but he could only write in one key. He did OK.

 

"Frédéric Chopin was a precocious child, and he demonstrated a talent for the piano at the age of four. Although he was given piano lessons from the age of six, he seems to have been largely self-taught, a fact that may account for the inventiveness his compositions display: he had little notion of what was "not allowed."" Source

 

"Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter

The young Sviatoslav was essentially self-taught and developed his exceptional technique by playing whatever music he liked. By the age of eight he was playing opera scores, including the music of Richard Wagner. He had the ability to memorize any music at sight." Source

 

There are hundreds more that pepper the musical landscape. A little Google searching should bring them to light if you are interested in building this list.

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

Jazzyprof,

 

While it is true that the best way to learn to play the piano is to have a qualified teacher show you the ropes, we should not forget that, especially in jazz, there is a whole flock of self-taught pianists who have gone on to make wonderful music.
Whenever I hear someone say that or something similar, I always ask for a list.

 

I know Errol Garner could not read music, but all of the pianists for whom I have the greatest respect could all read. I think there are many jazz pianists who can read but do not read very well, but I really don't think there is a 'whole flock'.

 

Dave,

 

When I said "there is a whole flock of self-taught jazz pianists" I didn't necessarily mean pianists who can't read music. It is easy enough to teach yourself how to read music as I did when I was a boy. These days there is no shortage of instructional resources for teaching yourself how to read music. So, to reiterate, being self-taught is not synonymous with an inability to read music.

 

On the subject of reading, the level of music reading ability required to be a "decent" jazz pianist is really not that high. You do not need to be able to interpret trills and appoggiaturas, but you do need to be able to read a lead sheet, which is basically interpreting chord symbols. And you do need to be able to count to four. Beyond that, you use your ears and improvise. Of course, you probably won't get a job with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra if you're not a fluent sight reader with classical chops.

"Playing the piano is my greatest joy, next to my wife; it is my most absorbing interest, next to my work." ...Charles Cooke
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Art Tatum was legally blind. I do not know if he could read Braille or not.

 

Duke Ellington, while perhaps being self taught, did write his own arrangements. He was a composer and an arranger - he could read.

 

Monk also read. I do not know how well he read though.

 

Cootie Williams had to read if he played with Ellington's band.

 

Irving Berlin could not read.

 

Chopin could read - he composed and wrote his own works on paper using conventional notation.

 

I am essentially self taught as far as improving goes, but I had an excellent theory training in high school and college. My sight reading ability improved tremendously playing in a big band for 20 years.

 

Theory and composition can be learned on one's own, but the actual playing of the piano really needs to have someone standing next to you and that was my main point. (I started a thread 'correct piano technique' and can be easily searched (from May of this year I believe).)

 

I personally know of no one who can not read music and who is proud of that limitation. I started out playing by ear, but I also knew how to read. Sometimes I think these discussion become an either/or discussion. There seems to be something romantic about being successful in music and not knowing how to read. I do not understand why the standards for music should be less than literature ... or any other field.

 

My point dealt really only with reading conventional notation. Anyone can teach themselves theory and composition, but as I and others stated earlier, there is no substitute for a real piano teacher. (Replace the word piano with golf and it might become more clear. I wouldn't dream of taking up golf without a few lessons on how to hold and swing the clubs.)

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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If I would have refreshed my screen and read your last post, I would not have written my last post. Dave

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Yes but some of us at the moment do not have the luxury to afford a piano teacher. I, peronally, had a piano teacher when I was younger because my mom wanted me to play piano. I hated it. She put a lot of money and effort into it, and it was fruitless. The way the teacher taught was more memorization than theory. Eventually I quit, and forgot pretty much everything. more towards junior hight when I started to REALLY get into music, I took guitar lessons, and quit that in less than a year. I realized that I should have NEVER quit piano. I suddenly had this fascination with piano. So for the past 2 or 3 years, I just started playing and playing, and now I can write my own songs. The only thing that I feel is limiting me is my finger technique. If I could find a good way to improve my finger technique without going broke, that would be great.
Together we stand, Divided we fall.
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Originally posted by part1sts:

Yes but some of us at the moment do not have the luxury to afford a piano teacher. I, peronally, had a piano teacher when I was younger because my mom wanted me to play piano. I hated it. She put a lot of money and effort into it, and it was fruitless. The way the teacher taught was more memorization than theory. Eventually I quit, and forgot pretty much everything. more towards junior hight when I started to REALLY get into music, I took guitar lessons, and quit that in less than a year. I realized that I should have NEVER quit piano. I suddenly had this fascination with piano. So for the past 2 or 3 years, I just started playing and playing, and now I can write my own songs. The only thing that I feel is limiting me is my finger technique. If I could find a good way to improve my finger technique without going broke, that would be great.

Check out this thread for starters. _There_ is no substitute for a good teacher. Having said that, you might discover something regarding your own technique in this thread.

 

correct piano technique

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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