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jade_bodhi
11-07-2006, 04:24 PM
Hello:

Is there someone whose experience could guide me in how to learn piano.

Let me describe my ability as a player and the challenge I face at this point.

I have played guitar for many years, and I know enough theory to get by. Most of the theory I'm familiar with is chord-based. I don't read standard notation, but I can play with highly skilled musicians and we can communicate. I write songs and melodies. Since I don't read notation, I have to memorize the melodies, keeping them in my head. I can read tab but I don't use it to transcribe my melodies.

One year ago I started playing piano (happily neglecting my guitar and songwriting). On piano, I am becoming more proficient at playing root positions and some inversions of the most common chords: majors, minors, sixths, sevenths, ninths. I favor the blues because of the stable structure; I always know where I am.

I have learned to play the piano in a style that is not unlike the way I play guitar. With my left hand, I pick out bass lines, usually very simple single-note lines, and my right hand does the chording and inserts trills and short runs when I discover them (which is not often).

To train myself on piano, I use a book called Rise Up Singing, which provides chord progressions and lyrics to hundreds of American songs from Dylan to Broadway tunes. I pound out the chords and I sing the melodies.

My question is where should I go from here? Because I am learning by ear mostly, I am wondering if I should try a teacher who plays by ear in the boogie woogie style which would give me the blues structure I rely on and build on my left hand bass line playing.

Has anyone been in this situation? What would be the next successful step for me? I feel I may have gone as far as I can pounding out chords and bass lines. My playing skill has reached a plateau, but I want to get to a higher level. Thank you.

Ms. Jade Bodhi

joeyd929
11-07-2006, 06:02 PM
Hello:

Is there someone whose experience could guide me in how to learn piano.

Let me describe my ability as a player and the challenge I face at this point.

I have played guitar for many years, and I know enough theory to get by. Most of the theory I'm familiar with is chord-based. I don't read standard notation, but I can play with highly skilled musicians and we can communicate. I write songs and melodies. Since I don't read notation, I have to memorize the melodies, keeping them in my head. I can read tab but I don't use it to transcribe my melodies.

One year ago I started playing piano (happily neglecting my guitar and songwriting). On piano, I am becoming more proficient at playing root positions and some inversions of the most common chords: majors, minors, sixths, sevenths, ninths. I favor the blues because of the stable structure; I always know where I am.

I have learned to play the piano in a style that is not unlike the way I play guitar. With my left hand, I pick out bass lines, usually very simple single-note lines, and my right hand does the chording and inserts trills and short runs when I discover them (which is not often).

To train myself on piano, I use a book called Rise Up Singing, which provides chord progressions and lyrics to hundreds of American songs from Dylan to Broadway tunes. I pound out the chords and I sing the melodies.

My question is where should I go from here? Because I am learning by ear mostly, I am wondering if I should try a teacher who plays by ear in the boogie woogie style which would give me the blues structure I rely on and build on my left hand bass line playing.

Has anyone been in this situation? What would be the next successful step for me? I feel I may have gone as far as I can pounding out chords and bass lines. My playing skill has reached a plateau, but I want to get to a higher level. Thank you.

Ms. Jade Bodhi

Then there was the little kid banging the side of his head on the piano and his parents said "ok, he is just learning to play by ear". Sorry, couldn't resist..

I taught myself to play piano totally by ear for the first two years and had the same issue. I would write stuff and have to memorize. I just decided after the first two years to teach myself how to read music on piano.

It slowed me down but in the long run has helped me become a better player. I still have more fun writing stuff by ear and just going from there.

I pretty much put the guitar down for a good solid year initially, now I try to do both but spend more time with guitar.

paTz0r
11-09-2006, 06:42 PM
I'm in (almost) the same boat. I have been playing guitar for years and just recently picked up a midi keyboard to use for recording. I have used it as an opportunity to start learning piano, but I feel really lost in direction on what to do after picking my way through songs, figuring out simple chords, and trying to get used to using both hands simultaneously.

joeyd929
11-09-2006, 10:59 PM
I'm in (almost) the same boat. I have been playing guitar for years and just recently picked up a midi keyboard to use for recording. I have used it as an opportunity to start learning piano, but I feel really lost in direction on what to do after picking my way through songs, figuring out simple chords, and trying to get used to using both hands simultaneously.

To help with coorination I started playing triads in the left hand like C E G, C E G, C E G, over and over while playing CDEF with the left hand. It's all about syncopation.

It would look like this, simply as an exercise.

Left hand C E G C E G C E G C E G
Rggt hand C D E F C D E F C D E F

Also, learn the correct fingerings for all the major scales and practice playing the scales with both hands.

ONce my mind got the syncopation thing happening, I was able to better coordinate but it takes time. If I have time I will try and record this example on my keyboard so you can have an audio example...

The Doc
11-11-2006, 08:55 AM
I, being a music major, am a firm believer in actually knowing how to read notes. It may slow you down, but there is just so much to be obtained from it. You're talking about the very essence of understanding music. It'd be the same kind of idea as trying to be a mathmatician and not knowing what addition and subtraction signs meant. In my opinion, piano is a very unforgiving instrument in the sense that if you don't have a grasp on the concepts of music, you will reach a plateau very quickly. I was actually discussing this with my instuctor today. We, as pianists, tend to be better music theorist because piano music has so much more information that has to be deciphered in order to truly understand a piece and not just regurgitate notes on a page. Additionally, its easier to actually see chords because they are right in front of you. Long story short, LEARN TO READ MUSIC.

joeyd mentioned learning your scales and the fingerings for them. I'll break the most simple ones for you so you have somewhere to start. Keep in mind that the following info only applies to the mentioned keys.

Major - C, G, D, A, E
minor - c, g, d, a, e

RH fingering: 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3....
LH fingering: 5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 4 3....

Notice that finger 3 in both hands will always land on the same note.

Learning the basic Chord progression patterns is another thing you should do because I , IV, V, and V7 will be all over the place in pretty much any of you music. Here's a notation example on Finale in the key of F. You just have to transpose this into the other keys.

jade_bodhi
11-11-2006, 05:53 PM
Thank you.

Do you have an image of this chord progression of Finale that includes the chord names with the chords on the staff? If not, don't go to any trouble. I can figure it out.

paTz0r
11-11-2006, 07:22 PM
Those fingerings are very efficient Doc, I always tried to use 12312345 for say, a C major scale, but then you get stuck when you hit the 5th finger, and its very awkward. This way you can really move all the way up and down the keys smoothly!

I have a quick question about inversions. Are they any basic rules for when to use certain inversions in a progression, or does it merely depend on convenience and preference in sound? For instance, If I were to play a simple C-F-G progression, it seems that playing the C chord naturally, then just moving 2 fingers to get to the F 2nd inversion, then the G 2nd inversion is only 1 more small move for each finger. That seems much more logical than trying to hover around with the normal stacked 1-3-5 pattern, but are there any guidelines on when to do things like this?

Thanks,
Pat

The Doc
11-12-2006, 09:26 AM
Jade Bodhi-

The chord progression for every 3 measures is I, IV, I, V, V7, I. The only thing that change is the invsersions. In which case, you may be looking for the "figured bass." The Figured Bass essentially just tells you what inversions the chords are in.

Here's another random lesson.

Figured Bass of Triads
Root position (5/3)
- 5th interval + 3rd interval
First inversion (6/3...abbreviated as 6)
- 6th interval + 3rd interval
Second Inversion (6/4)
- 6th interval + 4th interval

Figured Bass of Seventh Chords
Root Position (7/5/3....abv as 7)
- 7th interval + 5th intverval + 3rd interval
First Inversion (6/5/3....abv as 6/5)
- 6th interval + 5th interval + 3rd interval
Second Inversion (6/4/3....abv 4/3)
- 6th interval + 4th interval + 3rd interval
Third Inversion (6/4/2...abv as 4/2 or 2)
- 6th interval + 4th interval + 2nd interval

The way I just presented this particular information is more geared to 1-handed chords. If you take these concepts into an actual musical score, it is slightly different. The chord symbols (6, 4/3, 6/4, etc) are a little more broad. Intead of looking at the entire chord, you look at the bass note. So a 6/5 chord in the key of C major just means that it contains the notes C, E, G, B, and the note E is in the bass (or at least, the lowest sounding tone). The location order of the other notes is irrelivant.
The diagram that I posted on the grand staff. The figured bass of those chords are 5/3, 6/4, 4/3, and 4/2 respectively.


BTW, when writing out the figured base, you should write it with the numbers stacked ontop of each other with no slash between the numbers (like how you would see a time signature).

patzor-
Yeah, basically you use finger 5 (1 in the left hand) when you want to stop ascending and/or start decending in the scale.

As far as progressing through chords, it kind of depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to compose something, for instance, you should be mindful of the rules of the genre of music that you are trying to compose. Voiceleading and avoiding "parallel 5ths and octaves" come to mind. However now I'm just rambling about some rather advanced stuff that I can discuss with you if when you feel you want to learn such things.

For practical use that I think that you're getting at, I'd really just try to grab the simple chords. That the general rule of thumb whether it be beginner or professional. One of the main ideas in playing piano is to not make things harder than they need to be.

joeyd929
11-14-2006, 12:56 PM
Spread voicings are a good thing to practice to get familiar with chords on the piano. To start with, use triads. There are thre "spread voicings" for triads.

Play the triad in this order, literally up the keyboard.

1 5 3

3 1 5

5 3 1

Practice each one with the left hand playing the first two notes, or the right hand playing the last two.

Go through and play Major, minor, Aug, Dim.. for each voicing..With the notes re-arranged in this manner it makes you think about where the third necessary flats and sharps would have to be to change the chord.

Do this in every key, it really makes you think about where your notes are because they are out of order in the sense that they are not closed voicings.

Sometimes the third is on the top, sometimes the 5th is on top, and so on.

Great mental game to get you used to chords. You can do 4 note, 5 note, and so on but start with triads.

Good luck.

jade_bodhi
11-14-2006, 03:07 PM
Thanks Joey and Doc for the exercises. I have avoided exercises, instead prefering to practice chord changes to songs that I know or have in books. I usually try to figure out which chord inversion sounds best as accompaniment to the vocal part of a song. Do you think practicing songs will eventually get me to the same technical skill level as practicing exercises?

Jade

joeyd929
11-15-2006, 12:35 AM
Thanks Joey and Doc for the exercises. I have avoided exercises, instead prefering to practice chord changes to songs that I know or have in books. I usually try to figure out which chord inversion sounds best as accompaniment to the vocal part of a song. Do you think practicing songs will eventually get me to the same technical skill level as practicing exercises?

Jade


I think practicing and learning songs is what it should be all about in the first place but the method exercises I posted will help get your ear tuned to every key, which ultimately will improve your technique.

I think a larger part of "technical" skill is cerebral in the sense that when I see musicians grab chords, the physical aspects are not necessarily the complicated part (in many cases). The tricky part is getting your mind to think fast enough to get where you want to be and method exercises improve that part of your playing.

I would recommend that you continue learning songs but take about 15 minutes every day if you can and spend that time just simply running through some sort of method exercise like the one I posted, or use that one.

To avoid getting overwhelmed, practice in falling fifths (move forward in 4ths) Write out every key like this. C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G
and do the first four for a week, then the second group of 4 the second week, and so on.. This way you spend a little time in every key.

There are 5 and 6 note spread voicings but it is best to start with triads because all chords, no matter how complex are based on major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads. This can actually help improve your ability to find the chords.

Sometimes when we can think through the process more clearly it actually can help our technique. Check out this link to youtube.com. It is a guy playing a nice piano jazz arrangement of a Beatles song called "She's leaving home".

Physically, the technique is not as demanding but mentally, what he comes up with is awsome. Also, he has these comments that post over the video as he plays, which help explain a little about what he is thinking. This person has a few videos at you tube..check it out here is the link. (if you have dial up it might take a little while to load)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4jrQLDiwMk

P.S. I have written a few simple jazz pieces, I will try and record them one of these days and post them if you are interested. I start jury duty tomorrow and am stuck there for the next 5 days so when I finish that I will try and record some of my stuff... Good luck..

The Doc
11-15-2006, 04:10 PM
Technique is more than just playing songs. You can play music all day and never really establish technique. Technique comes from leaning how to play with finese as opposed to just regurgitating notes on a page. It becomes easy tell the difference between a pianist with good technique from one that lacks it. To establish it, you basically need to invest in an excercise book that will go over things like how to play staccato, how to to set up your fingering patterns for passages, the whole "drop, lift" concept for shaping phrases, how to play octave passage properly, etc. It's hard to really grasp that when just playing music.

I have a few excersizes here for really getting a feel for keys. The 2 scale patterns are more for getting you to play scales with hand-independence. I'd like to think that. And the arpeggios excercizes just compliment that cadence excerpt that I posted a little while back. As always, these are meant to be studied in all the keys, but I just put it in C for an easy reference.

As far as the whole "all keys" thing goes. Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to do every key in 1 sitting. I would reccomend learning 3 keys really well one week, and then starting 3 new keys the next. You'll have all 12 major keys learned to some degree in a month. Then just start over to keep your skills up or move onto minor.

Fingerings for the excercises that I am posting:

Contrary Scales:
Basic scale pattern landing 5 (1 in the bass) when you're about to turn around and decend and 1 (5 in the bass) when you're about to ascend.

Broken Arpeggios:
RH - 1, 2, 3, 5, 1, 2, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 1, 2, 3, 5
LH - 5, 3, 2, 1, 5, 4, 2, 1, 5, 3, 2, 1, 5, 3, 2, 1

Interval Scales:
Your left hand does the basic scale pattern. Your right hand will start on the finger that will normally hit that scale degree. In the case that I am presenting, your right hand will start on finger 3. If you chose to do an interval of a 5th instead of a third in this key, you would start on finger 2.

Arpeggios:
RH - 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 5, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1
LH - 5, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 5

You want to work your way up to getting 4 octaves. All the excercises I've presented are only 2. Another thing you could consider once you've actually got your scales memorized is playing 2 different scales at the same time ( like F major and Bb major). It sounds like crap, but it gets you thinking.