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Old 29th September 2008 , 06:25 AM
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Default Piano Classes and Tips

Hi guys and gals. Sorry for my recent quietness (some may be delighted!) but with back to work and everything, time has been very tight.

Anyway, I learned piano when I was younger. Classical piano to be exact. The type where you learn lots of technique, pieces by the famous composers, sight reading and scales, and you prepare for Associated Board or London College of Music exams. The problem with this system is that I, like many, often spent an entire year learning only three pieces for an exam and when the exam was over, the pieces were often forgotten. And musicianship was even killed off! Theoretically, someone could get to Grade 8 level by being able to play 24-30 pieces of music. Scarey!!

I have recently taken up the piano again and am trying to get into other types of music, e.g. jazz, boogie woogie, blues, etc. It's not easy though to leave the classical training behind. When I put piano in my tracks, sometimes I think it sounds to chordal or too basic.

So I was wondering, is anyone taking piano lessons? Or have you recently finished? Or are you learning by yourself? Does anyone play any of the styles mentioned above?

Could you share you knowledge with the rest of us?
  • What material you learn
  • The approach of the teacher or of yourself
  • Books you use
  • Tricks for learning by ear
  • Resources on the web that you can reccommend
  • Other tips and tricks you think are useful
  • Etc

Looking forward to some interesting discussion...
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Old 29th September 2008 , 06:56 AM
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I would love to learn the piano, I think if I could my production quality would increase at least 2 fold... the problem is, being 24 in full time employment with semi-professional/semi-hobby in sound engineering I don't really have the time.

Last year my missus tried to start teaching me piano, it didn't last very long, I just don't have the patience to learn all the boring theory, I just want to get to the nitty gritty and start composing some nice melodies.... As a youngster I wish I had learned piano because I had the time and temperament then, but I just seem to have lost that in my old age.
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Old 29th September 2008 , 08:13 AM
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well im learning piano, i too had lessons when i was younger and it was down the classical route as well! i didn't stick to it very long. Well a good few years on now and i started teaching myself and even more recently started piano lessons. i must stress what i don't want from my lessons is to go over a piece of music again and again till i have learnt it by heart! Imo it's all good and well doing so but i wanted to learn the theory behind the piano, why scales progressed in such a manor, why do some chords sound happy others sad etc. so off i set learning the theory behind it all using books mainly (The AB guides both 1&2) and basic scale guides! for the type of music i was trying to achieve the jazz era seemed to be most appropriate learning minor seventh chords etc and learnt how to create them from simply the root note, i was more into composition than recital! Some will argue that you learn this via practice, well my sister never stopped piano when she was younger till many years later, to this day she can still play and read quite a complex piece but if you where to ask her what scale the piece was in with out looking at the key she wouldn't be able to work it out or begin to do so, as i wanted to produce i wanted to understand the basic elements of how music worked together and what goes and what doesn't.

One of the MOST important things i learnt was that if it sounds right and doesn't technically fall into a rule i.e a scale or a chord progression than use it. The rules are there to be used as a guide line, but those rules can be stretched and even at times broken! Imo knowing when you are doing so is more vital.

So after continually going through theory books i found myself continually returning to the jazz and modal scales and chords and the inversions of the chord. As much as i was against simply practicing a piece of music over and over i still had too learn my scales and why they where made up in the way they where and be able to recall upon them when needed so i continually practiced my scales:

Minor
Major
Modal
Pentatonic +/-
Blues
Jazz

also learning the chord structures with in those scales and the inversions of them. I reached a stage where i was simply listening to the genre of music i wanted to make and sit at a piano and transcribe it over and over again, first it took me ages to get it right, i would start with transcribing bass lines then moved onto chords but the more and more i did it the more i became familiar with the sounds of the intervals and began to recognize certain chords etc. By doing this it brought me to the realization of what i said earlier that music DOESN'T have to strictly follow the rules to sound good!!!

leaving notes: i found it ok teaching myself but my progress really shot forward when i started being taught one on one, i did how ever go through 3 piano teachers before i found one that i got on with 110% you have to bond with your teacher imo, you have to understand them and more importantly they have to understand you! and the areas i found important where

notation: learning what they where and the timing
scales: -/+,blues,pentatonic, all modes
chords: -/+, 7th, slash, broken
intervals: all of them

Now when it came to practicing them i did try and keep my fingering correct by using books and what my teacher said. but i cant stress enough the more you practice the quicker you will learn!!!

books i recommend for beginners:

i liked the IDIOT's guide the most (no surprises there) theory & composition
i also referenced many scale books, they are all pretty much the same, so just get the ones covering the particular area you require imo.

and don't be scare to try other teachers at one point i was seeing three teachers in a week to decipher which i preferred and am confident i settled with the better one!
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Old 29th September 2008 , 09:29 AM
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Very interesting Paul.

Yes, the teacher is important. I had five piano teachers when I was learning and none of them were by choice really. Changing them was. It was very much a case of take what you get. The last one was the best but I had to wait until post-Grade 8 to get to her. By then the "damage" of formal piano classes had been done and with her there was no point in even mentioning jazz!

I have started looking at some books like the AB one Jazz Piano from Scratch. Like you, I want to get a new take on music so that it will enrich what I compose. I can sit down and work on some classical pieces by Beethoven or Mozart and, even if it takes longer now at my age, I can get them off by heart. But that's not enough! I want to get into other things and let them come out in MY music.

What sort of jazz, blues material did you learn? Did you do it by ear or from the score? How does it work with your current teacher?
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Old 29th September 2008 , 09:53 AM
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I had lessons from a jazz piano teacher nearby - he is based here in Wokingham (Nr Reading). He was acttually very good - the reason I stopped was that initially work, then general life then teaming up with a producer to work on an album all got in the way of it.

He used to come around here as he prefers not to teach at home - it interfers with his own family life too much etc.

The other minor problem I had was that I can actually play piano ok from stuff in my head - I just for the life of me cannot play and read music at the same time - that bit of wiring from lessons when I was a kid got completely lost somewhere along the way and refuses to re-connect, so that was another reason - I thought I really need to lean to sight read again and I can do that on my own. Once thats fixed, then I can go back to him to work on what to me is most important - expanding on technique, improvisation and general musical palette.

If you are like me with the reading issue, then I would actually sugggest you just buy some sight reading training books off amazon, then when you are competent (ie have (re-)established that connection), then spend money on a good teacher.

For anyone in this area, I can thoroughly recommend the guy who was teaching me.

BTW - I actually dont have much interest in jazz in itself - my focus is dance music - mainly trance, electro house, tech house, progressive house etc, however borrowing element from some jazz styles is a huge benefit. Actually for trance - classical learning is a huge add as well especially string section voicings etc as they work extremely well with many pad sounds on synths.


For those interested - one of my late night jazz/soul semi-random noodlings from a few years ago.
mp3
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Old 29th September 2008 , 10:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khazul View Post
EDIT:


For those interested - one of my late night jazz/soul semi-random noodlings from a couple of years ago.
mp3
Pleasant bit of noodling there Khazul
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Old 29th September 2008 , 10:16 AM
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On Sphelan's subject of the 'teacher being important'..

Years ago I took dual piano/guitar lessons at a private house owned by a rather 'formal' German piano teacher.. I'd have 1 hour with her on piano, then upstairs to a guitar lesson with a local guy.. I found the piano teacher way too regimental, with nothing at all that endeared me to her or her teaching method. The guitar teacher on the other hand was the polar opposite: a patient and considerate person who later became someone I worked with on many a recording session, and eventually, probably one of my closest friends - and still is to this day...
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Old 29th September 2008 , 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sureno View Post
so i continually practiced my scales:
Minor
Major
Modal
Pentatonic +/-
Blues
Jazz
It almost seems as though you are saying there is one "jazz scale" ?
I highly recommend Jamey Aebersold's free jazz handbook;
Jazz Handbook: Jazzbooks.com
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Old 29th September 2008 , 11:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saxman View Post
It almost seems as though you are saying there is one "jazz scale" ?
I highly recommend Jamey Aebersold's free jazz handbook;
Jazz Handbook: Jazzbooks.com
Not at all, scales as in plural, jazz I'm finding is even more in depth than classical. When I say "jazz"I'm using it to generalize the whole methology behind it. Apologies for any confusion caused saxman. And shane I am learning the jazz from score it is very intricate but lucky for me my teacher is superb and my age so no fuddy duddy stuff
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Old 29th September 2008 , 12:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saxman View Post
It almost seems as though you are saying there is one "jazz scale" ?
I highly recommend Jamey Aebersold's free jazz handbook;
Jazz Handbook: Jazzbooks.com
Nice one saxman. Hadn't come across that before!
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Old 29th September 2008 , 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sureno View Post
Not at all, scales as in plural, jazz I'm finding is even more in depth than classical. When I say "jazz"I'm using it to generalize the whole methology behind it. Apologies for any confusion caused saxman
ok, no worries Sureno. I was confused and I am glad you have not been led astray in to thinking there was one jazz scale - I was kinda worried.

I do have a piano but I am not really learning it ( yet ).
I have already posted the link to the excellent free Jamey Aebersold jazz handbook.
Practice, practice, practice is of course important but if you want to learn jazz piano then remember to listen to some great jazz pianists. Here are a few that I really like;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH3GSrCmzC8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjtbvPShxvQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EywdPsnJxQ
and someone who you will find playing live around UK;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tvrOFnPMmM
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Old 29th September 2008 , 12:46 PM
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My 5 year old son is currently learning the Suzuki method (google it for your nearest teacher). I'm very impressed. It basically teaches you by ear. He's been doing it for a little over a year and already is able to do some basic improvisation! My wife (who learned classically and played for many years) has started doing it alongside him. She says it has opened her eyes to a whole new world of improvisation which she previously felt was closed to her).
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Old 29th September 2008 , 01:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrevCircleStudios View Post
My 5 year old son is currently learning the Suzuki method (google it for your nearest teacher). I'm very impressed. It basically teaches you by ear. He's been doing it for a little over a year and already is able to do some basic improvisation! My wife (who learned classically and played for many years) has started doing it alongside him. She says it has opened her eyes to a whole new world of improvisation which she previously felt was closed to her).
If I remember rightly, in that method, the pupils also have cassettes or CDs to listen to and it develops their ear from an early age.
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Old 29th September 2008 , 01:27 PM
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That's the one.
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Old 29th September 2008 , 03:26 PM
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I've got Grade 2 and 3 piano books at home, which I'm using to just get used to the whole independant hands thing. I'm not being tutored for it, but what I tend to do is copy up the score into a notation program (as my keyboard's next to the PC), and then learn the song at 1/4 of the speed and then progressively speed it up until I'm able to play it fully.
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