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Learning to play piano

  1. Jul 12, 2007 #1
    I've always wanted to learn, since as far back as I can remember. I've always been envious of kids my age who already touted their fluency with the piano and being so young, but I figured I was not ready to devote myself to learning. It didn't help that my family was not musically involved.

    I just got a digital keyboard by Yamaha and started playing with it last night. I can't do much now, of course, but I'm learning some simple chords and trying to familiarize myself with the music scale, etc. It came with a lesson on a DVD, so I'll try that today. However, and this may sound a bit perturbing, since this keyboard doesn't have "light-up" keys (only an LED screen that shows which notes and keys are playing), I am finding it difficult to learn songs from the keyboard.

    Does anyone have any tips for advancing my playing without professional lessons (those will come next summer)? :biggrin:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2015
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  3. Jul 12, 2007 #2
    Hey, I just bought my friends guitar! Im like you, I really enjoy music, but have no background. Good luck!

    I bought it because I have a friend who always plays in the engineering lounge for me. I like the songs he plays so I asked him why dont you teach me one of those songs.
  4. Jul 12, 2007 #3


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    Well music although seemingly very hard is in fact quite simple. But many people do not learn it in the correct way. The best way to learn is to Learn the structure of different chords and scales probably in terms of intervals. For example major chords involve notes of the 1st 3rd and 5th intervals, and that is always true. The major scale is the 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th and 8th intervals (which is one octave). If you learn it in this way you can work out any major chord starting from any note, and any major scale starting from any note. Then its just a question of practise to gain fluency. If you want find a song that incorporates wht you're learning, for the major example, the song Wild Thing is good to learn because it consists of only 3 major chords (A D and E) to guage how good you're getting. Perhaps record a backing track of this (if you have the facilities) and muck about on the major scales (A D and E) to practise lead playing and improvisation. Then once you're comfortable with that try and ad lib and add flairs while doing some rythm playing like Hendrix or all the other greats. Then repeat with Minor chords and dominant sevenths etc.

    Its my philosophy that its always best to know how stuff works before you try it because you'll then have a richer experience in the long run rather than just learning songs without realising how they're formed.
  5. Jul 12, 2007 #4
    I play piano and guitar. Actually, I always had a piano at home, and I learnt music with it. So I may be biased, but my opinion is that it is easier to learn music theory with a piano than with a guitar. The reason I say that is the following : you can indeed with a piano play the chords on the left hand, and experience the scales with the right hand. You will then learn the patterns of musical constructions (in particular, the circle of fifths) by this interplay between left hand and right hand.

    Now, if you want to play an instrument as fast as possible, without carring about the theory, and sing at the same time, definitely you should start the guitar instead. You can carry your guitar around easily to play with other people anywhere, which is more difficult with a piano.

    In any case, playing music is so much fun :smile: Never forget that when you practice. It is necessary to do technical exercises everyday if you really want to progress and increase the fun, so just find your own good balance. And last but not least, and actually this is probably a good advice anywhere else : working alone is at least ten times more difficult than working with other people's advices.
  6. Jul 12, 2007 #5
    i'd say find some type of music that you like(particularly show/movie tunes)
    and learn to play the piano through that...this way you can be insppired to learn more once you've acheived a simple piece.

    THe only piece I still know how to play is umm "The Land before time I"
  7. Jul 12, 2007 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    No serious student uses light-up keys. If you want to play the piano it takes many years of dedicated practice; and only if done correctly. There are no short cuts. However, if you want to play in a band then learning a few chords will do. :biggrin:
  8. Jul 12, 2007 #7


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    Piano is not difficult, but is grinding and takes lots of practice. Guitar was easy, in comparison, especially once I mastered barre chords, making transpositions instant and painless. I used to host open-mike rock/blues jams at local taverns, and when people came in with new material in tunings and keys appropriate to their vocal abilities, that kind of flexibility was critical. Of course, most decent electronic keyboards allow you to transpose painlessly, but if you take the easy way, you won't have much going for you when you've got a nice acoustic piano in front of you and someone kicks off a tune in a key that you haven't explored thoroughly. I'll keep my guitars, thanks. The ability to bend up to notes, pre-bend, pluck and drop down to notes, and apply vibrato all trump the qualities of the piano, IMO, but then, I'm biased. :biggrin:
  9. Jul 12, 2007 #8


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    Well, aside from the theory, the most important thing to learn is which key is which note. Until you get more comfortable finding the notes by the patterns on the keys, you could have someone who knows how to play help label them for you. That way, as you learn to read music and grasp the theory, you can find those notes to play.
  10. Jul 12, 2007 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    Sorry Turbo, I should have specified that some bands have highly accomplished musicians, and many do not.
  11. Jul 12, 2007 #10
    Can you read music well yet? That was the most important part for me. Learning to really read music helps you learn some theory as well. Once you can read, it become a matter of teaching yourself the coordination of using both hands. While you're learning to read notes, practice playing them with both hands. Play scales with each hand one at a time, then both hands together, then other variations. That was the best for me.

    By the time you can efficiently read music, if you've been practicing scales, you'll be ready to tackle some real songs. They have a lot of books out there that help teach you. Most go in order from easiest to difficult songs. They generally progress at a good level.

    Once you're playing songs, its also important to practice your scales regularly. When you start getting into different keys, you'll be amazed how your fingers will know where to go if you play your scales enough.

    For the record, I think humanino is right about piano being easier to learn theory on, and guitar easier to pick up and play.
  12. Jul 12, 2007 #11
    I'd definitely like to learn theory, as I think that's the most important aspect. I plan to devote myself over the years to playing, and plan on owning a piano sometime when I have my own house.

    I currently cannot read sheet music; I'm going to work on that. Also, I do find it difficult playing with my left hand (not sure if it has to do with my being right-handed), but I'm working on practicing the scales with my left hand. Then I want to coordinate playing with both simultaneously.
  13. Jul 13, 2007 #12
    Similiarly, I think it would be cool to learn Harpsichord.
  14. Jul 13, 2007 #13
    I taught myself some piano by playing along with a lot of early Tom Waits. I've read that he was also self-taught (he liked to hang out at the neighbour's house). He likes weird keys with lots of sharps - which are surprisingly easy to play in. I'd played guitar and violin for about six years before trying the piano and I think the piano is a much easier instrument from a purely mechanical perspective.

    I can't read music and I've never had any music lessons, but I think guitar and piano emphasize different elements of theory - guitar emphasizes chord progressions, while piano emphasizes chord structure. At any rate, if you understand fourier transforms, you can probably sit down and figure out why different notes put together sound good or bad.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2007
  15. Jul 13, 2007 #14
    That's perfectly normal. Of course you're not as dexterous with your off hand than with your dominant hand. It'll take a lot of practice for lefty to get up to speed. Incidentally, even though I'm right handed when I started piano my right hand lagged far behind my left hand--I had played the violin for a number of years so my left hand was considerably more developed. It was really frustrating.

    Also, don't be shy about playing both hands at once (very slowly, if you have to). The practice is invaluable.
  16. Jul 13, 2007 #15
    color code the sheet music and put little sticky tab stickers to match them...it worked whne we tried it with my niece. When your practicing chords just try to play as fast as you can with the left hand and try to increase speed for one set before moving to the next.
  17. Jul 14, 2007 #16
    Thanks for the tips. It's just funny how I can barely play five adjacent keys with my left hand without hitting extraneous keys. I have a LOT of respect for pianists: playing bass and treble like that at the same time at, sometimes, completely different tempos! I'd love to complement my right hand with some nice-sounding harmony.
  18. Jul 14, 2007 #17
    I disagree COMPLETELY. I'd say don't be afraid to figure stuff out bit by bit as you go along. Just learn whatever you find interesting. (a song, a scale, etc)
    Hey, that's how I learned.
  19. Jul 14, 2007 #18
    I don't know if it's normal, but I found that rather easy to pick up. I think most things look rather daunting when you look at them with little to no experience, but once you get in there I think you'll find it easier than you thought.

    P.S. my first song was John lennon's 'imagine'. It's slow and easy and takes both hands.
  20. Jul 14, 2007 #19
    Also, I'm wondering if one's starting age has any yield on how proficient one can become in piano. Will starting at 19 years old affect my ability to progress, or is practice the only thing to decide that? :uhh:
  21. Jul 14, 2007 #20


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    A person who wants to learn to play starting at age 19 may be more skilled by age 25 than someone who started at age 9, but who didn't have the inner drive to learn the instrument. The speed of your progression depends on your drive, your enjoyment of the learning process, and your flexibility. Get out and watch some really great piano players - jazz, blues, classical, pop... You'll see some techniques and tricks that you may not encounter in formal instruction.

    If you really enjoy learning to play, you will look forward to your practice sessions, and you will probably interrupt other activities to try new things on the instrument, when you hear some music that inspires you or you get an idea out of the blue. We live in a place with more limited space, now, but in our last house, I always had at least a couple of guitars out of their cases and sitting on guitar stands so I could grab one as the mood struck me.
  22. Jul 14, 2007 #21
    I play the violin since a lot of years and i need it because, for me, it is not possible to do always the same thing, i mean, studing physics and maths; long time ago i had the choice of choosing what i was going to do in my life: study physics and maths at university, or study violin. I chose the first one, but i never stopped playing violin because i love it, and i am pleased of know about several things and not only about science, i wouldnt want to be the tipical guy that only knows about science, everything in his life is about science, and all his point of wiew of anything is based in physics an maths, because he loses the passion and the force of humanity tha cant be explained with science, because he loses part of the greatness of the human mind and finally there is some things, like the love, a women, feelings, that can be expressed naturally with music.

    I am sorry for my english, i am spanish, i think i will improve my lavel at the same time i read your posts.
  23. Jul 14, 2007 #22
    I play the piano, and I have been for 1 and a half years. Currently I could play much of the Chopin literature, however I have only learnt one of his nocturnes, due grade 5 exam pieces taking priority. The best advice would be to try and get a teacher, and if not an acoustic piano, a digital with weighted keys, thats what I own.

    Good luck and have fun = )
  24. Jul 14, 2007 #23


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    I took piano lessons, and they were grinding, and regular practice is required in order to become proficient. The grinding part involves repetitive exercises with chords and scales, in order to be able to find the keys/notes.

    In some ways, it's a bit like learning to type. One just has to get ones hands and fingers to the right key on a consistent basis.

    I did well in music class school and learned to read music, since I enjoy music, but I mostly play by ear.

    I had a bass guitar and pretty much taught myself. Unfortunately, I seldom pick up a guitar these days.
  25. Jul 14, 2007 #24
    I would learn to play piano except I think my fingers are not big enough.
  26. Jul 14, 2007 #25


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    Even people with small hands can learn to play piano, though you might not be able to play some pieces as written (Bach had huge hands, apparently). You'll just have to make up for it with partial chords/technique/etc. I have rather small hands with short fingers, but that didn't stop me from becoming proficient on guitar. I learned to read music in elementary school, and played a variety of wind instruments, plus drums. When it came to guitar, however, I am self-taught, and can't read the music. I took a course in music composition in college and we were given an assignment (compose and perform a short piece): well, I composed a neat little fingerpicking piece for 12-string. That part took maybe 15 minutes. Then I spent the whole rest of my Sunday transcribing it note by note. :cry:
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