Play Piano Today With Dr. J

Posts Tagged ‘beginner piano lessons

JS Bach – a composer’s name that most everyone knows.  Didn’t he compose that “scary” Phantom music?  Well, yes – that amazing piece called the Toccata and Fugue in d minor for the King of Instruments – the organ – is that “scary” and magnificent piece of music.

Bach’s music holds our attention and our imagination in the 21st century.  Yet Bach lived over three hundred years ago.  His music endures because it is intricate – it challenges the listener to keep listening;  it is emotional – why else is the Toccata called “scary” music;  it is exciting – hundreds and thousands of notes keep players focused and the listener intrigued;  it is masterful – no other composer has come close to the sheer volume of perfect music composed in a lifetime;  it demands our attention – both as a performer and a listener.

So take time this week – explore the music of this genius, this consummate musician, this master – listen to a CD, attend a performance or better yet – play one of his magnificent compositions on the organ or piano.

From time to time, I use a recording device in my piano teaching.  It has been met with mixed results for my students.  Some students enjoy hearing themselves play and are amazed at their progress.  Other piano students are appalled at their lack of progress and their shoddy playing.

The students who find the recorded piano lessons helpful are usually those who follow good practice routines and who diligently and carefully prepare repertoire within their abilities.  These students accept the level of their playing prior to hearing their recordings.  They have a soundscape in their mind that is close to their actual abilities and skills.

These students are usually pleasantly surprised by the quality of their piano playing and are eager to accept feedback.  They more quickly make changes and want to record themselves again and again to hear the improvements they have made.  These students mirror their teacher’s experience with a recorder as a device to learn from and design ways to improve their piano playing.

The students who find the recording of their piano lessons stupefying at best and simply awful at most are those who have attempted to learn pieces beyond their current abilities.  These students “hear” themselves playing on a much higher level than in reality they are.  The recording points out flaws on the most basic level – note inaccuracies, incorrect rhythms, and great flexibility in tempo to compensate for lack of the technical skills needed to play the repertoire they have chosen.

These students sadly realize they have not been applying good piano practice techniques to repertoire more suited to their abilities.  Hence, their goals and their ways of achieving those goals have to be redesigned.  This is difficult for many beginning adult pianists. However, once the student has overcome the shock of actually hearing the sounds they are creating in real time, they are usually eager more open to pursuing their goals in a more appropriate manner.

To record or not record a beginning pianist’s lesson?  It is exaltation for some and peril turning to discovery and skill building for others.  Recording is a wonderful tool for a beginning student of the piano.

There comes a time in your piano practice where you simply have to play the piano for the pure joy of playing, where you let go of all the technical challenges, the self-analysis, and the voice of self-control and discipline and “just play the piano.”

Too often we get caught up in the how and why’s of playing the piano that we forget to celebrate the simple pleasure and joy of creating beautiful sounds and of simply playing the piano. Every pianist, beginner or advanced, has a piece in their repertoire they can play without “working” at it.  A piece that is simpler than the current “working” repertoire or a piece learned years earlier might be the piece to just let yourself play.

Creating beautiful sounds and making music is the goal of all piano playing, so why not celebrate that joy and make sure in every practice session you reward yourself with those beautiful sounds you have worked so hard to create and just make music on the piano.

The pentatonic method for learning to play songs on the piano is based on the pentatonic scale.  This musical scale has five notes to an octave and it just happens that these five notes correspond precisely to the five black keys of the piano.  With only five note choices instead of the eight in a diatonic scale or the twelve in a chromatic scale, the novice pianist is able to experience success more quickly.

Using the pentatonic method, the beginning pianist is limited to five notes only of a specific intervallic grouping. Those five notes correspond exactly to the five black keys on the piano.  These keys are easy to see and locate.  They are also arranged in two different groups.  They are arranged in a group of two black keys and a group of three black keys.  These note combinations are visually easy to recognize.

Not only are the five keys easy to recognize, but they are also tactilely comfortable for the adult beginner.  The fingers of each hand can easily cover two groups of the five different black keys.  This hand placement allows for ease in fingering. The hands can often remain in one position for a long series of notes.  Therefore, success comes more quickly for the beginning pianist because the method deals only with learning to move the fingers in a restricted note range.  The learner quickly builds technique when finger movement is limited in using the pentatonic method to play the piano.

The Pentatonic or Five-Note Method is a method which works especially well for the adult beginning pianist.  Most adults simply want to make music and want to learn to play a song quickly.  The pentatonic method makes this possible.

By focusing on the five black keys on the piano the beginner can start to quickly develop technique and eye hand coordination.  Once the beginning adult pianist discovers the joy of playing several songs and has developed some finger dexterity, they are more encouraged to then start the serious study of learning music notation.

Learning note reading skills and applying theory becomes much easier when a person can already play songs on the piano.  With physical skills in place, complex concepts can then be given the attention needed for success of playing the piano.

You probably started learning to play the piano for a specific reason – to learn a piece you love, to play for your family and friends, to relax, to fulfill a dream, to take up where you left off as a kid, and most probably just to make music.  That’s what playing the piano is really about – making music.

You probably have decided on an online tutorial piano course, are taking classes at a local college, or have a private teacher.  You have a keyboard or piano and are practicing daily.

Now, the big question – are you enjoying yourself?  Playing the piano should bring you endless amounts of joy and satisfaction.  So, if those scales, finger dexterity exercises, the black key pentatonic songs are getting you down – play a fun song – play one of the first songs you learned.

Revel in your success and enjoy yourself!  It is sort of like that saying, “Life is short – eat dessert first.”  Well, life is short – so today – enjoy yourself and play your favorite song or scale or exercise on the piano

Playing the piano is a multi-sensory experience.  It involves three of the senses – tactile, visual and aural.  To really create music, a pianist must engage each of those senses to be successful.   And, to learn to play the piano, it is equally as important to engage all the senses from the first day of study.

Learning to play the piano using the pentatonic scale is a method of study that appeals especially to adult learners.  Why?  Because it is immediately gratifying and because success comes easily through a multi-sensory learning style approach.  Playing the piano is a multi-sensory experience.  It involves three of the senses – tactile, visual and aural.  To really create music, a pianist must engage each of those senses to be successful.   And, to learn to play the piano, it is equally as important to engage all the senses from the first day of study.
Adults just coming to the piano for the first time, have preconceived notions of what they should be able to play.  They have the sounds of great music in their ears, they know good piano playing, and because they are adults, they are convinced they can and will easily learn to play the piano.  Unfortunately, traditional methods for learning the piano can quickly turn an excited beginner into a frustrated upset adult who will probably never touch the piano again.

The pentatonic method works best with an adult who is ready to play, is ready to discover how to create songs and is ready to develop technique to play those songs quickly.  The pentatonic method uses only five notes – in fact these keys are visually very easy to find as they are the five black keys on a piano.  Tactilely, the hands easily cover all five of the keys in a relaxed natural position.  And, best of all when simply creating music by just letting the fingers “wander” over the keys, everything sounds right.  There are no “clinkers” – just beautiful sounds – pleasing especially to that person who is attuned to their aural sense.  This is the perfect method for the adult learner – for the learner who wants and needs to be successful quickly – who wants to make music now – and who wants to play songs on the piano today.



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    • bhundley1: I'm interested in your elaborating on the "fingering" aspect of practice. Are you a fan of Czerny, for instance, in terms of building up dexterity wi
    • promotionmusic: Thanks for your response. Congratulations to you on the work you are doing in the piano world.

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