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David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119910 02/28/08 05:08 PM
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I'm a brand new member. I recently (3 days ago) purchased David Higginson's piano course and thought I'd provide a random commentary of my experiences for any interested pianoworlder.

First, some background: I've been trying to play the piano for many years with rather limited success. My interest is American Standards/Show Tunes, etc. I've had a couple lessons, but most of my experience is self-taught. I play exclusively from fake books/lead sheets. I have never recognized in myself the slightest ability to play by ear. My playing (such as it is) is based mostly on the information in "How to Play the Piano Despite Years of Lessons". As such, I play primarily with block chords and the melody line played an octave above where written. I can play good enough to entertain myself, but would never play for an audience. My tunes are all recognizable, but boring and containing lots of infuriating pauses that don't exist in the sheet music. (This is not an indictment of the "How to Play" book, but rather of my ability to execute its recommendations). Sometimes I think I'm doing not too badly; then I record myself and listen (not a good thing for me to do), and it sounds terrible.

Early this week I went to a presentation by David Higginson at a local Raleigh music store. David is a very entertaining presenter, as well as (as you might expect) a great player. Typically I'm rather slow to spend money, but I was so taken with David's pitch and his assertion that anyone can easily learn to play beautiful music with his system that I (along with lots of the other attendees) bought his package ($289). According to David, it comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. Also, David indicated that he is happy to respond to any course questions via phone calls or emails. He provides a toll-free number.

First Impressions: The material consists of 4 Dvd's, a lesson book, a 13 song song book and a couple supporting training aids. The video/sound quality of the Dvd's is excellent with clear pictures of the keyboard and fingering. In many cases, there is also a strong correlation between what is being taught on the videos and the material in the lesson book. This alows one to carry over much of the video material to the piano via the lesson book.

One key disappointment that I have is the course emphasis on playing the harmonies/chords vs. the melody. The melody, I feel, is handled almost as an afterthought, with much less attention to instruction detail. Indeed David often suggests that melody playing isn't often needed. He cites particularly the value of the melody-less approach for accompanying a singer or playing as part of a group. Perhaps this is what he truly believes, or perhaps this is merely a justification for the fact that the course gives rather short shrift to incorporating the melody, or that it is more difficult to structure a patterned teaching program for the melody. In any case, for me the melody is very important. Accompanying skill is certainly worthwhile, but it is definitely secondary; I want to be able to entertain myself and my audience with recognizable tunes.

On a related note, I had hoped that this course would allow me to integrate the primitive playing skills I laboriously acquired over many years and expand it. Perhaps that may still turn out to be true; but so far, there is a considerable amount of starting over. Maybe that's the nature of the beast if one really wants to improve. We'll see. In any case, in the short time I've had the course, I have been enjoying it. How much it will improve my playing (and there's tons of opportunity here) remains to be seen.

BTW, yesterday evening I sent David 3 emails with course questions. As of late afternoon today, I've yet to receive a response.

I'll keep you up to date with my progress. Let me know if you have any questions or recommendations.

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Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119911 02/28/08 05:24 PM
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So is this a solo piano course or an accompaniment course? I briefly looked at his web site and it wasn't very clear to me. Some courses focus on accompaniment and require you (or someone else) to sing the melody.

Even if this particular course focuses primarily on accompaniment, then I'm sure you'll still benefit from it. And of course, you can't expect instant results from a course that you ordered 3 days ago. smile

Let us know how it goes!


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Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119912 02/28/08 05:33 PM
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Let us know how you progress and what you think of it later.

Dave

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119913 02/28/08 07:59 PM
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Quote
BTW, yesterday evening I sent David 3 emails with course questions. As of late afternoon today, I've yet to receive a response.
Sorry Mate, I speak as one who has been exposed, first hand, to the USA unregulated selling scene.....I think you've been "Done".

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119914 02/28/08 09:59 PM
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Regarding mahlzeit's query, I would characterize the course as unfortunately (for my interests) focusing primarily on accompaniment rather than solo piano. Of the 72 video lessons, the first 60 relate almost exclusively to accompaniment. These 60 (along with the associated text lesson book sections) provide lots of worthwhile detail on chord voicings and rhythms.

The final 12 video lessons address "Adding the Melody". And the associated melody sections in the text lesson book are significantly less detailed than the accompaniment sections.

Lenny

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119915 02/29/08 11:09 AM
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Crusader, I'm curious about your response. Have you had experience with vendors -- especially of piano courses -- not following through on their promises?

Lenny

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119916 02/29/08 05:41 PM
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A bit more feedback: The course contains a cd of the 13 piano selections from the lesson songbook. Unfortunately (from my point of view), all the songs are presented without piano melody. In most cases the melody is sung (in some cases, not especially professionally). Seems to me that there should have been a version of each of the songs that includes the piano melody.

In spite of limitations, I am enjoying working with the course -- but progress is slow and requires lots of repetitions.

BTW, as of 5:30 pm today, I have yet to get a response to any of my 3 emails questions sent Tuesday and Wednesday. This morning, I called David's customer service number and got an answering machine asking me to leave a message. I did that, but as yet have received no call-back. Disappointing.

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119917 03/01/08 10:35 AM
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I can tell you from experience working with the Sudnow Method that many of these piano teaching "businesses" are one or two person affairs. That's not necessarily a reflection on the quality or effectiveness of the course, just a reminder that if David Higginson, for example, is traveling (you mentioned seeing him in Raleigh) and getting a fair amount of email, it may take a while to get a response.

Sudnow was somewhat notorious for "disappearing" from student's view, but his business never really supported him financially - or intellectually, for that matter - and thus his "other life" often took precedence over his musical life.

You may have better luck trying to find other students and asking them your questions. If they can't answer them that may tell you something else about the course.

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119918 03/01/08 01:37 PM
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You will learn something from mostly all these diffrent courses you find on DVD..search for more Jazz oriented style courses as they tend to foucus on (non Vocal) melody lines..its seems thats where your interests lie.. just my 2 cents smile

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119919 03/01/08 02:37 PM
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Markham, Bob Newbie; thanks for your thoughtful feedback.

Some new comments: I've been spending a bit more time looking through the lesson book for the course. It contains lots of helpful information. David's technique for illustrating rhythm patterns is a particular example. Perhaps other courses use a similar approach, but this is my first exposure to it. Simple and informative.

The following observation perhaps could be made of any piano course. Amy pianoworlder comments regarding it would be helpful, not only to me, but to other potential purchasers of any course: Prior to starting this course, I could entertain myself playing fake book tune after tune. Now, to be fair, this playing was really poor, but I could enjoy myself. Trying the course approach, I am struggling mightily with just lesson 1 -- "Silent Night" -- talk about slow going! And to some extent, this activity is affecting my ability to play using my old familiar (albeit faulty) approach. So this is a bit of a downer. Maybe that is the nature of the beast and is the price one has to pay to significantly improve. Clearly, after years of experimenting with my old approach, my playing was marginal (at best). I was just sort of wondering whether there were any courses which successfully allowed the student to effectively transfer existing capability while integrating the new -- rather than sort of starting over. (Guess that would depend on the nature of the existing capability.)

Oh well --slogging ahead. So far, it's fun.

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119920 03/01/08 05:06 PM
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I don't really know what "marginal playing" means. In point of fact, just saying "I can play the piano" doesn't tell one very much. Thus I suppose it should come as no surprise that different people are successful with different approaches.

I was successful (by my definition) with the Sudnow Method but I know others who weren't - is the fault in the method or the student? As amateurs we're always making compromises based on our different lives and experiences and musical inclinations. One result of that is that we have limited musical tool boxes and sometimes "starting over" is really just ignoring the tools you have now in order to learn how to use new ones. As TTP suggests, how well you learned to use a tool determines how quickly you lose proficiency once you stop using it.

Even within the Sudnow Method there were points where I felt like I was starting over, but each time the learning curve was a little shallower. It's just a really big skill, this piano thing. I'm pretty sure all of us followed paths that weren't really as clear at the time as they seem in retrospect. "Using the Sudnow Method" only describes one part of my own path.

The biggest service any particular piano course (or teacher) can provide to an amateur is evidence that you really can play the piano, and a few threads that lead to other sources of information and inspiration. In the end we're all dependent on our own persistence, patience, and curiosity. We're the ones pushing the keys.

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119921 03/01/08 07:48 PM
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Trying To Play: check this guy out..Bill Susman
it might be more in line of what your after..

http://youtube.com/watch?v=LxrBXnag8tU

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119922 03/02/08 11:35 AM
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Just for the heck of it, isn't Higginson a member of this forum? Or have I misinterpreted something in a different thread.


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Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119923 03/02/08 06:27 PM
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RatMan, don't know if Higginson is a member of this forum. I haven't seen any posts from him.

Bob Newbie, thanks for the suggestion, but Bob Susman would be much more advanced than I could handle -- even with a big stretch. Also, at this time at least, I'm not at all interested in working towards playing in a group. Trying to make some decent music w/ solo piano -- and I've got a real long way to go.

Lenny

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119924 03/03/08 06:30 PM
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These are the 13 songs included in the course songbook. It is these songs that the lessons specifically address -- song by song.

Silent Night
Today
Try To Forget (An original D. Higginson tune)
A Time For Us (Romeo & Juliet Theme
Take Me Home, Country Roads
There's a Kind of Hush
Color My World
Love Story
By the Time I get to Phoenix
Rose Garden
Can't Help Falling In Love
The Sweetheart Tree
Lost Without Your Love

Each of the tunes is arranged for an appropriate rhythm. These are the rhythms specifically taught (1 rhythm for each tune w/some rhythms taught for multiple tunes)
3 Beat Arpeggio
3 Beat Arpeggio (w/ variation)
3 Beat Repeated Chords
Country
Soft Rock 1
4 Beat Triplet Arpeggio
4 Beat Arpeggio
4 Beat Repeated RH
Soft Rock 2 + 4 Beat Arpeggio
4 Beat Triplet Arpeggio w/ variations
2 Beat Repeated RH

A few other rhythms are additionally graphically described.

One week into the course. I'm really enjoying it -- but I've yet to play Silent Night once through w/o mistakes. Not even close.

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119925 03/04/08 02:53 PM
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Following up on my post of 2/29/08, received a call last night from D. Higginson Jr. (son of course teacher who helps Dad with support) indicating that their email system is down and he never received my emails. Gave me a new email address and indicated that if I resent the emails that evening, he would respond by this evening. I did so and am awaiting response.

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119926 03/04/08 05:23 PM
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Dave Jr did respond w/ answers to a number of my questions tonight. He indicated he would follow up with the remaining questions shortly.

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119927 03/08/08 09:48 AM
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Progress w/ Silent Night remains steady but very slow. One key difficulty is that in order to reliably play the arpeggios, I must look at the keyboard. So I can't keep my eyes on the music. Because of that, I'm required to memorize the song. I'd guess that for many folks here, memorizing a Silent Night arrangement might be considered trivial. Unfortunately it is not for me.

Previously, I played primarily with closed chords in the left hand around the middle of the keyboard and the melody along with some blocked chordals beneath -- all played in the right hand one octave higher than written. With this scheme, involving much less moving around the keyboard, I could play lots of many ballads with my eyes on the music. So the playing was much less dependent upon memorization. Now I very much like the much fuller sound of the arpeggio arrangements, but I am wondering how long it's going to take to be able to play the arpeggios -- and appropriately integrate the melody -- w/o looking at the keyboard.

I'm playing Silent Night much better, but still have not played it once w/o mistakes. Starting to wonder just a bit about the notion that, with practice and some sort of reasonable training -- like this course -- anyone can play the piano well enough that any sort of an audience -- except perhaps the player's Mom -- would want to listen to it.

Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119928 03/08/08 10:02 AM
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Originally posted by TryingToPlay:
Starting to wonder just a bit about the notion that, with practice and some sort of reasonable training -- like this course -- anyone can play the piano well enough that any sort of an audience -- except perhaps the player's Mom -- would want to listen to it.
This comment deserves a thread of it's own, TTP.

I think just about everyone has had a version of this thought. I certainly have.

It seems, sometimes, that I will never get it. If I were making the same mistake over and over, then I understand what I need to do. But, sadly, that's not the case. It's always something/somewhere different. I get so happy getting past a trouble spot that it causes me to screw up something easy.....ARGGGGGG.

I do not expect perfection, but come on, at least once without glaring errors.

I guess the one thing I have learned is most listeners are very forgiving and/or do not notice the blow-ups like we do.

However, that fact (if is is a fact) does not take the sting out of mistakes when we work so hard to "just play the darn thing once".

We appear to be brothers in our quest to reach a beginner's proficiency that is acceptable to ourselves....


"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro
Re: David Higginson Piano Course: My Experience
#1119929 03/08/08 08:28 PM
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Gmm1: Yes sir. Exactly. Well put. Glad for the affirmation that I'm not the only one.

Interesting that it's called "playing" the piano. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it doesn't seem like "playing" should necessitate numbing repetition. As you suggest we're not seeking perfection. Likely we'd both be quite happy with pretty good. It's disappointing to accept that -- for most folks -- even pretty good is tough to achieve. Especially so when many commercial courses suggest -- learn a couple of my simple rules -- and there's not that much to it.

One trivial disagreement with your post: Not sure most listeners are that forgiving wink

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