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#1193094 - 05/04/09 11:50 AM Good practice?  
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steveMac Offline
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Hi, i'm new to the forums and i'm glad i found them, this seems like a really great place to be. I've just purchased a YDP160 and i'm excited to start learning but i have a question about practice times.

I was thinking, where possible i would practice 1 hour per day, everyday. Sometimes a little shorter, sometimes a little longer. Yesterday i read an article linked from this website called Fundamentals of Piano Practice. It was a very good read and it recommended practicing four days per week and that shorter sessions were preferable.

Is the general consensus that this is the best way to approach practicing? I can understand the reasons for this, it makes of a lot of sense but i'd love to hear feedback from the knowledgeable here at Piano World to hear what has worked best for you.

Thanks.

Steve.


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#1193130 - 05/04/09 12:45 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: steveMac]  
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Monica K. Offline

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Hi Steve, welcome to the forum!! smile

Some people swear by the Chang book, and others swear at it. wink

My own take on practicing is this:

(a) more frequent sessions of shorter length is better than sporadic long sessions (e.g., 20 min. a day every day is better than 140 minutes on Sundays).

(b) consistency is extremely important. Here I think Chang is wrong about recommending only four days a week. Daily is better (assuming you're playing with good technique and avoiding injury; see below).

(c) listen to your body and don't practice so long that you become tired or sore. I personally would recommend taking short breaks to stand up and walk around every 15 minutes or so, and I personally probably wouldn't practice longer than an hour or so at a stretch without a good long break--my back starts to feel tired after that long.

Although it doesn't seem like playing the piano is hard on the body, you'd be amazed at how easy it is to develop an injury, either back/shoulder strain or in your arms/hands. If at any point you feel soreness, it's a sign you need to back off the playing and rest.

A major cause of injury is playing with tension and/or incorrect posture and hand positioning. A teacher can help greatly in preventing these things. Were you planning to take lessons or will you be self-teaching?

Last edited by Monica K.; 05/04/09 12:45 PM.

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#1193139 - 05/04/09 01:00 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: Monica K.]  
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steveMac Offline
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Thanks for the great reply Monica, i appreciate it. I'm actually happy to hear you think everyday is good, i am enthusiastic and actually looking forward to practicing everyday.

I am thinking about lessons, i have had a few in the past, that was a long time ago though. The trouble is finding the right teacher, i searched online and came across quite a few, finding a recommended teacher is another matter.


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#1193639 - 05/05/09 08:31 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: steveMac]  
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I just wanted to pop in and agree with Monica's whole post! smile

Regarding finding a teacher, ask everyone you know, even if you don't think they know anything about piano. They might have a friend, a relative, or a neighbor who has a wonderful teacher and has talked to them about him/her.

Best,

Kim


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#1193678 - 05/05/09 09:45 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: PianoTeacherKim]  
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packa Offline
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I also agree with Monica's suggestions. I practice nearly every day because: 1) I like it; and 2) it's good for me. But I almost always break it up into several different sessions and I never sit for longer than 30-45 minutes without at least a short break.


Paul Buchanan
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#1193701 - 05/05/09 10:34 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: packa]  
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steveMac Offline
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Thank you Kim and Paul for the advice. Has anyone ever heard of Musika? www.musikalessons.com Just curious if this is an option i should consider.


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#1193706 - 05/05/09 10:44 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: steveMac]  
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Morodiene Offline
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I just want to reiterate what Monica said: 4 days a week is not enough. My students who practice 4 days a week do no progress - they just tread water. This is extremely frustrating for the student because there is no progress to a new song because they can't play the old one. Commit to sitting at the piano every day no matter whatever, even if that means playing scales and that's it. I highly recommend the MOYD (Master Of Your Destiny) on this forum. The thing is, success breeds success. If you are not having regular daily successes, you will not crave going back to the bench.


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#1193715 - 05/05/09 11:02 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: Morodiene]  
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Monica K. Offline

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Good suggestion, Morodiene... MOYD has been the salvation of many of us on AB forum.

"Master of Your Domain" thread


Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica
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#1193720 - 05/05/09 11:09 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: Monica K.]  
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steveMac Offline
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Thanks again. It's pretty clear now i'm going to be practicing everyday.

I have contacted the company i listed above, Musika, their rates for adults are $42 per 45 minutes. Does this sound reasonable? It does to me though i have nothing to gauge it by. I guess it really is dependent on the teacher.


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#1193723 - 05/05/09 11:11 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: Morodiene]  
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packa Offline
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I haven't heard of Musika before this, but another resource you might try is the MTNA website (Music Teachers National Association).

Finding a teacher is not always easy but I think you just have to contact a few folks and talk to them about your goals, their teaching philosophy, the schedule and cost that works for you, etc. I don't think there is any substitute for personal contact with potential teachers and exploring whether they "fit" your situation as an adult student.

(I just saw your post about Musika; the rates seem very reasonable although I know nothing about the company or their teachers.)

Last edited by packa; 05/05/09 11:14 AM.

Paul Buchanan
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#1193745 - 05/05/09 11:43 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: packa]  
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steveMac Offline
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Thanks, i'll check that website out.

I also thought the rates were reasonable with Musika. The only issue i have is you have to commit to blocks of 8 lessons at a time though you are given a free 30 minute introductory lesson with the teacher they match you to.


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#1193756 - 05/05/09 11:55 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: steveMac]  
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packa Offline
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Committing to a block of lessons seems reasonable to me (I'm not sure 8 is the right number, but I don't really know the best number). You do need to give it fair chance with a new teacher and one or two lessons usually isn't enough.

The only problem I have with the Musika approach is that it seems you're signing up a company rather than a particular teacher. I'm really picky about teachers and I've always wanted to see their professional biography and talk to the specific person I am considering before I commit. I want to choose a person, not a company, although it's fine with me if my teacher is affiliated with an organized studio. But that's just me, of course.


Paul Buchanan
Estonia L168 #1718
#1193763 - 05/05/09 12:07 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: packa]  
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I see your point about the blocks. I also agree about signing to a company as well, i'd be a little uneasy about it. I won't be committing to anything at the moment anyway, i need to look around first. I've found a decent sized list of teachers in this area which shows their teaching experience, i plan on emailing a few of them first then maybe talking to a few on the phone before i book a lesson.

Thanks,


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#1194476 - 05/06/09 12:28 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: steveMac]  
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I have gone through many teachers. My current teacher (who I am kind of 50/50 on) I found through Craiglist. Maybe give that a try. One teacher I had lasted 5 minutes. When she realized I wasn't a kid she bolted. Make sure to specifically ask if they teach adults AND how many adult students they have.

#1194522 - 05/06/09 01:35 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: Alex P. Keaton]  
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Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted by Alex P. Keaton
I have gone through many teachers. My current teacher (who I am kind of 50/50 on) I found through Craiglist. Maybe give that a try. One teacher I had lasted 5 minutes. When she realized I wasn't a kid she bolted. Make sure to specifically ask if they teach adults AND how many adult students they have.

Shame on that teacher for not even asking if the lessons were for you or your child over the phone! Or how old the student was! But yes, there are teachers who do not take adult students, so be sure to ask about that.

You can also find teachers using sites like www.getlessonsnow.com . I have found a numbers of quality students from that. Teachers have to pay to be on that site so that helps to weed out teachers who may not really be serious about teaching. Keep in mind that www.mtna.org while a great resource only lists teachers who have been certified through them. So a many good teachers aren't listed there. However, you can call those teachers and if they have no openings or don't take adults, then you can ask them for a list of teacher sin the area, and you'll get a lot more to choose from.


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#1194839 - 05/07/09 12:38 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: Morodiene]  
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Thanks again for all the help. I found one teacher through the getlessonsnow website and i am planning on contacting her soon.


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#1194995 - 05/07/09 10:12 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: steveMac]  
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Short but frequent practice will really help you have progress in your playing. The reason for short practices is that the fingers get tired and they should be rested. So it is better to have short sessions only. This is the reason why many piano teachers do 40min-1 hour sessions. So if you really want to have progress, you can take, let's say 20 minutes as a beginner, then gradually increase your practice time until your fingers get used to playing piano.

#1195464 - 05/08/09 05:05 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: joykristel]  
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keyring Offline
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There's a *free* book called the Fundamentals of Piano Practice available online at [link]http://www.pianofundamentals.com/book/en/preface[/link] . It's also available on amazon as a printed book and as a PDF elsewhere on the net.

It's written by a physicist, and while he has some controversial opinions, it seems worth paying some attention to.

[link]http://www.pianofundamentals.com/book/en/[/link]

Hope this helps.

PS: I'm interested in other people's opinions about some of the author's claims (and any clarification you can offer about what he means by "thumb under" vs "thumb over")

Last edited by keyring; 05/08/09 05:06 AM.

__
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#1195502 - 05/08/09 07:01 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: keyring]  
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Hi Keyring,

Chang's book has been discussed at length in both the Adult Beginner's Forum and the Pianists Corner.

To preface my comments, I have been reading "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin and "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle and now have a slightly different spin on Chang's book than previously.

Learning to play piano is about having a big set of tools - all the ideas that you use when practicing to learn a particular technique or a piece. Chang has presented a set of tools that he claims to be a "complete" set that will allow rapid progress in learning to play the piano. All his tools are good ones, but I don't consider them anywhere near complete.

Some people get confused because they hear contradictions like the importance of slow practice vs making sure your movements work at a fast tempo. Neither of these should be considered a school of learning piano. One is simply a drill and the other a hammer - use the right tool for the right job, and while working on many pieces you will find that you need to use both.

What I consider the biggest fallacy in Chang's approach is that he assumes that it is the set of tools that makes the difference. It's not. If you follow his methods you find that you are doing what Colvin calls "Dedicated practice" and Coyle calls "Deep practice."

Regarding Thumb Over, it is really misnamed. Thumb Under describes the motion where the thumb moves under the other fingers independently of their motion. (Or the fingers move over the thumb for the opposite direction.) Thumb Over is where the entire hand shifts over into the new position. Think "Thumb Pushes Hand Over" and you might get a better idea of the motion he is referring to. There is actually a continuum between these two motions depending on the lag time between the thumb starting it's motion and the hand following.

Finally regarding Chang's calculation of learning rate. I will quote a section from "The Talent Code" to indicate that this is more a result of Deep Learning than applying Chang's methods. This is from the introduction to the book, pages 2 - 5.

Quote

... Where does this extraordinary talent come from? Where does it grow?

The answer could begin with a remarkable piece of video showing a freckle-faced thirteen--year-old girl named Clarissa. Clarissa (not her real name) was part of a study by Australian music psychologists Gary McPherson and James Renwick that tracked her progress at the clarinet for several years. Officially, the video's title is shorterclarissa3.mov, but it should have been called The Girl Who Did a Month's Worth of Practice in Six Minutes.

On screen, Clarissa does not look particularly talented. She wears a blue hooded sweatshirt, gym shorts, and an expression of sleepy indifference. In fact, until the six minutes captured on the video, Clarissa had been classified as a musical mediocrity. According to McPherson's aptitude tests and the testimony of her teacher, her parents, and herself, Clarissa possessed no musical gifts. She lacked a good ear; her sense of rhythm was average, her motivation subpar. (In the study's written section, she marked "because I'm supposed to" as her strongest reason for practicing.) Nonetheless, Clarissa had become famous in music-science circles. Because on an average morning McPherson's camera captured this average kid doing something distinctly un-average. In five minutes and fifty-four seconds, she accelerated her learning speed by ten times, according to McPherson's calculations. What was more, she didn't even notice.

McPherson sets up the clip for us: It's morning, Clarissa's customary time for practice, a day after her weekly lesson. She is working on a new song entitled "Golden Wedding," a 1941 tune by jazz clarinetist Woody Herman. She's listened to the song a few times. She likes it. Now she 's going to try to play it.

Clarissa draws a breath and plays two notes. Then she stops. She pulls the clarinet from her lips and stares at the paper. Her eyes narrow. She plays seven notes, the song's opening phrase. She misses the last note and immediately stops, fairly jerking the clarinet from her lips. She squints again at the music and sings the phrase softly. "Dah dah dum dah," she says.

She starts over and plays the riff from the beginning, making it a few notes farther into the song this time, missing the last note, backtracking, patching in the fix. The opening is beginning to snap together—the notes have verve and feeling. When she's finished with this phrase, she stops again for six long seconds, seeming to replay it in her mind, fingering the clarinet as she thinks. She leans forward, takes a breath, and starts again.

It sounds pretty bad. It's not music; it's a broken-up, fitful, slow-motion batch of notes riddled with stops and misses. Common sense would lead us to believe that Clarissa is failing. But in this case common sense would be dead wrong.

"This is amazing stuff," McPherson says. "Every time I watch this, I see new things, incredibly subtle, powerful things. This is how a professional musician would practice on Wednesday for a Saturday performance."

On screen Clarissa leans into the sheet music, puzzling out a G-sharp that she 's never played before. She looks at her hand, then at the music, then at her hand again. She hums the riff. Clarissa's posture is tilted forward; she looks as though she is walking into a chilly wind; her sweetly freckled face tightens into a squint. She plays the phrase again and again. Each time she adds a layer of spirit, rhythm, swing.

"Look at that!" McPherson says. "She's got a blueprint in her mind she's constantly comparing herself to. She's working in phrases, complete thoughts. She's not ignoring errors, she 's hearing them, fixing them. She 's fitting small parts into the whole, drawing the lens in and out all the time, scaffolding herself to a higher level."

This is not ordinary practice. This is something else: a highly targeted, error-focused process. Something is growing, being built. The song begins to emerge, and with it, a new quality within Clarissa.

The video rolls on. After practicing "Golden Wedding," Clarissa goes on to work on her next piece, "The Blue Danube." But this time she plays it in one go, without stopping. Absent of jarring stops, the tune tumbles out in tuneful, recognizable form, albeit with the occasional squeak.

McPherson groans."She just plays it, like she's on a moving sidewalk," he says. "It's completely awful. She's not thinking, not learning, not building, just wasting time. She goes from worse than normal to brilliant and then back again, and she has no idea she's doing it."

After a few moments McPherson can't take it anymore. He rewinds to watch Clarissa practice "Golden Wedding" again. He wants to watch it for the same reason I do. This is not a picture of talent created by genes; it's something far more interesting. It is six minutes of an average person entering a magically productive zone, one where more skill is created with each passing second.

"Good God," McPherson says wistfully. "If somebody could bottle this, it'd be worth millions."


For anyone who wants to look up the information on Clarissa, here is the references from The Talent Code:

Quote

For more on Clarissa and her high-velocity practice, see Gary E. McPherson and James M. Renwick, "Interest and Choice: Student-Selected Repertoire and Its Effect on Practising Behavior," British Journal of Music Education 19 (June 2002), 173-88, and "I've Got to Do My Scales First!"
Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Music Perception and
Cognition (Keele, Staffordshire, U.K.: Keele University Department of Psychology, 2000), CD-ROM.


This is the kind of learning that Chang is talking about when he mentions that it is possible to accelerate your learning 1000 times.

Rich


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#1195606 - 05/08/09 10:53 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: DragonPianoPlayer]  
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Rich - thanks so much for that post. I, too, have learned much from Chang and taken some with a grain of salt. I've read This Is Your Brain, Outliers, other music books, paid attention to my own experience, etc, and am certainly way ahead of when I was 13. But these books look fascinating - so it's off to the bookstore for me.

Cathy


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#1195610 - 05/08/09 11:03 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: jotur]  
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I find that practicing multiple times a day really helps, especially when learning a new piece. I am able to learn a new piece (2 - 3 minutes long) in about 3 to 5 days if I practice multiple times a day, like 1 - 2 hours in the morning and/or afternoon, and another 2 - 3 hours in the evening. I recently did just that with a 2 minute piece. I know, anything greater than 1 hour is quite long, especially for beginners, but I just love playing the piano that I can easily spend 3 - 5 hours at a time just practicing and playing the pieces I already know when I have time.

Last edited by Honnli; 05/08/09 11:26 AM.

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#1195668 - 05/08/09 12:46 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: packa]  
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I practice every day even if it is for 15 minutes. The days that I don't get a practice in, shows up in my playing and my mood (smile). I try for 2 hours with breaks and just take my time on a piece, using different strategies.


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#1195742 - 05/08/09 03:21 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: piano4]  
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What works best for me is routine: practicing at the same time every day (if possible). I usually practice 45 min to 1 hour, not as much as I would like, but that's what my schedule allows. I take a 5 min. break every 20 min. HOW you practice is more important that how much or how often. Make sure your practice time is productive and FUN!


"L'art est le plus beau des mensonges." -Debussy
#1195878 - 05/08/09 08:20 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: enfrançais]  
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Thanks again for all the advice. I am practicing every day, at a set time in the evening, I would like to be able to practice a couple of times a day but at the moment that is not possible. I still haven't found a teacher but i'm not in that great of a rush. I'm currently working my way through a book called The Classic Piano Course by Carol Barrett which i'm really enjoying. I also have the Learn and Master Piano course so i'm alternating between the two.

One thing i feel i need to do which i haven't yet is to set some goals. At this early stage that is quite difficult as i'm unsure what i can achieve realistically. I do know a few pieces i want to play but that seems so far down the road right now.


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#1196105 - 05/09/09 09:22 AM Re: Good practice? [Re: steveMac]  
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keyring Offline
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Hi Dragon,

Thanks for helping me position Chang. I wan't sure if he'd
been "done" already - guess I should have expected it. I'll do
some searches.

Picked up "Piano Playing with Piano Questions Answered" (Josef
Hofmann) today - it's quite worthwhile, and also helping me
triangulate where reality lies by providing another (strong, well
reasoned) perspective.

You mentioned "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin and "The
Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle - would you recommend one (or both)
of them?


__
adult beginner / Sydney, AU / Kawai MP8II
#1196222 - 05/09/09 01:54 PM Re: Good practice? [Re: keyring]  
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Dr. J Offline
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My motto is for practice is "The More You Play the Better Your Day." Of course, there can be more to practice than simply playing more and more - like the article on the high velocity practice states, it is possible to accelerate your learning 1000 times with focus and attention. But sometimes, we just need to free our minds and fingers and just "play."


Dr. Jordan is a professional piano teacher and performer,
offering creative online piano tutorials to adult beginners.

Dr. Js blog http://playpianotodaywithdrj.wordpress.com/

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