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#2240502 - 03/03/14 03:00 AM Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach.  
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lunobili Offline
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Hi, this is my first post to the forum, so bear with me.

I am 40 and a total beginner. I am not one of those people that had piano lessons as a kid, quit and came back to it later in life. I truly am a beginner and I am seeking advice to start on the right foot.

Here are the steps I took so far:
1) Recently bought a good digital piano (weighted keys, very near the top of the line, my wife and my daughter play it as well, so it is not just wasted on me only)
2) Started to attend private lessons (I had three so far).

One concern I have is that, for the moment, I find the lesson to be a bit basic so I found myself practicing pieces ahead of the program. My teacher asked me to prepare piece number two, but I have already prepared pieces three, four, five and six. Pieces five and six are more challenging, but still doable.

This is my first question:
I wonder if by going ahead of the prgram I might develop bad habits. Should I resist the temptation and practice over and over the piece I was assigned, despite the fact that I believe I can play it reasonably well and that it starts to become a bit boring?

During the lesson we use two different texts. One has exercises that my teacher asks me to play either along with her or with a recorded track, the other has pieces of a couple of pages each (these are the pieces I am preparing).

This is my second question:
Can somebody suggest a theory books that I can use as a complement to the books I am using at the lesson?

Here are the concepts I would like to understand, that at the moment are completely new to me:
- Practice tips
- Ear training
- Scales
- Chords
- Chords progressions

All this should be treated at beginner level.

If you wonder why I am not asking this to my teacher directly, here are the reasons:

1) Lesson is only half an hour, no time for any kind of chit chat. Just one exercise after another and then I get booted out of the class room. Yes, it is a bit impersonal, but highly efficient, the school seems to like it this way.
2) I am not native of the country where I live, my teacher is likely to suggest a book that I would not be able to read. I speak the language enough to understand my teacher (most of the times), but my seven years old daughter already reads better than me.

Sorry for the long post.

Thanks,
Luca

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#2240512 - 03/03/14 04:05 AM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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earlofmar Offline
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Welcome to the forum lunobili, and I for one love long posts

Originally Posted by lunobili

This is my first question:
I wonder if by going ahead of the program I might develop bad habits. Should I resist the temptation and practice over and over the piece I was assigned, despite the fact that I believe I can play it reasonably well and that it starts to become a bit boring?


If you are capable of working ahead then I see no problem. Since you have only had three lessons your teacher does not yet understand your abilities and is going at a standard pace. Since 90% of the learning is done at home anyway, the lesson itself becomes more about performing where the teacher can look for mistakes and make corrections.
Originally Posted by lunobili


This is my second question:
Can somebody suggest a theory books that I can use as a complement to the books I am using at the lesson?


it's not a book but a website go here. There are great lessons for free on music theory if you can get over the guy's eccentric style.

Last edited by earlofmar; 03/03/14 04:06 AM.

Problems with piano are 90% psychological, the other 10% is in your head.

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#2240515 - 03/03/14 04:22 AM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: earlofmar]  
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lunobili Offline
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Originally Posted by earlofmar

it's not a book but a website go here. There are great lessons for free on music theory if you can get over the guy's eccentric style.


Earlofmar, thanks I was not aware of those videos, I will definitely check them out.

Still I would prefer some book, so other suggestions will be welcomed, but surely this was a good suggestion, thanks!!

#2240520 - 03/03/14 04:32 AM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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sinophilia Offline

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Welcome lunobili, for practice tips you may want to have a look at Graham Fitch's ebooks and blog on http://practisingthepiano.com


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#2240575 - 03/03/14 09:15 AM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: sinophilia]  
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JimF Offline
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Welcome to the ABF, lunobili. Like you, I started piano from scratch about four years ago.

The one piece of advice I would offer as you start out is to accept and embrace that learning to play well is a slow, incremental process.

I don't mean to dampen your enthusiasm. Just to say that in my opinion there isn't much one can do to rush the process, and you are at the very beginning where the foundation for you as a pianist will be built.

If I were to get a do-over on my start, I would slow myself down and take my time...all the subjects of study you mention (theory,ear training, progressions,etc.) will be brought forward and introduced by a good teacher in due course. Those early assignments are seductively easy. As adults with a long history of listening to more complex music we tend to rush through these simple pieces and exercises. You can probably quickly memorize three or four of them in a week. But it is not about just knowing those notes. No, you don't have to keep practicing a simple piece over and over, but are you really sure you have focused on what it is teaching you?

As usual, your mileage may vary and this is just one man's opinion.



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#2240681 - 03/03/14 02:06 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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Tubbie0075 Offline
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Because you are new to your teacher, he/she doesn't know your potentials. I'd say play her all the pieces you've prepared so next time she will assign you the appropriate number and level of difficulty pieces :-)


Be your ♮ self.

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#2240686 - 03/03/14 02:15 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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Andy Platt Offline
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I understand the concerns about language barriers. I don't understand the concern about no chit chat because the lessons are 30 minutes. Sure, you don't want to waste any but isn't a discussion about your abilities totally what you need to do so you *don't* waste it!

As others have said, if you prepare additional pieces, it will either demonstrate you can move faster and you will, or that you are missing what you need to learn from each piece - which would be an invaluable lesson in itself.


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#2240700 - 03/03/14 02:46 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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EM Deeka Offline
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For theory 2 Books which helped me greatly since they have exercises with answers (enabling independent study, light on the wallet and concise) are:

Practical Theory: Complete
Sandy Feldstein
Publisher: Alfred Music; Spi edition (October 1, 1982)
ISBN-10: 0882842250

Harmony and Theory: A Comprehensive Source for All Musicians
Carl Schroeder, Keith Wyatt
Sheet music: 160 pages
Publisher: Musicians Institute Press (April 1, 1998)
ISBN-10: 0793579910

As for Websites for Theory/Exercises/Ear Training
musictheory.net
teoria

#2240816 - 03/03/14 06:09 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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Stubbie Offline
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Welcome to Piano World, lunobili!

I, too, have 30-minute lessons and understand about having to get right down to business. But as others have stated, do take a few minutes to discuss with your teacher that you feel you could handle more than one piece a week.

1. You will either play them well enough that your teacher will pass you along onto the next pieces, or

2. You won't play them well enough and you can go back to one piece per week or take more time on them.

When your teacher assigns you a piece, does the teacher discuss the piece with you? If you're using a 'method' book, usually a piece will be teaching you some specific technique (for example, playing dotted quarter notes and eighths, or 2/4 time, or something of that sort). If so, then it would help if the teacher pointed these things out before you started a piece. In that case, moving ahead of your assigned pieces might pose a problem.

If your teacher doesn't point these things out ahead of time, or you can figure out for yourself what is "new" in the piece (maybe your book explains it), then you're less likely to acquire 'bad habits.'

Good luck, and keep us posted!




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#2240971 - 03/03/14 10:51 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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lunobili Offline
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Guys, thanks for all your responses, I feel I really got some good piece of advice. This is where I am at this point:

- I started watching these videos
- I purchased this book
- I will keep on practicing pieces ahead (at least until I will not hit my limits) because the consensus seems to be that this will not cause any arm.
- I see the point of the people that suggested that I might be missing what is the key concept I should pick up from each piece. I might only be thinking that I am playing it well enough, when this is not actually the case. This is why I decided that I will follow my teacher pace and not ask her to speed things up. There might be indeed something that I am missing.

Eventually things will slow down. At the moment I am very enthusiastic and practice more than a teacher would expect from a beginner, but eventually pieces will become more difficult and what now seems overkill will just be the right amount of practice. Meanwhile the enthusiasm might fade a way a bit (I do not see myself losing interest soon, I am not that kind of person, but hey, I am only human wink ).

Thanks again, this was useful.
Luca

#2241002 - 03/04/14 12:33 AM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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noobpianist90 Offline
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I'll give you the same advice my piano teacher gave me: The slower you go, the faster you'll get there. It works for me. By slow, I don't mean tempo. I mean that the basics are something that you should take your time over. Its alright if you jump ahead in your enthusiasm, but side by side, you should keep up with practicing the basics. The longer you spend on your fundamentals, the quicker you will improve on the long run. Keep the big picture in mind. Above all, the learning process should be enjoyable smile

Check out this site:
http://www.pianofundamentals.com/

Go through the introduction and download his book, and read that thoroughly. Its a brilliant book that all pianists should read, especially those who are starting out. This book describes what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.
Good luck

#2241135 - 03/04/14 09:29 AM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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EM Deeka Offline
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And which is the Lesson/Method Book your teacher is using for your lessons ?

Last edited by EM Deeka; 03/04/14 09:30 AM.
#2241324 - 03/04/14 03:47 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: lunobili]  
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Michael Martinez Offline
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Luca,

the thing you really need to do is to learn how to play simple pieces by ear: Christmas carols, childrens' tunes, folk tunes, ... Be able to play the melodies by ear and harmonize them with simple chords in the left hand. Find a teacher (or book) who will guide you in this effort. You only need "basic" theory for this and you only need to learn basic chord voicings.

This is truly the best first stage.


Music Educator, Computer Engineer, avid reader of literature, enjoyer of the outdoors
http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/
#2241446 - 03/04/14 08:37 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: EM Deeka]  
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lunobili Offline
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Originally Posted by EM Deeka
And which is the Lesson/Method Book your teacher is using for your lessons ?


I am attending a Yamaha school, they use their own books.

#2241448 - 03/04/14 08:43 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: Michael Martinez]  
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lunobili Offline
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Originally Posted by Michael Martinez
Luca,

the thing you really need to do is to learn how to play simple pieces by ear: Christmas carols, childrens' tunes, folk tunes, ... Be able to play the melodies by ear and harmonize them with simple chords in the left hand. Find a teacher (or book) who will guide you in this effort. You only need "basic" theory for this and you only need to learn basic chord voicings.

This is truly the best first stage.


Michael, thanks for your input. That is something I plan to do.
People that can do that amaze me and I wish I could do the same.

...too many things I want to learn, but I have to chose an order!!!

#2241450 - 03/04/14 08:48 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: Michael Martinez]  
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adultpianist Offline
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Originally Posted by Michael Martinez
Luca,

the thing you really need to do is to learn how to play simple pieces by ear: Christmas carols, childrens' tunes, folk tunes, ... Be able to play the melodies by ear and harmonize them with simple chords in the left hand. Find a teacher (or book) who will guide you in this effort. You only need "basic" theory for this and you only need to learn basic chord voicings.

This is truly the best first stage.


Why by ear? Why not by reading notes on a score?

#2241455 - 03/04/14 08:54 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: adultpianist]  
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Michael Martinez Offline
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Originally Posted by adultpianist

Why by ear? Why not by reading notes on a score?


Because as a musician you want to be able to make music, rather than being told what to play.

Like when you speak, you aren't speaking what someone else is telling you to say.

Last edited by Michael Martinez; 03/04/14 09:01 PM.

Music Educator, Computer Engineer, avid reader of literature, enjoyer of the outdoors
http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/
#2241526 - 03/04/14 10:40 PM Re: Beginner seeking advice about books and practice approach. [Re: Michael Martinez]  
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EM Deeka Offline
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Quote
Like when you speak, you aren't speaking what someone else is telling you to say.


But again, doesn't that depend on the personal choice of the player. He/She might be OK playing a traditional classical repertoire.


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