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my struggle to learn pop piano
#2354066 11/23/14 08:51 PM
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Hi, I've been lurking a couple years now. At 65 I took up piano, again, for the umpteenth time. I never had lessons as a kid but have known basic chords and inversions since I was a teen.

But I never learned to just play melody and accompany with chords on the left hand. I think that's really, really hard.

After I got my reading together I looked up my old teacher, a fine jazz performer, but I keep want to "run away" to Bach minuets because they actually seem easier than jazz. It all seems very hard and at my age I really have trouble learning. She seems to want me to learn theory and concepts from the inside out, when I just want to play tunes - Piano Guy type stuff.

But with her help I have transposed a lead sheet to my singing key for If You Could See Me Now, found the closest set of chords inversions, and got so I can play melody in my right hand with left-hand chords. A BIG deal for me, took months and months. Now I am playing the scale with each change - Fmaj7,Bb7, Am7,Abm7 etc. Eventually, I plan to play the arpeggios and the various triads in each chord. Does this sound like a plan? Sometimes when I'm in the mood I can actually improvise a little with just that.

Problem: I can't figure out how to get a nice rolling rhythm on the left hand for ballads. I just play whole notes..can someone direct me to a source for this?

Thanks for reading. smile

Last edited by carojm36; 11/23/14 08:52 PM.
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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354071 11/23/14 09:10 PM
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Like everything, it starts with baby steps, and lots of them. Playing in other styles is actually rather easy and more ear-oriented than Bach. Bach is harder, for sure, but since you are not familiar with playing in other styles, Bach is more "comfortable".

It's good to play whole notes and get that to be easy. Once you can do that, then try, LH alone, to arpeggiate the chords (play one note at a time, to the rhythm and meter of the song). Or if that's too tricky, try playing the chords with the beat, on the beat. You can really experiment with how many different ways you can play the LH chords. Ask your teacher for different ideas if you feel stuck.

Once you do them enough, you'll have an arsenal of some different licks that you can choose from for other pieces. Anyways, when you pick one you like, just learn to play that well for your song LH alone. Then try adding the melody back in. It will be tough and awkward, but hopefully you can struggle through it the first few times and it will get easier.


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354072 11/23/14 09:10 PM
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I'm following the same struggle. I've been playing classical for a while and now trying to learn to play from a lead sheet. It is very hard for me to figure out what to play if it isn't written on the page. I can play the melody with the right hand , and block chords in root position with the left, but all the improv stuff people do to dress things up? Haven't a clue.

I don't have a suggestion for you, but you're not alone in the struggle.


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354079 11/23/14 09:24 PM
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Improv comes from doing something planned a lot, and you just remember that and apply it. That means you do have to play it enough in different situations to recognize that as a pattern that can be repeated and applied in different situations.

It sounds easy enough, but it does take time and experience. How is your reading of classical music? If possible, I recommend learning to play pop tunes that have been written out. It will be tricky because the rhythms are so syncopated, but for me that helped a lot once I did enough of them to see recurring patterns. Then when I saw a chord on a lead sheet, I had some idea on what I could do with it. I just remembered what songs I played that were like that and what LH accompaniment they used.


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354094 11/23/14 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by carojm36
I just want to play tunes - Piano Guy type stuff.


Here you go ... http://www.pianoinaflash.com/


Don

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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354136 11/24/14 01:28 AM
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I find that when you buy or acquire the music to the song you want, there's a lot of challenging work therein. No different to playing classical but a tad harder IMO. It can be rewarding to do this, and gives you an insight into improvisation too, or maybe I should say, the song writers original thinking.

Which would be based on someone else's original thinking from years gone by. But pop music ids s great genre to get into. You hear guys playing it in a jazz setting, or classical.

Best of luck man! I'm 66 (and a bit). . . have fun!


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354202 11/24/14 08:58 AM
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This link has a quick summary of LH accompaniment patterns.
LH Accompaniment

Youtube videos for many these patterns are available in several tutorials.

Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
EM Deeka #2354222 11/24/14 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by EM Deeka
This link has a quick summary of LH accompaniment patterns.
LH Accompaniment

Youtube videos for many these patterns are available in several tutorials.


Thank you and dmd for the links! I'll check them out Often just one new idea gets me moving again.

Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354226 11/24/14 10:56 AM
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Quote
. . . After I got my reading together I looked up my old teacher, a fine jazz performer, but I keep want to "run away" to Bach minuets because they actually seem easier than jazz. It all seems very hard and at my age I really have trouble learning. She seems to want me to learn theory and concepts from the inside out, when I just want to play tunes - Piano Guy type stuff. . .


Bach minuets _are_ easier than jazz! All the notes are written down for you, you just have to execute what's in the score. Bach has done all the musical thinking for you.

For jazz, you do much of the "composing" yourself. Morodiene's "lick-based improvisation" seems to be how most players do it.

The alternative is getting sheet music arranged for piano, and playing that as you would play Bach. It might sound like jazz, but it'll come out the same way every time you play, and that's not what "jazz" is about.

At 69, I have the same learning disability that you do:

. . . Everything takes ten times longer to learn than it did when I was younger.

But to stop learning, is to die.

. Charles

PS -- there are lots of books on jazz piano. And they mostly have lots of "theory" in them, because that's what you need in order to construct music.




. Charles
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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354266 11/24/14 01:11 PM
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Is that the 'If you could see me now' that Celine Dion sings?

Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2354448 11/24/14 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by carojm36
....
After I got my reading together I looked up my old teacher, a fine jazz performer, but I keep want to "run away" to Bach minuets because they actually seem easier than jazz. It all seems very hard and at my age I really have trouble learning. She seems to want me to learn theory and concepts from the inside out, when I just want to play tunes - Piano Guy type stuff.
...


Did you plan to learn jazz piano ? Why is the teacher insisting on a jazz regimen if that's not what you want to learn ?

Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
EM Deeka #2354479 11/25/14 02:55 AM
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Carojm36 – I understand your situation completely. I got through Alfred’s Adult 1 and a couple of the Masterwork Classics series books and felt comfortable with the intermediate classical stuff. You would think after getting at least this far along, that popular music wouldn’t be so bad. But to me, a lot of pop or jazz pieces can make Bach and Mozart look like child’s play.

The “easy” popular song books are sometimes too easy, or they’d be “easy” for Glenn Gould in their “upwardly more difficult” definition of “easy”. A lot of the piano/vocal/guitar versions of songs have the melody in the right hand and the chords in the left, so if you want to sing along with them, it gets kind of awkward. Sometimes, you just want a simple accompaniment to sing along with - and they’re hard to find. Even when you do find suitable songs, they’re often in the wrong key for your voice type and transposing them down, to suit you, makes them sound too muddy or transposing them up, makes the arrangement sound too bright! It seems you can’t win for losing!!! Sometimes I think I need composition and arrangement courses more than I need piano lessons!

Plus, the fact that you and I are over 60 and realize we may not have 30 more years to “get up to speed” makes the whole process annoying. But yet, we persevere! grin


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2355273 11/26/14 10:48 PM
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Thanks for the tips! I read music well, so trying to do something without sheet music is difficult. I'll try some of the suggestions here. My reacher is working with me on this, too. She was a little reluctant since she much prefers teaching classical, but we've started adding in some chord work, and that is helping. I usually have one song a week from a fake book where I have to come up with something to do with it, other than what's printed. That is painful to listen to, I am sure, but it is slowly improving.

My classical pieces I usually spend 2-3 weeks on, but the fake book stuff takes twice as long. The music may be simpler but the process is a lot harder for me.


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2355308 11/27/14 01:23 AM
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Originally Posted by carojm36
Problem: I can't figure out how to get a nice rolling rhythm on the left hand for ballads. I just play whole notes..can someone direct me to a source for this?

Thanks for reading. smile


I like to play a classical/Chopin pattern (Revolutionary Etude) with the left hand for ballads. smile Be creative with it...

Polovetsian Dances (Stranger in Paradise):




Last edited by Elssa; 11/27/14 01:41 AM.
Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2355501 11/27/14 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by carojm36

...
She seems to want me to learn theory and concepts from the inside out, when I just want to play tunes
...


If you just want to play, theory and concepts first will definitely be the long road IMO. Practicing Arpeggios and triads in different positions would not be high on my list either. Maybe someday, or for a specific piece, but otherwise there is better use of your practice time. I have always preferred repertoire over anything else. But, like you, I just want to play and I am not aiming to give the likes of Glenn Gould or Oscar Peterson a run for their money anytime soon.

I get my back up a bit with the philosophy of having all your ducks perfectly aligned in order to move forward. I suppose the concept is the correct one for the masses, but it has just never been this way for me. My first introduction to Piano was by rote. IE. Watch listen and replicate. Then years later some chord training. Then decades later, learning to read. I have also been learning about theory in this latter part. I love how it has filled in many blanks for me, but I estimate it has had very little if any effect on my actual playing.

If you have a lead sheet for a piece you like, I would then suggest searching for performances of it that you like. Try to get ideas for accompaniment from various performances. Watch, listen and replicate with similar style, but with your own interpretation.

Everything is hard until it gets easy. I can usually get up to speed much faster with any pop lead sheet than I would expect to with just about anything by Bach. If you can play Bach well, surely you will be able to do a nice job with most pop and other non-classical.

Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2355531 11/27/14 03:36 PM
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Why do people 'alway' say/assume that pop is simpler/easier than classical??
(That meant as an honest question, not an approach)

In my humble experience, in making simplified scores from classics and pop alike, pop is often far more difficult to 'get right'. I assume because it's written for singing, not like classical written specifically for a piano? At any rate some of the pop tunes are incredibly hard to 'transfer' to piano solo.


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2355546 11/27/14 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Jytte
Why do people 'alway' say/assume that pop is simpler/easier than classical??

I do not.

I thought the discussion was more about which is harder to learn. It was deemed that pop was hard for people that read well but had little exposure, or practice with accompaniment using lead sheets.

As everyone knows, everything is easy to play after you know how to play it. Depending on your background, one may be tougher for you to learn than the other.

Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2355560 11/27/14 05:02 PM
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I guess you're right on that. I must I admit my respect for songwriters in the 'pop' genre has risen since I started trying to play some of those songs. Seems so easy to sing... playing is another matter entirely smile


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2355641 11/27/14 09:54 PM
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My thought is that people might think thay classical is more difficult is that those who play classical usually learn it by reading music. For those who do not read music, sheet music - especially at intermediate level or above, looks very difficult.


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Re: my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 #2355642 11/27/14 09:54 PM
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My thought is that people might think thay classical is more difficult is that those who play classical usually learn it by reading music. For those who do not read music, sheet music - especially at intermediate level or above, looks very difficult.


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