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Hi, I am trying to learn play on piano, but I can't fast learn. Is this a normal or no?


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Hi, and welcome to the forum.

Yes, this is normal. Learning to play the piano is a journey that takes years. It's not like learning to ride a bicycle, where you just have to practice a few hours and then your are set. Piano takes a long time and requires patience.

BTW, this here is the sub-forum for discussing digital pianos and keyboards etc., not so much for discussing learning to play the piano. If you want help with the latter, I suggest to post in the "Adult Beginners Forum":
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/forums/30/1/adult-beginners-forum.html


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Originally Posted by JoBert
... Learning to play the piano is a journey that takes years....and requires patience.

BTW, this here is the sub-forum for discussing digital pianos and keyboards etc., not so much for discussing learning to play the piano. If you want help with the latter, I suggest to post in the "Adult Beginners Forum":
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/forums/30/1/adult-beginners-forum.html


+1
So true and even after years of practice the likelihood of finding a piece that makes you want to tear your hair out is the norm not the exception...a journey it truly is! :-)

Last edited by jamiecw; 09/28/18 04:09 AM.
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Originally Posted by DennyDragon23
Hi, I am trying to learn play on piano, but I can't fast learn. Is this a normal or no?


One good way to improve faster is to get a qualified piano teacher (if you haven't already). In the UK we have ABSRM qualified teachers (Ass. Board of the Royal Schools of Music)---this means they are qualified to teach and have reached a high standard of teaching. I don't know where you're from but getting a teacher that is properly qualified is a good idea. Mainly because if you practice incorrectly and effectively learn the piece with errors, then it takes longer to get through a piece of music.

Also, at the beginning, you want to try smaller training pieces so that you can develop fluency in musical ideas faster.
Most beginners books do provide shorter training pieces. Therefore, to progress faster, try lots of beginner exercises before moving to more advanced pieces---don't try and skip ahead.
For complete beginners, a good teacher is the best time-saver IMO.


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It's quite normal.
Originally Posted by DennyDragon23
Hi, I am trying to learn play on piano, but I can't fast learn. Is this a normal or no?

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Originally Posted by DennyDragon23
Hi, I am trying to learn play on piano, but I can't fast learn. Is this a normal or no?


What exactly is 'fast learn'? I'm not sure what the typical progression times for an adult learner are (there is a another sub forum for such matters that this thread is probably more suited to) but I would say that if you're trying to dive straight into playing the kind of 'well known' (almost cliche really) pieces then that is likely not the best approach if you want to learn properly and you'd be better off working from the easy stuff first.

Originally Posted by JoBert
It's not like learning to ride a bicycle, where you just have to practice a few hours and then your are set.


Even then there's a difference between a leisurely, car free cycle of a few km that you could do after a few hours and the kind of extreme downhill/freeride insanity that some people get up to that takes years of practice.

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How fast can you learn?
There's only one way to find out: practice, practice, practice.

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Originally Posted by DennyDragon23
Hi, I am trying to learn play on piano, but I can't fast learn. Is this a normal or no?


Yep quite normal for the 99% of us mere mortals trying to learn the piano. It is a slow journey like the tortoise.
You have to be in it for the long haul. The plus side of this is there is so much great music even at the intermediate level.

The one piece of advice I will give out is to try and get yourself a teacher at the early stages if you don't have one already.
Better to learn the fundamentals right the first time on how to position your hands, fingers, arms, etc. Believe me and I'm no teacher. I have helped some adults students in the past though that started with no teacher and would keep asking me why am I doing something on the piano this way or that way. I really had to go back myself and analyze why I was doing some of the arm movements etc I was doing. I then realized that my piano teacher taught me those movements over time and slowly introduced them to me. He also would correct me when he saw me doing something he deemed harmful or incorrect. Mor

Most of us here, actually almost all of here will never ever reach the level of Lang Lang smile

Enjoy the journey and you will be surprised in several years how much better you play if you put in constant practice.
Like the tortoise, piano is a slow steady journey smile


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Originally Posted by EPW
Originally Posted by DennyDragon23
Hi, I am trying to learn play on piano, but I can't fast learn. Is this a normal or no?


Yep quite normal for the 99% of us mere mortals trying to learn the piano. It is a slow journey like the tortoise.
You have to be in it for the long haul. The plus side of this is there is so much great music even at the intermediate level.

The one piece of advice I will give out is to try and get yourself a teacher at the early stages if you don't have one already.
Better to learn the fundamentals right the first time on how to position your hands, fingers, arms, etc. Believe me and I'm no teacher. I have helped some adults students in the past though that started with no teacher and would keep asking me why am I doing something on the piano this way or that way. I really had to go back myself and analyze why I was doing some of the arm movements etc I was doing. I then realized that my piano teacher taught me those movements over time and slowly introduced them to me. He also would correct me when he saw me doing something he deemed harmful or incorrect. Mor

Most of us here, actually almost all of here will never ever reach the level of Lang Lang smile

Enjoy the journey and you will be surprised in several years how much better you play if you put in constant practice.
Like the tortoise, piano is a slow steady journey smile


thumb

One big advantage a child has over an adult is that the child has no expectations - of when he'll play Islamey (or Over The Rainbow wink ), or even Für Elise. He'll play it when he's ready. When his teacher thinks he's ready.

Whereas (some) adults start making calculations like - if I practice one hour a day for six days a week, that'll be well over 1000 hours' practice in four years......surely I'll be able to play Für Elise like Brendel or Ashkenazy (or Lisitsa, except that she doesn't play it properly wink ) within four years? No, it doesn't work out like that.

Did you learn good technique from a good teacher from day one, or did you try learning by yourself and picking up bad habits that you didn't know you had, because you don't know what you don't know? And then - assuming you realized you had developed technical problems - how long did it take you to unlearn the bad habits and re-learn proper piano technique?

And did you actually practice - or did you just spend your time at the piano noodling?

Or....if you don't get to where you believe you should in a year, will you assume that you just aren't born to play the piano, and better throw in the towel rather than waste any more years of your life going "nowhere"?

It's a life-long journey with no end, but with plenty of nice scenery to enjoy along the way....... grin


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Bennevis, you nailed it. There are expectations about how long it will take until I consider myself good. Never mind the fact the teacher has a masters and played for over 25 years; it should take me that long. I always thought as an adult if I practiced I would just get it, how can you practice and not get the hang of it? While working on my PhD I had asked my chair, when should I be done....... she said when it is finished that is when you will done. I agree, it is a life long journey. I am learning to enjoy it instead of have expectations. Thanks for your post.


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If you are a beginner as I am the word “fast” is nowhere in the process. I found that out the hard way. Just settle in and take it slow and as stated above, practice often.
Welcome and please join us in the Adult Beginner forum and let us know how you are doing.


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Originally Posted by jamiecw
So true and even after years of practice the likelihood of finding a piece that makes you want to tear your hair out is the norm not the exception...a journey it truly is! :-)

Tell me about it.
As a fellow beginner (got my VPC1 in March), I am chewing on the latter 2 of these 3 bars for a month now and I just don't get it.

[Linked Image]

At this point I am thinking of shelving the task, because clearly, that is beyond my current abilities. laugh

Last edited by Granyala; 09/30/18 03:57 AM.

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Originally Posted by Granyala
Originally Posted by jamiecw
So true and even after years of practice the likelihood of finding a piece that makes you want to tear your hair out is the norm not the exception...a journey it truly is! :-)

Tell me about it.
As a fellow beginner (got my VPC1 in March), I am chewing on the latter 2 of these 3 bars for a month now and I just don't get it.

[Linked Image]

At this point I am thinking of shelving the task, because clearly, that is beyond my current abilities. laugh


Hi Granyala,

Don't give up!

Looking at this section, this isn't mega hard..However, one needs to practice this in a certain way in order that you don't learn mistakes from the beginning that you later then keep repeating despite not intending to. One must always attempt to avoid learning mistakes into the muscle memory of your hands. This is the goal of good practice.

The following advice is how I was taught, others may have a better approach or an equally valid but different approach.

Firstly, learning the scale for this key: I would note the key signiture. If you haven't yet played scales in this key signiture then it's a good practice to be able to do so before contemplating tackling a piece written in that key (advisable, not essential).

Second: getting the right rhythm in your head before you even tackle fingering. You take the left hand first. You will need to learn to clap-and-count aloud the Rhythm. You start at a very slow tempo till you can clap-and-count aloud perfectly without error. If you make mistakes, note where you make them on the piece. Then isolate those bars and practice separately till you get it perfectly right --- time after time. Then, integrate those difficult bars within that section --- again till perfect time-after-time. Then you gradually raise the tempo till you reach the tempo of the piece. Repeat the proceedure for the right hand part.
Here is a video playlist on how to do that:


Claping-and-counting aloud playlist

Third: fingering the notes. Again starting with the left hand, you need to finger each note correctly (right the finger number by the note) so that you can play the passage the same way every time and do so without an any issues resulting from incorrect fingering. Then do the right hand. This is a puzzle. The harder the piece, the longer it takes. When you hit an impossible passage, the use of the pedal is required. This type of pieces have put the damper pedal marks in for you.
Video on fingering

Fourth: learning to play each part in-time: Before you start to play the parts for the first time, quickly practice clapping and counting aloud the rhythm of the left hand just prior to first attempt. When you're sure it's in your mind, you then attempt to play the left hand. With you metronome on---starting as slowly as you need to be able to play the notes "in-time"---play the first few bars of the left hand to get used to playing the fingering you've made for yourself. If you make a mistake, don't stop. Rather, continue to the end of the section you've chosen. Then mark any sections you have difficulty with. Then try again with this exercise. If you make the same mistakes again, then focus on those bars: getting the fingering in your head first, before you then practic them with the metronome on in order to get the rhythm and fingering correct for those trouble bars. Then, you begin from the start and attempt a clean run throgh the section --- hopefully the difficult bars are now playable. If they are not, practice in isolation the bar before the difficult bit to the bar afterward (without metronome, then with) until you've got it. Then integrate with the whole section.

Fifth, increasing the tempo: Once you've got the left-hand all correct at a slow speed,, then slowly increase the speed (practicing at each jump up until you can play it over and over without mistake) until you've reached target tempo.

Sixth: Repeat steps 4 to 5 for the right hand.

Seventh: Integrating the left-and-right hand parts. Here, you again need to start mega slow. Attempt to run through all the piece until end. Note where you make mistakes. Attempt a second run. Do you make the same errors---any new error sections, mark them too. Begin steps four to five but with both hands this time instead of only one hand.

Eighth: adding the damper pedal. Now you've got the hands sorted, time to work on the feet. Again, it's good to note which beat the pedal is pressed and released. Clapping-and-counting this gives you a rhythm for depressing/releasing the pedal. Practice this in isolation from the playing at first till you get it in your head memorized. Good thing is, the pedalling looks pretty simple. Then, once you've got the pedalling practiced correctly, you can integrate this with the piece. If it's too difficult to integrate with both left and right hands together, then start with the left hand. Again, start slow so you don't make mistakes. Any places where you trip up, isolate them and practice until perfection is repeatable multiple times. Then integrate the difficult sections within the line and piece. You can integrate pedaling with left hand then right then both, or if it's easy, just start with L&R and pedalling slowly.

The key is to make as few mistakes during practice as possible and quickly eliminate these mistakes early on so that you don't develop a habit of making those mistakes, thus making it difficult to stop making mistakes. Perfect practice makes perfect.

This should allow you to get this not too difficult looking piece. If you still have difficulty, definately consult a good teacher (or if you already have one, perhaps try a better qualified one).

Kind regards,

Doug.

Last edited by Doug M.; 09/30/18 05:07 AM.

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Originally Posted by Granyala
Originally Posted by jamiecw
So true and even after years of practice the likelihood of finding a piece that makes you want to tear your hair out is the norm not the exception...a journey it truly is! :-)

Tell me about it.
As a fellow beginner (got my VPC1 in March), I am chewing on the latter 2 of these 3 bars for a month now and I just don't get it.

[Linked Image]

At this point I am thinking of shelving the task, because clearly, that is beyond my current abilities. laugh

That is not an easy piece: it's 'intermediate' in difficulty - I'd say most people would play it after three years of lessons. (I need at least four, but I have all the musical talent of a gnat cry).

Anyway, assuming it's the rhythm and coordination of hands you're having difficulty with (and you still want to play it), the first thing I'd do is to write in the beats: "1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +" in each bar in the space between the staves, exactly beneath/over the relevant notes. You need to be able to see at a glance where the note is in relation to the beat.

Thus, in bar 2, '1' is in between the first notes for both hands, '+' will be directly above the F in LH, '2' will be directly beneath the C in RH, the next '+' will be in between the C and D in RH. And so on. You will see that in LH in bar 2, only the D and B flat falls on the beat. The other notes are 'in between' beats, i.e. on the '+' that you wrote in.

(Unfortunately, I cannot post any image here - but maybe someone else can, if you don't get what I'm talking about).

Then play the LH part by itself - slowly - while counting aloud 'one and two and three and four and (one and.....)' keeping your eye on the score to make sure you're synchronizing your counting with the notes you're playing, until you've got that syncopated rhythm nailed, and you know exactly where each beat falls on/between which note - and where each note falls on/between each beat. It might take a few hours to a few days, depending on whether you have the talent of Jarrett or the talent of, er, me. Only when you've got the LH part completely solid rhythmically do you add on the RH part - all the while still counting.

Never stop counting the beats. Count everything......(like you'd count your money wink ).


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Originally Posted by Doug M.
This should allow you to get this not too difficult looking piece. If you still have difficulty, definately consult a good teacher (or if you already have one, perhaps try a better qualified one).

Kind regards,
Doug.

Oh wow, I didn't quite expect that kind of resonance. shocked
First of all, thank you both for taking so much time to write all that.

Playing the passage hands separated is fairly easy, I pretty much followed your described routine, because I know it from the flute.
Work out the rhythm away from the instrument, once understood, apply to the instrument, work out a fingering that might work and stick to it.

It's when I try to put the hands together that stuff gets difficult.

I play the rhythm mostly by ear, which works surprisingly well if I have a melody line to lock on to. It's when that line becomes obfuscated that the dreaded counting is needed and you start pushing through passages like a robot.

While I can do that with my flute while being reeeally focused piano seems to be a different animal.
I guess it will get better with more experience and familiarity with the instrument.

So far I didn't think of asking my teacher, I only recently started and played page one of the piece for her, so far she liked it. Annoying thing is, what comes after the passage is easier, so I am almost through the piece. While I don't expect to be able to play it quickly and fluently anytime soon (playing any music fluently and nicely is ridiculously hard, if you ask me... 2.5 years and I only rarely manage it at a satisfactory level with my flute), I'll be happy if I hit all the right keys. *chuckles*

In case s/o is interested: this is the actual piece:


Originally Posted by bennevis
[quote=Granyala](Unfortunately, I cannot post any image here - but maybe someone else can, if you don't get what I'm talking about).

Never stop counting the beats. Count everything......(like you'd count your money wink ).

I do, thank you too. smile
Syncopated rhythms can be damn annoying flute or piano, because it takes so much CPU time to not fall out. >.<

As for the "always counting", never could do that on either instrument. Brain just can't handle both.
I do count silence lengths though. laugh

Last edited by Granyala; 09/30/18 05:30 PM.

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Granyala, I understand what you're saying here. Having learned your piano parts - LH and RH separately, you try to put them together and everything falls apart: it's worse than when you started!

I think the analytical counting approach bennevis prescribes works when you're learning the lines separately, but I'm not so sure it's much use when you're synthesizing the complete piece. I think it's more about feeling the rhythms together - the LH is often a repeated figure which makes 'feeling the rhythm' easier. But that's not the case in the fragment you copied above - you've got different syncopated figures in the bass playing against yet other (un)syncopated figures in the right hand. Still, it can all be felt with enough practice and rethinking, replaying the piece. It will all come together in a magical moment and you'll move on to the next bit.

I've had exactly this experience with Bach fugues, Scott Joplin rags and learning my own parts, amongst other things. With piano and keyboards, you've got to split yourself into two - or three or even four sometimes. The flute and the saxophone are such easy lovers in comparison.

Last edited by toddy; 09/30/18 06:07 PM.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Granyala
[quote=jamiecw]So true and even after years of practice the likelihood of finding a piece that makes you want to tear your hair out is the norm not the exception...a journey it truly is! :-)

Tell me about it.
As a fellow beginner (got my VPC1 in March), I am chewing on the latter 2 of these 3 bars for a month now and I just don't get it.

[Linked Image]

...

Only when you've got the LH part completely solid rhythmically do you add on the RH part - all the while still counting.


For this piece I would do exactly the opposite. The rhythm of RH is very easy and very steady here, with most notes matching the beats. So I would advise Granyala to use RH as a kind of rhythmical reference here (that is, to play mostly concentrating on RH and trying to maintain its rhythmical steadiness) and only then add LH notes. You can even miss some LH notes initially in the process of practicing and add them one by one as you progress, the main pupose is to maintain RH's steadiness. Good luck!

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Originally Posted by toddy
The flute and the saxophone are such easy lovers in comparison.

Until you open the can of worms that is tone production & quality, boy... my flute feels when I'm coming down with sth. several days before I do. That instrument is so darn sensitive when it comes to your physical condition that it can get frustrating before you even look at any notes you want to play. laugh

You're both right though: what I currently lack is any sort of feeling for the rhythm. I can math it out, sure.
L/R mostly play alternated notes 1/8th apart while RH notes 1 and 3 in bar 2 are played together with the LH but I believe until I can feel the rhythm properly I will most like continue to fail.

Thanks for the encouraging words, naturally I will keep trying. After all I intend for the piano to be my companion for the rest of my stay on this ball'o'mud, so I am not exactly in a hurry to "get things done". If stuff is out of reach for now, no problem. I constantly encounter that with my flute (fast 3rd octave runs *cough*).

Last edited by Granyala; 10/01/18 04:51 AM.

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Originally Posted by Granyala
You're both right though: what I currently lack is any sort of feeling for the rhythm. I can math it out, sure.
L/R mostly play alternated notes 1/8th apart while RH notes 1 and 3 in bar 2 are played together with the LH but I believe until I can feel the rhythm properly I will most like continue to fail.

Then you need to do everything you can to get things right. No matter how 'silly', no matter how repetitive or laborious. You want to be able to feel the rhythm with everything you play. Without a rhythm, there is no music.

This is the advice of the well-known teacher, Graham Fitch, which someone linked in the rhythm thread in ABF. I re-post it here because it is so important:

At the elementary level it’s the job of the teacher to set the pulse in lessons by counting out aloud energetically one or two bars before every scale, before every piece, and before every time a passage is repeated. After a while, the pupil is invited to set their own pulse by counting out aloud before they play. Laborious? A bit, but well worth the effort. In this way the process becomes internalised, and happens as second nature.

This isn't math. Counting aloud - slowly and regularly - isn't math. It's 'hammering home' the rhythm into your mind. Your RH is playing regular notes, but your LH isn't and therefore everything falls apart, but you believe you've got the math sorted out. You might think that, but your brain hasn't grasped it. That's why 'drills' like what Fitch advised are so important, until the regular beat becomes second nature.

BTW, my health/tennis club has "Drills Classes" for tennis players who wish to improve. They repeatedly hit the ball into the same spot on the court until they never miss, and can do it in their sleep.

I'll come clean and admit that my first teacher made me count aloud with every piece (yes, every piece, no matter how simple or regular in note values) in the first three months of lessons. She counted aloud with me occasionally during lessons, ensuring that my rhythm was always rock solid. Never ever any 'guessing', never ever any 'approximation', always exact, and "1+2+3+4+" etc was written into the scores initially, until I could figure it out by myself.

Guessing and approximating is the enemy of accuracy.

Remember - there's a big yawning gap between thinking you know something and actually knowing something.......

Incidentally, like the great Sviatoslav Richter, whenever I encounter a difficult technical problem in a piece, I do deliberate (slow & loud) practice, often using just one hand if that's the part that is problematic. And keep repeating it again & again until I've got it 'into my fingers'. Basically, like a drill that tennis players do. That takes as long as it takes, and sometimes there seems to be no improvement from one week to the next.....until I get it. My 'fingers' get it.

Then, with that bit fixed, I can play the whole piece from beginning to end fluently, with no 'stuttering'.


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Originally Posted by Granyala
Originally Posted by Doug M.
This should allow you to get this not too difficult looking piece. If you still have difficulty, definitely consult a good teacher (or if you already have one, perhaps try a better qualified one).

Kind regards,
Doug.



It's when I try to put the hands together that stuff gets difficult.

I play the rhythm mostly by ear, which works surprisingly well if I have a melody line to lock on to. It's when that line becomes obfuscated that the dreaded counting is needed and you start pushing through passages like a robot.



When I started to learn pieces like this, I can remember being drilled a lot in clapping and counting aloud. My teacher Malcolm said that as it's a percussion instrument, Rhythm is the most important aspect: more so than melody or harmony. He wouldn't let me touch the keys until my clapping and counting aloud was perfect repeatably. When you come to combine, it's important that you can play the L and R hand parts with perfect rhythm, and repeat perfectly numerous times without error. The process of repetition really cements that muscle memory and timing into your system. Only when that is done is it safe to combine parts.

Now when you start to combine parts, you need to set the tempo very very slow. This might be hard at first because you might be unfamiliar with playing at such a slow tempo. Maybe first play the L and R hand sections at the very very slow tempo 10 times each so you get used to it. Then combine the parts, counting out loud as you play!

If you can't manage it through, isolate the bars and learn one at a time: especially if you find one bar difficult, make sure you get that perfect in isolation (over and over till you never err) before you attempt reconciliation.
I've just seen a post by Bennevis posted as I'm writing this, and I completely agree with his post---the emphasis he's making to the point is warranted----that it's all about developing perfect timing in the muscle memory!

Scientifically, the memory for rhythm isn't just stored in the brain, but believe it or not, the spinal column also stores muscle memory. The spinal chord acts like the RAM (random access memory) for the fingers, allowing quicker access to the information than the brain could provide.

Even concert pianists have to keep playing to maintain ability because if they stop for a prolonged period, the muscle memory degrades even if the information is still in the brain. For instance, I can still clap and count aloud rhythms I learnt age 13; however, if I wanted to play those pieces, I'd have to relearn the playing of the piece because the muscle memory controlling my fingers will have degraded. It is slow going and laborious to learn this way at first, but if you have patience and rigor, it gets easier as you progress---the methodology gets ingrained and you're more used to patterns from other pieces, so you naturally find pattern homology within new pieces and are able to more quickly learn them. Believe me, if you stick with this method, after 6 months you'll be thanking us. It really works given time and persistence.

With regard to Rhythm, as you play flute, it makes sense you'd have a different method of developing timing. This method I gave you is specific to organ and piano; however, there are alternative methods for learning Rhythm that might suit you better. In particular, there is one by Phil Best which you can find on his website:

PlayPianoFluently Model . It costs £4.95 but is well worth the money for what is provided.

Last edited by Doug M.; 10/01/18 06:41 AM.

Instruments: Current - Kawai MP7SE; Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000
Software: Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand: K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
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