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Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard #2851696
05/24/19 07:49 AM
05/24/19 07:49 AM
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applelover Offline OP
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I've had a few dozen piano lessons but am learning on my own now. I chronically choose pieces that are too hard for me to play right and in some cases even come close to learning. I choose them just based on how much I like the song.

I'm starting to think I'm holding back my learning by doing it this way. It's not because I get discouraged. I still enjoy it, progress, and put in time playing. But I'm thinking, everything else being equal, if I put in the same amount of time playing moderate pieces as opposed to pieces too hard for me, I will get significantly more out of it. True? Thoughts?

And here is a related question. Lately I've been working on sheet music created by people on YouTube where they take modern songs (soundtracks like Batman, Interstellar, or Metallica, Tool) and do a piano cover. Again, all things being equal, assuming I spend the same amount of time and enjoy doing both the same, would focusing on more traditional classical pieces help me learn and become a better pianist significantly faster?

Thanks!!!

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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851701
05/24/19 07:59 AM
05/24/19 07:59 AM
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Well …. I hope you are ready for a barrage of "opinions" on this one …. lol

And in the end ….. the conclusion may well be …. Maybe !


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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851704
05/24/19 08:02 AM
05/24/19 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by applelover
Again, all things being equal, assuming I spend the same amount of time and enjoy doing both the same, would focusing on more traditional classical pieces help me learn and become a better pianist significantly faster?

Maybe. But even so, it would seem to depend on your goals. If your goal is to have fun playing piano covers (with the emphasis on "fun"), learning classical piano sounds like a detour from that. (Speaking only as another piano student, here!)

Life is too short to spend a lot of time do things either one doesn't like or which are not directly associated with one's goal(s). Reminds me of a niece who took up weight training to help her with competitive sailing. Now you try to figure out the connection there!

Have you considered a piano method focusing on the style of piano you like and the pieces? For example, there is a piano teacher on Reddit whose specialty is gaming music. I bet there a lot of young people who would love to have him as their teacher!


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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851712
05/24/19 08:32 AM
05/24/19 08:32 AM
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applelover Offline OP
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"piano method focusing on the style of piano you like and the pieces" - what does piano method mean here? I'm not sure I use any methods or even understand what this means.

Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851728
05/24/19 08:59 AM
05/24/19 08:59 AM
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Do you want to be able to play like a 'proper pianist', using all your fingers well, and developing hand & finger independence?

Then go for classical. A method that requires you to develop both hands equally.

A method book that starts you off with RH melody and LH chords and continues on down the same route is fine if you're just interested in pop etc, but it won't develop your LH properly like Bach et al would.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: bennevis] #2851732
05/24/19 09:08 AM
05/24/19 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Do you want to be able to play like a 'proper pianist', using all your fingers well, and developing hand & finger independence?

Then go for classical. A method that requires you to develop both hands equally.

A method book that starts you off with RH melody and LH chords and continues on down the same route is fine if you're just interested in pop etc, but it won't develop your LH properly like Bach et al would.


It isn't either-or though. Believe it or not it is possible find arrangements of popular music that are also technically worthwhile to play. I won't say any more because I have a vested interest and I've probably said too much already about this on another thread. But you can do a mixture for sure. There's also things like the Rock School syllabus for example and Trinity Rock & Pop, which I haven't investigated and maybe they do major on melody and chords but I'd suspect there's more to them.

Last edited by ShyPianist; 05/24/19 09:16 AM.

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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: ShyPianist] #2851735
05/24/19 09:20 AM
05/24/19 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by ShyPianist
Originally Posted by bennevis
Do you want to be able to play like a 'proper pianist', using all your fingers well, and developing hand & finger independence?

Then go for classical. A method that requires you to develop both hands equally.

A method book that starts you off with RH melody and LH chords and continues on down the same route is fine if you're just interested in pop etc, but it won't develop your LH properly like Bach et al would.


It isn't either-or though. Believe it or not it is possible find arrangements of popular music that are also technically worthwhile to play. I won't say any more because I have a vested interest and I've probably said too much already about this on another thread. But you can do a mixture for sure.

Of course, but it won't sound anything like what you'd hear in the original song.

Any tune can be made complicated and technically difficult (heaven knows, I'd done lots of that when improvising on pop and folk tunes in my time) but that often just makes the song sound like a classical fish out of water.......


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: bennevis] #2851736
05/24/19 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by ShyPianist
Originally Posted by bennevis
Do you want to be able to play like a 'proper pianist', using all your fingers well, and developing hand & finger independence?

Then go for classical. A method that requires you to develop both hands equally.

A method book that starts you off with RH melody and LH chords and continues on down the same route is fine if you're just interested in pop etc, but it won't develop your LH properly like Bach et al would.


It isn't either-or though. Believe it or not it is possible find arrangements of popular music that are also technically worthwhile to play. I won't say any more because I have a vested interest and I've probably said too much already about this on another thread. But you can do a mixture for sure.

Of course, but it won't sound anything like what you'd hear in the original song.

Any tune can be made complicated and technically difficult (heaven knows, I'd done lots of that when improvising on pop and folk tunes in my time) but that often just makes the song sound like a classical fish out of water.......


Not necessarily true actually. The original song is very very rarely just melody and chords, but that's what so many piano arrangements end up as. But if a careful arranger/transcriber seeks to bring out the other parts and uses imagination to boot then you can have an arrangement that is close to the original AND requires good pianism. And by that I don't mean it has to be crazy difficult.

Last edited by ShyPianist; 05/24/19 09:25 AM.

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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: ShyPianist] #2851738
05/24/19 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by ShyPianist
Not necessarily true actually. :-)

Is there a pop song that has an interesting LH part for keyboard?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851739
05/24/19 09:25 AM
05/24/19 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by applelover
...would focusing on more traditional classical pieces help me learn and become a better pianist significantly faster?

Thanks!!!


If you want to learn to play modern songs go for it. If you want to learn classical music, learn classical. Imho, there is no short cut for learning the piano, only hard work.
You can learn all the Well-tempered Clavier from Bach but at the end of the day, if you only want to play Metallica or Coldplay, you will have a hard time motivated yourself.



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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: bennevis] #2851741
05/24/19 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by ShyPianist
Not necessarily true actually. :-)

Is there a pop song that has an interesting LH part for keyboard?


I could point you to a couple of arrangements I've done, but that would be breaching the rules I expect. (It would also blow my cover so I'm not going to do that). I edited my post since you replied incidentally.

Last edited by ShyPianist; 05/24/19 09:26 AM.

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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: ShyPianist] #2851745
05/24/19 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by ShyPianist

Not necessarily true actually. The original song is very very rarely just melody and chords, but that's what so many piano arrangements end up as. But if a careful arranger/transcriber seeks to bring out the other parts and uses imagination to boot then you can have an arrangement that is close to the original AND requires good pianism.

Hal Leonard's books of arrangements have what you mean in an attempt to make piano music out of simple songs, but to me, his arrangements sound 'classicalied" and contrived, in the manner I described earlier.

A few of Elton John's songs are the closest I've found to be playable as piano solos without sounding that way.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: bennevis] #2851746
05/24/19 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by ShyPianist

Not necessarily true actually. The original song is very very rarely just melody and chords, but that's what so many piano arrangements end up as. But if a careful arranger/transcriber seeks to bring out the other parts and uses imagination to boot then you can have an arrangement that is close to the original AND requires good pianism.

Hal Leonard's books of arrangements have what you mean in an attempt to make piano music out of simple songs, but to me, his arrangements sound 'classicallied", and in the manner I described earlier.


Exactly why I, personally, have taken to writing my own. And I go right back to the original recordings and then listen, carefully.

Last edited by ShyPianist; 05/24/19 09:29 AM.

Pianist, independent music arranger, violinist, mother
Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851750
05/24/19 09:32 AM
05/24/19 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by applelover
I've had a few dozen piano lessons but am learning on my own now. I chronically choose pieces that are too hard for me to play right and in some cases even come close to learning. I choose them just based on how much I like the song.

I'm starting to think I'm holding back my learning by doing it this way. It's not because I get discouraged. I still enjoy it, progress, and put in time playing. But I'm thinking, everything else being equal, if I put in the same amount of time playing moderate pieces as opposed to pieces too hard for me, I will get significantly more out of it. True? Thoughts?


When playing too difficult pieces without a teacher there is a great risk that you will teach yourself wrong technique, which can be hard to unlearn, and can even lead to injuries, for instance when you overstretch your hands.


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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851751
05/24/19 09:34 AM
05/24/19 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
A method book that starts you off with RH melody and LH chords and continues on down the same route is fine if you're just interested in pop etc, but it won't develop your LH properly like Bach et al would.
I experienced exactly this. I work with a method book that is mostly focussed on LH chords. And I faced a lot of difficulties with hand independence, till I supplemented with other method books and simple classical pieces. I still think my left hand playing would have been better, if I ditched that method book altogether. But then, I also like chords, so I try to maintain a balance.

applelover, you can look for piano method books. I don’t know of any which includes modern songs though. There are some supplemental books containing popular songs with fairly simple arrangements. I have checked those published by Alfred and Faber so far. Sadly, these don’t contain as much recent music as I’d have liked. However, once you get some coordination, you’ll be in better control with the sheet music you are getting from the YouTube tutorials. There are some "easy piano books" available, but be careful to check the score before buying, as these are not so easy for beginners.

Trinity Rock & Pop syllabus, as mentioned above, was very appealing to me in the beginning. However, I later decided to follow the regular Trinity syllabus. You should definitely check it out for reference, as your interests primarily lie there. The rock-and-pop syllabus insists on playing along with a backing track, as far as I know.


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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851752
05/24/19 09:35 AM
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I think having a balance of working on pieces that are at your current playing level, adding a piece at a time that demands a new skill, and then once in a while sprinkling in a challenge piece (that require 2 or more new skills) provides for the best progress.

Playing pieces that are written specifically for piano is very different than cover tunes or transcriptions. Playing stuff idiomatic for piano I think is extremely helpful in not only developing technique that applies to everything you play, but also helps you see what the possibilities are for piano. This you can apply to how you decide to play your covers as well.


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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851802
05/24/19 12:47 PM
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Agree...I often choose music that is too hard. The benefit is playing beautiful music, and learning along the way, but it's at the expense of time that could be put to use playing a larger variety of easier pieces, which might help teach piano more efficiently, getting us to a higher level sooner.


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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851887
05/24/19 05:07 PM
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When I started I chose scores that were pure torture. After a few years, I pulled back and realized one pager can still teach me a lot. So now, I work on 2 pieces for my lessons. One technically tough like Bach 2-part inventions and second piece that is more at my level [often an intermediate score from the latest pianist magazine]. Sight reading practice will be beginner pieces.

My teacher has to support either of the 2 pieces, so his input is critical. He can see things I cant and it has payed out many times when I am insistent on learning a piece 🤣

I think it s great to try a tough piece, but knowing when to stop and tell oneself that ‘not now, later’ is important.

Last edited by Pianoperformance; 05/24/19 05:08 PM.

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Re: Choosing Sheet Music That is Too Hard [Re: applelover] #2851910
05/24/19 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by applelover
I've had a few dozen piano lessons but am learning on my own now. I chronically choose pieces that are too hard for me to play right and in some cases even come close to learning. I choose them just based on how much I like the song.

Thanks!!!


My teachers have always allowed me to pick my pieces so I fell into this trap from the outset. I started so many pieces that were too difficult for me and had to abandon, and those that I sort of got on top off I could never play well, and quickly forgot when I rested them for any time. It was very frustrating and although I loved the challenges and the learning cycle, I never had pieces I could play just for the fun of it. Neither did I ever have the feeling of success, which I think is very important for anyone's well being.

The solution is to learn grade/level appropriate pieces, and not the pieces you like the sound off (which is why after nine months playing I found myself learning grade 6 pieces I never had a chance at finishing). Of course having a stretch piece is important but if at the moment you consider yourself a grade 1 then grade 3 is a stretch piece (not grade 7).

There has been a lot of effort put into categorising classical music (not so sure about other genres), and while there are always pieces that are subject to much debate, there is also much consensus.

This site is very useful as is this


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