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Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
#2910812 11/11/19 03:23 PM
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Hi all. beginner here just seeking some advice. A little background on my situation. I have always wanted to learn piano and plated a little guitar 10+ years ago, self-taught, using tabs. I’d like to think of myself having above average ear and am able to pick up most melodies and can pick it out in guitar/ piano. I've always loved the piano sounds and how you can play rhythm and lead in one instrument. I started listening to some popular piano players using sythesia and thought maybe I could learn it on my own like guitar years ago. Note, I can't read music. I can read notes on the staff since my kid is taking lessons and I have to help them with practice. I started to play some simple songs, and I would say I practice about an hour a day. Sometimes more sometimes less for the past 6-7 months. Through the online "tutorials", I have probably learned 7-8 songs. Like a number of anime songs (Naruto themes (3 songs)), some rock (stand by me), some popular pieces like (river flows through, Nuvole Bianche, canon in D). I'm currently trying to learn the original arrangement of rondo alla turca, and have been doing this for a week. I have memorized 3/4 of the right hand, and 1/3 of the left hand pieces in the song. The middle part of the right hand with the the fast arpeggios is giving me some issues. I can't play it at the normal speed accurately. That said, I'm wondering if this this piece is too difficult, or if this is an efficient way of learning and progression. My current goal with piano is twofold.

1. I want to be able to learn and "recite" popular songs at events, to my family, and myself of course.

2. To be able to improv any "pop" song. I want to be able to know what chord progressions they are using, and by able to pick out the rhythm, and then be able to "sing" the lead with my right hand and know the correct (scales) to improv. I can pretty easily do that right now with my right hand, but only using single keys at a time. I would love to be able to use chords to make the lead sound "fuller", but I don’t know how to do that.

So with that data in mind, what do you guys think the fastest way to achieve this goal is? Appreciate all the feedback!

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Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910822 11/11/19 03:51 PM
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My own experience:

Started on on YT and memorizing songs. Had some success.

I started worrying that I'd accidentally ingrain some bad technique so sought out a teacher.

I'd recommend getting one for at least a few months minimum. I'd also recommend learning to read music. Like you I was a self-taught guitarist---Though I had read music many years ago (clarinet and saxophone in middle school).

It really helps to better understand all of the nuances---and is a skill that gets easier the more you do it.

So my advice might be to find a teacher and be very forward with your goals. You should be able to find one that will work with you. I think it may really help kick start your journey.

Best of luck!

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910824 11/11/19 03:55 PM
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Ah, what the heck. I haven't been in a good knock down, drag out for a while...

Know that piano is rarely taught this way. But what you are describing might make you a candidate for Scott Houston and some fake books. I had the same goals as you but I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the full blown reading of the grand staff. I'm in too deep to give up at this point.

(I have basically just advocated the piano equivalent of marrying your cousin. Heaven help the children.)

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910829 11/11/19 04:06 PM
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A new video from Robert Estrin aimed at Adult Beginners:


Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
TomInCinci #2910830 11/11/19 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by TomInCinci
Ah, what the heck. I haven't been in a good knock down, drag out for a while...

I came close to posting the Michael Jackson popcorn meme but didn't want to disrespect the OP's earnest question smile


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Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910836 11/11/19 04:24 PM
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Oh, Zach........


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"I tell my piano the things I used to tell you." - Frederic Chopin
Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
thepianoplayer416 #2910838 11/11/19 04:27 PM
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Hi. Thanks for the video. I don’t believe I am overestimating my abilities. I know ima beginner. And I know to take bite sized chunks. I don’t think there have been any sections of the pieces I’ve learned/learning that I have been overwhelmed. If I find it’s difficult, I just slow it way down. I’m probably learning alla turca at 1/3 speed now. Which is fine.

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910841 11/11/19 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by ilumo
Hi. Thanks for the video. I don’t believe I am overestimating my abilities. I know ima beginner. And I know to take bite sized chunks. I don’t think there have been any sections of the pieces I’ve learned/learning that I have been overwhelmed. If I find it’s difficult, I just slow it way down. I’m probably learning alla turca at 1/3 speed now. Which is fine.


I'm not clear what you want, then. Just keep doing what you're doing if it's fine.


Lisa

Playing RCM 8 repertoire
Kawai UST-9, Yamaha CLP565GP & CLP645

"I tell my piano the things I used to tell you." - Frederic Chopin
Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910842 11/11/19 04:31 PM
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Your best bet is (or course) getting a real, qualified, passionate, skilled teacher. One that is well versed in contemporary piano styles, technique, fundamentals, playing by ear, improvisation and teaching adult beginners. In an ideal world they live the door over from you, have a concert grand in a studio to learn from, and you can get 2x 30mins lessons a week at the perfect time for you, switching to 2x 60min lessons after 1 year.

Assuming you've tried that and it's not practical for you, then you have to look at your other options. In order of cost and preference I would put it as:

1. A dedicated 1 on 1 teacher over skype
2. A paid video based service with one teacher to many students
3. A paid video service with a large library of videos for you to work through
4. Buying and following a high quality set of method books that can lead you first through the fundamentals and then into the area you want to pursue. Record yourself regularly and be be constantly reflective and setting smart goals for yourself
5. Learning off free youtube channels
6. Learning off synthesia
7. Just sit down at the piano, randomly hit notes and hope you magically turn into a pianist

Or some combination of all of the above. Of course it is possible to become a great pianist with less efficient methods... it's just less efficient.

I would think Rondo Alla Turca is too advanced for you at the moment. That doesn't mean you shouldn't touch it, it can be very motivating playing something that inspires you. You have to be realistic about your goals and how long it's going to take. I'd think to play something like that 'well' you'd need at least 14 months under your belt. I'm sure you can learn all the notes and make it sound 'like the song', but if you want to really play it, it's just not going to happen at 6-8 months in.

Last edited by AndrewJCW; 11/11/19 04:36 PM.
Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
TomInCinci #2910845 11/11/19 04:35 PM
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Lol. I don’t know what fake books you are referring to are. My goals are not to be super proficient at reading. Unless you guys are saying that’s the only way to accomplish my goals. I’m pretty self aware of my abilities. Also I am not trying to play the pieces perfectly. A small mistake Here and there, wrong note, tempo wrong, etc. 95% is good enough. I wouldn’t mind a teacher but my day job plus children really prevent me from doing that. My kid takes lessons and the teacher is classically trained but am not sure I would be compatible with them.
My kid is playing some beyer books. And they are probably better at sight reading than me. That said they are not better at playing piano. As of yet. Maybe I’m the hare and they are the tortoise smile

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910847 11/11/19 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ilumo
Lol. I don’t know what fake books you are referring to are.

Fake books are made up of lead sheets, explained here. It's not really reading music for piano. More similar to reading tabs for popular guitar.


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
AndrewJCW #2910848 11/11/19 04:48 PM
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Thanks for the response. It looks like the majority of the people are advocating for a teacher. Which I’m not opposed to. If there are any recommendations for something like you mentioned over Skype that would be great. Again, I don’t think I lack dedication to the craft. I am just looking for the most efficient way to get to my goal. That’s why I was hoping to get some advice from people that may have gone down the same path as me before. However the below items are helpful to think about.

As for the piece I think it’s the most advanced that I have attempted so far. But playing it at 1/3 speed it’s not too bad. The fingering in the middle sections at full speed is the hardest part for me. And this is kind of what I’ve been trying to do to improve. Each new piece I learn is teaching me some new facet of the piano. chords, arpeggios, teaching me octaves, etc. but again I might be doing this wrong and could learn more efficiently in another manner.
Most of my other songs took me 2-3 weeks to learn especially in the beginning. The last song was neuvole bianche, which took me about 2 weeks. Now I’m polishing that up and at the same time learning alla turca. I’m using this video.

https://youtu.be/drdnB93Z19s

Thanks again!

Originally Posted by AndrewJCW
Your best bet is (or course) getting a real, qualified, passionate, skilled teacher. One that is well versed in contemporary piano styles, technique, fundamentals, playing by ear, improvisation and teaching adult beginners. In an ideal world they live the door over from you, have a concert grand in a studio to learn from, and you can get 2x 30mins lessons a week at the perfect time for you, switching to 2x 60min lessons after 1 year.

Assuming you've tried that and it's not practical for you, then you have to look at your other options. In order of cost and preference I would put it as:

1. A dedicated 1 on 1 teacher over skype
2. A paid video based service with one teacher to many students
3. A paid video service with a large library of videos for you to work through
4. Buying and following a high quality set of method books that can lead you first through the fundamentals and then into the area you want to pursue. Record yourself regularly and be be constantly reflective and setting smart goals for yourself
5. Learning off free youtube channels
6. Learning off synthesia
7. Just sit down at the piano, randomly hit notes and hope you magically turn into a pianist

Or some combination of all of the above. Of course it is possible to become a great pianist with less efficient methods... it's just less efficient.

I would think Rondo Alla Turca is too advanced for you at the moment. That doesn't mean you shouldn't touch it, it can be very motivating playing something that inspires you. You have to be realistic about your goals and how long it's going to take. I'd think to play something like that 'well' you have at least 14 months under your belt. I'm sure you can learn all the notes and make it sound 'like the song', but if you want to really play it, it's just not going to happen at 6-8 months in.

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
Tyrone Slothrop #2910851 11/11/19 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by ilumo
Lol. I don’t know what fake books you are referring to are.

Fake books are made up of lead sheets, explained here. It's not really reading music for piano. More similar to reading tabs for popular guitar.


Yea. I have no problem with reading tabs. That’s how I did it with guitar, and I was content with the results. Learned a few pentatonic scales to jam with and that was fun. Hoping to do some of that with piano. Also I’m comparing the synthesia YouTube videos to tabs. Just following the notes and their fingering.

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ebonykawai #2910855 11/11/19 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by ebonykawai
Originally Posted by ilumo
Hi. Thanks for the video. I don’t believe I am overestimating my abilities. I know ima beginner. And I know to take bite sized chunks. I don’t think there have been any sections of the pieces I’ve learned/learning that I have been overwhelmed. If I find it’s difficult, I just slow it way down. I’m probably learning alla turca at 1/3 speed now. Which is fine.


I'm not clear what you want, then. Just keep doing what you're doing if it's fine.


The improvising part and being able to pick up song so hear on the radio and play them. Maybe this is the part that needs the teacher. I’m interested in a good one over Skype if that’s a thing. Open to recommendations.

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910857 11/11/19 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by ilumo
Learned a few pentatonic scales to jam with and that was fun. Hoping to do some of that with piano.

Take a look at this post about this online pop piano course, if pop piano is your main interest.

A course like this won't help that much with classical (such as Rondo Alla Turca) though. For that, you really need to a teacher (in-person or individual one-on-one online) or you need an online classical piano course with individualized feedback such as mentioned here. There are a number of teachers on this forum that teach via live video messenger (Skype-like) such as my piano teacher.


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across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910858 11/11/19 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by ilumo
I'm currently trying to learn the original arrangement of rondo alla turca...I'm wondering if this this piece is too difficult, or if this is an efficient way of learning and progression. My current goal with piano is twofold.

1. I want to be able to learn and "recite" popular songs at events, to my family, and myself of course.

2. To be able to improv any "pop" song...

...what do you guys think the fastest way to achieve this goal is?
Alla Turca is not an easy piece for a beginner but isn't impossibly difficult. The chances are high that you'll learn it with some pretty awkward technique and will never enjoy playing it as much, later on, as pieces you learnt with more experienced fingers.

What you're doing is not inefficient per se. You're tackling stuff that you can hear, regardless of what you can read. If your ear is good then what you're doing is fine - to a point. A faster way of progressing is to ADD reading ability and technical skills. The reading means you'll probably need to go through some easy pieces while you learn to respond to the notation. Technical skills require a variety of pieces, not mechanical drills.

The technical skills may well come naturally if your ear is good enough, at least to the point of entertaining casually and enjoying yourself. If the technical skills aren't coming on as much as you'd like and you're not in the teacher market get some material intended for early intermediates, rather than raw beginners, and get used to marked fingerings, basic harmonies and harmonisation techniques based on classical material - the birth of tonal music is where pop comes from. Don't think of it as 'classical' if that irritates but think of it as tonal beginnings, training for each finger as an independent entity, standard keyboard techniques and really low royalties!

If you can get on with guitar tab you'll get on with reading if you can start with easy enough material. Have a look at The Anna Magdalena Notebook, Albums for the Young by Schumann (Op. 68) and Tchaikovsky (Op. 39) and Burgmuller's Progressive Studies, Op. 100. These are basically good music for an imaginative player of any age, not specifically classical music and not just for children.

If you need to start lower than those you might check a selection of method books (I don't recommend one on its own) but avoid adult all-in-one versions. Focus on hearing what you read before actually playing it and go with the rhythm more than with the pitch. Beyer is actually a good source of reading material. Once you get used to actually reading, even of simple stuff like that, you'll be surprised how much more advanced you can go in bigger steps. If you need elementary instruction go with children's books and ignore the pictures. By taking small steps you can get to the top of the stairs, by taking leaps you can miss out on things that you need and you may need to take the stairs one at a time in order to find out what you're missing. Does that make sense?

You may need to learn the scales and the circle of fifths. There are better and worse ways of going about it but you do NOT need to practise them on a daily basis. Just know them and understand how they fit together. Chords, broken and solid, and arpeggios will help, alongside daily scale playing _after you've been at it a couple of years_ but you needn't go much beyond the keys you use.

But, I reiterate, don't stop doing what you're doing. Just add to it.


Richard
Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2910860 11/11/19 05:03 PM
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Have fun then!


Lisa

Playing RCM 8 repertoire
Kawai UST-9, Yamaha CLP565GP & CLP645

"I tell my piano the things I used to tell you." - Frederic Chopin
Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2911466 11/13/19 09:26 AM
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Thanks for the video, I think what he says is very down to earth and very true. You've got to realize that the method he advocates IS the most effective. The most efficient way to learning to play piano well, however, is not at all the same as learning to play one single piece satisfying well. The simple beginner's pieces are not something you can skip because you think the more advanced ones are so much more juicy and tempting - I mean, don't we all think so?

I have tried learning Rondo Alla Turca several times during the years, first time when I had played for about 2 years. No, it did not work out well for me. Just as you, I THOUGHT I played the easier sections pretty good, but crashed totally in those octave parts. Truth is, I played it all bad and worse. I did not know better, I don't judge myself too hard about this because I was just like everybody: you cannot always know what you don't know.

Today, after many years, I learn this and I feel that I have control of it now. Actually I'm learning the whole sonata, and in the context of the other movements, the Rondo feels a bit different. A sonata does not consist of 2-4 movements that have no connection to each other, they "echo" each other. What you start to say in the first movement's beautiful theme, you end with the coda of the Rondo. Then, of course, the Rondo Alla Turca is also often played as a solo piece and then you should approach it differently, maybe.

Why do I ramble about this? Because I want to show you that complicated pieces are build on experience and knowledge about so many details that you cannot just ignore and skip. It is like I want to learn how to drive a car with automatic transmission without any kind of previous experience, and you show me how to operate the pedals and the steering wheel. After all, what else is there to know? Off we go! And the first thing we do is to get out in the afternoon traffic jam on a four lane highway. We learn the other funny gadgets on the dashboard, not to mention the traffic rules, as we go ... Ok, that was fairly drastic, but most of us can figure out how such a first lesson will end ... Hey, who needs theory lessons, I learned how to ride a bicycle years ago!
(For the record, I've had my driver's license for 35 years by now and I got it the usual, hard way with many lessons and many months of training. But I still have a clean record.)

Fortunately a "piano crash" is harmless compared to this. You will not die from the experience and it will not cost you any money or put you in jail, but still you risk to get injuries and most of all, lose your joy and interest in playing. You will soon realize that you don't seem to improve anymore no matter how hard to practice, and the usual away explanation here is "obviously I don't have enough talent" and you think that better pianists simply are born with some traits you never got yourself, especially the joy of playing dull scales for hours and hours and hours ...

So back to the Rondo. I tried so say, in many words, that music theory, analysis, and many many hours of training with dedicated exercises and simpler pieces are absolutely necessary as a preparation. Ok, so you don't need special exercises for this piece alone, but you need the general knowledge. So there was a day when I was sure on how to play octaves fast and with the correct fingering, because I had done it so much. I knew a lot of stuff on different techniques you need to know both in theory and also in your muscles. Without this knowledge you will not only play bad, but you will also hurt yourself. Tension is always a sign that there is something you don't know well enough (yet). If you have this necessary technique base, all you have to do is learning the right notes and then you just play. The building blocks of the Rondo really ARE elementary - if you have practiced them a lot before. Scales, octaves, arpeggios, yup, no big deal, no complicated fingering or difficult rhythm. But don't start LEARNING these things in the Rondo, please.


Learning notes is easy. It really is. If you look for basic music theory on the net and start reading it today, you will probably have a pretty good foundation tomorrow. If you learn that foundation, I bet you will never regret it.

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
ilumo #2912022 11/14/19 05:46 PM
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So you have been playing piano from scratch for 7 months and can play pieces through like Canon in D, Nuvole Bianche within 2 weeks? To me that is remarkable progress in such a short time in terms of playing ability even if you are just memorizing pieces. As others have mentioned, the foundations of improv are rooted in a pretty deep practical expertise in music theory and understanding of scales and chord theory. That is, if you want to whip up arrangements of pop songs just using the chord structure and picking out the melody by ear. Yet, you seem to pick things up very quickly so consider private lessons and take advantage of the plethora of YT videos and instructional materials on the net. I do think a good mentor would take you far though so a teacher would be really valuable or someone you can work with that you can develop your improv skills with who's proficient as well.

Re: Advice on practice methodology for adult beginner
zrtf90 #2912105 11/14/19 09:22 PM
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Zrt,

Thanks so much for this advice. It's really appreciated. I would love to learn to be more proficient at reading music, but unfortunately there are so many hours a day I can devote to practicing so based on my goals, I'm not sure if that's the most efficient way to get there. Part of me is learning theory through my child, since I have to help them get through their pieces, which I have to "count" with them to keep their rhythm steady as well as correct them playing the wrong notes at times. That said I LOVE playing piano now, and especially when going through the pieces I enjoy and making progress. The day that I was first able to play with two hands was extremely exciting, and a day that I never thought would come, lol. The day that I was able to play octaves relatively quickly was another milestone. to be able to an arpeggio that required me moving hand positions, was another one. And I love a challenge too, which is why I'm trying to learn alla turca at this time. I am going to try to post a video this weekend to show my progress, and would love to get some technical critiques from you all.
I will have to look into what scales to learn and what the circle of 5ths are. but those sound interesting.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by ilumo
I'm currently trying to learn the original arrangement of rondo alla turca...I'm wondering if this this piece is too difficult, or if this is an efficient way of learning and progression. My current goal with piano is twofold.

1. I want to be able to learn and "recite" popular songs at events, to my family, and myself of course.

2. To be able to improv any "pop" song...

...what do you guys think the fastest way to achieve this goal is?
Alla Turca is not an easy piece for a beginner but isn't impossibly difficult. The chances are high that you'll learn it with some pretty awkward technique and will never enjoy playing it as much, later on, as pieces you learnt with more experienced fingers.

What you're doing is not inefficient per se. You're tackling stuff that you can hear, regardless of what you can read. If your ear is good then what you're doing is fine - to a point. A faster way of progressing is to ADD reading ability and technical skills. The reading means you'll probably need to go through some easy pieces while you learn to respond to the notation. Technical skills require a variety of pieces, not mechanical drills.

The technical skills may well come naturally if your ear is good enough, at least to the point of entertaining casually and enjoying yourself. If the technical skills aren't coming on as much as you'd like and you're not in the teacher market get some material intended for early intermediates, rather than raw beginners, and get used to marked fingerings, basic harmonies and harmonisation techniques based on classical material - the birth of tonal music is where pop comes from. Don't think of it as 'classical' if that irritates but think of it as tonal beginnings, training for each finger as an independent entity, standard keyboard techniques and really low royalties!

If you can get on with guitar tab you'll get on with reading if you can start with easy enough material. Have a look at The Anna Magdalena Notebook, Albums for the Young by Schumann (Op. 68) and Tchaikovsky (Op. 39) and Burgmuller's Progressive Studies, Op. 100. These are basically good music for an imaginative player of any age, not specifically classical music and not just for children.

If you need to start lower than those you might check a selection of method books (I don't recommend one on its own) but avoid adult all-in-one versions. Focus on hearing what you read before actually playing it and go with the rhythm more than with the pitch. Beyer is actually a good source of reading material. Once you get used to actually reading, even of simple stuff like that, you'll be surprised how much more advanced you can go in bigger steps. If you need elementary instruction go with children's books and ignore the pictures. By taking small steps you can get to the top of the stairs, by taking leaps you can miss out on things that you need and you may need to take the stairs one at a time in order to find out what you're missing. Does that make sense?

You may need to learn the scales and the circle of fifths. There are better and worse ways of going about it but you do NOT need to practise them on a daily basis. Just know them and understand how they fit together. Chords, broken and solid, and arpeggios will help, alongside daily scale playing _after you've been at it a couple of years_ but you needn't go much beyond the keys you use.

But, I reiterate, don't stop doing what you're doing. Just add to it.


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