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Beginner seeking advice
#3009180 08/01/20 03:03 PM
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I started learning piano a month ago with a method book (Alfred’s Adult All-in-one Piano course Level 1). I’m running into two issues:

1. Biggest challenge I’m facing with this method book (and probably any book) is figuring out how fast am I supposed to proceed. For example right now I’m 30 pages into it and I’m playing “Jingle Bells”. How proficient am I supposed to get at Jingle bells before I move on? Right now I can play at an agonizing speed of 1 note per second (because I’m obviously not good at sight-reading). If I put my mind to it I can certainly memorize it and play it faster. But then I read somewhere that if you want to get good at sight-reading you should not memorize the song. Also, one side of me argues what’s the point in memorizing Jingle bells (unless it helps me become a better piano player). So I’m inclined to move on to the next section of the book. I’m super confused now since I’m not even sure if I’m making any progress. Please help.

2. Various forums and youtube channels recommend that beginners should practice scales. But the book hasn’t prescribed that (at least not yet). Can you recommend a beginner practice routine? Is it key for a beginner to incorporate certain things (such as scales) into their practice (besides going through a method book)?

By the way, I should have mentioned, my ultimate goal is to play classical music (such as Fur Elise). And I’m willing to put in 1 to 2 hours of practice a day. I do practice the opening lines of Fur Elise on the side everyday, and although I’m not good at it (too advanced for my level), that’s probably the most fun part of my piano learning experience so far.

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Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009188 08/01/20 03:27 PM
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In general, the method books teach something new on every page. Identify what that new thing is, and when you are satisfied that you have learned it, go to the next page.

But if you are playing Jingle Bells at 1 note per second, you need to spend some more time on that page. When you can play it at something closer to jingly-Christmas-music tempo, move on.

And don't worry about scales for now...

Sam

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009191 08/01/20 03:37 PM
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I haven’t been playing for a year yet so take my advice with a pinch of salt.

I’ve just looked at 'Jingle Bells' and in my humble opinion, I think you should be looking at getting it absolutely perfect at the same speed that you would sing it.

You are obviously supposed to play it very slowly and accurately at first and you may in the process memorise it but that shouldn’t be a problem at this stage.

If you can play it accurately at a slow pace today, I guarantee that when you play it tomorrow it will be vastly improved.

Each of the exercise is designed to improve a certain skill and if you progress too fast without improving that skill, it may come back to haunt you.

Can I ask, do you look at your hands when playing this piece?

Re: Beginner seeking advice
treefrog #3009193 08/01/20 03:42 PM
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Thanks for the response. To answer your question, no I consciously make an effort to not look at my hands while playing. When I play the tune multiple times though, somewhere muscle memory kicks in and the fingers try to automatically go for the right key (instead of following the sheet music and making the connection).

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009198 08/01/20 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by JM77
Thanks for the response. To answer your question, no I consciously make an effort to not look at my hands while playing. When I play the tune multiple times though, somewhere muscle memory kicks in and the fingers try to automatically go for the right key (instead of following the sheet music and making the connection).

That’s natural and is a good thing. If it wasn’t for this wonderful ability for our fingers to be able to learn with very little input from ourselves, most of us would get nowhere.

I think that providing you are not making a conscious effort to memorise every piece and continue to read the music as you play you’ll be fine.

If you have a digital piano and ipad/laptop, I highly recommend 'Piano Marvel'. I use it as well as method books. It would give you an idea of how proficient you should be on each exercise as you feel obliged to score 100% on each exercise before proceeding. It also introduces scales at various points.

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009199 08/01/20 04:00 PM
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Yes, Learning piano from scratch is tough. I'm also an adult beginner ,but I think I reached intermediate level after several years practice. The beginning years are like heck.

1. How fast to proceed :I remember when I first started to learn, I also played like 1 note per 2 seconds. I found no way to improve sight reading at all . So I forced myself to memorize bar by bar . I remember my first piece is marriage d'amour by Richard Cladman,took me 3 month to memorize. then I moved to Chopin op.9 no.2 ,I thought Chopin is easy . I set a quota that every day memorize 2 bars. So theoritically 2.5 weeks later I can play the whole thing . But it ended up almost half year . But I did improved a lot by this forcibly memorization method, because when you try to memorize you are also sight reading at the same time and enhancing muscle memory.

2. Scales: Actually even now I still don't know what "scale" means though I often hear other people talking about it. I know chords progression , counterpoint , tonality and other basic music theory. But I have 0 knowledge in how to efficiently practice . I just pick pieces that I'm interested and play , so far so good .

Re: Beginner seeking advice
treefrog #3009203 08/01/20 04:17 PM
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[/quote]If you have a digital piano and ipad/laptop, I highly recommend 'Piano Marvel'. I use it as well as method books. It would give you an idea of how proficient you should be on each exercise as you feel obliged to score 100% on each exercise before proceeding. It also introduces scales at various points.[/quote]

I've read good reviews about Piano Marvel. While majority of the reviews are positive (especially on this forum), there are people who criticize the interface being obsolete and difficult to use. Have you experienced that?

I got a free subscription to an app called Skoove. It's not bad, but what it lacks is tempo adjustment and lack of a scoring system (both are features that Piano marvel is supposed to be great at). Also, it just doesn't tell me when I'm ready for the next lesson.

Last edited by JM77; 08/01/20 04:18 PM.
Re: Beginner seeking advice
selfishplayer #3009205 08/01/20 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by selfishplayer
1. How fast to proceed :I remember when I first started to learn, I also played like 1 note per 2 seconds. I found no way to improve sight reading at all . So I forced myself to memorize bar by bar . I remember my first piece is marriage d'amour by Richard Cladman,took me 3 month to memorize. then I moved to Chopin op.9 no.2 ,I thought Chopin is easy . I set a quota that every day memorize 2 bars. So theoritically 2.5 weeks later I can play the whole thing . But it ended up almost half year . But I did improved a lot by this forcibly memorization method, because when you try to memorize you are also sight reading at the same time and enhancing muscle memory.

That's an interesting approach (though sounds a little counterintuitive). Did this method ultimately help you improve your sight reading?

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009206 08/01/20 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by JM77
Quote
If you have a digital piano and ipad/laptop, I highly recommend 'Piano Marvel'. I use it as well as method books. It would give you an idea of how proficient you should be on each exercise as you feel obliged to score 100% on each exercise before proceeding. It also introduces scales at various points.

I've read good reviews about Piano Marvel. While majority of the reviews are positive (especially on this forum), there are people who criticize the interface being obsolete and difficult to use. Have you experienced that?

I got a free subscription to an app called Skoove. It's not bad, but what it lacks is tempo adjustment and lack of a scoring system (both are features that Piano marvel is supposed to be great at). Also, it just doesn't tell me when I'm ready for the next lesson.

Maybe I’m old fashioned because I love the interface and it does everything that I want. Personally, I hope that they never listen to the critics as I like it just as it is.

Its free for 30 days if you want to give it a try. It has separate 'Method' and 'Technique' sections so as well as learning music pieces you will slowly be introduced to scales, chords and arpeggios.
It also has a large music library.

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009228 08/01/20 05:14 PM
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I second treefrog's recommendation of using Piano Marvel.

I've always wanted to play the piano and have collected numerous teaching books over the years. Sadly, I was never successful. Without a teacher to go along with the books, I had no feedback telling me my mistakes, where I needed to improve, etc.

Enter Piano Marvel. From the beginning lesson, you're guided into various parts of music theory using selected piano pieces appropriate to each level as you progress. I've been using Piano Marvel for over a year now and I've come further in my learning / abilities than I ever have before, with or without a teacher.


John_C - Colorado Springs
Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009235 08/01/20 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by JM77
my ultimate goal is to play classical music (such as Fur Elise). And I’m willing to put in 1 to 2 hours of practice a day. I do practice the opening lines of Fur Elise on the side everyday, and although I’m not good at it (too advanced for my level), that’s probably the most fun part of my piano learning experience so far.

Playing so called "stretch pieces" for fun is not a problem as long as you work on your basics too.

If you're into classical the best advice I can give you is to get a teacher. Classical music demands lots of technical skill and good interpretative skills which are really hard to develop without a teacher even if you follow a method.

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009236 08/01/20 05:35 PM
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There is a PM users thread; they will gladly answer questions

Piano Marvel on ABF

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009295 08/01/20 09:47 PM
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Thanks everyone - this is valuable advice. I'll certainly look into Piano Marvel.

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009306 08/01/20 10:48 PM
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just keep doing what you are doing is my advice. Piano is hard, and just how hard was an initial shock to most of us. However, we all have to start at the beginning and just work away at this. As for when to move on in Alfreds, I would second others advice to spend more time on the piece until you are playing it a little more fluently (don't expect perfection though). That doesn't stop you from starting multiple pieces in the book and having them in various states of preparation. This is a very common approach that most people, no matter what level, are doing.

Scales are easier if you approach when you have a better technical ability and a handle on theory, perhaps in a year or two.

Piano Marvel is fine but honestly, if you are learning piano in order to play classical music, and you can afford it, get a teacher.

Don't forget there is also an Alfred Book 1 thread here on ABF

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Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009328 08/02/20 01:01 AM
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I think it's a very bad idea not to look at your hands when playing, you may learn many bad habits from that like stretching for keys and touching keys before playing them. The ability not look at the keys must come naturally with time, when you are ready for it technically.

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009350 08/02/20 02:48 AM
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When it comes to scale exercises, a lot of teachers would get their students to buy a copy of Hanon 60 Exercises. This book is the standard for practicing scales. You'd normally practice just 1 exercise piece a day going up the scale. After you repeated an exercise in 4 octaves going up, you'd go back down 4 octaves. Another book my teacher recommended 2 years ago is a red cover book: The RCM Technique Book with scale exercises.
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Many students get into Alfred's Adult Piano Course series starting from Book 1 and work their way up. Many teachers & students already posted the songs from the Alfred's series online so you should have no trouble learning these pieces.

For people who are serious getting into Classical music, a copy of the Notebook for Anna M. Bach is a start. Sometime ago I got myself a copy of the Notebook and played through a few of the pieces. A number of student repertoire books contain pieces from the Notebook but not all the pieces including Musettes, minuets in it from the 18th century. I found many of the pieces easy to sight-read except teachers prefer certain notes to be played in a certain way on a piano to simulate what people would have done with a harpsichord & clavichord.

You get into the intermediate level, you may be playing pieces out of a Czerny Etude book. My teacher got her students into playing a few pieces from the book. It is for people who are already in the intermediate level like myself.

Re: Beginner seeking advice
Qazsedcft #3009351 08/02/20 02:49 AM
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Originally Posted by JM77
How proficient am I supposed to get at Jingle bells before I move on? Right now I can play at an agonizing speed of 1 note per second (because I’m obviously not good at sight-reading). If I put my mind to it I can certainly memorize it and play it faster. But then I read somewhere that if you want to get good at sight-reading you should not memorize the song. Also, one side of me argues what’s the point in memorizing Jingle bells (unless it helps me become a better piano player). So I’m inclined to move on to the next section of the book. I’m super confused now since I’m not even sure if I’m making any progress. Please help.
You can start playing the next piece already now, and alternate in your practice Jingle Bells and the next piece. I think it is meaningless to memorise the piece - just make sure that you can play it well before you let it go.

Originally Posted by JM77
Various forums and youtube channels recommend that beginners should practice scales.
You need to learn thumb crossing before you learn scales. So you can wait with scales until you have learned that.

Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by JM77
my ultimate goal is to play classical music (such as Fur Elise). And I’m willing to put in 1 to 2 hours of practice a day.
If you're into classical the best advice I can give you is to get a teacher. Classical music demands lots of technical skill and good interpretative skills which are really hard to develop without a teacher even if you follow a method.
I fully agree. If you are that committed, it would be a waste of your effort and dedication not to learn to play well. When self-teaching (as I think you do), you can teach yourself to play the right note at the right time, but it is hard to teach yourself how to play beautifully and expressively.
Piano Marvel, that several people recommend, as far as I understand, teaches very little technique. I haven't used it myself, but a friend of mine did and had to un-learn certain habits when they got a teacher.

Animisha


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Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009370 08/02/20 04:22 AM
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Learning to sight read and learning to play are 2 different things. They dont necessarily progress at the same speed for everybody. So you should not impact your ability to play because you cant read fast enough. Anyway, after you have practised a piece a number of times, you are not really reading it anymore. You should move on to the next piece once you can play it reasonably well, with some fluidity, and proper rythm and tempo. It does not have to be super fast but steady and the tune must be recognizable. So you should practice your sight reading and your playing independently. The point being that you need to learn well whatever skill the method book is trying to teach and not be limited by your sight reading. If you can do both together that is great, if not, you still need to learn in priority the method book.

Usually scales are started a little later once you have learned some basic elements. Hand positions, how to touch the keys, .....

Re: Beginner seeking advice
Animisha #3009391 08/02/20 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
When self-teaching (as I think you do), you can teach yourself to play the right note at the right time, but it is hard to teach yourself how to play beautifully and expressively.
Piano Marvel, that several people recommend, as far as I understand, teaches very little technique. I haven't used it myself, but a friend of mine did and had to un-learn certain habits when they got a teacher.

Hi Animisha - Pardon my ignorance here, but you are offering a perspective that I'm unfamiliar with. I thought 90% of the skill to master is to play the right note at the right time. And maybe 10% is how softly you play it, and whether your finger position is correct etc. Can you please elaborate on the "how to play beautifully and expressively" part?

Also, your comment around "had to un-learn certain habits when they got a teacher" sounds a bit scary. What are the bad habits that one can cultivate using a software such as Piano Marvel?

Re: Beginner seeking advice
JM77 #3009412 08/02/20 08:42 AM
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Hi JM77, playing the right note at the right time is just the very basics of learning a piece. A piano is a very sensitive instrument, and its sound will differ depending on how you play it, on your technique

For instance, compare this correct version of Für Elise with Lang lang playing the same piece. Maybe you should just listen to the two first phrases, so it is easier to compare. Do you hear how brutal and harsh the sounds of the first version are, compared to Lang Lang's sensitive rendition?
So for me, to learn technique, that is, to learn how to create a certain expression - tender, sad, melancholic, or happy, joyful, or strong and powerful, etc - requires so much more practice than just learning to hit the right note at the right time. It also requires a teacher, getting feedback. But it is also so much more gratifying.

About my friend, I actually don't know exactly what habits they had to un-learn. I'll get back at you when I have asked! smile


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