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Beginners who switched from other instruments?

Posted By: Jaker

Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 06:03 PM

Hi, I'm new here my name is Jacob I'm 24. I've been playing guitar since I was six and picked up the saxophone a while back when my interest in jazz grew. Needless to say I got a pretty decent knowledge in theory, chord construction and rhytm.

I have a son who's 16 months and another one on the way. And since my days are filled the only practice time I have is when he's asleep at night. So I decided now would be a good time to learn piano since I can practice almost completely silent.

Are there other people here who like me already got alot of musical knowledge who can tell me how they started out and how fast they progressed etc?

I have a pretty hard time finding good study courses and stuff since alot in the beginners books are old news for me and I know the chords and such. Are there any books or dvds aimed at people like me? Or should I just suck it up and start with mary had a little lamb? (that's how I started playing sax and that went well)
Posted By: casinitaly

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 06:15 PM

Hi Jacob, welcome!

I had a musical experience before starting piano - I played bass clarinet, clarinet, and guitar (um, not all at the same time smile )

Even though I had experience reading some pretty sophisticated music (Tchaicovsky, Holst, Bach, Handel...) I found moving to piano and having to use both hands, doing different things, having to learn the bass clef... well, it was not as easy to get rolling as I had expected.

I definitely had some advantages - I understood how to look at music, had some background in theory but it wasn't easy.
I'm not quite double your age, so maybe you've got the edge on me there smile - and I don't lay any claims to a great deal of talent. However, determination and perseverance I have.

The fact of the matter is that everyone is different and in general we each find one particular aspect of piano more difficult than the person beside us.

You will probably move very quickly through the very basic stuff, but you may well want to start with the "baby" books (though they do have Adult beginner books, particularly popular on this forum are the Alfred series) - and you may well find you whip through them very quickly - but you'll have a good overview of the basics.

Personally I'm happy to have a teacher. I find that my teacher has helped me a lot with correct posture and hand positioning - as well as being extremely helpful with explaining how to manage tricky bits of music (tricky for me!). I am sure I would have figured some things out on my own, but it would have taken me a long time and probably would have been very frustrating.

On the other side of the coin, tons of folks in the forum don't have and don't want a teacher, and they seem to be doing well.

Have a look at the sticky at the top of the forum "Important info" and you'll find lots of links to helpful sites.

Posted By: ClsscLib

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 06:30 PM

Welcome, Jaker.

I played classical double bass off and on for over forty years before starting as a piano newbie. My account would track Casini's pretty closely. Prior serious musical experience helps, but only so much. Piano is quite different from bass, probably less so from guitar (guitars confront much more in the way of chords and polyphony).

I'd recommend taking at least a few lessons with a teacher early on to get your technical foundations established.

Good luck! Piano is a lot of fun, though endlessly challenging.
Posted By: dannac

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 06:39 PM


I started guitar at 33. Played approx 15 years. Played in a local band for 5 or 6 years.

Started piano at 52. Made 59 in December and play piano at church.

No formal lessons for either. Learned from books, videos, and listening.

Listening meaning ... hearing piano parts that sound good to me, and then learning them. That's what I mainly do nowdays to learn.

I use a software program called "Transribe" that allows you listen to a song (mp3 or wav) and loop/repeat sections and slow them down.

You will get many answers here ... some say you must have a teacher ... some say you do not need teacher.

It depends on your goals as a player, and only you can answer that.

Good luck !
Posted By: Jaker

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 06:57 PM

Thanks for all the replies. It's fun to see other people switching from other instruments.

I think that alot of people start to really realize the beauty of piano when they play other instruments. It's so logic and such a huge huge tool. It's really not that fun to play saxophone by yourself =) The bass clef scares me a little.

I actually took a couple of lessons on piano a couple of years back. Unfortunately i was really into developing my guitar chops at that time and the teacher was not that good.

I have also studied with a truly awesome jazz guitarist we handled jazz theory and improvising in general. I played sax when I took lessons from him. Other than that I had no formal training.

So I'm torn when it comes to lessons it all depends on the teacher.

What kinda music do you guys play classical, jazz showtunes?

Also any love for a series called learn & master piano?
Posted By: Andy Platt

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 07:01 PM

Here are two suggestions:

This one isn't available new but should be easy to find second hand. It is intended specifically for those who have existing music knowledge - perhaps primarily those who are studying music and have to learn piano as a second instrument:

Keyboard Profiency

This one is a great book but it has quite a steep learning curve; but for someone who already knows theory it will skip a lot of the pieces you already know:

Piano Handbook
Posted By: Farmerjones

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 08:45 PM

i've played guitar and banjer since 1980. Fiddle & mandolin since 2003. I got interested in piano last June. I basically had to commit to memory the names of the black and white thingys and that was it. smile
For the music i play, i still don't feel the need to site read,
though i can imagine the nessesity, if the tune is long and complex. im just old/wise enough to trust my curiosity will provide what i need. It's been a tremendously fun journey so far.
Posted By: Wuffski

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 10:28 PM

Welcome Jaker. My story does not perfectly fit yours, but guess yourself about the differences based on my personal information given in my signature below.
Although I suppose that you are most interested to learn to play jazz piano, I anyway will comment on something having strict orientation to classical piano music:
Starting my piano journey half a year ago I also found this forum. "Alfred's Adult" course seems to rule here much, but I just couldn't get warm with it. Had it in my hands in a book store, and found its pieces very unalluring. Instead I found "The Classic Piano Course" by Carol Barratt. Go directly for the "Omnibus Edition: Books 1,2 & 3". The publisher CHESTER MUSIC seems to be not much known here, but has really excellent teaching material!!! The method strictly focuses on classic music, therefore the title. No kids, no folk, no country, no Top40 pieces. I rushed through the first 30 pages in a day. Then I first time needed to slow down somewhere between page 30 and 40. And I noticed, that there has to be a lot of practicing done to proceed to the next pages! Each page introduces two new things. You should not miss to concentrate on each of them! That's quite work and needs self discipline. If you don't do, then you later on will not be able to well follow the more and more difficult pieces anymore. But I you made it to page 55, then your fingers should already be well trained and you can start to look out for whatever YOU are interested in. You would still have in this book 50 more pages left, to go through more keys and rythm, how to use the pedals, and the plenty of other details one should be interested in. If you once finshed the book you for sure will have so well skills on all piano basics, that you could either advance with just more and still much more difficult classical pieces (an endless journey) or switch to another method book like "Improvising Blues" by Tim Richards for instance. Or to some jazz method, which others would have to recommend you.
Posted By: Rostosky

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/07/13 10:52 PM

Originally Posted by casinitaly
However, determination and perseverance I have.

Then far should you go, young jedi!

Sorry cas, couldnt resist.
Posted By: Sand Tiger

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/08/13 04:00 AM

I don't have any resources, but I will share my story. I started on piano keyboard in March 2012. My background was over 10 years on pennywhistle and more than five years on Irish flute. I had holes in my music background such as poor sight reading, and relatively slow twitch muscles for playing the fast traditional Irish tunes that are popular on those instruments. I consider myself a competent amateur songwriter, mostly songs with lyrics, though I have written my share of instrumentals. I mostly play original music and enjoy performing for small audiences.

Honestly, I thought I would be terrible at piano. because of my poor sight reading, and zero knowledge of chords. When I was in choir I always wanted to sing the melody line, so even basic harmonies were not something I was comfortable with. Chronic long term physical problems with hands, wrists, shoulders, neck mean my practice time is limited and must be carefully monitored.

I didn't have the resources for piano lessons and knew my poor sight reading would be a non-starter with most piano teachers, and most method books. Many might cringe at the road I choose. I mostly downloaded tutorials from Youtube. I looked for topics of interest. Looked at a lot of stuff, still do. I found tunes in ABC notation. ABC is a real and full music notation that is popular in folk music from where I came from and there are thousands of arrangements available for free download. I found tunes in MIDI format so I could listen.

My road isn't a path I would recommend to others. There is a ton of information out there for the self-learner, though a lot is of low quality. After 11 months, I still mostly write my own music, with an occasional cover tune mixed in. I can find joy just playing random notes at times.

What I conclude is that consistent time and effort produces results. That different people learn at different rates, but progress usually demands a good deal of time. I have some strengths and some weaknesses, as do most other beginners. Some things I find easy such as performing live, others might struggle with. Some things others find relatively easy, such as learning to sight reading, I find incredibly difficult despite my efforts.

It is humbling to see what others can do, often after a much shorter time. One thing I keep in mind is that most of those sharing their music online (recital, piano bar, composers forum) tend to be in the top 10% group in terms of experience, and skill. Those in the lower 90% are much less likely to share and much more likely to share once or twice then disappear.

Time alone doesn't mean much, because a year at 15 minutes a day, is far different from one hour, or two hours or more. It is absolutely vital for me to keep it fun. It is a hobby for me, and if it stops being fun, it is time to find another hobby.
Posted By: Bobpickle

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/08/13 06:13 AM

Originally Posted by Andy Platt
This one is a great book but it has quite a steep learning curve; but for someone who already knows theory it will skip a lot of the pieces you already know:

Piano Handbook

I just looked at the table of contents on amazon and holy $%^&; what a comprehensive amount of stylistically diverse material. I suppose that if someone thoroughly understands and can apply most all the ideas in respect to maybe another instrument, though, then its an approachable method.
Posted By: Jaker

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/08/13 07:59 AM

Thanks for all the tips. I will have a look at the classical books.

I'm lucky in the sense that I have a almost sick perseverence when it comes to practicing. When I started saxophone I went to jazz jams after practicing 4-5 hours a day for the first year and didn't make a fool of myself. So if I find a method that works I can truly commit.

But I think the technical aspects of piano have to be studied more than on sax for instance. On the sax I had a schedule I made for myself that lasted on hour. it looked like this

All major scales 10 Min
2 different scales in all keys 10 min each (depending on what I was doing at the time)
1 3 5 7 9 then scale down 10 min
9 7 5 3 1 then scale up 10 min
Long tones 15 minutes 10

After that I usually practiced standards and transcriptions others and my own.
This was my own routine if I had songs to practice for my band or improv lessons I did those on the side.

But this time I think I will be able to swing 1-2 hours a day. And It's mostly the hand separation I need to worry about the classical book will be good for that I think.

I got alot of books on jazz improv that are not specific for an instrument I also have the mark levine jazz piano book somewhere.
Posted By: Wuffski

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/08/13 09:41 AM

Originally Posted by Jaker
It's mostly the hand separation I need to worry about the classical book will be good for that I think.

Yes, it is perfect for this. With your practicing experience you will quickly enjoy results. When she presents on the first pages first excercises for the right hand only, donĀ“t hesitate to come back here after some time to just repeat all this but now playing it with the left hand (and vice versa). The teacher (the book) does not explicitly ask you to do it, but doing so right away doubles the number of excercises for each hand, and you also will earlier gain that your fingers become used to move how ever it might be necessary, without getting stuck with them in fewer, favored (later on most frequently used, though) fingering patterns.

Wish you all the best!
Posted By: Ken.

Re: Beginners who switched from other instruments? - 02/09/13 09:29 AM

I'm a sax player and have used piano for harmony but never learned to play it until 5 years ago. Sax is still my main instrument but I am able to fit in about 30 minutes of piano practice a day. My sax teacher referred me to a church piano teacher who charged a very reasonable rate.

I play mainly jazz on sax but for piano I split my time between classical and jazz. Since my teacher knew I already knew music she gave me a few basic exercises plus a 2 or 3 classical pieces to learn at a time for my practice, rather than using the standard beginner piano books from Alfred etc. I took lessons for about 2 years.

For jazz piano which I studied by myself, I got a book called Berklee Jazz Piano by Ray Santisi. I also looked at Mark Levine's Jazz Piano book, Phil Degreg's 'Jazz Keyboard Harmony' and Noah Baerman's Jazz Keyboard.

They are all good books worth looking at. I chose Santisi's as it dealt with both Harmony and Improvisation and was the most concise at 100 pages. If you are familiar with jazz harmony then it should be ok but some have said they wish it had more explanation in places.

I also wanted to learn correct pedagocical fingering so got the FJH Classic Scale Book from my teacher, and 'The Source' by Steve Barta which is good for jazz scale and 7th chord fingerings.

For tunes I use 'Thelonous Monk Easy Piano Solos' for jazz, plus applying the concepts from the Santisi's book to Real Book tunes, and for classical I'm still going through some of the tunes assigned by my teacher like Bach's Inventions, a Chopin Prelude, and a Beethoven Sonata.

I also have a list of other tunes that I chose mainly by using a list that I got from this web site. If you do a search or ask you should be able to find it. It lists composers pieces along with their difficulty. You can download many of them from the imslp website.
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