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I consider myself blessed because I started piano lessons at eight years old. Starting while still fairly young I think it was less of a struggle to learn with a competent teacher than if my mother just plopped beginner books in front of me and told me to reach myself. Yes, some talented determined adults can teach themselves piano and are successful but it’s much more difficult and time consuming.


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Of course it is possible to self-learn advanced classical repertoire. It's certainly not easy nor efficient compared with working with a good teacher, so I would never recommend this to anyone. But I could do it after many years and back then, there was no internet.

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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
It NOT possible to teach youself from the very 1st tutor book up and through playing
Chopin Etudes ! Someone who says it is ,is either lying or is delusional.


I had a young woman of 20 who wanted lessons with me.She came to meet me and I
was curious to hear her play as she said she taught herself ?
She played a gr4 Handel piece. Her movements were almost convulsive (rigid) She hit
the keys so loud I thought the piano would be out of tune.
No she had NEVER learned how to play. I told her I would have to take her quite a few grades
back.(actually I should have said the very begining )
All her plowing through those useless horrible Hanon exercises had only caused her
more harm.

She phoned me later in the week and thanked me for spending time with her that day.
She said she decided to rather focus on her art than the piano.It seemed she wanted to do
either art or piano to relax from her job.
I am sorry dogsperson but I really do not believe it is possible.
Really I am not trying to be difficult .This is my sincere belief!

There is actually one person on this PW forum who I've met in-person last year who would seem to violate your inviolate rule - johnstaf. I'll let him respond to you if he wants but I'll just say he is a person who plays virtuosic repertoire. For instance, he played Balakirev's Islamey in.a recital many years ago. Yet, he only had teachers for 3 years of his life, when he was already in music school. As he has said in other threads, he does not believe those teachers helped him.

Perhaps Johnstaf was destined to be the next Horowitz- if he only had a teacher.... sigh frown Just kidding Johnstaf!

Last edited by Jethro; 02/16/20 08:56 PM.

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Speaking of Chopin Etudes. This is my teacher. I looked up if she had any videos on youtube. I'm pretty sure she wasn't self taught. Let's get her in a piano duel with Johnstaf to see if teaching makes a difference laugh

Here's her website so she can get some hits. https://www.muenwei.com/ She has a CD out playing amazing series of Waltzes. It's absolutely incredible. Highly recommend you buying it!



Last edited by Jethro; 02/16/20 09:11 PM.

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Originally Posted by Jethro
Speaking of Chopin Etudes. This is my teacher. I looked up if she had any videos on youtube. I'm pretty sure she wasn't self taught.

Here's her website so she can get some hits. https://www.muenwei.com/ She has a CD out playing amazing series of Waltzes. It's absolutely incredible. Highly recommend you buying it!

Your teacher plays very well. Has any of that rubbed off on you yet? 😜


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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Jethro
Speaking of Chopin Etudes. This is my teacher. I looked up if she had any videos on youtube. I'm pretty sure she wasn't self taught.

Here's her website so she can get some hits. https://www.muenwei.com/ She has a CD out playing amazing series of Waltzes. It's absolutely incredible. Highly recommend you buying it!

Your teacher plays very well. Has any of that rubbed off on you yet? 😜

LOL. Baby steps. Baby steps!


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Here's a video of one of the pieces on her CD which she had professionally recorded. She's amazing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=287&v=2JPcErFCNm0&feature=emb_logo

Last edited by Jethro; 02/16/20 09:29 PM.

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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
It NOT possible to teach youself from the very 1st tutor book up and through playing
Chopin Etudes ! Someone who says it is ,is either lying or is delusional.


I had a young woman of 20 who wanted lessons with me.She came to meet me and I
was curious to hear her play as she said she taught herself ?
She played a gr4 Handel piece. Her movements were almost convulsive (rigid) She hit
the keys so loud I thought the piano would be out of tune.
No she had NEVER learned how to play. I told her I would have to take her quite a few grades
back.(actually I should have said the very begining )
All her plowing through those useless horrible Hanon exercises had only caused her
more harm.

She phoned me later in the week and thanked me for spending time with her that day.
She said she decided to rather focus on her art than the piano.It seemed she wanted to do
either art or piano to relax from her job.
I am sorry dogsperson but I really do not believe it is possible.
Really I am not trying to be difficult .This is my sincere belief!

There is actually one person on this PW forum who I've met in-person last year who would seem to violate your inviolate rule - johnstaf. I'll let him respond to you if he wants but I'll just say he is a person who plays virtuosic repertoire. For instance, he played Balakirev's Islamey in.a recital many years ago. Yet, he only had teachers for 3 years of his life, when he was already in music school. As he has said in other threads, he does not believe those teachers helped him.

OK then John is very gifted .Extremely gifted people are rare and RARE means RARE.
I apologize Johnstaf for the the rather nasty things I said !

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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

There is actually one person on this PW forum who I've met in-person last year who would seem to violate your inviolate rule - johnstaf. I'll let him respond to you if he wants but I'll just say he is a person who plays virtuosic repertoire. For instance, he played Balakirev's Islamey in.a recital many years ago. Yet, he only had teachers for 3 years of his life, when he was already in music school. As he has said in other threads, he does not believe those teachers helped him.

Didn't johnstaf have some piano lessons as a kid, as well as later on?


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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Lady Bird
It NOT possible to teach youself from the very 1st tutor book up and through playing
Chopin Etudes ! Someone who says it is ,is either lying or is delusional.


I had a young woman of 20 who wanted lessons with me.She came to meet me and I
was curious to hear her play as she said she taught herself ?
She played a gr4 Handel piece. Her movements were almost convulsive (rigid) She hit
the keys so loud I thought the piano would be out of tune.
No she had NEVER learned how to play. I told her I would have to take her quite a few grades
back.(actually I should have said the very begining )
All her plowing through those useless horrible Hanon exercises had only caused her
more harm.

She phoned me later in the week and thanked me for spending time with her that day.
She said she decided to rather focus on her art than the piano.It seemed she wanted to do
either art or piano to relax from her job.
I am sorry dogsperson but I really do not believe it is possible.
Really I am not trying to be difficult .This is my sincere belief!

There is actually one person on this PW forum who I've met in-person last year who would seem to violate your inviolate rule - johnstaf. I'll let him respond to you if he wants but I'll just say he is a person who plays virtuosic repertoire. For instance, he played Balakirev's Islamey in.a recital many years ago. Yet, he only had teachers for 3 years of his life, when he was already in music school. As he has said in other threads, he does not believe those teachers helped him.

OK then John is very gifted .Extremely gifted people are rare and RARE means RARE.
I apologize Johnstaf for the the rather nasty things I said !


In Jazz, there are people like Art Pepper who became world famous musicians, and claim to be self-taught by ear, and also never to have practiced (which is perhaps true as he spent much of his life in San Quentin jail). He says he couldn't even read music until he was 16 years old, and before then didn't know what a chord was, and just learnt the saxophone by ear.

Although he says he learnt everything from spending his teenage years in jazz clubs - so in some sense he was learning informally from professional musicians.

So people could play alto sax like this without going to a saxophone lesson:



Last edited by 3am_stargazing; 02/16/20 11:09 PM.

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Well buy a saxophone and see ! Perhaps you have the ear.Just learn of a great deal of jazz chords.
Listen a great deal ,improvise every day and who knows ?
At least in jazz one still improvises,the score is not fixed as in Classical music.
If we all improvised more perhaps we would all get more out of music.

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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
If we all improvised more perhaps we would all get more out of music.

+1 thumb

I see a music video on Facebook on occasion of a lady who identifies herself as a pianist improvisionist. And, she plays very well; most everything she plays is off the cuff. Wish I could do that!

I enjoy music in general, no matter how the artist/musician/performer learned it... smile

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This topic came up before. Always interesting to hear what others have to say.

My father learned to play accordion years ago. When he retired around 70, he got a book with very basic songs like "Mary Had a Little Lamb", "Twinkle", "Lightly Row",... He came from the generation who feels uncomfortable learning something to a high level without a teacher.

I've seen young Asian pianists (Chinese, Japanese & Korean) who are child prodigies. In practically every case the parents would get the best teacher in town to "nurture" the child. Buying piano books and letting kids learn on their own is uncommon in the Asian community. About 10 years ago I saw piano playing videos of Jimmy Yu online who was considered a child piano prodigy in Taiwan. He appeared on local TV next to Jay Chou who is a Pop star with Classical piano training. Jimmy Yu taught himself to read music and posted videos of himself playing Classical pieces and Pop tunes. He played with good hand gestures but in his early days got a few sharps & flats mixed up playing a piece of Chopin.

Some people who choose to learn on their own would eventually be enrolled in a prestigious music school like Juilliard and get training with professional pianists. Many people like myself play music as a hobby. Many people learn foreign languages without a teacher. Whether you choose to start without a teacher and how far your playing will go is your decision. Some people feel that they would do things wrong without a teacher and would only touch the keys after their first lesson. I started violin before piano. I know how to read music and learned piano on my own for a few years before getting a teacher at an intermediate level.

2 years ago I met a retired man in his 70s who started piano on his own. The only piece he wanted to learn was Debussy "Clair de Lune" which he heard from his father many years ago. Instead of starting from the bottom and work up, he learned the notes by watching online video demos. His repertoire is limited to just 5 pieces but convinced many people he has been playing for much longer. He has no intention to learn to read notations and would add 1 new piece a year at most by painstakingly following hand gestures in video demos.

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If someone takes three years of lessons I wouldn't consider that person to be self taught except maybe if the lessons were when the person was extremely young. A very talented person can learn a lot in three years from an excellent teacher especially if the work hard during that time.Three years with a terrific teacher combined with a very gifted student is not the equivalent of three years for an average or even talented student.

In terms of classical pianists who have become highly regarded professional pianists, I think the only possibility mentioned so far on this thread is Godowsky. A few others have been mentioned but incorrectly.


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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
Well buy a saxophone and see ! Perhaps you have the ear.Just learn of a great deal of jazz chords.
Listen a great deal ,improvise every day and who knows ?
At least in jazz one still improvises,the score is not fixed as in Classical music.
If we all improvised more perhaps we would all get more out of music.

Lol if I wanted to learn the saxophone, I think I would need to hire a teacher before I could even get any sound out of it.

I self-taught myself the drums when I was at school - we had a good drum kit at school, and it was a way to pass the lunch breaks. But I only play the drums to a very basic and incompetent level.

A funny example of self-teaching, is Keith Jarrett on the soprano saxophone. I guess he just bought a soprano saxophone and started "playing" without any lessons (although it's possible he asked his professional colleagues for lessons)?

He certainly can make some kind of noises on the saxophone, but it is not Art Pepper. Albert Ayler might approve though.



Last edited by 3am_stargazing; 02/17/20 03:53 PM.

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I have had 5 lessons between the ages of 11 and 71, so I guess I am self taught. And it shows! As Anna Russell says: "You can skip the boring parts and drag out the interesting bits as much as you like." And that's what I did. No etudes or scales for practicing, no discipline, no idea of how to count, reading notes like a 4 year old. But, the main thing is that I am having great fun playing. And all my unmusical friends, who are amazed to hear that a piano has a g-string, think I invented fire.


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Originally Posted by ChatNoir
I have had 5 lessons between the ages of 11 and 71, so I guess I am self taught. And it shows! As Anna Russell says: "You can skip the boring parts and drag out the interesting bits as much as you like." And that's what I did. No etudes or scales for practicing, no discipline, no idea of how to count, reading notes like a 4 year old. But, the main thing is that I am having great fun playing. And all my unmusical friends, who are amazed to hear that a piano has a g-string, think I invented fire.

I can relate in many ways. Especially regarding the "fun factor". And, fact is, the piano has several g-strings... smile

As far as formal piano lessons go, I've never had a single piano lesson, from a piano teacher, a day in my life; but that doesn't mean I didn't learn from other piano players, or even teachers. So, I guess I'm doing it all wrong. But I'm having a ball doing it all wrong! smile

I did have some semi-formal basic music lessons when I was in secondary school, particularly elementary school, back when it was an active part of the curriculum, and I did learn to read music a little (can still read a little). When I was in high school, I had the option to take the music class as an elective, and when the music teacher found out I could play the guitar, and bass guitar, she drafted me to play the electric bass guitar with the school choral program band, which consisted of her playing the piano and me playing the electric bass. We were actually a pretty good musical combo and the high school chorus played for many school events and programs.

Plus, I played my banjo with a bluegrass trio for the FFA (Future Farmers of America) string band, and we participated in several competitions, and won 1st place in several of them.

Getting back to the piano, I've been around a piano most of my life, either at school or at Church, and when I had the opportunity to play one, I'd pick and peck around the keys and figure out a few chords and melodies by ear. when I was in my mid 20s, I bought an accordion from a coworker and learned to play it well enough to play it at Church. The accordion was a unique instrument and had keys on the right, and chord buttons on the left. It didn't take me long to figure out how to play some familiar Church hymns well enough to play it at Church, without totally embarrassing myself. Fact is, in the rural south where I lived, you didn't see or hear many people play an accordion. I eventually sold the accordion to a pianist at a Church where I was invited to play the accordion and my other musical instruments for the congregation. After I played the accordian that Sunday, after the service was over, the Church pianist asked me if I'd consider selling the accordion. Since it was not my primary instrument, I sold it to her. I kind of regretted selling it after the fact.

Although I still never had formal piano lessons, I got interested enough in learning to play the piano, and actually had a piano to play at home, when I was in my late 40s. Back then, raising a family and work took up most of my time, and I just couldn't find the time to take formal lessons, even if I had wanted to.

Looking back, (don't we all:-) I wish I had taken formal piano lessons when I was much younger. But hindsight is 20/20. However, what little I can play is a lot of fun, and I've entertained myself, and a few others, along the way. But I'll never achieve a high level of piano playing. Just a hobby, amateur level. But even that has been a lot of fun. Actually, I don't even call myself a pianist; I call myself a backwood, hillbilly piano player wannabe. smile

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Originally Posted by ChatNoir
I have had 5 lessons between the ages of 11 and 71, so I guess I am self taught. And it shows! As Anna Russell says: "You can skip the boring parts and drag out the interesting bits as much as you like." And that's what I did. No etudes or scales for practicing, no discipline, no idea of how to count, reading notes like a 4 year old. But, the main thing is that I am having great fun playing. And all my unmusical friends, who are amazed to hear that a piano has a g-string, think I invented fire.


I can also relate. After having organ lessons in my youth for 5 years my parents happened to buy a small baby grand and I loved playing on that any kind of music I could get my hands on- rock, ragtime, show tunes, movie themes anything I heard on the radio and I would reconstruct it by ear. Got through college getting the girls attention with Howard Jones and Phil Collins, honky tonk music you name it. It was all fun. Then I decided to try some formal group class lessons at my university as an 18 year old freshman and it required an interview and the first thing the lady asks behind the desk was "well what repertoire have you learned?" (As I keenly remember hearing Bach in the background). I fumbled, "Umm, I don't really have any repertoire I was teaching myself". She said, "Oh well, then we need to place you in the beginner group piano class" and I protested and I said, "no ma'am I think I know where my fingers go on the keyboard can I be placed a little higher level?" and she LAUGHED AT ME and announced to the whole room, "This guy wants to join a level 3 piano class and he doesn't even know any Bach" and I swear everyone in the music room department laughed at me. I was so red in the face with embarrassment that I agreed to the beginner class. When the semester started the first thing the teacher started doing was describing the keyboard. "This is a white key. This a black. This is the middle C. You place your hands like this." I was so pissed that I never showed up to another group class and from them on to graduation I had an "X" on my transcript next to group I piano class. Though I used the practice rooms at the school for the arts I didn't want to subject myself to any more ridicule so I avoided the music department.

Then after I graduated I did medical research for the medical school which allowed me to audit music classes and I remembered that "X" that was on my undergraduate transcript. So I decided 6 years later to approach the music department again and enrolled in a piano class to "audit" it without a grade and they let me audit the piano class I wanted to. This time the lady behind the desk was nice and discreet. The experience was a revelation and it was because of this young Asian graduate student who took me kind of under her wing and really encouraged me to continue my formal education. I remember the group class was a 45 minute class and she would spend 20 minutes of that class with me and 5 minutes with the other students. This pattern went on for weeks until I remember one day the other students started banging on their uprights in anger. She looked at them and me and I was thinking to myself, "Oh crap". I remember her asking me what piece classical piece I wanted to learn for the semester and I had no idea so I just blurted the first piece that came to mind and it was the "Blue Danube". I found this nice orchestral transcription and keenly remember seeing her dancing the waltz behind me as I played trying to get the music to flow. By the end of the semester I gave a recital of that piece and everyone in the class loved it.

And that was the start of my classical and formal training. After that it was music conservatories on and off over 25 years when I can and I'm currently at an academy. All my teachers have always wondered how I got so far without any real formal training and very little of the traditional repertoire and I think it was all those years of having fun and trying teach pieces to myself that was actually beneficial in some ways but hurt my development in other ways. I do believe though that I would have been much better served if I had taken piano lessons in my youth and I think I could have been a pretty good piano player by now. Once I was accepted into the formal education scene it has been nothing but full support and encouragement from all my teachers so I'm glad I decided to give it another try.


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Originally Posted by ChatNoir
I have had 5 lessons between the ages of 11 and 71, so I guess I am self taught. And it shows! As Anna Russell says: "You can skip the boring parts and drag out the interesting bits as much as you like." And that's what I did. No etudes or scales for practicing, no discipline, no idea of how to count, reading notes like a 4 year old. But, the main thing is that I am having great fun playing. And all my unmusical friends, who are amazed to hear that a piano has a g-string, think I invented fire.

Me too. I was a professional guitar player until arthritis made it impossible to bend my fingers properly. Now I'm on my third piano and 10 years or so of playing piano daily means I can play a little Chopin, Grieg, Debussy and Scarlatti, etc. but nobody would want to hear me play and I don't blame them.


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Originally Posted by jshelton
Me too. I was a professional guitar player until arthritis made it impossible to bend my fingers properly. Now I'm on my third piano and 10 years or so of playing piano daily means I can play a little Chopin, Grieg, Debussy and Scarlatti, etc. but nobody would want to hear me play and I don't blame them

Keep on playing, John! smile

I'm quite sure others would enjoy hearing you play. I know I would.

Rick


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