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Joined: Aug 2020
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I have been learning piano for a year.

My teacher has correctly steered me to stay with classical music. The complexity, techniques, theory, reading, scales, and challenges with “classical” bring the piano learning to be rewarding and definitely I will continue this path. Currently playing Burgmuller Etudes, some Bach, Clementi sonatina, along with Beyer book.

Often, friends or family ask about popular music. I have some “fake books” or lead sheet, which in general are easy to read and play melodies, and chords are not so challenging.

Question is how to enrich those simple lines and chords to a more rich music.

Is there any method I could pick on the side to learn some sequences for popular music?

Thank you in advance.

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Like you, I spend most of my practice time with classical, but every now and then I enjoy playing chords and singing at the same time. It's fun when you have visitors because everybody likes to join in. I can only do very basic stuff in terms of accompaniment and would really like to become better at it. I bought the book below for this purpose and am enjoying it so far (only did the first 12 pages so far):

https://www.amazon.com/How-Play-Fake-Book-Keyboard/dp/0634002066

Another resource that I found useful was Pianote's short course entitled "500 Songs in 5 Days." You have to buy it, but if you wait for a promotion I think you can get it for under $50. It contains 7 video lessons in which the instructor (Lisa) explains how to play from a chord chart from the very basic up to a decent level of "trickery" that makes the accompaniment sound richer and more professional. In addition, you also get a PDF with chord charts for 500 popular songs from a wide variety of singers/bands. I thought it was well worth the price I paid for it. Here's a link:

https://www.pianote.com/500-songs


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Originally Posted by Sullivan
I have been learning piano for a year.

My teacher has correctly steered me to stay with classical music. The complexity, techniques, theory, reading, scales, and challenges with “classical” bring the piano learning to be rewarding and definitely I will continue this path. Currently playing Burgmuller Etudes, some Bach, Clementi sonatina, along with Beyer book.

Thank you in advance.
What do you want to study and play? Why do you say "correctly steered you to stay with classical"

Originally Posted by Sullivan
Often, friends or family ask about popular music. I have some “fake books” or lead sheet, which in general are easy to read and play melodies, and chords are not so challenging.

Question is how to enrich those simple lines and chords to a more rich music.

Is there any method I could pick on the side to learn some sequences for popular music?

They might be "easier" to read the hard part is what you bring to the table for the sheet. Are you wanting to play accompaniment only or do piano solo? If piano solo do you want to play single note melody or add triad below melody, etc.? It will also depend on the style of the lead sheet. If it's R&B, modern pop, rock, etc. for how you want to play it. If chords are not too challenging for you does that mean you can read all the various chord symbols and play them, invert them, and voice lead?

I would suggest the "The Pop Piano Book" by Mark Harrison. If you only want to learn pop ballad style it's broken out by genres too. It's very in depth though and can be overwhelming.

I would add it's a whole area of study, just like classical is. If you just want to play a few pop songs and focus on classical you could use someone else's arranmgents, which you probably already know. If we learn a little more about what you want to accomplish we can offer more suggestions. Sorry, I asked a lot of questions, not trying to be rude. I switched over to pop studies about a year ago and I love it.

Last edited by Sebs; 07/12/21 12:14 PM.
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Until playing chords is second nature to you (i.e. you don't have to think what the first inversion of Cm is, your fingers just go there when they see Cm) fake books will be worthless to you.

And if you work hard to learn all the chords so that they just become muscle memory, yourclassical playing will suffer for it, especially your left hand.
After only one year of lessons, I would keep on listening to my teacher...


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Originally Posted by trooplewis
Until playing chords is second nature to you (i.e. you don't have to think what the first inversion of Cm is, your fingers just go there when they see Cm) fake books will be worthless to you.

Why do you think that? You can use a lead sheet/fake book similar to learning a piece. You can see "ok I have a C chord in bar 1 an F chord in bar 2, etc." While they may not be second nature you can figure them and learn some basic voice leading and then play the chords as whole notes in LH then play single note vocal melody in RH, etc. Just because it's a lead sheet doesn't mean you have to improvise on the fly and know all chords and all inversions. You can study a lead sheet practice small chunks just like an arranged piece. I see where you're coming from though as some background and idea of how to interpret it is important, I just wouldn't say lead sheets are useless though.

Originally Posted by trooplewis
And if you work hard to learn all the chords so that they just become muscle memory, yourclassical playing will suffer for it, especially your left hand.
After only one year of lessons, I would keep on listening to my teacher...


And what's cool about chord shapes becoming muscle memory is the same shapes will apply across chords. For example, C major triad in first inversion is exact same shape a F major triad first inversion.

I agree with listening to the teacher as long as it lines up with what you want to learn as they are very two distinct areas of study. IMO it's good to have one area as your focus unless you have the time and desire to learn both classical and pop. For me my primary focus is pop but I still poke around with my very easy classical book but that's a very small amount of practice time.

Last edited by Sebs; 07/13/21 10:33 AM.
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Sebs, I say those things because that has been my experience. Yours may vary.
When I was learning piano at the ages of 7-16, once I got out of the early intermediate stage my teacher assigned 3 pieces for me to work on every week. One classical, one "standard" (40's, 50's) and one popular of my choice.

When I stopped taking lessons I was pretty darn good at all three areas, but over the years I gravitated to the easy ones, and ones I could just read the chords in.

Then I stopped playing altogether for about 25 years, and now, trying to get back into it, my biggest challenge is trying to actually read the left hand as written and not use the chords I still know so well.

It's a discipline. You can pursue your learning curve however you want to, but my suggestion is to learn to sight read well and to be proficient at hand independence. If you can get those two things down well, the rest is just practicing and perfecting.

At that point you will be able to pick up any Fake Book, and, especially if you already know the song, zip through it and play each piece with any number of variations.

Peace.


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Originally Posted by trooplewis
Sebs, I say those things because that has been my experience. Yours may vary.
When I was learning piano at the ages of 7-16, once I got out of the early intermediate stage my teacher assigned 3 pieces for me to work on every week. One classical, one "standard" (40's, 50's) and one popular of my choice.

When I stopped taking lessons I was pretty darn good at all three areas, but over the years I gravitated to the easy ones, and ones I could just read the chords in.

Then I stopped playing altogether for about 25 years, and now, trying to get back into it, my biggest challenge is trying to actually read the left hand as written and not use the chords I still know so well.

It's a discipline. You can pursue your learning curve however you want to, but my suggestion is to learn to sight read well and to be proficient at hand independence. If you can get those two things down well, the rest is just practicing and perfecting.

At that point you will be able to pick up any Fake Book, and, especially if you already know the song, zip through it and play each piece with any number of variations.

Peace.

I was just curious I wasn't saying it was wrong. I simply, thought you were implying if you can't just fly through a lead sheet and improvise on the fly don't bother. I could have been mixing up your words. I see what you mean though I just didn't want to someone to think they can't start with a lead sheet but I agree it's a way different area of study.

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In popular music there's no definitive method to getting started, learning sequences, comping, etc... Some people will tell you it's better to make transcriptions from the music you like or you want to replicate, but that's something not everyone is able to do, some others will tell you to listen a track and try to replicate the sound without transcribing the whole thing, there's of course, methods and books as well...

I think
Originally Posted by Sebs
What do you want to study and play?
This is a very important question, which style are you going for? As someone asked earlier, do you want to accompany or go for solo repertoire? Because if you want to play with other people you should consider as well spending some money on backing tracks of whatever style you're going for.

Given your situation, if your teacher is formed in both fields classical/pop or at least plays a little bit of it ask him directly, If he doesn't know, or doesn't convince you, try a pair of lessons with a jazz/pop piano teacher and tell them you are playing mainly classical stuff but you have some objectives with pop music as well and they will probably guide you properly on whatever you want to accomplish.

Last edited by manueru-san; 07/13/21 03:26 PM.

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