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#1026096 - 12/18/04 12:56 PM What am I missing?
DarenT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/18/04
Posts: 96
Loc: Vancouver, BC
I read most of the topics posted in the Adult Beginner's Forum. I find them informative and I certainly do appreciate the responses I receive to questions I post from time to time. But I am getting confused! \:\( What am I missing? I regularly read about others learning the chords and scales. Why is this so important if all one has to do is read the music? What does it matter what scale you are in if you are following the notes on the page?

To my way of thinking there could easily be three categories for which a student could study. Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced. Beginners would just learn enough to follow the music: learn the keyboard and note symbols and beats, etc. Intermediate with more study of scales and chords could then improvise. Finally, Advanced students could study more so that they could compose music! So why so much emphasis on memorizing scales?
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#1026097 - 12/18/04 01:05 PM Re: What am I missing?
CJHoward Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/04
Posts: 29
Loc: Pt Arthur TX
Hmm, every course I've ever seen, usually breaks it up that way.
In my opinion, music theory is simply learning how to talk about what we communicate on our instruments. It helps us explain the why's or how's.
For me, it makes it easier for me to understand why I'm doing whatever, which makes it easier for me to do it.
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#1026098 - 12/18/04 01:12 PM Re: What am I missing?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I can't explain the utility of scales. I guess they helped me get over the fear of key signatures, but that's about it.

Practicing chords makes sense to me, though. I can't possibly decipher 5-6 notes all at once. But I am hoping that if I can recognize a particular chord as a diminished seventh chord, perhaps the task of playing chords won't be so daunting.
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#1026099 - 12/18/04 01:21 PM Re: What am I missing?
CJHoward Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/04
Posts: 29
Loc: Pt Arthur TX
Cindy, do you mean to look at a cluster of notes on a staff and say "ahhh, that's just a dim7 chord"


hmm, I didn't think that was possible(us guitar players try not to read music, so at times we make up excuses)

but if that is the idea behind sight reading, then that makes more sense, than the way I thouhgt it worked.
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Ain't nothing wrong
Ain't a damn thing right
Gonna be coming home
But baby not tonight

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#1026100 - 12/18/04 04:03 PM Re: What am I missing?
PianoBeast10489 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/17/04
Posts: 830
Loc: Virginia Beach,VA
learning scales makes it easier to play them in a peice better, faster, and more clear. Learning chords helps you to recognize the chords on the page, and its easier to figure them out then to sit there and look at them trying to. In Bartok's Bear Dance, a relatively easy peice, there are some freaky chords in there, but if you know them, same thing with arpeggios, it makes them a lot easier!

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#1026101 - 12/18/04 04:53 PM Re: What am I missing?
Luckychwee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/30/04
Posts: 231
Loc: Singapore
Hi DarenT, as you may see from my other posts, I am very new to piano and all in all only around 3 mths. I've read alot of postings in this forum as well as those at piano forum and indeed I learned so much more than from my teacher. I am very sure if I follow the pace of how my teacher teaches me, I will be at least half-way behind.

In my opinion, after learning scales my fingers dont seem to be as tense as before and I can feel all the keys much better. This is a breakthrough for me for the past one week after trying Bernard's method to feel the black keys. I need not have to rely on my eyes to identify which note my fingers are falling on. Not that you only learn C major but others like B, Db, E whereby there is a combination of white & black keys.

As for chords, it is more for pop/modern music that provide a stronger sense of dynamics to the whole piece of music. (Please correct me as this is my personal observation & opinion) and my other opinion is that as you need to use more than a finger to press the keys, you have to use more strength and therefore help to strenghten your fingers.
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An apple a day keep the doctor away,
A smile a day chase your sadness away,
A chat a day drive all loneliness away,
And a prayer a day never keep our Jesus away
And let's praise our Lord, our King, our God all the way ....

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#1026102 - 12/18/04 06:40 PM Re: What am I missing?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
First of all, again, our fingers don't need strengthening. We just need lots of practice at aiming our fingers to hit the correct keys. Almost all the strength from pressing down on the keys comes from gravity, (arm weight), upper arm and shoulder muscles.

Anyway, the importance of just learning scales is so that you know the notes to a particular key. If a piece is in G-Major and you don't know that key, then you have to keep remembering that F is sharped when you play the piece. If you know the G scale well though, you'll automatically hit F# when you see F on the sheet.

Yes, you can slowly, meticulously, arduously learn ever piece from the music. But if you learn and become thoroughly familiar with scales, chords, and harmony, then music becomes so much easier and the amount of music you can play becomes virtually unlimited.

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#1026103 - 12/18/04 07:13 PM Re: What am I missing?
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
 Quote:
Originally posted by CJHoward:
Cindy, do you mean to look at a cluster of notes on a staff and say "ahhh, that's just a dim7 chord"


hmm, I didn't think that was possible(us guitar players try not to read music, so at times we make up excuses)

but if that is the idea behind sight reading, then that makes more sense, than the way I thouhgt it worked. [/b]
This is one of the utilities of chord familiarity. Even in my current, very beginning stages of piano, my teacher has pointed out chords in my method pieces and has named them, which then makes it easier for me to play them. For example, if she points out that a measure contains two apreggiated chords, it might be easier for me to set up in the proper position knowing I'm breaking up an F chord (or whatever) instead of having to read all the notes. (This is a simple example, but hopefully you can get my point.)

My guitar teacher did the same thing.
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#1026104 - 12/18/04 07:16 PM Re: What am I missing?
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
Knowing scales makes it easier to improvise. I'm far from even trying to improvise, but if you know the key and scale, you can make up combinations knowing which notes will sound right.
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markb--The Count of Casio

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#1026105 - 12/18/04 08:35 PM Re: What am I missing?
DarenT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/18/04
Posts: 96
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Thank you everyone. I now have the feeling that memorizing the scales is not all that necessary, just desirable, at least for my purposes. So the burden is lifted.

With regard to the chords I have realized from the start that memorizing at least the three most common chords with their inversions and progressions makes sight reading and fingering somewhat easier. I will learn others as I encounter them more frequently.

Back to the scales I enjoy playing and listening to them from time to time .... without the burden of trying to remember them, and I have learned how to build them. They are so captivating to listen to. For instance, I am besotted by the raised 7th in the A Minor and play it over and over.

Anyway, back to my main point, I can now relax and concentrate on the actual playing and learn more theory as time passes. For that reason, after reading Bob's evaluation of the Sudnow Method, I have now purchased that course which I understand holds off on heavy theory and concentrates on playing basics.

I also regularly poke around on the Note Recogniton Trainer Cindy mentioned in one of Luckychwee's posts. (www.musictheory.net). This has the distinct advantage over actually playing music in that one just concentrates on the notes and isn't sidetracked by having to worry about the fingering the notes and keeping rhythym with the beat.

Cheers everybody and thank you.
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