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#1083504 - 04/25/08 11:14 PM Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
Hi all,

I’d be interested to hear how your general approach to learning and pattern of study pans out. Over the years I’ve tackled learning many things – from constructing and repairing things, designing and building houses, home-schooling, running businesses, and so on, through to studying various aspects of music. The one thing that I’ve found, every single time, is that I can draw up as many plans and timetables as I like, but I never stick to them.

Currently, I have 3 different approaches to playing. I mix them up, depending on how I'm feeling.


  • 1. "Do What You're Told" music. - Following instruction books and set scores.

    2."Do What You Choose" music. - Picking any song, score, or fragment and working on it, regardless of whether it fits into a recommended or logical learning sequence or not.

    3. "Do Whatever You Like" music. - Improvising, noodling around, experimenting, re-arranging a score or melody to see how it sounds if you do something else with it, etc...



I have been following several books, including Alfreds, but my heart lies with the last approach on the list. I get the most pleasure from experimenting, improvising and generally finding out for myself.

That’s not to say that I think planning is useless. I always learn a great deal from going through the process – but I just never follow the plans or the timetable. Instead, the direction, and the eventual outcome, always shift and grow as the project unfolds. I also have never been able to develop any kind of practice regime or routine that I had the slightest chance of ever sticking to. I never know exactly when I’ll practice, or for how long, but when I do it will have my complete concentration and enthusiasm. Then I’ll stop and do something else. Somewhat surprisingly, I did manage to design and build my own house (a process that required very detailed plans to be drawn and submitted for approval, and the construction progress to be inspected along the way) but even then I changed aspects as I went along, and had no set time plan. I still managed to complete it 100%, in reasonable time though.

What works for you?

Do most people follow books, lessons plans or structured courses? Do you stick to scores or find your own arrangements and make up your own music?

Thanks for any input,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#1083505 - 04/25/08 11:20 PM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4380
Loc: Jersey Shore
I follow my method and do minimal side pieces knowing it will pay off in the end...I like the structure and the gradual improvement.

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#1083506 - 04/26/08 03:40 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mark...:
I like the structure and the gradual improvement. [/b]
Thanks for the reply. \:\) I think that a great many people would agree with that. It's almost always recommended that you set goals, and progress in an orderly and structured way. Setting a practice schedule is also strongly suggested as an important thing to do.

I admire people who can do that. But I just can't seem to do it myself. At age 61 I no longer expect to change the way I work, especially as it seems to work for me. For instance, I learned guitar very informally, and now play every week in a trio.

So I wondered how others here arrange their piano study? Do most people follow a teacher or book, or use some other way of setting up a structure?

Or are there others like me who just 'wing it', 'go with the flow', or whatever and follow your own instincts and inclinations when it comes to deciding how hard to work on a given area?

Cheers,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#1083507 - 04/26/08 07:28 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Debbie57 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/27/07
Posts: 258
Loc: Kansas
Hi Chris,

I had a couple of years of limited lessons as a child and winged it my whole adult life. Playing melody lines and using the only cord system I knew to play the base - also very limited. I could only read music in a very basic way and danced to my own rhythm only playing things I 100% knew the tune to, because I was never taught to count correctly.

At 50, I started lessons last October. WOW! I am having a blast. It helps that I think my teacher is just great. She knew, for now, I didn't want to grind on classical music and set me on a path with Faber & Faber. I rarely play any aside music any more, because I so enjoy what I'm being taught. Like Mark, I'm following the method because the gaps in my skills are so large. Sometimes I can now see/feel the gains up I've made. The structure for me is partly in knowing that I made a choice to hire a professional to help me. Left to my own devices, I fear I might not touch the piano but a couple of times a week & rapidly fall back into the same old pattern.

If you prefer your #3 choice, I also see nothing wrong with that. We are all so different in what we like, what are goals are and our approaches to getting from here to there.

Debbie
_________________________
A Hero is one who hangs on one minute longer. Author: Unknown

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#1083508 - 04/26/08 09:56 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
Absolutely number 3! \:\)
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#1083509 - 04/26/08 10:06 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
Hey Chris....

I'm with Mark - I need some structure. That said, I do like you in that I work on more than one method, because I tend to get bored.

So, I work with Alfred's/Piano Handbook (structure), PBE (structure), and Dan Coates arrangements (non-structure and what I like).

It sounds like you and I have a similar approach. The upside is I control what I do and it is more fun. The downside is my progress is much slower than what a focused person can achieve. I would not be comfortable losing any of the parts. Must have structure and must have fun. So what if it's a slower road.

It's worth it to me.
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#1083510 - 04/26/08 10:10 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
Hi Debbie,

Thanks for explaining how it's been working out for you. It fascinating how many different ways there are to learn.

Your teacher sounds terrific - it's priceless when you find somebody who is such a good match.

I learned to read when I studied guitar, and playing regularly with a small group has done wonders for my sense of timing, so I'm not too bad in that regard. I certainly have some massive gaps in my piano skills and all round knowledge though. \:\) In fact it's nearly all 'gap' at this stage....

I did have a few weeks worth of piano lessons from a local musician/teacher but he is currently on tour. Like your teacher, I found it very motivating to have the contact with him as we get on well. He's had many years as a working musician, but was also mostly self taught, so he's not insisting on a classical approach.

With a bit of luck I'll be able to keep elements of my rather erratic style of learning, while still keeping the contact with him to get specific pointers and suggestions. I tend to start feeling a bit claustrophic and pressured if I have traditional lessons week after week, but he has a pretty irregular style himself. So it could work out well.

Cheers,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#1083511 - 04/26/08 10:37 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by mahlzeit:
Absolutely number 3! \:\) [/b]
Good to hear that! \:D

 Quote:
Originally posted by gmm1:
Must have structure and must have fun. So what if it's a slower road.

It's worth it to me.
[/b]
Nicely put. I try to have some sort of direction without making it feel too restrictive or overly 'pre-planned'. Sometimes it seems to be getting a bit too random, but having a number of strings to the bow (and the choice of books) seems to keep the motivation up. If I learned one thing from guitar it was that the only really fatal error is to get bored or discouraged and join the thousands who slowly drift away and never come back. I managed to hang in there, but the drop out rate on the forum I used to frequent was pretty high.

Cheers,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#1083512 - 04/26/08 11:00 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
RatMan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 243
Loc: Bonneville Salt Flats
+1 to numbers 2 and 3. (Would that make 'em 3 and 4?)

Most days I feel like a cat that resists being herded, which partially explains why I'm doing the self-teaching thing. It worked with the bass, I don't see why it can't work with a keyboard instrument. Some might call it bull-headed and immature (and they might be right) and others might call it free-spirited and having fun. That's the way I prefer to look at it.

Btw, I wanna reiterate that if my goal was to be a traditional classical musician, my approach would probably fail miserably. But it works for me when playin the blues.
_________________________
RatMan
1961 Hammond M-101, Casio Digital kb, a coupla basses and some other stuff.
Canon 40D and a half-full camera bag.
If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing (I ain't thru doin the camera thing.)
http://www.chevyasylum.com
http://www.raytherat.com

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#1083513 - 04/26/08 04:13 PM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3577
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Hi Chris - I do all 3, with an emphasis on No. 1, except it's "Do as I tell myself" since I'm self-teaching.

My primary approach is the structured system involved in working from the Alfred Adult series (currently nearing the end of book 2) plus using 2 other main song sources and working my way thru them simultaneously.

In addition, I have a number of other song books from which I occassionally select a favorite song to work on (most recently the awesomely beautiful "The Sound of Music").

Lastly, I do song arrangements on my DP with it's built-in voices and 16-track recorder, which I then burn to CD, and which are then used as background soundtracks by singers in live performances (these are mostly duets used in
church).

As you can see I'm keeping busy. Nice topic. Thanks for asking.

Regards, JF
_________________________
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#1083514 - 04/26/08 04:34 PM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Kawai, HI Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 200
Loc: Hawaii
Chris,
Good question! I think I struggle with this as well. When I started lessons (the first time) years ago, all I could do was follow the book and the teacher. There were no other songs to work on. There was comfort in that approach. Now that I am on round 2 of lessons I am a little lost sometimes. I remember a lot of the technique, chords, reading of music and yet I am sloppy. My teacher put me way back in the books (Faber) to relearn the techniques again etc. So I work on my lesson pieces, then some songs I'm trying to learn and then the old ones I don't want to lose. Some days are better than others.

I think as long as you like what you are doing or some piece of it, keep it up. Like a balanced diet you may still need to work on "what you're told stuff" but enjoy the "what you like stuff".

My $0.02
_________________________
Semper ubi sub ubi

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#1083515 - 04/26/08 08:42 PM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17786
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I'm a confirmed member of camp #2 and never stray into #1 or #3. I play only sheet music that I choose (= 70% Einaudi, 25% David Nevue, 5% everybody else).

Like RatMan, I feel that if I had traditional goals for piano mastery, this would not be a good approach. But it works for me. \:\)
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1083516 - 04/26/08 09:39 PM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Lisztener Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/12/06
Posts: 921
Chris,

I've been entrenched in #2 all of my life until recently. Now, I'm learning a song by finding the chord patterns that harmoniously mix with the melody. I don't know if this is #3 (improvising) or not, because once I find the chords that fit the melody the rest is memorization. I can't ad lib chords based upon a method. I don't know chord progressions, but I do know what sounds good to my ear. It's all hunt and peck for me at the moment. It's fun, though, and I hope to have the results ready for the upcoming recital. I guess this is still #3.

Lisztener
_________________________


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#1083517 - 04/27/08 12:26 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
Hi again,

Thanks for all the great replies whilst we in Australia were sleeping. \:\)

It's very encouraging to hear that there's such a diversity of approach among the players here. I can definitely relate to Ratman's "herded cat" analogy when it comes to wriggling out of formal study. \:D But I'm trying to keep a foot in all the camps (slightly tricky when you don't have three feet....)

Right now I'm getting a great deal of satisfaction out of doing what Lisztener described - taking a melody and working out what the choices are to support it. This is partly experimentation, but also in some way like detective work, or "reverse engineering".

I'm enjoying taking one of the pieces from my Alfred's books, for instance, working out which is the main melody and what the function of the rest of the notes are. Then trying something different - seeing if I can make it work with just a bass line instead of chords, or try different chord inversions, put the melody in the other hand, or add or subtract notes from the basic chord, etc. Maybe even try a different chord and see how it alters the effect. I really enjoy learning about music in that way.

These are only extremely simple beginner pieces, but fiddling around like that seems to be giving me a basic understanding of the underlying concepts of piano music that I hope will stand me in good stead when things get more complex.

And anyway...it's fun... \:D

Cheers,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#1083518 - 04/30/08 03:42 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
MarkFromNYC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/12/07
Posts: 37
The great thing about all three methods is that you really can't go wrong with any one of them. Even dispensing with a structured "method" entirely and simply working on the tunes you want to learn is going to teach you a tremendous amount.

The big difference between the methods is really about time vs. enjoyment. A structured course will probably get you from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time, but you sacrifice a certain amount of potential enjoyment--pieces you "have" to work on to in order to get to the next phase of the course can be a drag. A more improvisational approach (methods 2 and 3 above) is a lot more fun, and will eventually get you from point A to B--but not in a linear fashion, so it'll take longer.

It's a little like taking a car trip to a distant place. You can plan out the trip carefully with a map to get to your destination in the shortest amount of time. Or you can point your car in the proper general direction and "take the scenic route," knowing that you'll happen upon your destination eventually (and maybe even accidentally). For one type of person, the payoff is the destination itself; for another, it's all about the experience of getting there.

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#1083519 - 04/30/08 04:42 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
fingersandthumbs Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/12/07
Posts: 53
Loc: kent, england
Well, by choice I would have started with a teacher. However, my working hours are not conducive to arranging regular lessons and not many teachers in my area teach adults so I took the plunge and started to teach myself.

I tried three method books and eventually found one that suited me, although I have tended to use the theory and exercises but play pieces of music of my own choice (and believe me, I have enough sheet music to choose from!) I simply want to enjoy the learning experience and do the best I can by myself. I've often thought that I take lessons when I retire but by that time I probably won't be able to cope with a structured approach at all.

I completely lack any ability to improvise and envy all of you who seem to improvise effortlessly.

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#1083520 - 04/30/08 09:39 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Triryche Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/06
Posts: 1451
Loc: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I do all 3.

  • I am not currently taking lessons so #1 takes on the form of me trying to move forward thru instruction books. I am not the most structured person to say the least, so this part is a little scary for me.

  • If I am diligent with #1, hopefully more pieces will be accessible to me to hang out in #2. There is so much beautiful music out there and so little time. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

  • But all too often as things become difficult and I lose focus, I almost always ending up blissfully in #3.

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#1083521 - 04/30/08 09:52 AM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17786
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by MarkFromNYC:

It's a little like taking a car trip to a distant place. You can plan out the trip carefully with a map to get to your destination in the shortest amount of time. Or you can point your car in the proper general direction and "take the scenic route," knowing that you'll happen upon your destination eventually (and maybe even accidentally). For one type of person, the payoff is the destination itself; for another, it's all about the experience of getting there. [/b]
That's a beautiful analogy, Mark, and it expresses how I feel about the issue perfectly. For me, it's *definitely* about the journey.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1083522 - 04/30/08 01:10 PM Re: Do you follow lesson plans and scores, or do you play what you feel like?
Always Wanted to Play Piano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 674
Loc: Chicago
I am a child, musically speaking, especially in terms of piano maturity. As a child, I long to go out on my own and explore the big new world in front of me, but when I do, I find myself easily lost, without the tools to handle it.

So for now, I am all about doing as I'm told, and following the structure I've chosen (in my case, Alfred's). Even within the Alfred's, I find myself wandering, but more often than not, I discover that there is a reason for ordering of things... some technique or skill I SHOULD have acquired on an earlier piece turns out to be a prerequisite on a later one, or further refines the skill.
_________________________

Casio Ap-200
Almost midway thru Alfred's All-In-One Book Two
Blogging my family's piano learning experiences: http://aw2pp.blogspot.com/

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