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#1203206 - 05/21/09 03:14 AM How do you lose compulsion fo rfull notation?
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Some of the best non-classical pianists I know play "by heart / by hand" or with just lead sheets or their own summary cheat sheets.

They have completely weaned themselves from the need to slavishly follow a detailed notated score.

For those trained as classical pianists, how did you manage to let loose? What would be a good self-study program to build up the baggage, vocabulary, chord and key knowledge, etc. to be able to take this path?

Piano & Music Accessories
#1203231 - 05/21/09 06:06 AM Re: How do you lose compulsion fo rfull notation? [Re: theJourney]
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5813
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Well, some of them never got in the habit of relying on sheet music in the first place smile

It seems to me, in my attempts, that a great part of the trick is to be willing to enjoy being a beginner again. I was always surprised when I'd sit down and just noodle - I didn't really think I could, and I was pleasantly surprised.

But to actually learn to do it with ease takes the same kind of time and commitment as learning to play with sheet music did, and there's distinctly a learning curve, which is why being willing to enjoy it is important. I actually think going cold turkey for 6 months or something is the best idea, tho I've never done that. But I do play from lead sheets and can do some rudimentary improvisation, and sat down this eve and played Tennessee Waltz in 4 different keys, and played without sheet music at jam tonight, so I've come some ways.

What was a real revelation to me (and I am admittedly an intermediate piano player) is that it's *all* about the *sound.* I hear in a whole different way than when I was only reading notes (and I know there are classical players who hear well). So the best advice I ever got was - listen, listen, listen.

One way to start is to team up with another musician who can play the melody while you accompany - a flute player, or violinist maybe - and play simple songs you both know. I accompany dance music, so I learned to read a lead sheet. But I think again, enjoying it is key, because it isn't always going to work right off the bat. You can start with just using block chords, or even just a tonic, as accompaniment. Then try simple patterns - all the LH patterns from Canon in D are useful in playing accompaniment or lead sheets smile

Another way is to join one of the study groups in the ABF - jazzwee has a great one on how to begin to play Autumn Leaves, here:


There's another one called "How to play from a lead sheet" and one on "Pop Piano Pro."

And then there's always - pianomagic. It's an on-line play-be-ear course. A search in the ABF will bring up *many* threads. But again, being willing to be a beginner is key. Rosanna, a fairly accomplished player, made the decision to do it the pianomagic way, and she's played some lovely by ear and improvisations in the piano bars and recitals. Several people there - Seaside_Lee and mahlzeit for instance - learned to play piano that way. But Seaside spent 3 or 4 hours a day over the past 4 years, just like good classical pianists do.

It's also interesting to read Mr. Super-Hunky's take on it - he reads, but slowly, and improvises all of his pieces, and he does lovely work. He says over and over that it's about finding out where on the piano the sound you want comes from, and spending the time to explore it.

But I think it really comes down to being willing to take the risk, and be a beginner again, and enjoy it, and not give up as you work your way thru the study groups, or figure out the chords with a friend, or ask questions in the forums at pianomagic. It's really liberating, though.

That's my take on it, any way.


#1203374 - 05/21/09 11:05 AM Re: How do you lose compulsion fo rfull notation? [Re: jotur]
jjo Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 676
Loc: Chicago
I know where you're coming from. For 40 years I played from music and now I'm studying jazz with a teacher. It's a completely different mentality.

The key is the harmony. You absolutely must study the chords, and how they change in a piece. If its jazz you want to play, you must learn all the basic seventh chords and their alterations. You need to learn the basic chord sequences, starting with II-V-I. If it's just pop, learn those harmonies. Everything builds from the harmony. Your ear begins to hear the harmony equally with the melody. You learn to play the chords in many different ways (voicings), and all that matters is that you are playing the right chord.

When I memorize a piece now, I memorize the chord changes, not notes. Then, I can either play the melody, or improvise on top of the changes. When I make a mistake in the melody, it's no big deal. The key is do I know what chord comes next. There is a book (I forget the name), that has you memorize a piece by improvising over the chord changes in bars 1 and 2, then 2 and three, then 3 and 4, and then 1-4. That way you get comfortable with automatically knowing what chord comes next.

How do you learn harmony? I have a teacher. If it's jazz you want to learn, and on your own, a common book is the Jazz Piano Book. Much of that is oriented towards playing on groups, but it has all the stuff for solo playing, as well.

Hope this helps.

#1203382 - 05/21/09 11:19 AM Re: How do you lose compulsion fo rfull notation? [Re: jjo]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I was looking at charts of tunes composed by Taylor Eigsti, Aaron Parks.. etc, while the note part of sight reading isn't too bad, the rhythm and harmony is quite complex. There are a lot of written parts with very detailed arrangement... so these guys are quite capable of playing detailed score and they do it quite often. What amazes me is that they are able to get it right in couple of takes.

I think the biggest difference between classical sight reading is that you have to rely on your ears a lot more. In classical sight reading you tend to pay more attention to phrasing and such, but you don't have to necessary understand what's going on harmonically. For jazz musicians it's crucial they know what's going on rhythmically and harmonically, and what kind of feel it requires.

#1203412 - 05/21/09 12:07 PM Re: How do you lose compulsion fo rfull notation? [Re: etcetra]
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5813
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Here's a link to an old thread in the ABF in which many people eventually contributed improvisations on Mary Had a Little Lamb, or she had a @#$!! as this thread says, which is terrific for understanding how creative one can be smile


It's one of my favorite threads of all time laugh



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