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#1825000 - 01/14/12 09:20 PM On self-teaching
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
From time to time, discussion comes up in this forum on what is a good course for self-study. Since I am using the Duane Shinn 52 week crash course and its follow-ons, I am using that as the example to describe what I think should be in a good self-study course, regardless of who provides it. We can gauge how suitable a self-study course is by what it actually covers and whether it attends to the little details with enough focus to really teach those skills.

Some time ago, I purchased the complete 52 week piano "Crash Course" from Duane Shinn, with the intention that I would take it up during retirement (or sooner if the time was right). I did start working on it at one time, but then my wife's health issues intervened. Things have gotten better, and I started looking into starting a piano course again back around November with an eye toward being well underway by the time the new year rolled around so that I would get caught up in the new year resolution frenzy, but still be doing something I wanted for the new year.

Some years ago, I was involved with the Sudnow method and I really learned a lot about what motivates us, how to stay motivated, and how to learn in a self-teaching manner, as well as his technique for voicing chords under a lead sheet melody in a locked-hands block chording style.

Though some here who either are or were Sudnow students might disagree with me, the shortcoming for me personally of his approach was that there was no guidance regarding fingering and some of the "little" things that formal lessons with a good teacher would provide, that can really trip you up later when you want to move on to other types of music. I don't mean to knock the Sudnow method because it really is a good course of study if you want to learn to play cocktail style piano in a block chording style. Despite the controversy that comes up from time to time (or at least did in the past) about this method, it does teach what it says it does.

After evaluating what direction I wanted to go, I picked the Duane Shinn course this time around. The reason is that it is VERY complete in laying down that (in my opinion) very important foundation in the beginning, that I can build on later knowing that I learned all the little things such as proper fingering, posture, etc. I am not saying everybody should go this route, but for me it is the best choice.

However, I will say that those who purchased the smaller Shinn courses and felt they were overpriced for what they got, it is possible that the reason is that the "crash course" - the year long 52 weekly lesson course, is the "bedrock" of everything else he teaches. Unless a person has gone through that or the equivalent in formal lessons, one will most likely feel as if they are walking into the middle of an ongoing discussion. In other words, I don't believe those smaller course are necessarily self-contained, but instead are dependent on a certain level of piano knowledge and capability. None of his stuff is a shortcut route, but really are a part of a very long term learning process, as one would expect with formal lessons with a "live" teacher.

What I can say in general is a few things that may be helpful to other here who are considering going the self-teaching route.

First and foremost, I think it is important to have a clear idea of what we want to accomplish. Some people want to play strictly by ear, while others want to play the classics, adhering to written music. Still others want to create their own music or play jazz and improvise. Others might want to work from a fakebook lead sheet and dress it up as they feel like at the moment (sort of midway between strict adherence to written music and making their own music). We must know where we want to go and then figure out the best way to get there.

The second item is that we must trust the means we have picked to make that journey to our musical goals. If you pick a "live" teacher, then trust that the teacher you picked will be able to help you reach your goals. If you picked a course of self-study, then you will have to trust that the course will help you get there.

It is very common among the self-teaching crowd (me included...) to switch courses at regular intervals. We are always looking over our shoulder wondering if we picked the best course for our needs. When we hit a rough patch and/or start losing motivation, we think that maybe this wasn't the right course after all. Sometimes, we may be right. But we will never really know if we don't actually finish a course and see where we are.

One thing I appreciate about the 52 week crash course is that Duane includes 3 extra DVDs that detail how to practice, stay motivated, and make sure we are doing things correctly. I would venture to say that this course is probably as close to formal lessons as a self-teaching course might get. For those of us who cannot schedule a regular lesson for various reasons, this could be a viable alternative, assuming our desire is to go that route.

For me, it is important to know that what I am learning will not hinder my progress in the future. This may not be a problem for somebody else, but for me fingering is HUGE. I always wanted to learn to play in a new age style - not the "noodling", but the more romantic "neo-classical" style that somebody such as David Lanz or Michele Mclaughlin plays. That style would require correct fingering so you don't run out of fingers at inopportune times. The times I tried going in that direction after working with the Sudnow method, I realized that I had skipped all that, and I had to go back and learn fingering. Fortunately, the 52 week course really focuses on and gives good guidance on that.

Also, I really did not want to be steeped in the classics either. It would not interest me in the least to spend months learning a major classical piece, though I can respect and appreciate the work that goes into it and the beauty that results from that work. I do want to be able to make a lead sheet sound interesting for playing pop tunes and standards, while at the same time, developing a vocabulary at the keyboard so I can create my own music in that "neo-classical" style.

For me, the 52 week course addresses these things because it strikes a balance between reading sheet music and a "chordal" style that lends itself well to popular music from a lead sheet.

I need that guidance that one might get from a teacher, step by step focusing on the little things that take time to learn but yield rewards later on when I want to progress into some more advanced playing. The 52 lessons provide that.

At this point, I am a month into the 52 week course and doing fine. As I have been developing the habit of practicing as per Shinn's suggestions, I am forming the habit of doing that every day so that a day missed would probably feel like something missing out of the day.

One of the things that Shinn stresses is what he calls "spaced repetition", in which you split up your practice time into several chunks of time. Instead of practicing for an hour, practice in 4 15 or 3 20 minute segments, and then each segment focuses on something specific. He goes into detail about how to do this (i.e. what to focus on in each segment, etc.) in the extra 3 DVDs and provides an example practice log, which he also stresses should be kept. He also says that we should take one day a week off from practicing altogether, and goes into the reasons for this.

He also talks about balanced practice so that you are working on a balanced practice plan that includes time at the piano and the study of theory alongside that. I have several of his courses, one is a 36 month study of advanced techniques and another is his 6 month course in music theory. I realized that the one year crash course was the beginning and that there is much more to learn, so I chose a set of courses to provide the rest of the story, so to speak. So I spend time each day at the piano as well as with the theory. He ties both together nicely in his videos on the DVDs so that, though they are separate courses, each supports the other nicely.

To me, self-study is great - as long as we are not short-changing those aspects of playing piano and studying music that lay a solid foundation for the future. There really is no easy way out or fast way in. Whatever work we skip at the beginning stages will that much harder to pick up later on because we will be doing some things really well and others not at all, and somewhere, somehow, the things we can't do will be the things we need to be able to do to play the music we ultimately want to play.

Unfortunately, it does cost money to cover the bases well. The Shinn 52 week course costs $997. It cost that same amount when I bought it several years ago. There are courses that cost less than $50, but from what I have seen, they cover what they cover very well, but leave other areas of skill untouched.

I don't know what else might be out there that is as complete as Shinn's 52 week course, but I would not be surprised if there are other choices. Shinn's course won't turn us into skilled piano players in a year, but it will lay the foundation we need to continue on without being hindered by having skipped some important skill that beginners should have. That is where the rest of his courses come in. Once we have the basic skill set, we build on that in whatever direction we want to go.

Rather than saying that all self-learners should go the route of the Shinn course, I would say that the Shinn course could serve as an example of what a solid learning experience should be, however we choose to go about getting that experience.

In closing, I want to say that (at least to me) it is important to relax and enjoy the journey. I have seen threads here that seem to indicate a fair amount of "angst" about talent, whether it exists, whether we have it, etc. I would say to forget about all that, pick a direction and enjoy the journey, trusting that you your materials and/or teacher picked well.

Tony
_________________________
my blog: http://ajourneyintomusic.blogspot.com

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#1825054 - 01/14/12 11:03 PM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1685
Loc: Pennsylvania
You have given out a lot of good advice. You almost have ME ready to purchase the Shinn course. LOL ...

However, I know what you say is basically true because I am one of those that has purchased various courses and then switched to a "better" one.

I now have gone the live teacher route and it seems to be working better.

The most important thing you mentioned ... Enjoy the journey ... is the best advice.
_________________________
Don

My current system: Kawai ES7 + Focal CMS40 Powered Monitors, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, Mackie ProFX8 Mixer, Ravenscroft275, True Keys American Grand, Ivory II American Concert D, Steinway Basic, Galaxy Vintage D, True Pianos, Pianoteq, Alicia's Keys

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#1825085 - 01/15/12 12:50 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: dmd]
BenPiano Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 1171
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: dmd
The most important thing you mentioned ... Enjoy the journey ... is the best advice.


+1

I've found that when I pick a piece to learn, I can, besides just sort of learning it, learn a little from it.

This learning process has been, above all, the most rewarding and enjoyable part of the journey!
_________________________
Learning to play since June 2009.
My piano diary on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/afpaSTU1096
<- 10+ ABF recitals

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#1825094 - 01/15/12 01:27 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
Starr Keys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 869
Loc: california
Originally Posted By: TonyB
I don't mean to knock the Sudnow method because it really is a good course of study if you want to learn to play cocktail style piano in a block chording style. Despite the controversy that comes up from time to time (or at least did in the past) about this method, it does teach what it says it does.

After evaluating what direction I wanted to go, I picked the Duane Shinn course this time around. The reason is that it is VERY complete in laying down that (in my opinion) very important foundation in the beginning, that I can build on later knowing that I learned all the little things such as proper fingering, posture, etc. I am not saying everybody should go this route, but for me it is the best choic


Reading your post I felt a little like Alice in the Looking Glass, because I had exactly the opposite experience--not with Duane Shinn per se but with private lessons growing up and the methods I explored as an adult that layed out precise fingering. They didn't always seem naural and I could never grasp a consistent logic for them, given the my anatomical limitations, that would allow me to feel secure that I could choose the right fingering on my own. I've written about this before in the forum, so I'm not just being contrarian. As I've said previously, "working on songs" at PM, the notes just fell naturally under my hands, and I always felt confident that what I chose was the right fingering for me--maybe not for David Sudnow who could easily reach a 10th--but exactly what was needed to play the song the way I heard it in my mind with my small hands. And I'd wager Seaside Lee, whose hands are much larger, felt the same way after taking PM.

As for learning cocktail piano, I think Elsa does a brilliant job with this style and, for those who want the fingering, she demonstrates everything at tempo and extra slowly stopping so you can study the fingering. From what I've heard, she offers everything Shinn does on instruction in this style at the intermediate level in several videos that will keep you busy, if not for a year, then for the better part of one and at less than a tenth the price. Or if you are a beginner and need to start at square one, for less than $200 you can take Piano Magic which works beautifully as a prerequisite to Elssa's videos--again I speak from my own experience. If you want something more traditional and structured as a foundation, check out your local state funded community college. Mine has courses for general level and most individual styles for $42 total per class a semester.

Please don't go into debt trying to pay for Duane Shinn's lessons. It's not that I doubt Tony's sincerity when he says it worked for him, but speaking from my own experience as someone who spent more than $1000 and over a year of their life on a method that didn't pan out even though it came with great testimonials, and in the words of a great pianist-songwriter, "It ain't necessarily so."


Edited by Starr Keys (01/15/12 01:31 AM)
_________________________
Retraining: Taupman-Golandsky, since July 2013
http://www.youtube.com/user/StarrKeys?feature=mhum

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#1825106 - 01/15/12 02:26 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: Starr Keys]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1685
Loc: Pennsylvania
You know, I have said this before in other threads ...

It is my belief that most of the courses you can buy on the internet actually will do what they say they will if ... and here is the catch ... IF you actually do what they say to do.

The problem is that most of us do not do that. For whatever reason we come up with , we stop at some point and find something else. Now, we may have a good reason (at least in our mind) to do so, but never-the-less we stop. If we could just keep going, we might find that it works. Considering that so many of us do that very thing, there must be something inherent in that process that results in that behavior.
_________________________
Don

My current system: Kawai ES7 + Focal CMS40 Powered Monitors, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, Mackie ProFX8 Mixer, Ravenscroft275, True Keys American Grand, Ivory II American Concert D, Steinway Basic, Galaxy Vintage D, True Pianos, Pianoteq, Alicia's Keys

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#1825125 - 01/15/12 04:00 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: dmd]
Starr Keys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 869
Loc: california
Originally Posted By: dmd

It is my belief that most of the courses you can buy on the internet actually will do what they say they will if ... and here is the catch ... IF you actually do what they say to do.

The problem is that most of us do not do that. For whatever reason we come up with , we stop at some point and find something else. Now, we may have a good reason (at least in our mind) to do so, but neverhe-less we stop. If we could just keep going, we might find that it works.


It has been my experience that it is possible to do everything that one is asked to do and to finish a course and still not realize most of the promises made for its completion.


Edited by Starr Keys (01/15/12 04:03 AM)
_________________________
Retraining: Taupman-Golandsky, since July 2013
http://www.youtube.com/user/StarrKeys?feature=mhum

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#1825148 - 01/15/12 06:36 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
As is being evidenced by the discussion here, different people will have differing experiences. I think an attitude of "take what you need and leave the rest" when reading a post such as I put up might be a good way to read this sort of commentary. I can post about some of my experiences in the hope that it at least causes others to consider some of these things as they may or may not apply to their own decision process.

I want to state again that I am not advocating that others take up the Duane Shinn 52 week course, or any other specific course for that matter. I would not doubt that all of these various do-it-yourself courses have their successes as well as their non-successes. It really depends on what an individual's goals and needs are. I spoke of the Shinn course because that is what I settled on, but the important part (to me) was having specific goals, knowing how I needed to be taught, and the evaluation process. For another person, these will most likely be entirely different.

as an example regarding fingering, I said that it was a HUGE issue for me, but may not be for somebody else. To me, that would clearly leave room for another person to have a completely different experience, but at least would get the person thinking about what his or her own unique needs might be and then, consider those when deciding on a course of study or direction to go in learning to play piano.

As for "going into debt", I would certainly not advocate that. I never carry a balance on my credit card, never have had a car loan, and live debt-free. What others do is their business, but the US economy downturn has shown in stark relief what happens when people live close enough to the edge to not be able to survive economic ups and downs. My mentioning the cost of the 52 week course was to compare it to the cost of taking "live" lessons, as has been discussed in another thread about annual music budgets. For people who have no plans in that direction, and especially do not have the budget for either the Shinn course or lessons, this will not be a consideration (i.e. take what you need and leave the rest). But I do think that some of the thought process and considerations about the learning in general are still worth consideration regardless of what a person ultimately decides to do.

There are MANY piano courses that cost far less and would probably be better suited to many people than would be a course like the Shinn 52 week course. I would venture to say that the Shinn course might be a possible consideration for a person who wants to take formal lessons with a teacher, but can't manage the schedule.

Anyway, there will be all manner of exceptions to what I posted. That does not negate either my experience and decisions, nor does it negate those whose experiences are far different from mine. We respect these differences, learn from each other and move on.

Hopefully, my post will provide one person's view among many when a person is considering what course or direction to take. Therefore, I see no argument or disagreement with views and experiences that differ from mine.

I do believe, based on posts here I have read over the years, that at least some of my experience is shared by others who have elected to go the self-teaching route. I have Piano For All, subscribed one year to Piano Magic, etc (i.e. many of us have tried this and that because it worked for somebody else). I did not comment on all this for a reason. The reason is that it was not my intention to review these courses or to discuss why I chose not to pursue another specific course. I mentioned the Sudnow method because it was very influential for me and I did stick with it for a few years, learning a bunch of standards in the process, as well as getting a "healthy" working approach to music theory and gaining an understanding of how I need to approach further learning.

The unfortunate thing about online forums is that certain aspects of face-to-face communication that provide a context for what is being said, are simply not present. Facial expression, tone of voice, and the immediate feedback loop (did you mean..., no I meant to say..., etc) are not a part of a post. A person can post something that could start a flame war online, where in person, it could be cleared up in seconds and be a non-issue. I took a chance posting as I did because it is my hope that people will read it, think about it, and then do whatever they need to that is best for themselves. Unfortunately, that may not be how it is read and understood. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I believe my experiences to be as valid as the next person's, no matter how different these may be. Sharing our respective experiences (I would hope) would be helpful to all of us as we make our own choices as to what is best for our own unique needs.


Tony
_________________________
my blog: http://ajourneyintomusic.blogspot.com

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#1825154 - 01/15/12 07:26 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
drjay9051 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/05/12
Posts: 12
Good topic!! Here is my situation:

I have never played the piano. I do enjoy listening to all genres of music however am drawn to Jazz and to a lesser extent blues. In my soul I wish to be able to play some nice jazz piano. I do not expect to be able to play like an accomplished musician in a short time. Although in my head I can envision some nice improvisations to a song I do not expect that the piano god will grace me with the talent unless I work hard.

I am currently waiting for my piano and have looked at several on line lessons. I searched for "best piano lessons" and came up with several review sites. The sites all clearly stated they were compensated for sales, so much for objectivity!

Anyway, here is what I found:


1. Play Piano Today: less than $50. Will have you playing any song by ear!! Wow. Nice thing about this course is there are a multitude of lessons which you can view on the site or youtube. It uses "rhythmic patterns." I actually like the videos but questioned the claim of playing any song by ear. David Sprunger did answer my first email about lessons but the follow up email re: the claim of teaching me to play by ear went unaswered. I'm thinking not the course for me.

2. Play and Master Piano: taught by Grammy award winner Will Barrow. I found some video on youtube as Barrow does not provide sample videos on the site! Teaching theory seems sound but I could not deal with the candles in the background and the dreamy murals on the wall. Fair price $149 on sale but again not for me.

3. Piano With Willie: I love his teaching style. Very laid back and frankly "my kind of guy." Tons of sample video and a free 7 day trial. What I really like is I have sent a couple of e mails and called as well. It is a small business, Willie, his wife and 2 support people. Always ready to help. All questions answered. Different styles such as blues, jazz,funk etc. Also good basic courses. I did NOT see classical so if thats your interest this is likely not the route for you.. Oh yes, several different memberships inc. month to month for one style or Gold which allows total access. good forum support as well.

There are so many others such as Rocket Piano, Piano by Pattern etc. there are even a couple such as Zebra Keys which are totally free. Zebra does teach some theory and basic playing but nothing like how to do open voicing etc.

So the point of my rant is you have many options if you desire to go the on line route.

For me Piano with Willie just seems like a good fit. he is very clear that this is not a "Learn Piano in 5 Minute s" type of course. My only question now is do I buy a couple of theory books to learn about cords, circle of fifths etc until my piano arrives (couple of weeks) or do i just wait for the piano and start at that time. I have sent an email to Willie and have no doubt that i will have an answer tomorrow.

Please enjoy and learn from whichever course you go with.

Best of luck.

JK

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#1825180 - 01/15/12 08:58 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
Starr Keys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 869
Loc: california

Originally Posted By: TonyB

there will be all manner of exceptions to what I posted. That does not negate either my experience and decisions, nor does it negate those whose experiences are far different from mine. We respect these differences, learn from each other and move on.....

As for "going into debt", I would certainly not advocate that. I never carry a balance on my credit card, never have had a car loan, and live debt-free.....

Hopefully, my post will provide one person's view among many when a person is considering what course or direction to take. Therefore, I see no argument or disagreement with views and experiences that differ from mine.

I have...subscribed one year to Piano Magic.

The unfortunate thing about online forums is that certain aspects of face-to-face communication that provide a context for what is being said, are simply not present. Facial expression, tone of voice, and the immediate feedback loop (did you mean..., no I meant to say..., etc) are not a part of a post. A person can post something that could start a flame war online, where in person, it could be cleared up in seconds and be a non-issue. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I believe my experiences to be as valid as the next person's, no matter how different these may be. Sharing our respective experiences (I would hope) would be helpful to all of us as we make our own choices as to what is best for our own unique needs.


Thank you for not starting a flame war with me. I can't throw very well with my arm in it's present condition, so I am grateful for what might be an exercise in restraint on your part. When I said not to go into debt, I wasn't speaking to you. I assumed you were paid in full long ago since you said you had the course for at least a year. I was thinking mainly of women for whom Elssa's videos might be more appropriate just because her fingerings might suit them better.

I meant no disrespect towards you personally, nor was I trying to discredit your experience. Just the opposite. Over two years ago, I read the most persuasive and articulate testimonial of Piano Magic, or of any other method, I'd ever read here. It, far more than anything else I saw on Mike's site or in these forums, convinced me to join PM. It was written by TonyB. I am very thankful to you for that and I think you were totally accurate. It's just the "Harold Hill" syndrome I was worried about.

Remember Harold Hill in Music Man--a pied piper who dreamed of leading a band and going to Gary Indiana Conservatory but couldn't do either? The one thing he could do was was plant the seed of that dream in others, firing up their hopes and dreams, all to be demolished the way his were when he left, taking with him their money and leaving only instruments they couldn't play and uniforms that would henceforth only make them look foolish?--God, Craig Bierko was good in that part! (I've met one or two people off the stage who were almost as good.)

Remember how hard it was for people to stop believing in him, even when all the evidence was before their eyes. Sometimes the more we invest, the more we need to believe. I have no problem with anyone who can afford it and has looked at the pros and cons investing in this method. I just wanted to make sure those who heard the siren call of Professor Hill--not you, the Professor Hill within all of us--had really gotten his "credentials."
_________________________
Retraining: Taupman-Golandsky, since July 2013
http://www.youtube.com/user/StarrKeys?feature=mhum

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#1825198 - 01/15/12 09:35 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1685
Loc: Pennsylvania
One thing that I would hope comes from this topic is this....

After you have evaluated all of your options and have made your choice, then give it a good effort before beginning to look for something else. That is the number 1 problem that presents itself with "self-learning".
_________________________
Don

My current system: Kawai ES7 + Focal CMS40 Powered Monitors, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, Mackie ProFX8 Mixer, Ravenscroft275, True Keys American Grand, Ivory II American Concert D, Steinway Basic, Galaxy Vintage D, True Pianos, Pianoteq, Alicia's Keys

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#1825204 - 01/15/12 09:41 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2199
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I still want a real live teacher.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#1825208 - 01/15/12 09:49 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
Starr Keys...

There was no need for restraint on my part. I am not upset about anything you said. I realize that there can be difficulty in saying some of the things I said in my post and getting my real points across in this medium of forums. My follow up was simply expressing that. I think there are many paths to get where we individually want to go with music, and therefore, no one "best" way to get there. I do think there are considerations involved in the "skillness" of playing an instrument and it may be that different people need to attend to these differently.

I have explored a couple of different approaches to learning to play piano, along with exploring what it is I really want to accomplish. At the time I was involved in Piano Magic, the instructor was unable for personal reasons to not participate. I don't know if that would have made a difference for me in staying longer or not, but it seemed a bit of a let down at the time. Aside from that, I felt there was very real gain to be had with that approach to playing. For whatever reason, eventually I decided it was not for me. I try to be really careful about that sort of thing in forums because I don't want to reflect badly on an otherwise decent product just because ultimately I chose not to go that route. I saw a lot of good in Piano Magic and it is obvious from what some people have gotten from it that it is worthwhile.

I have long held a theory about the classroom and the so-called "bell curve". Rather than the ranking of a student in the bell curve being a reflection on a student's capabilities, I believe it is probably more accurate to say that the bell curve represents the quality of the match between the teacher's teaching style and the student's learning style. When these match, wonderful things can happen. When they don't match, the student may appear to be an underachiever, when in fact, the student would probably flourish in a different learning environment.

When I first got out of the Army and tried going to college, I did not fare very well because I really did not know what I wanted to do and found that the really traditional classroom did not suit me well at the time. Years later, when I was clear on what I wanted, I went through college and graduated at the top of my class and am doing well in the career that the degree prepared me for. My resolve and clarity of what I wanted solidified in the intervening years.

This is why I talked about being clear on what we want and on how we learn best in my first post. it wasn't so much about Shinn or Piano Magic or Sudnow, but about knowing our own needs and goals and then finding the best match for these.

Judging from what I have read over the years here in these forums, even in my own posts during that time, I realize that I am not alone in the things I talked about regarding knowing my goals and picking the right course to fulfill these.

One thing I had to work out was that I have played guitar for a lot of years and much of my musical identity was really wrapped up in that. I played full time professionally for a couple of years in the 70s and participated in several bands non-professionally after that, once I decided I did not want the lifestyle of the professional musician. Over time, I have come to realize that the guitar no longer interests me as a primary focus and that it is time to switch to the piano. It is only in the last several months that I finally let go of the guitar and decided to focus on keyboard (I don't own a "real" piano, and probably never will - I have a Motif XS8, with 88 weighted keys and decent piano samples). So there was a lot of soul searching there before finally being willing to settle down and focus.

As I go through the Shinn course now, it is much like going back to college years later with a definite goal in mind and a much better understanding of who I am and what I need in a learning environment.

Fortunate are those who "get it right" the first time. I am just glad that I get so many "do overs" so I can eventually "get it right". When I do finally get into the right situation, I can do quite well. I suspect the same is true for at least some others here too.

I don't have anything bad to say about any of the piano courses out there, so my describing Piano Magic in a good light despite the fact that I did not complete the course is something I can feel good about. If my writing about it helped another, than it was worth the effort to explore and write about it. The same holds true for whatever else I write about. I would ultimately like to see both the provider of the course succeed and his or her students. If there is any "Pied Piper" in any of this, I sincerely hope that it leads more people to take up whatever their personal goals are and succeed at them.

Tony
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#1825214 - 01/15/12 09:57 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: malkin]
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
Originally Posted By: malkin
I still want a real live teacher.


Then, for you, that is the way to go. When we REALLY know just what we want, the choice is much easier (though I would believe, again from reading posts in these forums that finding the RIGHT teacher is not always so easy - just as picking the right self-study course is not always easy).

Tony
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#1825225 - 01/15/12 10:17 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
Eveewonder Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/05/11
Posts: 54
Loc: NJ USA
For me there is no way I could learn much on my own. I always have questions and it was frustrating not to be able to ask. I looked at and played around with a few do it yourself courses. I do have books I'll read or online things I'll play with that help me learn more about theory and music reading etc. that usually generates questions for my teacher.

Also, for me it is important to have someone demonstrate technique and rhythm. I would be lost without a human teacher. For me the chance of becoming frustrated and overwhelmed would have been huge without a teacher.
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#1826786 - 01/17/12 10:14 PM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
alberti Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/06/11
Posts: 11
Tony
Loved reading your post. I too have the Shinn 52 week lessons. Have not really started on them yet, but I did watch thru them, and I really will learn a lot from them. I am a little different than you as I would like to also learn Guitar along with Keyboard. I do have both, and messed with guitar when I was younger, but never really advanced past the open chords and did not learn the fretboard above the 5th fret.
Do you think the 52 week course would help with the guitar too? I would love to learn chords the way that Chet Atkins played them. I guess that is probably learning all of your inversions very well. I read the guitar paper that you wrote also, and there is a lot of good information in it.
Back to the Piano, I have tried a few other things. Piano Magic, Hear and Play, Yoke Wong, and Willie Myette. I think they will all help in the long run, but what looks nice about the 52 week one is he has a plan for you to know exactly what to practice each week.
Write some more of your band experiences and music journey Tony, like I said, I like reading your posts. Thanks,

Dale
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#1826795 - 01/17/12 11:01 PM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
dmd Offline
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Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1685
Loc: Pennsylvania
You know, I feel compelled to throw this into the mix. I also have purchased numerous piano courses over the years and each time I was hopeful that "this course" was going to be the ticket to my success.

And I must say that in addition to selling instruction on how to play piano, they are also selling the promise (some might say illusion or fantasy) that their course is special in some way and it is the method you have been looking for.

However, in many cases that illusion or fantasy only lasts for a short while and then the reality begins to set in and we find that it too has fallen short of the "promise" and we look for something else.

This will continue as long as we allow ourselves to believe that learning to play piano is primarily a function of the method we choose to learn with.

The truth may be that any of these methods will work but only if we actually stick to it and do what they say to do. For many, patience runs thin and we look for something that will work faster / better.

And the cycle continues ....

That is why many of us eventually resort to something we were trying to circumvent ... a live teacher. When we do that, we begin to make real progress.

If only we could see that sooner.
_________________________
Don

My current system: Kawai ES7 + Focal CMS40 Powered Monitors, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, Mackie ProFX8 Mixer, Ravenscroft275, True Keys American Grand, Ivory II American Concert D, Steinway Basic, Galaxy Vintage D, True Pianos, Pianoteq, Alicia's Keys

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#1826872 - 01/18/12 02:47 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: dmd]
Starr Keys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 869
Loc: california
Don, you are what my husband calls a "true believer." Two months ago you were convinced that Mike had a full proof method that anyone could succeed with provided they "do everything he says." Now, you have a new teacher and one-and-one lessons and you say the only answer is to get a private teacher. Well, I've tried private lessons with a variety of teachers of solid backgrounds and credentials and none of them worked for me. But you take the high road and I'll take the low road and let's see who can finish the song first--I'm speaking metaphorically, of course. smile
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#1826903 - 01/18/12 05:05 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
Dazzie2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/12
Posts: 82
Just thought I would add something to this interesting thread as I am a beginner and have just started to learn myself music theory and to play piano , I Don’t feel the need yet for a teacher and also wonder if I ever will. I also use the internet and have computer software to help learn and hopefully it will teach me to a stage were I can play something . I must admit it would be nice sometimes to have a teacher to see if your moving in the right direction and how your progressing .


Edited by Dazzie2 (01/18/12 05:06 AM)

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#1826916 - 01/18/12 05:35 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: Starr Keys]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1685
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: Starr Keys
Don, you are what my husband calls a "true believer." Two months ago you were convinced that Mike had a full proof method that anyone could succeed with provided they "do everything he says." Now, you have a new teacher and one-and-one lessons and you say the only answer is to get a private teacher. Well, I've tried private lessons with a variety of teachers of solid backgrounds and credentials and none of them worked for me. But you take the high road and I'll take the low road and let's see who can finish the song first--I'm speaking metaphorically, of course. smile


You are very possibly (maybe probably) right. Maybe the "teacher" solution is, yet another, attempt at finding the "better" method. Maybe the answer, previously mentioned, is the "stick-to-it" factor often over-looked.

You indicated that none of your teachers worked for you. That is certainly a huge consideration. I "believe (truly)", that finding that instructor whom you "believe" is addressing your needs is of prime importance in this process.

Another reason a teacher may eventually enter the picture is because after trying numerous methods of self-help, many of us are looking for reassurance that we are doing the right thing and a teacher helps in that area. Of course, never forget .... a teacher's primary motivation is finding ways to keep a student paying. So, they certainly are not going to tell you anything that will discourage you.

All of this stuff has to be sorted out by each of us until we find our way. We may never get it sorted out completly. We just keep searching for that final solution because that is what we enjoy doing. And, that ... as they say ... is what it is all about.
_________________________
Don

My current system: Kawai ES7 + Focal CMS40 Powered Monitors, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, Mackie ProFX8 Mixer, Ravenscroft275, True Keys American Grand, Ivory II American Concert D, Steinway Basic, Galaxy Vintage D, True Pianos, Pianoteq, Alicia's Keys

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#1826924 - 01/18/12 06:00 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: dmd]
Starr Keys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 869
Loc: california
Originally Posted By: dmd
You are very possibly (maybe probably) right. Maybe the "teacher" solution is, yet another, attempt at finding the "better" method. Maybe the answer, previously mentioned, is the "stick-to-it" factor often over-looked.

You indicated that none of your teachers worked for you. That is certainly a huge consideration. I "believe (truly)", that finding that instructor whom you "believe" is addressing your needs is of prime importance in this process.


I do too, truly, provided that it doesn't exclude the possibity that that instructor could actually be oneself. laugh


Edited by Starr Keys (01/18/12 06:11 AM)
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#1826962 - 01/18/12 08:19 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: alberti]
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
Originally Posted By: alberti
Tony
Loved reading your post. I too have the Shinn 52 week lessons. Have not really started on them yet, but I did watch thru them, and I really will learn a lot from them. I am a little different than you as I would like to also learn Guitar along with Keyboard. I do have both, and messed with guitar when I was younger, but never really advanced past the open chords and did not learn the fretboard above the 5th fret.
Do you think the 52 week course would help with the guitar too? I would love to learn chords the way that Chet Atkins played them. I guess that is probably learning all of your inversions very well. I read the guitar paper that you wrote also, and there is a lot of good information in it.
Back to the Piano, I have tried a few other things. Piano Magic, Hear and Play, Yoke Wong, and Willie Myette. I think they will all help in the long run, but what looks nice about the 52 week one is he has a plan for you to know exactly what to practice each week.
Write some more of your band experiences and music journey Tony, like I said, I like reading your posts. Thanks,

Dale


Dale:

The 52 week course can help because you get a real sense of playing real music instead of the fragmented way that guitar is usually taught. It is no wonder that many of us guitar players can't play song after years of practicing and playing, while a kid with a couple of years of piano can.

As for the band, I played guitar in a trio that played the typical Holiday Inn circuit for a couple of years in the late 70s. It was professional, with a band leader who was quite older than the drummer and I. I got the job because I could read music as well as hear it. We worked steady for two years. I left because I realized that constant life on the road was not the lifestyle I wanted. To me, music makes for a wonderful hobby, while my work life is separate from that. It makes for a good balance.

Tony
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#1826965 - 01/18/12 08:29 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
By the way, I recently got an award at work that allowed me to purchase a Yoke Wong course at Amazon. I got the bundled play from a fakebook course 1 and 2 because Duane Shinn only use public domain pieces and I thought this course might connect the dots with more current fare.

Was I pleasantly surprised!! This woman does a fantastic job of walking you through how to really use all those inversions and how to arrange a fakebook tune on the spot. She has a way of explain stuff so you just follow along, stop the DVD and experiment. It is really good and well presented material. I will have to get some of her other materials such as improv course and the runs and fills. Good stuff!

This must be a golden age for those who want a non traditional approach to playing piano. So much good material available.

The Duane Shinn 52 week course is very complete for laying that important foundation. The Yoke Wong course that I got seems to complement that 52 week course very well. I suspect her other course would too, probably with some overlap, which certainly doesn't hurt.

Tony
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#1826966 - 01/18/12 08:46 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: Starr Keys]
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
This post was a response to an exchange of Don's post and Starr Keys response about getting a live teacher...

Very interesting observation. The interesting thing in this particular forum is that it almost serves as a diary that lots of people contribute to. We can look back at our own posts as well as those who responded to us and us responding to others, and have a sense of where we have been and where we are going.

Regarding absolute statements to the effect that there is only one way to achieve a thing (the post you were responding to), it seems to me there is a sense of security in making one's world black and white. We can become lost at sea with all the choices available to us, and we seek solid ground in clinging to one thing that provides us with a sense that we have finally found the right thing.

It may well be that I change course again, and go with something other than Duane Shinn. To me, that is not a failure of either me or the course. If I am making progress to where I want to be, then I am fine. Personally, I would rather remain open to possibilities than to make a decree for everyone to follow and lock myself out of new avenues and ideas.

Many of the piano players I listen to never had formal lessons or a course such as Duane Shinn or Yoke Wong teach. How do we account for that? Usually we fall back on the talent theme. Among the players I have met, they seem to share an innate curiosity and open-minded willingness to explore their music.

I can't tell another in these forums what he or she should do. But if somebody gets something worthwhile from an approach different from mine, I will listen.

As for course promises, we all know the course can present information, but we have to do the work. We are all different and have different ways of taking in information. What works for one person can only be suggested for another as something that may be worth a look. Ultimately we each find our own path. Unfortunately for those who need to live by a black and white decree, the world has far too much variety for that view. Enjoy, rather than trying to lock it down.

Tony


Edited by TonyB (01/18/12 08:51 AM)
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#1826974 - 01/18/12 09:02 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
Brent H Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
I guess for me a "52 week course" is kind of a neither fish nor fowl...

I would not consider that really "self teaching" which to me would mean starting out on your own and when necessary looking things up in a book, video or whatever source of information is needed to address a certain question.

And it's not really a substitute for lessons in that you can get feedback on your playing, ask followup questions or benefit from having the course of study adapted to your own individual progress at various points in time.

So I really am left with the sense that canned learn-at-home courses mostly have to offer whatever real or imagined "promises" the buyer wishes to believe about a particular course. The fact that switching from course to course is nigh universal tends to confirm that belief.

Then again maybe it's just a way of buying something new every few months without it having to be a $10,000 piano! There a lot to be said for novelty as a stress relief, entertainment and/or motivational outlet. And switching to a different set of books and videos is a heck of a lot cheaper and easier than switching instruments or teachers. But I do fear that a lot of folks accept the setback accompanying the switch to Yet Another Course without quite realizing the extent to which that distraction interrupts their potential progress.

But I'm a firm believer that in music, making "progress" per se is not as important as enjoying the process. So I would certainly not tell anyone to forgo these courses if they create enjoyment and are fun to buy.
_________________________
Current Life+Music Philosophy: Less Thinking, More Foot Tapping

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#1826986 - 01/18/12 09:25 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: Brent H]
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
Brent:

Interesting viewpoint. Another view of self teaching that I read some time ago, and on more than one occasion, is that we are really all engaged in self teaching, since a teacher or self study course can only present the information and guide us. We have to take in and organize that information and guidance in a way that makes sense to us. From that perspective, the 52 week course, Piano Magic, Yoke Wong, a live teacher, etc are all really guides for our own self teaching. There are several valid perspectives on this.

Tony
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#1827042 - 01/18/12 11:10 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1685
Loc: Pennsylvania
Quote:
Another view of self teaching that I read some time ago, and on more than one occasion, is that we are really all engaged in self teaching, since a teacher or self study course can only present the information and guide us. We have to take in and organize that information and guidance in a way that makes sense to us. From that perspective, the 52 week course, Piano Magic, Yoke Wong, a live teacher, etc are all really guides for our own self teaching.


I absolutely agree. A live teacher is just another "course" that may help you learn. The thing I like about a live teacher is that I can discuss which pieces I am going to work on and I can discuss difficulties I am having. If my teacher can give me suggestions as to how I might approach a problem area it helps me move along better. At least that is my perception. It is all about perception.
_________________________
Don

My current system: Kawai ES7 + Focal CMS40 Powered Monitors, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, Mackie ProFX8 Mixer, Ravenscroft275, True Keys American Grand, Ivory II American Concert D, Steinway Basic, Galaxy Vintage D, True Pianos, Pianoteq, Alicia's Keys

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#1827059 - 01/18/12 11:25 AM Re: On self-teaching [Re: dmd]
Brent H Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
Originally Posted By: dmd
...A live teacher is just another "course" that may help you learn. The thing I like about a live teacher is that I can discuss which pieces I am going to work on and I can discuss difficulties I am having. If my teacher can give me suggestions as to how I might approach a problem area it helps me move along better. At least that is my perception. It is all about perception.


Doesn't that sort of contradict itself?

A teacher is just another "course" except that unlike a "course" you can discuss pieces and so forth.

That's like saying an overcoat is just another "tee shirt" except that the overcoat will keep you warm in winter and keep the rain off when its stormy. That's what different about a tee shirt and an overcoat, right?

A teacher can do everything a "course" can do. A teacher can also do many things that a "course" can not do. That makes a teacher and a "course" totally different things.

Then again, some days a tee shirt is exactly what you want to wear.
_________________________
Current Life+Music Philosophy: Less Thinking, More Foot Tapping

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#1827100 - 01/18/12 12:10 PM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
TonyB Offline
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Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
I see the point Don is making. Different "courses" can have different advantages. A "course that involves a live teacher has the advantage for him of real time interaction and feedback. So, from that perspective, at least to me, what he is saying does make sense. I can also see that, as with much that is posted in forums, there is often more than one interpretation.

Regarding the advantage of live teachers in general (I.e. not responding to any specific post), I can readily see the advantages that people cite frequently in these discussions. If my schedule was such that I could know that I could make such an appointment on a regular basis, I would seriously consider it. However, I also believe that much can be accomplished with many of the self study courses that are available.

Tony
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#1827170 - 01/18/12 02:17 PM Re: On self-teaching [Re: dmd]
MaryBee Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 1184
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: dmd
Another reason a teacher may eventually enter the picture is because after trying numerous methods of self-help, many of us are looking for reassurance that we are doing the right thing and a teacher helps in that area.
After years and years of self-teaching, I finally started taking lessons with a teacher. But it wasn't for the reason of getting reassurance. Rather, it was because I realized that there were some things that I just couldn't teach myself.
Quote:
Of course, never forget .... a teacher's primary motivation is finding ways to keep a student paying. So, they certainly are not going to tell you anything that will discourage you.
That's harsh, and I don't know if it's quite true. One of a teacher's primary motivations might be to keep a studio full of paying students, but that's not necessarily the same thing as keeping the same students paying forever. It's like my doctor. She really does try to cure my ailments and send me on my way, because there are always other patients to fill the appointment slots once I'm better. But your other point is probably true, since why would a teacher try to discourage you?? Isn't the point of lessons to try to make it easier for you to learn? How can that be anything but encouraging?
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Current mantra: Play outside the box.
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#1827366 - 01/18/12 06:35 PM Re: On self-teaching [Re: TonyB]
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 314
Loc: Twin Cities
It seems to me that, in general, finding whatever course of instruction one needs to learn to play piano is a matter that is more complex than simply grabbing the first course you see or hiring the first teacher you encounter. Discussions in these forums seem to suggest a parallel between selecting a "live" teacher and selecting a course for self-study.

In both cases, the method of teaching needs to correspond with the student's needs and goals. It does not seem uncommon to me for a person to find that a particular teacher is not suitable for a particular student's needs, and in that case, the student needs to find another teacher. The same can happen with finding a suitable course for self-study. I suppose we could use a particular course for some sort of trial period and get our money back if the course is not suitable, though I don't know how many people do that.

Though I am sure it is possible that there are people who hop from one course to another, or one teacher to another rather than knuckling down and doing the work, I would think it is more common for people to need to find the right teacher or course for their needs. A part of that process is discovering for oneself what one's needs and interests are.

Some people know right away what they want to pursue on the piano. Others have a sense that they want to learn to play, but it is only by actually sitting at the piano and trying different approaches that they begin to really clarify what they want. I believe this holds true for both those who hire a"live" teacher and those who try the self-study approach.

People who are pursuing a self-study approach will necessarily try one or more of the courses that people here recommend, even while the people recommending are in the process of discovering for themselves what works for them.

If a person is concerned that others in this forum think they are just avoiding doing the work, and choose to stay with a course or teacher whom they have come to realize just isn't doing it for them, then I would think that would not be a good thing in the long run.

Rather than "shoulds" and judgments about what another is doing, especially with the apparent stigma some attach to the self-study route as somehow being less "real" than a formal teacher, maybe a bit more open-mindedness and a supportive stance in helping that person discover whatever it is s/he needs to clarify about their own musical goals and learning needs might be a bit more appropriate.

These comments are not aimed at anybody specific, nor are they in response to any particular post in this thread. Instead, this is in response to just an overall sense I get from some people's comments whenever a thread of this nature comes along.

We all have opinions about piano playing and the approaches that would appeal to us. Where some people will spend months learning, memorizing, and perfecting a classical piece of music, others would much prefer to make up their own music on the spot or their own interpretation of a standard or pop tune. Neither approach is more right than another, but each does have its own path to gaining the particular skills need to do that thing. I see no reason why the latter approach could not be done without the aid of a "live" teacher. The classical approach probably does require a teacher and strict adherence to a prescribed set of steps to developing the necessary skills. Then, I could be totally wrong all around. I am just finding my own way, and certainly can't determine what is best for another.

Tony




Edited by TonyB (01/18/12 06:38 PM)
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