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#1947191 - 08/22/12 11:57 AM Not sure how to progress
SBD Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/21/12
Posts: 6
Hi All,

I took lessons when I was 9, found it very boring and stopped lessons after about 6 months and did not touch the piano again until I was 11. I just sat down one day, for some reason, and began to "make up" my own music when I was 11...new age, contemporary style. I am almost 47 now and over the years have done this through periods of my life. Starting, stopping, buying a digital piano, selling it....now I am wanting to start up again...I do not remember how to read music nor do I really want to as I feel it hinders my creativity...I don't really want to play other people's music. So I am not sure where to go from here. Should I learn theory so that I understand what I am doing? Should I just be happy doing what I am doing and not worry about it....I guess I am at a point where I would like to be able to create more complex music but as it is now, pretty much each time I sit down at a piano, I am starting over with a new attempt at making something up. Sometimes I start from where I left off sometimes I don't. Just kinds not sure where to go from her. Any thoughts.

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#1947213 - 08/22/12 12:42 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Some people play very well by ear and don't need to learn the traditional note reading method. If I were you I would ask myself am I happy with my compositions? If you need them to be more challenging and you don't find those sounds within your ear then you probably can get ideas just listening to other composers work.....either contemporary or traditional.

For me note reading in invaluable even though I can play by ear.

It never hurts to have the help of someone more advanced than you ....if you can find that right person for you.

rada

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#1947350 - 08/22/12 04:44 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1039
Loc: Southern California
First suggestion is to get some kind of recording device or using the phone or computer to record. This avoids starting over each day.

Writing pop style songs by learning basic chords and simple melodies is one possible road. A person will do better by learning basic chords and inversions. While learning to read music on a staff would be helpful, a person can get far just by learning the chord names and the keys to strike. That said, some basics of notation might be useful if a person wants a paper copy of the work, and not just recordings.

For me, learning theory is more difficult and mind numbing, as compared to learning the basics of note reading and chord names. Much of music theory won't make much sense without that background anyway. What does the Circle of Fifths even mean if a person doesn't know basic chords? What does a 3rd mean if a person doesn't know basic notes?

I believe an adult can learn some basic chords and note names in a short time, (say a week or less), at least enough to notate simple pop-style songs with basic chords and simple melodies. Just doing this much would open up a vast world of songwriting up to a person, so I would suggest at least learning that much.

I am a fan of ABC notation, which is popular in folk music. Melodies, and chords can be notated and saved with a word processor or text editor. With a free utility program these text files can be translated to produce standard style sheet music.


Edited by Sand Tiger (08/22/12 04:45 PM)
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#1948240 - 08/24/12 02:56 AM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Welcome to the Forums, SBD.

Originally Posted By: SBD
....now I am wanting to start up again...I do not remember how to read music nor do I really want to as I feel it hinders my creativity...I don't really want to play other people's music. So I am not sure where to go from here. Should I learn theory so that I understand what I am doing?

As I am certain you already know, learning to read music is one hel*l-of-a-lot of work. So with your other opinions about not wanting to play the music others have written, it probably is not even worth your time trying that route. Unfortunately, learning theory will require a thorough knowledge of music notation and rudiments, which most individuals acquire while they are learning to read music for their instrument.

I should mention that most individuals who play by ear do not believe that reading music hampers their creativity, In fact, most who play by ear, play jazz, or compose, are excellent readers also. In music, virtually every skill makes one a better all-around musician. And since you do not read music, how can you possibly determine that it hinders your creativity?

Originally Posted By: SBD
....I guess I am at a point where I would like to be able to create more complex music but as it is now, pretty much each time I sit down at a piano, I am starting over . . .

More complex. Without knowing how complex your music presently is, here is a track to run on.

In basic terms, we usually think of music as a mixture of melody, harmony, texture, rhythm, and the sound(s) the instrument(s) make(s). Guided by your ear, you might try experimenting (first) with making your melodies more complex. Once you have a couple complex melodies in mind, then start expanding the harmonies with more chord changes and more dissonance. Try getting a couple of these more complex melodies to sound simultaneously, both playing at once, maybe starting at slightly different times. Then progress to more complicated meters and rhythms.

And as others have advised, when you get something you like, record it so you can duplicate it and even develop it more in the future. I would advise against using a telephone or a computer for recording. Telephones are for calling people, and computers are for collecting and retrieving data. Sound recorders with microphones are for recording musical instruments, and play-back systems are for listening.

Ed
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1948441 - 08/24/12 12:22 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
SBD Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/21/12
Posts: 6
Thanks for the reply's....Ed you wrote," And since you do not read music, how can you possibly determine that it hinders your creativity?" What I mean is that like reading TAB for guitar....I can pick it out but it takes time and for me, it feels like regurgitation only, not creative...if I can sit down and compose my own "songs" why take the time it take to recreate something someone else wrote? There are songs I would like to play that other have written...but usually what happens is I get the basics started and end up going off on my own. I was learning note reading when I was a kid and that is what turned me off the piano. Why I ever sat back down at a piano is beyond me. I had no idea I could make up my own music that sounded good (even to other people...lol) So that is where I am basing my comments on....my experience with "Every Good Bird Does Fly" and "FACE"...I did some of that when I was 9 years old and I could pick out songs slowly....so I know that note reading is tedious and time consuming for me. Anyway, not sure I am explaining very well but....I do intend to record what I am doing on my MAC...I know not your preferred way but it works for me at this point. I am picking up an old Yamaha P120 tomorrow and yamaha is going to give me a brand new key bed so I am excited to start playing again.

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#1948478 - 08/24/12 01:08 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: SBD
...I can pick it out but it takes time and for me, it feels like regurgitation only, not creative...if I can sit down and compose my own "songs" why take the time it take to recreate something someone else wrote? There are songs I would like to play that other have written...but usually what happens is I get the basics started and end up going off on my own.

Without intending to contradict you, I do have a couple more thoughts on the subject.

By investigating pieces that others have written, we learn more expression ourselves. For instance, if I hear a new and strikingly different change of harmonic progression, I usually try to figure out how the composer or performer accomplished that. While I can take the time to transcribe what I heard from a recording, and then analyze my transcription, it is much faster (and usually more accurate) to consult the score. I might then use such a technique myself for a similar effect in my own music.

Most composers of note (pun intended!) carefully study the works of other composers, and that provides them a rich palate from which to create their own compositions. Again, every single musical skill that one can acquire ADDS TO his total musicianship.

Ed
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1948509 - 08/24/12 01:44 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
Steve Chandler Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2737
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: SBD
What I mean is that like reading TAB for guitar....I can pick it out but it takes time and for me, it feels like regurgitation only, not creative...

I didn't learn to read properly in my youth, I've struggled with reading since, but have gradually gotten better over the decades. I don't think I'll ever be a fluent sight reader. I understand it's arduous to learn to read.
Originally Posted By: SBD
if I can sit down and compose my own "songs" why take the time it take to recreate something someone else wrote?
If that's not what you want to do then don't.
Originally Posted By: SBD
There are songs I would like to play that other have written...but usually what happens is I get the basics started and end up going off on my own.

I've never done that. I don't try to learn pieces unless I have sufficient respect for the piece and the composer that I want to learn it in it's original form. This is especially true of me and Bach. I'm pretty skilled at composing counterpoint, but what Bach accomplishes is so efficient, elegant and expressive that anything I could add would be a detraction.
Originally Posted By: SBD
I was learning note reading when I was a kid and that is what turned me off the piano.

You're not a kid anymore, can't you see that adding even a rudimentary level of this skill will be beneficial?
Originally Posted By: SBD
I had no idea I could make up my own music that sounded good (even to other people...lol) So that is where I am basing my comments on....my experience with "Every Good Bird Does Fly" and "FACE"...I did some of that when I was 9 years old and I could pick out songs slowly....so I know that note reading is tedious and time consuming for me.

As it was for me, but with practice I've gotten good enough to learn my own pieces (some of which are downright hard!). My thinking is if I'm not going to learn them why would anyone else? I realize your situation is different, you can play your pieces, but learning to read will take you to unexpected places.
Originally Posted By: SBD
Anyway, not sure I am explaining very well but....I do intend to record what I am doing on my MAC...I know not your preferred way but it works for me at this point. I am picking up an old Yamaha P120 tomorrow and yamaha is going to give me a brand new key bed so I am excited to start playing again.

Okay, one minor point that hasn't been addressed yet. When I started re-learning to read music it was just to be able to learn to play pieces. But then I started learning theory (I was in college) and with that came understanding. As I've composed music my understanding has increased to the point that I can read a score and hear the music and understand what the composer did. I can look at my own music and see things I don't remember consciously putting in there. I can understand the things that my ear insisted on even when it didn't initially make sense on paper. Learning to read music is the easiest path to understanding music down to its deepest depths.

You say you want to increase the complexity of your creations. That implies experimentation beyond what you know. Learning reading and music theory will allow you to learn what's already been done. Basically you'll learn secondary dominants, augmented and diminished chords and not think you're inventing something new. The palette that's available in tremendously large even sticking to traditional harmony. Get into modern stuff and it's a whole new world.

Sorry for writing so much, but I have one last point. In my mind the most important skill one acquires by learning harmony is a skill at voice leading. When pop musicians write vocal harmonies they almost always parallel thirds or sixths. Learning music theory will allow you to compose harmonizations that don't rely on such simplistic techniques, i.e. they're more complex, more elegant and more expressive.

Stepping off soapbox,

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#1948532 - 08/24/12 02:33 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
SBD Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/21/12
Posts: 6
So if I were going to poke my head into theory is there a good beginning book to start with. I have looked over books at Amazon and there are just SO many...lots with good reviews....any thoughts on that. I am not saying learning this would hurt me in any way other than the time it takes...but I don't see this as rules to follow...ie: I don't feel it is disrespectful to start learning another person's song and branch off...this is for me, in my own home with no expectation anyone else would ever hear it, except maybe my roommate and she does not listen to piano so would have no idea whether I had done it or someone else had written any of it...but I would never lie and say I had created it if I had not. But that being said, I play piano for me and me only so don't feel a need to follow rules in creating, I certainly am not arrogant in thinking that by me adding/changing/branching off is in any way superior than what the original person wrote. I don't even think like that...I just play things that sound good to me and if someone inspires me to play originally rather than create a copy....I see no disrespect or harm.

I guess I am just not very disciplined smile To read music and do it well so that I could sit down and fluidly play a song seems to me it would take years of study and practice...yes? So to do it at a rudimentary level....is like how I felt when I got on computers and had to type...hunt and peck method. Now years and I mean years later, I can type pretty darn fast without even looking at the keyboard.

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#1948577 - 08/24/12 03:43 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
Steve Chandler Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2737
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: SBD
So if I were going to poke my head into theory is there a good beginning book to start with.
I'm sure they're all good. The basic nuts and bolts of theory, scale structure, chord structure, concepts of melody and rhythm are hard to get wrong. It's just putting names to things you already know.

Is it necessary to know that the fourth degree of the scale is called a subdominant? Only when you're getting to serious musical geekdom, most musicians just call it the fourth. However, when it comes to understanding it helps to know that the 4th functions as a subdominant (and all the other degrees of the scale have their names and functions). The thing is once you understand scale structure (which leads to understanding key signatures) then reading becomes more a matter of knowing that the 4th degree of Ab major is Db and seeing a natural sign tells you that the harmony is shifting from diatonic to something more chromatic.

When you get to harmony, that's a different animal. I'd suggest getting a teacher or taking a community college course (if offered). I believe you'll learn everything from 4 part harmony and beyond better with instruction. There's a lot of book learning then doing necessary to truly master the subject.
Originally Posted By: SBD

I guess I am just not very disciplined smile To read music and do it well so that I could sit down and fluidly play a song seems to me it would take years of study and practice...yes? So to do it at a rudimentary level....is like how I felt when I got on computers and had to type...hunt and peck method. Now years and I mean years later, I can type pretty darn fast without even looking at the keyboard.

Yup it takes years, but don't let that intimidate you. It's the understanding that adds to the enjoyment (for me). We're all different, but you mentioned you wanted to do more complex things and came on here to ask us how to get there. It's okay if you change your mind because you've got better things to do with your life than study music geeky stuff. Just know that the composers here have invested a hefty part of their lives learning it and we know there are no short cuts. However, we think it's worth it, YMMV.

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#1948585 - 08/24/12 03:53 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
SBD Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/21/12
Posts: 6
Thanks Steve...appreciate your thoughts....as well as others who have contributed here. I get the P120 tomorrow and will just see where I go with it for a few weeks and if that leads me to want "more" knowledge and if so progress from there.

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#1949051 - 08/25/12 04:43 PM Re: Not sure how to progress [Re: SBD]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1039
Loc: Southern California
SDB, I think websites are fine for starters. I don't see any need to buy a book for basic basics. Someone else started this thread on theory with links to some beginner resources.
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...tml#Post1948785

For beginners, even learning that much will greatly expand a person's horizons. If a person is some kind of savant, a creative genius, they might not need the extra vocabulary, but they wouldn't be asking these kind of questions. For almost everyone else, having more tools, more knowledge will increase what they can do, not limit it.

For many folks there is a point where it can get to be too much. As for myself, I tend to have a low tolerance for studying music theory. I still found a lot of value in learning some basics, so I could at least comprehend what others might be talking about or writing about. For example, the terms parallel 3rds and 6ths was used on this thread, if that is incomprehensible to a would-be composer, that person would likely find value in learning enough to understand what that means.




Edited by Sand Tiger (08/25/12 04:51 PM)
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