I have two goals for this year. One is learn to play piano. The second goal is to increase my electric guitar repertoire. The piano books I have are Alfred's Adult All In One Level 1 through 3 and Alfred's Complete Blues Keyboard Beginner to Advanced. I just got a DP for Christmas with a sustain pedal. I was working through Alfred's All In One level 1 on a keybord without a sustain pedal. I am on "O Sole Mio!" now. I played it for an hour today but that is all I did. My question is about practice. How many songs should I learn a week? How long should I spend on a song. I really don't practice scales, arpeggios or chords. I saw a book on amazon the complete book of scales, arpeggios, chords and cadences is that a book I should be practicing from. I also want to start playing from the Blues book. How much time should I play from each book? I just want to practice like I was learning to become a grade level piano player. My sight reading is also very poor.
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Your sight reading improves over years of playing different pieces, so you want to encounter a lot of music, but you also need to learn that music, not just sight read it and forget it.
The amount of pieces you work on depend upon how much practice time you have and your attention span. There comes a point after which continued practice will not give you results. You need to find that sweet spot for yourself. An hour on one piece at that level is overkill, and probably not efficient use of your time.
My advice? Find a teacher. You sound pretty serious, and you don't want to develop bad habits by trying to teach yourself something you don't know as an expert. The questions you have all can be answered by a teacher who knows you and has a plan to help you achieve your goals.
private piano/voice teacher - full time MTNA member www.valeoconservatory.com Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6
Loc: Canada Alberta
Let us start with the guitar. You have a repertoire in guitar. So you have been playing guitar 1, 2 ,3 , 4.....how many years? During that time, full-time or part-time, you learned to play the guitar. Age is not an issue.
You have sufficient experience playing an instrument, how long it took to learn a song/piece to your satisfaction. Piano is no different. I can tell you that if you learn one instument and then a different instrument it will take you about a month for your brain to get used to making your fingers do what it has to do on the guitar and then to do what your brain has to do to make the fingers do what it has to do on the piano. That is a normal adjustment when you do two different finger exercises - and your brain has to make an adjustment. After that when you go to the guitar or the piano, the brain is instantly ready.
As you know each song/piece is unique. One song will take you a hour, another song will take you 2 weeks. As you know, and I will remind you, that you must play both instuments everyday and you must review your repertoire for each instrument everyday. Nothing changes really - just double the amount of work/practice.
When you play from the blues book is up to you. If you understand what you see on page 1, then you can play it on the piano or on the guitar. It is whatever you can do.
The KEY WORD IS BLUES. If you have any interest in the blues, it usually means you just may wish at sometime in your life to do a little improvising and improvising is all about scales and arpeggious and chords, so you may at some time rethink "I really don't practice scales, arpeggios or chords."
"I just want to practice like I was learning to become a grade level piano player. My sight reading is also very poor.
It doesn't matter what level in piano wish to reach. All you have to do everyday is practice 1, 2, 3 hours a day, what free time you have to practice. The difference is if you practice 1 half a hour, it could take you 4 years to get a grade 1 level. If you practice 3 hours a day, you might get to a grade 1 level in 6 months. There is no magic, just blood, sweat, tears and steady practce. Good Luck. If you "always" review your music daily, your sight reading will improve 100 percent.
Loc: Calgary Alberta
Yes. Think about your available practice time each day and break it up into sections like:
- scales (work on 1 new scale each week) (5 minutes) - chords (major chords for each scale) (5 minutes) - sight reading (5 minutes) - piece 1 (15 minutes) - piece 2 (15 minutes) - piece 3, etc...
Do this everyday and the variety of exercises, music, will show in your playing. Plus sometimes just taking a break from a piece helps too.
How long you work on each piece depends on knowing when you have learned the key thing it's meant to show you. Some pieces come easy, some hard. Not all need to be perfectly mastered I would say but pretty close. New pieces might need a week or two. Usually you will have several pieces at various stages of learning and/or near completion.
PS I'm not a teacher but find when I keep a similar routine to the one described above I do my best learning. (sometimes the routine gets put on hold like through Christmas when I mostly just play for fun and fiddle around lots. That's fun too but separate from my regular practice time which I try hard to keep to an hour a day.
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
For electric I trust you're talking about lead work rather than chord work, yes?
If so, listen as much to sax and other instrumental solos rather than guitar solos. Few guitarists are as accomplished as musicians as are other instrumentalists.
If not, work your way through the early Beatles singles. The first twelve songs on the 1962-66 album (up to Ticket to Ride, which is half a semitone out by dint of speeding up the tape not by recording flat) are a masterclass in both songwriting and guitar playing. There is precious little in Rock music that will stretch your guitar playing skills further before venturing into solo work and other genres.
For the piano at the Alfred level you know the three chords C, F and G7 in each hand and you know plenty of guitar stuff, yes?
Use chords as your warm up rather than scales. Alternate the style of songs you learn, do one with chords in LH and melody in RH, the next one with chords in RH and bass in LH while you sing, then one that spreads the chords between the hands, taking the melody in thirds, for example.
Any of the standard three chord trick songs will do, Heartbreak Hotel, Don't be Cruel, etc. until you've learned A minor then the whole gamut of rock is pretty much at your doorstep.
Spend about five minutes on your song as a warm up. Don't warm up with scales. Scales are ear training, not finger training and your fingers need to be warmed up before you start them.
Then do you Alfred material. Pick a song, I would guess most of them are playable one hand at a time so do the whole song once through each hand separately and then take the measures either individually or in pairs and play them hands together at half the speed or slower than HS speed. Include the first note from the next measure.
If you don't get it right in two or three attempts go slower - don't keep making mistakes and think it will get better - it either gets worse or takes several times longer to get right.
After a couple of tries you should get it, then repeat it 7 - 10 times. Then move on to the next pair of measures. Keep the song as a number of two bar snippets until you have all of them and then get them as four bar snippets etc. At this level 5-10 minutes per song/piece per day should be fine. 15-30 minutes when you get to more advanced material.
I would do more songs per day than more minutes per song but try both and see how your learning changes (one might be better in the long term but another more suited to your personality, either way you've learned something about yourself).
Disregard the song titles and lyrics completely and treat them as new music. If you know the song already you will probably know it with a lilt or a different melodic rhythm. E.g. I live in Ireland and no-one, no-one sings Cockles and Mussels/Molly Malone/In Dublin's Fair City the way it's written in Alfred's.
You might either start your day or finish it with a quick review of previous material. Getting all the notes right at a reasonable tempo is one thing (and is enough before moving on). Getting them right and up to tempo is a question of time. Better to use that time learning other stuff than spending time building speed on material you can already play. You will get faster by playing piano every day, it doesn't have to be that song.
I would start scales in B major and reduce sharps/add flats each time. Many prefer to start with C; there's no accounting for taste. Keep to the same key until you feel you've mastered it. I would do no less than one month on each key the first time through the twelve major scales. Then add minors at the same rate. That gives you two years minimum to do all keys which is in keeping with most examining bodies.
You might try scales and arpeggios on different days. It helped me. You'll be doing these for years so there's no point mastering them all in a weekend.
Opinion: Sight reading is an advanced skill that requires a deep foundation and a broad technical equipment. Be content for now to memorise a little each day and read a lot. At the early stages (two or three years) it doesn't have to be prima vista for more than a line or two each day.
Disclaimer: I'm not a teacher. I've been playing both piano and guitar since 1963. Took piano lessons from '77 to '84 (to Grade 8) and completed an adult degree in tonal music in '89.
The biggest challenge with self-teaching is your difficulty in self-evaluation -- after all, you are busy playing, and that in itself is an activity that is heavy with multi-tasking! Use your camera or phone to video record yourself playing a song. Then play it back and critique yourself. Chances are, you will hear pauses, awkward spots, timing mistakes and other imperfections. Mark these down for reference -- some people don't like to mark their printed music, but that's something I find helpful.
When you have done this a few times, during the course of your learning a song, you will notice less rhythm errors and pauses, and you'll notice you have better continuity and accuracy. You'll also see where more attention to dynamics would be good, or better touch and phrasing is needed.
You have arrived when your fingers do the "thinking" and you are free to let your imagination color your performance. You can practically play the song in your sleep. Memorization is a big plus. The next goal is to be able to perform the song perfectly in front of people. This comes with experience, and its easy to beat yourself up when you don't do it well at first.
Teachers can be expensive, but musical friends can be your soundboard and evaluators. Play for other musicians and listen to what they tell you. It is all good (even if you don't always agree with them)!
Practice as long as you are able to concentrate well on your assignments. If you are fatigued or discouraged on one song, leave it and go to some technical exercises or previous repertoire. Regular practice (every day) helps you to forget LESS and to build upon each day's progress. Big gaps in practice result in lost skill and memory. I have to say, though, that running your songs through your mind while you are away from the piano has a positive effect! When you come back to the piano, you'll find that it is almost as if you had been practicing! Our minds continue to process and "practice" our music even when we are away from the keys.
You can do this! Make sure each practice session has some fun in it. Always have a recreational song to play when you sit down. Form good practice habits and you will blossom!