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#2266844 - 04/25/14 11:22 AM Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling.
JamesJ Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/17/13
Posts: 1
I've been learning theory for some time, and yesterday I decided to learn to play my first song from a sheet.

I went for a track I enjoy, which is Force MD's Tender Love. It's an old R&B song which features mainly piano.

I am having some issues that I hope others can offer some advice with. I can read the notes from the sheet fine, but I am struggling with time. I seem to have no perception of relative time. For example how long to hold the notes down for. I know the theory of it and the value of each note, but playing it, even to a metronome is very hard.

Am I jumping in the deep end a little here? Should I start with something more basic?

Looking for some tips and advice to grasp this relative time thing.

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#2266862 - 04/25/14 11:49 AM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
EM Deeka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/13
Posts: 384
Basic Timing for Pianists could be useful for you .

Have you tried practicing tapping the notes away from the keyboard ? I have found that a good exercise before starting to play.

Edited by EM Deeka (04/25/14 11:49 AM)

#2266865 - 04/25/14 11:53 AM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
noobpianist90 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 501
Loc: India
When learning to read from sheets, initially, it helps to learn to read pitch and rhythm separately. Ignore the pitch and just try getting the rhythm right. That is, play the same note while getting the rhythm right. Then ignore the rhythm and try playing the correct notes in sequence.

If your confused as to how long to hold down the note, count out loud with the metronome and then hold the note while you're counting out loud. It helped me while I was starting out.

Edited by noobpianist90 (04/25/14 11:55 AM)
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#2266868 - 04/25/14 11:55 AM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3847
Loc: Maine
I would suggest finding a way in which you can play and build practical concepts in music one small step at a time.

Rather than reading a lot about music first and then trying to play a piece which may be complex, I would start by learning one note value and playing that. Keeping a steady tempo while playing quarter notes is an accomplishment. Then another note value, and how to change back and forth between the two note values keeping the beat steady. Then another note value, and so on.

Of course as you do this you will also be learning pitches and how to find them on the piano, and there are a variety of ways to do that.
Elie Wiesel, 1928-2016.

#2266874 - 04/25/14 12:02 PM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
Marinelife Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/22/14
Posts: 118
Loc: DC/Maryland

I would have a hard time with that as a first and only piece. I would have to do it incredibly slowly and in very small chunks before even thinking about the metronome. (I'm a beginner too, though.)

How about starting with an easy blues piece or two, so that you feel comfortable keeping time with the left hand?

I agree about the tapping. I have never used a rhythm book, but my daughter had one from the beginning. It's especially useful for low brass, but I think it's made her a much better musician in general.

Nice to meet you. Theory is cool. So is R&B. smile

#2266891 - 04/25/14 12:29 PM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
dire tonic Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 2955
Loc: uk south
The short answer is that this piece will be a problem because a) you're trying to play a piano version of a song (sung!) where piano arrangements are notoriously approximate and fail usually to 'sit right' and b) the rhythmic base of the song is 16th notes in a light 'funk' style - or at least it would be if there were drums and bass to underpin the vocals and keyboards. Funk can be rhythmically as tricksy as it gets - not for beginners.

Stick to a resolution no finer than 8ths if you're just starting.

#2266894 - 04/25/14 12:33 PM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
DanL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/27/13
Posts: 99
Have you tried learning right hand and left hand separately? I see nobody has mentioned it. I think doing so would help a lot.

Good luck!

#2266972 - 04/25/14 02:27 PM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3980
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Sort of adding to what Dire Tonic wrote, if you're playing from a standard lead sheet that has the melody and chord names writing on it, what's on the sheet is not going to be the piano part you hear in the song itself, because the melody on the sheet will represent the lyrics only. So if what you like about this music is the piano part, you're not likely to find that on the lead sheet, and that will make it harder for you to re-create the music just from the lead sheet. So you want to be aware of that when you're practicing.

Then the next step might be what Dan mentioned. Just because the lead sheet doesn't have the LH written in doesn't mean you can't work on the LH part alone a little bit. Especially if you're not sure what to play for the LH part.

Getting back to your question of relative time... Can you follow along (with your eyes) the lead sheet as you listen to the original song? If you can't, then I would say this might be too hard for you. If you can follow along, and you understand what you're seeing, then understanding the relative time isn't the real issue and instead the issue is probably more technical. So when you play it, you might slow it down quite a bit, or do other things to simplify it to accommodate your current playing level.

I don't know if this is helpful for you so I'll stop here. Good luck!
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:

#2267076 - 04/25/14 06:22 PM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
Brian Lucas Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 1139
Loc: Nashville, TN
Another approach to reading rhythms without a ton of counting is to use a "follow a line going through the music" idea to start out. Basically, you focus on when notes are played together and when each hand has separate notes. You judge the length of a note on how much space is after it. The bigger the space, the longer the note.

It does help to understand and be able to count basic rhythms, but the idea here it to begin to FEEL rhythm. So often, before getting into specific note durations, I'll have people read through music while I place an index card on the music, moving it to the right as they play.
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
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#2267128 - 04/25/14 08:30 PM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
Rerun Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 1154
Loc: Louisiana

Hey James, my take is if you will use your ears to help you solve the rhythm dilemma, you might avoid the deep end if you've played piano a bit. Can you sing this tune half as good as they are singing it? If so, I'd say set the sheet aside for an hour, and using block chords with the LH and one finger melody with the RH see what you can do with it. Tap out the beat slowly using the LH chords and listen for the chord changes coming up.

I might add, I suspect there are a lot of easier R&B tunes than this one to begin with.

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD

#2268194 - 04/28/14 12:21 PM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
piano_primo_1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/25/09
Posts: 659
Loc: Pittsburgh,PA
Try Tempo Mapping the song on the score -----
I read your post and didn’t see where you wrote that you were playing from a “lead” sheet which is usually the chords that a player would use for a pattern along with accompaniment. Memorizing the chords would help there.
If it is so, finding the pattern of the song played would not be too difficult.
I’m assuming you are playing a piano score of the song that has the melody and bass (treble and bass clef).

Tempo mapping usually helps me a lot with difficult tempos/timing and afterward, humming it while playing .
I.e. see below
Use ticks for 16th notes and above instead of “1&2&….”.
see info below

Monday, April 28, 2014 (2)2

Monday, April 28, 2014 (2)1


#2268272 - 04/28/14 04:34 PM Re: Playing from my first sheet. Really struggling. [Re: JamesJ]
Oddsox Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/01/14
Posts: 13
Loc: Pasadena, CA, USA
Hey, big thanks to JamesJ for asking this and thanks everyone for your replies. I've only been practicing for a couple weeks, but I try to spend 15min with the metronome and my Dozen a Day book every time I sit down. Any longer and I want to toss the thing out the window. hehe I have to crank it down to 60 to do 16th notes and I still mess up a lot. hehe The metronome calls that Larghetto which I think is Italian for an old man walking down a street full of potholes? :P

I love it when you guys (EM Deeka) mention books, since it gives me an excuse to hit up the local music store. Even if it's a few bucks cheaper online, I like to get it at the local shop in hopes they stay open. The shop I used to love to go to back in NY closed decades ago.
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine
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