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#2354066 - 11/23/14 08:51 PM my struggle to learn pop piano
carojm36 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/02/14
Posts: 23
Hi, I've been lurking a couple years now. At 65 I took up piano, again, for the umpteenth time. I never had lessons as a kid but have known basic chords and inversions since I was a teen.

But I never learned to just play melody and accompany with chords on the left hand. I think that's really, really hard.

After I got my reading together I looked up my old teacher, a fine jazz performer, but I keep want to "run away" to Bach minuets because they actually seem easier than jazz. It all seems very hard and at my age I really have trouble learning. She seems to want me to learn theory and concepts from the inside out, when I just want to play tunes - Piano Guy type stuff.

But with her help I have transposed a lead sheet to my singing key for If You Could See Me Now, found the closest set of chords inversions, and got so I can play melody in my right hand with left-hand chords. A BIG deal for me, took months and months. Now I am playing the scale with each change - Fmaj7,Bb7, Am7,Abm7 etc. Eventually, I plan to play the arpeggios and the various triads in each chord. Does this sound like a plan? Sometimes when I'm in the mood I can actually improvise a little with just that.

Problem: I can't figure out how to get a nice rolling rhythm on the left hand for ballads. I just play whole notes..can someone direct me to a source for this?

Thanks for reading. smile


Edited by carojm36 (11/23/14 08:52 PM)

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#2354071 - 11/23/14 09:10 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12147
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Like everything, it starts with baby steps, and lots of them. Playing in other styles is actually rather easy and more ear-oriented than Bach. Bach is harder, for sure, but since you are not familiar with playing in other styles, Bach is more "comfortable".

It's good to play whole notes and get that to be easy. Once you can do that, then try, LH alone, to arpeggiate the chords (play one note at a time, to the rhythm and meter of the song). Or if that's too tricky, try playing the chords with the beat, on the beat. You can really experiment with how many different ways you can play the LH chords. Ask your teacher for different ideas if you feel stuck.

Once you do them enough, you'll have an arsenal of some different licks that you can choose from for other pieces. Anyways, when you pick one you like, just learn to play that well for your song LH alone. Then try adding the melody back in. It will be tough and awkward, but hopefully you can struggle through it the first few times and it will get easier.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
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www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2354072 - 11/23/14 09:10 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 281
I'm following the same struggle. I've been playing classical for a while and now trying to learn to play from a lead sheet. It is very hard for me to figure out what to play if it isn't written on the page. I can play the melody with the right hand , and block chords in root position with the left, but all the improv stuff people do to dress things up? Haven't a clue.

I don't have a suggestion for you, but you're not alone in the struggle.
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Oongawa

'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

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#2354079 - 11/23/14 09:24 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12147
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Improv comes from doing something planned a lot, and you just remember that and apply it. That means you do have to play it enough in different situations to recognize that as a pattern that can be repeated and applied in different situations.

It sounds easy enough, but it does take time and experience. How is your reading of classical music? If possible, I recommend learning to play pop tunes that have been written out. It will be tricky because the rhythms are so syncopated, but for me that helped a lot once I did enough of them to see recurring patterns. Then when I saw a chord on a lead sheet, I had some idea on what I could do with it. I just remembered what songs I played that were like that and what LH accompaniment they used.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2354094 - 11/23/14 09:53 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1927
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: carojm36
I just want to play tunes - Piano Guy type stuff.


Here you go ... http://www.pianoinaflash.com/
_________________________
Don

Current: ES7, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors, Ravenscroft275, Ivory II American Concert D, Pianoteq 5

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#2354136 - 11/24/14 01:28 AM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3804
Loc: Northern England.
I find that when you buy or acquire the music to the song you want, there's a lot of challenging work therein. No different to playing classical but a tad harder IMO. It can be rewarding to do this, and gives you an insight into improvisation too, or maybe I should say, the song writers original thinking.

Which would be based on someone else's original thinking from years gone by. But pop music ids s great genre to get into. You hear guys playing it in a jazz setting, or classical.

Best of luck man! I'm 66 (and a bit). . . have fun!
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes � but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

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#2354202 - 11/24/14 08:58 AM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
EM Deeka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/13
Posts: 182
This link has a quick summary of LH accompaniment patterns.
LH Accompaniment

Youtube videos for many these patterns are available in several tutorials.

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#2354222 - 11/24/14 10:50 AM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: EM Deeka]
carojm36 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/02/14
Posts: 23
Originally Posted By: EM Deeka
This link has a quick summary of LH accompaniment patterns.
LH Accompaniment

Youtube videos for many these patterns are available in several tutorials.


Thank you and dmd for the links! I'll check them out Often just one new idea gets me moving again.

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#2354226 - 11/24/14 10:56 AM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Charles Cohen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1495
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
Quote:
. . . After I got my reading together I looked up my old teacher, a fine jazz performer, but I keep want to "run away" to Bach minuets because they actually seem easier than jazz. It all seems very hard and at my age I really have trouble learning. She seems to want me to learn theory and concepts from the inside out, when I just want to play tunes - Piano Guy type stuff. . .


Bach minuets _are_ easier than jazz! All the notes are written down for you, you just have to execute what's in the score. Bach has done all the musical thinking for you.

For jazz, you do much of the "composing" yourself. Morodiene's "lick-based improvisation" seems to be how most players do it.

The alternative is getting sheet music arranged for piano, and playing that as you would play Bach. It might sound like jazz, but it'll come out the same way every time you play, and that's not what "jazz" is about.

At 69, I have the same learning disability that you do:

. . . Everything takes ten times longer to learn than it did when I was younger.

But to stop learning, is to die.

. Charles

PS -- there are lots of books on jazz piano. And they mostly have lots of "theory" in them, because that's what you need in order to construct music.

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#2354266 - 11/24/14 01:11 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1460
Loc: uk south
Is that the 'If you could see me now' that Celine Dion sings?

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#2354448 - 11/24/14 11:09 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
EM Deeka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/13
Posts: 182
Originally Posted By: carojm36
....
After I got my reading together I looked up my old teacher, a fine jazz performer, but I keep want to "run away" to Bach minuets because they actually seem easier than jazz. It all seems very hard and at my age I really have trouble learning. She seems to want me to learn theory and concepts from the inside out, when I just want to play tunes - Piano Guy type stuff.
...


Did you plan to learn jazz piano ? Why is the teacher insisting on a jazz regimen if that's not what you want to learn ?

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#2354479 - 11/25/14 02:55 AM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: EM Deeka]
Emissary52 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/09
Posts: 336
Loc: Monroe, NC USA
Carojm36 – I understand your situation completely. I got through Alfred’s Adult 1 and a couple of the Masterwork Classics series books and felt comfortable with the intermediate classical stuff. You would think after getting at least this far along, that popular music wouldn’t be so bad. But to me, a lot of pop or jazz pieces can make Bach and Mozart look like child’s play.

The “easy” popular song books are sometimes too easy, or they’d be “easy” for Glenn Gould in their “upwardly more difficult” definition of “easy”. A lot of the piano/vocal/guitar versions of songs have the melody in the right hand and the chords in the left, so if you want to sing along with them, it gets kind of awkward. Sometimes, you just want a simple accompaniment to sing along with - and they’re hard to find. Even when you do find suitable songs, they’re often in the wrong key for your voice type and transposing them down, to suit you, makes them sound too muddy or transposing them up, makes the arrangement sound too bright! It seems you can’t win for losing!!! Sometimes I think I need composition and arrangement courses more than I need piano lessons!

Plus, the fact that you and I are over 60 and realize we may not have 30 more years to “get up to speed” makes the whole process annoying. But yet, we persevere! grin
_________________________
I'm Craig, I'm retired, It's Saturday every day!
Alfred's Masterwork Classics Vol 3 and Vol 4
YDP-160, GH-170R
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#2355273 - 11/26/14 10:48 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 281
Thanks for the tips! I read music well, so trying to do something without sheet music is difficult. I'll try some of the suggestions here. My reacher is working with me on this, too. She was a little reluctant since she much prefers teaching classical, but we've started adding in some chord work, and that is helping. I usually have one song a week from a fake book where I have to come up with something to do with it, other than what's printed. That is painful to listen to, I am sure, but it is slowly improving.

My classical pieces I usually spend 2-3 weeks on, but the fake book stuff takes twice as long. The music may be simpler but the process is a lot harder for me.
_________________________
Oongawa

'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

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#2355308 - Yesterday at 01:23 AM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1582
Loc: NY
Originally Posted By: carojm36
Problem: I can't figure out how to get a nice rolling rhythm on the left hand for ballads. I just play whole notes..can someone direct me to a source for this?

Thanks for reading. smile


I like to play a classical/Chopin pattern (Revolutionary Etude) with the left hand for ballads. smile Be creative with it...

Polovetsian Dances (Stranger in Paradise):





Edited by Elssa (Yesterday at 01:41 AM)

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#2355501 - Yesterday at 01:20 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Greener Offline

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1246
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: carojm36

...
She seems to want me to learn theory and concepts from the inside out, when I just want to play tunes
...


If you just want to play, theory and concepts first will definitely be the long road IMO. Practicing Arpeggios and triads in different positions would not be high on my list either. Maybe someday, or for a specific piece, but otherwise there is better use of your practice time. I have always preferred repertoire over anything else. But, like you, I just want to play and I am not aiming to give the likes of Glenn Gould or Oscar Peterson a run for their money anytime soon.

I get my back up a bit with the philosophy of having all your ducks perfectly aligned in order to move forward. I suppose the concept is the correct one for the masses, but it has just never been this way for me. My first introduction to Piano was by rote. IE. Watch listen and replicate. Then years later some chord training. Then decades later, learning to read. I have also been learning about theory in this latter part. I love how it has filled in many blanks for me, but I estimate it has had very little if any effect on my actual playing.

If you have a lead sheet for a piece you like, I would then suggest searching for performances of it that you like. Try to get ideas for accompaniment from various performances. Watch, listen and replicate with similar style, but with your own interpretation.

Everything is hard until it gets easy. I can usually get up to speed much faster with any pop lead sheet than I would expect to with just about anything by Bach. If you can play Bach well, surely you will be able to do a nice job with most pop and other non-classical.

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#2355531 - Yesterday at 03:36 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Jytte Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/25/14
Posts: 18
Loc: presently Germany (Danish)
Why do people 'alway' say/assume that pop is simpler/easier than classical??
(That meant as an honest question, not an approach)

In my humble experience, in making simplified scores from classics and pop alike, pop is often far more difficult to 'get right'. I assume because it's written for singing, not like classical written specifically for a piano? At any rate some of the pop tunes are incredibly hard to 'transfer' to piano solo.
_________________________
I pray, that tomorrow I may strive to be a little better than I am today -
and, on behalf of everybody else, I give thanks for the invention of headphones.

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#2355546 - Yesterday at 04:33 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Greener Offline

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1246
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: Jytte
Why do people 'alway' say/assume that pop is simpler/easier than classical??

I do not.

I thought the discussion was more about which is harder to learn. It was deemed that pop was hard for people that read well but had little exposure, or practice with accompaniment using lead sheets.

As everyone knows, everything is easy to play after you know how to play it. Depending on your background, one may be tougher for you to learn than the other.

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#2355560 - Yesterday at 05:02 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Jytte Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/25/14
Posts: 18
Loc: presently Germany (Danish)
I guess you're right on that. I must I admit my respect for songwriters in the 'pop' genre has risen since I started trying to play some of those songs. Seems so easy to sing... playing is another matter entirely smile
_________________________
I pray, that tomorrow I may strive to be a little better than I am today -
and, on behalf of everybody else, I give thanks for the invention of headphones.

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#2355641 - Yesterday at 09:54 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 281
My thought is that people might think thay classical is more difficult is that those who play classical usually learn it by reading music. For those who do not read music, sheet music - especially at intermediate level or above, looks very difficult.
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Oongawa

'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

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#2355642 - Yesterday at 09:54 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: carojm36]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 281
My thought is that people might think thay classical is more difficult is that those who play classical usually learn it by reading music. For those who do not read music, sheet music - especially at intermediate level or above, looks very difficult.
_________________________
Oongawa

'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

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#2355659 - Yesterday at 11:25 PM Re: my struggle to learn pop piano [Re: Jytte]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3179
Originally Posted By: Jytte
Why do people 'alway' say/assume that pop is simpler/easier than classical??
(That meant as an honest question, not an approach)

In my humble experience, in making simplified scores from classics and pop alike, pop is often far more difficult to 'get right'. I assume because it's written for singing, not like classical written specifically for a piano? At any rate some of the pop tunes are incredibly hard to 'transfer' to piano solo.


I added the bold...I think another reason Pop is harder for the pianist with classical experience is because typically Pop is performed by an ensemble, i.e. a band of some sort which may include multiple instruments such as drums, guitar, horns, vocals, etc.

And, when listening to a Pop song, you are likely listening to a very slick production by professional musicians tweaked in a studio production.

Each of those instruments is providing a voice with various contributions to the rhythm and melody...Thus to duplicate that from what is usually a slimmed-down adaptation for the piano (when the original may not have even had a piano) by a pianist who is probably an amateur is quite a challenge.
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