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#2558287 - 07/23/16 11:06 PM Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers
Yeva Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/23/16
Posts: 4
Hello everyone, I have a quick question about notes for the left hand. I'm a beginner and not musically talented, so I'll try my best to explain what my question/concern is about.

A little background about me, I started learning the piano in the second grade and took classes for roughly 3 years. Recently I decided to relearn to play the piano. I found a teacher who is used to working with beginners and I've taken 4 classes with her. I really like the pieces she chooses for me, but I am having difficulty reading the left hand.

For the right hand, she writes the notes normally as you would see on sheet music, but for the left hand she writes "La" under one note and then 3 or 4 notes later she'll write "La" again and I finally found out today that when she writes one note for the left hand she means for me to play the chord (one note at a time - sorry don't know the correct terminology). For this piece she's assigned me, the notes don't line up.

So I guess my question is, is this normal for the beginning? I personally find this counterproductive, because I memorize how to play the song/piece instead of learning to play it. I asked her if it was possible for her to give me the sheet music with the bass clef (with the bass clef I would know which note to play when), but she said she couldn't since she wrote the notes by ear.

I'm looking forward to hearing your opinions on this.


Edited by Yeva (07/23/16 11:14 PM)

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#2558299 - 07/24/16 01:23 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Saranoya Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 828
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Hi Yeva,

It sounds to me like you have a teacher who prefers to play from a lead sheet, rather than two-staff sheet music that is entirely written out. A lead sheet is what you get when you combine a written-out melody line with chord symbols for the bass line. Something like this:

If you'd rather learn to play exclusively from 'complete' scores, I think you're better off with a teacher who was classically trained. People who prefer lead sheets are usually jazz or pop musicians.

The flip side is: if you stay with your current teacher and learn to play from a lead sheet, it'll train your ears in a way that playing other people's compositions, down to the exact ornamentation that the original composer wrote down, never will. Both approaches have their merits, but the latter (playing other people's music exactly as written) has been making me feel that I'm missing some fundamental skills as a musician.
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#2558301 - 07/24/16 01:34 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
AndrewJCW Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/10/14
Posts: 664
Loc: Middle of nowhere, Australia
Even if they are a pop/jazz teacher if they actually can't write out a left hand line in the bass clef they are probably a pretty poor one. Any decent teacher of any style should be able to cover the bases of all the styles fairly easily. Unless this teacher is super cheap or you just looking for a short term thing to get you going I'd be looking for other options. They might be a great teacher and advanced pianist in their particular way, but if you're a beginner that can't know that or wants to learn more traditionally then learning from someone like this that teaches out of book is a risky business.
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#2558316 - 07/24/16 04:21 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Qazsedcft Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/15
Posts: 643
Loc: Poland
First of all, welcome to PW!

I agree with Andrew that if your teacher can't write the bass chord she is probably a very bad teacher. Maybe she can but doesn't want to, which is a different story.
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#2558320 - 07/24/16 06:02 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
earlofmar Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 2762
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By Yeva

So I guess my question is, is this normal for the beginning? I personally find this counterproductive, because I memorize how to play the song/piece instead of learning to play it.


Welcome to the forum Yeva.
No, it is not normal for a teacher to hand write a score by ear, unless it was a hard to get score and you specifically asked for it. It would be normal if she gave you photocopies of a score or you both worked from a book of scores.

Perhaps telling us what the piece is might give more of clue for this unusual method.
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If this life is a simulation can I not be in the easy version where Bach was a drummer

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#2558375 - 07/24/16 11:16 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Yeva Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/23/16
Posts: 4
Thank you all for your inputs.
Saranoya, yes that is similar to what she uses. Except she doesn't have the chord names as is shown in the example, she'll just write Fa for F or La for A. Sometimes she'll write a combination of the two, like Fa-C-Fa. At first I thought I had to play all of those notes as a cord as in FCF. Her system of writing is not always consistent, which is confusing (it might not be for someone who's not a beginner). We've never talked about majors and minors, the only thing she told me about chords is you play every other white key and finish with the key you started with on the next octave.

Andrew, I'm hoping she can. I just don't think she wants to put in the time. Her lessons are cheap and I plan to learn with her until December, at most. She doesn't use a book, she just gives me the sheet music to play. I did, however, buy Alfred's All-in-one course books online yesterday. At this point, I'm going to try to teach myself. After my first lesson with her, I knew I would eventually need a different teacher based on my progress.

She mainly teaches young students, some have been with her for years. So, her methods are too child-friendly I guess. I couldn't get the rhythm when playing with both hands for the first time and she said, "oh, the little ones get it right away," and she didn't do anything else to help me with my rhythm, which I was told is completely off.

Thank you, Qazsedcft and Earl for the welcome!
Earl, all of the pieces she's given me have been handwritten. At this point I don't mind that they're handwritten, I just want to be able to read it without having to memorize the notes before I can even attempt to play. The current one is from an old Soviet movie, "Piece from the sky" or "ktor m erkinq" in the original language by Tigran Mansuryan.

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#2558388 - 07/24/16 12:37 PM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13442
Loc: Canada
Are you actually learning anything from her? If not, even cheap lessons are a waste of money.

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#2558442 - 07/24/16 05:59 PM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Charles Cohen Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 2981
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By Yeva
. . .
Saranoya, yes that is similar to what she uses. Except she doesn't have the chord names as is shown in the example, she'll just write Fa for F or La for A. Sometimes she'll write a combination of the two, like Fa-C-Fa. At first I thought I had to play all of those notes as a cord as in FCF.


That's "sol-fa" notation. Do / Re / Mi / Fa / So / La / Ti / Do.

Singers use it. I've never heard of anyone using it for piano beginners.

But for jazz: the advantage (I think) is that "Do" means "tonic", not "C". So if you're transposing a lot, it might make sense. Many jazz musicians use a similar notation for chords --

. . . I / ii / iii / IV etc

so when the piece is transposed, the chord symbols stay the same.

If this is meaningless to you, don't worry about it.

Quote:
Her system of writing is not always consistent, which is confusing (it might not be for someone who's not a beginner). We've never talked about majors and minors, the only thing she told me about chords is you play every other white key and finish with the key you started with on the next octave.


That rule works in the key of C, and no other key. IMHO, it's bad to establish a "rule" which is going to be thrown out the window, fairly early in a student's lessons.


Quote:
Andrew, I'm hoping she can. I just don't think she wants to put in the time. Her lessons are cheap and I plan to learn with her until December, at most. She doesn't use a book, she just gives me the sheet music to play. I did, however, buy Alfred's All-in-one course books online yesterday. At this point, I'm going to try to teach myself. After my first lesson with her, I knew I would eventually need a different teacher based on my progress.


Keep working with Alfred's. Establish a rule for when you'll stop taking lessons from this teacher, and stick to it.

Quote:
She mainly teaches young students, some have been with her for years. So, her methods are too child-friendly I guess. I couldn't get the rhythm when playing with both hands for the first time and she said, "oh, the little ones get it right away," and she didn't do anything else to help me with my rhythm, which I was told is completely off.


a) Can any of the young students play well?

b) The teacher's job is to say:

. . . "That's not right. To play it right, do this . . . "

She's only doing the first part of that. To be worthwhile, she has to do the second part, too.
_________________________
. Charles
---------------------------
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / Korg Wavedrum / EV ZXA1 speaker

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#2558508 - 07/24/16 11:32 PM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Groove On Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/15
Posts: 511
She may not be the teacher for you.

But I think it's important to note (ha ha) that there is a Solfege approach to learning the piano. I believe Yamaha and Suzuki incorporate it to a high degree.

Anecdotally, I know many people who were taught using the Solfege approach as children (my mother and several of her friends, plus some musicians and players I know from Mexico and the Philippines). I have always been impressed by their musicianship abilities - even if some of them have let them deteriorate over the years. Generally, I've found that if you ask these Solfege trained people to play "something" they can wing it, without sheet music, or having anything memorized or prepared (some better than others).

Just saying, it's a different approach, worth paying attention to. My experience is that from the beginning, the Solfege approach seems to prioritize practical musicianship skills right up front.

So while this teacher doesn't sound like the one for you, I think the more important take away from all this is that there are different approaches to learning the piano, and you just encountered one of them. My take on it is that each approach prioritizes different things up front, so you have to decide what's important to you.
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Acoustic Upright + Roland FP-30
The question is, am I making music or just playing a bunch of notes?

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#2558543 - 07/25/16 05:20 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Qazsedcft Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/15
Posts: 643
Loc: Poland
It's probably not solfege notation. We haven't asked Yeva what country s/he comes from but in Romance language-speaking countries the names of the notes are simply Do=C, Re=D, Mi=E, Fa=F, Sol=G, La=A, Si=B.
_________________________

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#2558559 - 07/25/16 07:23 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Pianoperformance Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 07/19/16
Posts: 79
A good teacher adapts to you...and your needs. Each student is different and have needs that can't be compared. You may want to communicate your needs, but see if she can adapt her teaching methods ...
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Dream come true : playing the piano

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#2558725 - 07/25/16 10:28 PM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Yeva Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/23/16
Posts: 4
I'm from Southern California, but my teacher is from the former Soviet Union. I don't mind that she uses the Solfege notation (Do Re Mi), I actually find it easier. My issue about that was she went back and forth between the two for the same chord.

Keystring, I'm learning (memorizing) to play some pieces. My goal from these lessons (eventually) is to be able to look at sheet music and play it, obviously not everything.

Pianoperformance, she doesn't seem to like it when I ask her questions, which is a red flag for me.

Luckily, I was able to find a new piano teacher, word of mouth is she's wonderful. I'll start my lessons with her next month.

I just have another question. According to what I know about note value, the timing is off. I could be wrong, but I want to make sure. I think the quarter note needs to have a dot next to it for the timing to be right. Please don't mind the messiness.



Btw, I'm supposed to play two notes on the left hand for the eighth note with a dot and play the second eighth note by itself.


Edited by Yeva (07/25/16 10:33 PM)

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#2558744 - 07/26/16 12:28 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
AndrewJCW Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/10/14
Posts: 664
Loc: Middle of nowhere, Australia
Originally Posted By Yeva
Pianoperformance, she doesn't seem to like it when I ask her questions, which is a red flag for me.
]

Absolutely. No questions is a poor way to teach infants, but it's an atrocious way to teach adults. Constructing understanding is core to effective learning as adults. Glad you found someone else.
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#2558764 - 07/26/16 04:04 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13442
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By Yeva
Keystring, I'm learning (memorizing) to play some pieces. My goal from these lessons (eventually) is to be able to look at sheet music and play it, obviously not everything.

If the music is strangely written, by a teacher who can't or won't explain things, then that won't help your wish to get good at reading music. Your being forced to memorize, and you don't learn to read by memorizing.
Quote:
Luckily, I was able to find a new piano teacher, word of mouth is she's wonderful. I'll start my lessons with her next month.

Good! Keep us posted. smile
Quote:
I just have another question. According to what I know about note value, the timing is off. I could be wrong, but I want to make sure. I think the quarter note needs to have a dot next to it for the timing to be right. Please don't mind the messiness.

The quarter note without a dot would make sense in 4/4 time, but the note pairs should then be [dotted eighth + sixteenth]. A dotted eighth = 3/16. 3/16 + 1/16 = 4/16 = 1/4 - ergo, a quarter note for each set.

But then I read:
Quote:
Btw, I'm supposed to play two notes on the left hand for the eighth note with a dot and play the second eighth note by itself.

Then compound time would be better - 12/8. [quarter + eighth] for each pair, ending with a dotted quarter. Your LH notes would be three eighth notes in a row. In compound 12/8 time you have four beats. Each beat consists of three eighth notes which I've described as three "pulses".

I think she is trying to write out swing counting. Jazz musicians write it out "straight" and then they "swing" the notes, but it is written out for non-jazz musicians with the approximate note values written in. I'm in classical so I'm not strong in this part. Here's Wikki's take on it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swing_(jazz_performance_style)

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#2558780 - 07/26/16 05:43 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
Qazsedcft Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/15
Posts: 643
Loc: Poland
Not only did she mess up the rhythm (it should be dotted eighth + sixteenth), the lower part is also wrong. If Do is C then La should be A not F. F is Fa. I think this teacher has too many red flags.
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#2558781 - 07/26/16 05:48 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: keystring]
Qazsedcft Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/15
Posts: 643
Loc: Poland
Originally Posted By keystring

I think she is trying to write out swing counting. Jazz musicians write it out "straight" and then they "swing" the notes, but it is written out for non-jazz musicians with the approximate note values written in. I'm in classical so I'm not strong in this part.

It should still be written with the proper note values even if it's swung.
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#2558788 - 07/26/16 06:35 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Qazsedcft]
AndrewJCW Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/10/14
Posts: 664
Loc: Middle of nowhere, Australia
Originally Posted By Qazsedcft

It should still be written with the proper note values even if it's swung.


Convince the editors of the realbook then, not us.
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#2558802 - 07/26/16 08:08 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Qazsedcft]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3652
Originally Posted By Qazsedcft
Originally Posted By keystring

I think she is trying to write out swing counting. Jazz musicians write it out "straight" and then they "swing" the notes, but it is written out for non-jazz musicians with the approximate note values written in. I'm in classical so I'm not strong in this part.

It should still be written with the proper note values even if it's swung.


Convention has it that notes that are swung (sometimes called swing time) are written "straight", often with an explanation somewhere on the page that the straight notes are to be played "swung".

For example, Alfred's does that in the "All -in-one" books.

This concept is quite common in notation, not just for Jazz.

Another example is when a piece has triplets throughout...the triplet notation sometimes will be in the first few measures, then it is omitted, sometimes with a word to explain to carry on with triplets.

I have also seen music where the left hand is to be played an octave lower than written throughout the piece, so the notation indication is just in the first few measures, then a note to continue.

There is a name for this in Italian which I have seen on printed sheet music (Classical), but I cannot recall what it is.
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#2558804 - 07/26/16 08:27 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: rocket88]
Qazsedcft Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/15
Posts: 643
Loc: Poland
Originally Posted By rocket88
Originally Posted By Qazsedcft
Originally Posted By keystring

I think she is trying to write out swing counting. Jazz musicians write it out "straight" and then they "swing" the notes, but it is written out for non-jazz musicians with the approximate note values written in. I'm in classical so I'm not strong in this part.

It should still be written with the proper note values even if it's swung.


Convention has it that notes that are swung (sometimes called swing time) are written "straight", often with an explanation somewhere on the page that the straight notes are to be played "swung".

I know, but in all the sheet music I have seen the notes still add up to the proper time signature value even if they are played as triplets. The example above doesn't add up to 4/4 (BTW, it's also a grouping error).

Originally Posted By rocket88
There is a name for this in Italian which I have seen on printed sheet music (Classical), but I cannot recall what it is.

Probably simile or sim.
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#2558807 - 07/26/16 08:44 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Qazsedcft]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3652
Originally Posted By Qazsedcft

I know, but in all the sheet music I have seen the notes still add up to the proper time signature value even if they are played as triplets. The example above doesn't add up to 4/4 (BTW, it's also a grouping error).


Yes. I didn't read the hand printed sheet. It has so many errors that I didn't bother.

Originally Posted By rocket88
There is a name for this in Italian which I have seen on printed sheet music (Classical), but I cannot recall what it is.


Originally Posted By Qazsedcft
Probably simile or sim.


Right again.
_________________________
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A Blues tune with my trio: https://www.box.com/s/43da5e4ca6432d021eb8

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#2558816 - 07/26/16 09:17 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Qazsedcft]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13442
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By Qazsedcft
Originally Posted By keystring

I think she is trying to write out swing counting. Jazz musicians write it out "straight" and then they "swing" the notes, but it is written out for non-jazz musicians with the approximate note values written in. I'm in classical so I'm not strong in this part.

It should still be written with the proper note values even if it's swung.

In the sense that the note values add up, yes. In the sense that the note values reflect the rhythm, no, and for a reason - namely that the rhythm can't actually be reflected in notation - only approximated.

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#2558830 - 07/26/16 10:16 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: keystring]
Qazsedcft Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/15
Posts: 643
Loc: Poland
Originally Posted By keystring
Originally Posted By Qazsedcft
Originally Posted By keystring

I think she is trying to write out swing counting. Jazz musicians write it out "straight" and then they "swing" the notes, but it is written out for non-jazz musicians with the approximate note values written in. I'm in classical so I'm not strong in this part.

It should still be written with the proper note values even if it's swung.

In the sense that the note values add up, yes. In the sense that the note values reflect the rhythm, no, and for a reason - namely that the rhythm can't actually be reflected in notation - only approximated.

Yes, I meant that it doesn't add up. But my understanding is that swing is just a notational convenience. It CAN be notated by using triplet brackets all over the place, which would be a huge pain given the typical syncopation of jazz styles.

Edit: Actually, it's possible to just re-write using a different time signature but for some reason that's not the accepted convention.


Edited by Qazsedcft (07/26/16 10:28 AM)
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#2558845 - 07/26/16 11:15 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
AndrewJCW Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/10/14
Posts: 664
Loc: Middle of nowhere, Australia
I'm not sure it can be accurately written, but it's certainly not worth the effort. Try notating this timing https://vid.me/6rKT
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#2558914 - 07/26/16 07:10 PM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: Yeva]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13442
Loc: Canada
In case anyone is interested, I just started a coursera course called "The Blues: Understanding and Performing an American Art Form". It is very well put together (I'm on my 2nd day). On of the lessons in week 2 is about performing swing rhythm, featuring a trumpeter to demonstrate, and also the notation versus the practising of the notation. It goes straight to what we discussed here.

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#2559022 - 07/27/16 06:28 AM Re: Help from other adult beginners and/or piano teachers [Re: AndrewJCW]
Charles Cohen Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 2981
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By AndrewJCW
I'm not sure it can be accurately written, but it's certainly not worth the effort. Try notating this timing https://vid.me/6rKT


That sounds like 2 (in the piano) against 3 (a triplet-swung drum and bass).

There may be more subtle stuff going on, though. Any kind of jazz musician is constantly playing with rhythm -- a little "push" here, a little "after the beat" there.

One might as well say:

. . . "Here, listen to this Chopin recording -- there's no way you
. . . could write that down exactly."

Old drum machines (maybe new ones, too) have a "swing knob" -- from 50% ("straight time") to 75% (dotted eighth / sixteenth). "Triplet swing" is 67%.
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