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#985910 - 01/01/05 10:26 AM Re: Sick of method pieces
Jerry Luke Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 969
Loc: Tillamook, Oregon
Wow!! THANK YOU all so much for your thoughtful replies! I have received so many good suggestions, that I will now carefully re-read through each post and visit the links, and research the suggested books.

I really appreciate the fact that others understand my frustration and have come forward with realistic solutions. As I've said before in other posts, this forum is INVALUABLE. I would be lost without it. Thanks, again! \:\) \:\)
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#985911 - 01/01/05 01:59 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
mikhailoh Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 4288
Loc: Cincinnati
Just as a postscript, I'm at my sister-in-law's house today and pulled out some of her kids' level 3 & 4 Alfred Jazz/Blues books for some sight reading practice.

Some nice pieces in them, and good lessons.

I do have a question to pose: At a fairly early stage, which is where Jerry and Lucky both are, what is the true virtue of playing original tunes over easier arrangements of more complicated pieces?

Like writing, painting or anything else of the ilk, you must first learn your craft in order to develop your art to its potential. However you find to do that is fine. But you need a roadmap, either from a teacher or a method of some sort, in order to know what it is you need to learn.
_________________________
Michael

====

He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.'

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#985912 - 01/01/05 02:50 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
I do have a question to pose: At a fairly early stage, which is where Jerry and Lucky both are, what is the true virtue of playing original tunes over easier arrangements of more complicated pieces? [/b]

This is indeed a good question. My position would be to the opposite of yours Michael, that is focus on the original and supplement with easy arrangements for fun. Personally I have gained much more technique going that route. I have tackled a few quite challenging original pieces that require much repetition and a lot of work but it is paying off in DEVELOPING better technique at a more rapid pace. I still do supplemental easy play pop and jazz pieces because, at the present time, they are a bit beyond me in their original form and I haven't really developed the musicality to pull them off, jazz is tough stuff and it takes loads of technique and proper phrasing.

We are all different and what works for one may not for another. My redirection away from the method books was at the urging of my current teacher who after 1 month with him saw no reason to continue after completion of the 2nd Bastien book. In retrospect, a good move.

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#985913 - 01/01/05 02:52 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
SAS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/04
Posts: 640
Loc: Austin, TX
I am in Bastien's Book 2 of Piano for Adults and don't really like it. There is a lot of stuff in there I don't want to play. There are things you can learn from a book like this and from playing the pieces, and my teacher has me going through the book, but I'm not enjoying it that much. We resume lessons next weekend so I'm going to ask her about it. I have another book I like better, "I Used to Play Piano" and am working on Pachabel's Canon in the book, it's a simplified version obviously, but I'm enjoying playing it. Someday I hope to play the real version but for now I'm happy to do this. Generally I agree that I'd rather play the real piece, but occasionally it's fun to play something else in a simplified version.

My husband bought me two books for Christmas that I think will be good, "First Lesson in Bach" and "An Introduction to: Classics to Moderns, Forty very Easy Original Keyboard Pieces". Some are too easy but I'm enjoying these books a lot more than the Bastien. Both have original pieces in them, not ones arranged for someone of my level.

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#985914 - 01/01/05 04:32 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
mikhailoh Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 4288
Loc: Cincinnati
Vintagefingers,

You sound like a very fast learner! Certainly motivated. It would appear that our methods of learning are more alike than they are different.

We both use harder pieces, which the method pieces can be, and play a mix of original scores and easier arrangements.

When you set out to pick a piece, does your teacher help you select pieces based on the techniques and concepts they incorporate?
_________________________
Michael

====

He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.'

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#985915 - 01/01/05 07:14 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
ShiroKuro Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3483
Loc: not in Japan anymore
A few people have talked about not using method books at all, but I wanted to add that for someone who is learning on their own and doesn't have a teacher, using a method book is certainly very important. I personally wouldn't recommend giving up the method books completely, only using them in conjunction with pieces of music that you choose for yourself.

Regarding music in easy arrangements, there are good arguments both in favor of and against playing them. If you eventually want to play the original, it can be beneficial to gain familiarity with the piece through an easier arrangement, but you may need some time away from the piece after playing the easier one before you start in on the original (esp if the easier one has been put into a different key).

I tend to naturally choose easy pieces (either originals or arrangements) after working through very difficult ones. I don't think there's much to be gained (except frustration) from working through a piece that is way beyond my level, but there are pieces that are so hard that I need to work on them for months before I can even play through to the end. After doing a piece like this, I always choose a piece that I can make playable in a short amount of time. By doing this over and over, I have been able to build up a repertoire that includes long and elaborate songs along with short simple pieces, and when I play for people I am able to have a variety of pieces to share.

And as a learner, for me anyway, it's this balance between hard and easy, quick and slow progress, that helps me maintain my motivation.
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#985916 - 01/01/05 07:30 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
Actually not Michael, I generally select which ones I want to play. I realize the pieces I can't or don't want to spend time learning at this stage of development. I have a sense when something is beyond me so far as the time required to learn because of multiple complex skills that I haven't developed and I stay away from them with one exception....Chopin's Nocturne Opus 9 #2 but verrrry slowly and not regularly. My teacher has encouraged me with this piece but also told me to take it slow and set it aside if the going gets too tough. It is not a major focus but a piece I hope to have learned by 2006, we'll see. I firmly believe you have to continually push the envelope to progress at a faster clip....as long as the brain cells hold up!

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#985917 - 01/01/05 07:37 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
ShiroKuro Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3483
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Vintagefingers makes a really good point I think. Playing pieces at the outer edges of your ability is another way to force yourself to progress, to develop new skills. If you only ever play simple pieces or pieces within your current skill level, how will you get beyond that level?

You just have to have a balance so that you're not doing something that's entirely impossible, just difficult enough. This balance is hard to find, but worth looking for and practicing on.
_________________________
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#985918 - 01/03/05 10:07 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
Luckychwee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/30/04
Posts: 231
Loc: Singapore
Well, there are some different views on whether to play original versus simplified pieces.

As a fresh beginner, music is something very foreign to me and every single tune sound nice to me. Take for example, someone play a simple silent night I will say it's nice as well as someone plays chopin pieces. The reason for me saying that is probably because I am too new to know how to appreciate music in different perspective.

Of course it will be good to learn "original" pieces but let's say I like a piece but I simply unable to play that now, wouldnt it be nice if I can play a simplified version now than later or even "Never ????"

As Bob has mentioned several times in other posts, life is too short and time is moving fast.
If I like "fur elise" must I wait till 2 years later to play this piece or I can play a much simplier one now ??? Just a thought ....
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An apple a day keep the doctor away,
A smile a day chase your sadness away,
A chat a day drive all loneliness away,
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And let's praise our Lord, our King, our God all the way ....

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#985919 - 01/04/05 07:34 AM Re: Sick of method pieces
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"must I wait till 2 years later to play this piece or I can play a much simplier one now ???"

You can do anything you want in the privacy of your own home. ;\)

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#985920 - 01/04/05 08:30 AM Re: Sick of method pieces
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
 Quote:
I do have a question to pose: At a fairly early stage, which is where Jerry and Lucky both are, what is the true virtue of playing original tunes over easier arrangements of more complicated pieces?
I'll take a cut at this question too, but first let me lay my cards on the table . . .

When it comes to advising someone on how to learn the piano, I have no idea what I'm talking about. All I have is my own experience, which was never self-taught. I did do a brief and unsuccessful attempt ages ago with an adult method book and a teacher who wasn't good at all. That's the very limited foundation for my remarks.

I feel like I have trouble understanding the *point* of method books (well, the ones I'm familiar with) for self-taught students. Too many of them give you "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie" when they could give you a "Rondo" Mozart wrote when he was 5, which is simple but cute.

I imagine there must be three problems facing self-taught students who want to use repertoire to learn rather than a method book. First, it's hard to know what the simple pieces *are* and what they sound like. Second, it's hard to get motivated and organized. Third, if you see something you don't recognize (double sharp, ornament), it's hard to know what exactly is being indicated without a book or person to tell you. All real and important obstacles, definitely.

Anyway, all of this is leading up to a question of my own. Several here have said the method books teach you things, but what exactly do they teach you? I mean no disrespect, but I honestly don't understand. I remember that they would give you a key signature, show you a triad in root position for that key signature, and give you a single note melody on the right hand. A couple more songs, then it was on to the next key signature, perhaps.

But to take Bob's example of "Fur Elise," it would be possible to have the sheet music, the circle of fifths and a chord chart, and you'd have most everything the method book would teach you, right?

Anyway, on to the actual question posed . . . I think it is perfectly fine to play arrangements of difficult work. It's not fine to play "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie" if you don't like it, though.

FWIW, when my teacher started me off, I had Junior Hanon, a simple sight-reading book, a book for developing dexterity ("Artistry at the Piano") and a book of John Thompson's arranged pieces ("Blue Danub," etc.). "Artistry at the Piano" might be just up your street. I started with Level 2, and DH is doing level 2 also and seems to like the pieces. The idea behind it was to offer the student original pieces written to mimic various classical styles.

I suggest you look at the "Artistry at the Piano" stuff to make sure you're on board before you buy it. Also, it comes in for some criticism because it doesn't do much for developing independence of the hands because there aren't intricate patterns between the hands, at least not at level 2.

Artistry at the Piano

The other book was John Thompson's "Adult Piano Book II." I can't seem to find this book on google or SheetMusic.com. If you're interested, I'll ask my teacher where she got it . . .

There's my ramble for the day!
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#985921 - 01/04/05 09:37 AM Re: Sick of method pieces
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"Several here have said the method books teach you things, but what exactly do they teach you?"

They teach you everything step by step. In other words, they may introduce a new key, but they'll also introduce some kind of notation or ornament as well.

They also slowly introduct different hand positions. They start out with the fingers fairly close together and then introduct simple pieces that start spreading the fingers out.

One problem with them as a self-learner is that the things introduced are usually only explained once and then it's assumed the student remembers what it was. With a teacher, you can always ask what that mark meant, but alone, it can be time consuming trying to find the little footnote that mentioned the mark in question.

But they do explain everything and there are reasons for pieces like "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie" and "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" rather than pure classical. The main reason is that the adult will almost definitely already know how the song goes. That way they don't have to find a recording of the piece to figure out how it's supposed to sound. Another is so the adult who isn't necessarily classically oriented doesn't get bored and give up too soon.

The farther along in the method you get, the more complex the pieces and the longer it takes to get through them.

As you say, on your own, it's very, very difficult to learn how to play something like Fur Elise because there are things in it that only a teacher can explain and demonstrate. Personally, I think there is room in the publishing industry for a book/DVD combo set that teaches a single piece. There are too many people who, for many different reasons, do not want to have a live teacher.

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#985922 - 01/04/05 10:50 AM Re: Sick of method pieces
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Or a book/DVD combo set that walks the student through original and arranged pieces by famous composers, like Mozart . . .

It sounds like Alfred could use a CD, too.
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#985923 - 01/04/05 12:02 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"Or a book/DVD combo set that walks the student through original and arranged pieces by famous composers, like Mozart . . ."

Exactly, that's what I meant.

"It sounds like Alfred could use a CD, too."

Actually, CDs are available for their courses. Either purchased with the book or separately.

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#985924 - 01/04/05 12:58 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
Or a book/DVD combo set that walks the student through original and arranged pieces by famous composers, like Mozart . . . [/b]

This IS such a book "Succeeding with the Masters" Helen Marlais, FJH Music Company

Works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, complete and unabridged. She plays through each piece on the CD, then goes back and breaks down some of the elements of the measures including transition phrasing, trills, dynamics, timing and other technique excercises. This is probably the best instruction book I've come across, that my teacher was quite excited by. These pieces are early intermediate/intermediate level. They take the guess work out of how the pieces should sound. The most beneficial aspect is assimilating the finer details of musicianship.

First learn to play the notes then shall the REAL practice commence.

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#985925 - 01/04/05 03:38 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Hi, Jerry,

I've had a very similar experience with you. I started out using the Alfred Adult Book 1 to teach myself, and I found the pieces and arrangements uninteresting. When I got a teacher a month later he started me on the Celebration Series. I really enjoy this set of books, great pieces, good insights and practising tips.

I've used this series in the past 4 months with my teacher (I'm very new in learning piano). I've also started to look at The Piano Handbook (recommended by some people on this forum), which is comprehensive but moves at a fast pace.

I still have the Alfred books around, in case there is something basic that I need to double check. I see their merits, and I think a beginner who doesn't know much about music theory could benefit a lot from them. But I'm still glad that I read music fairly well when I started learning piano so I didn't have to rely on these books.

Hope you find the books you like and have fun!

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#985926 - 01/04/05 03:51 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Excellent book Vintagefingers! The price is right too, $10 and that includes the CD! I picked up Vol. 1 today and I'll probably start in on it when I finish up Fur Elise.

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#985927 - 01/04/05 05:49 PM Re: Sick of method pieces
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
yes Bob it is very good. My teacher presented it to me as one of the better books he has come across and in my infancy of learning this instrument I couldn't agree more!

Hi Childofparadise

With your reference to "The Piano Handbook", it is just a superb book the more time I spend with it. I look at it as a supplemental reference work, not to be viewed as a tool in and of itself to learn the instrument although there are many valuable tips and information in its pages.

One area it is quite beneficial and worthwhile to me is in the recommendations of recordings by many of the pianists of the last century. It also links the pianists with the composers they are best associated with. I think this alone is almost worth the price of the book along with the list of books to be used for more comprehensive study at various levels. There is no single book that can be everything in learning to play piano but I consider this ONE essential for both beginner and accomplished pianist alike.

If for nothing else it is a good coffee table book! I bought a copy for my teacher for X-mas and he loves it. He put it where I expected he might, in his waiting room. I love it when a plan works ;\)

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