Frequently Asked Questions
I want to learn how to play popular styles of music on the piano, but why do I need private lessons?
- A 1-on-1 learning environment gives you the most thorough education you can get. You could probably teach yourself how to play rock on the piano, or learn in a classroom or by purchasing sheet music, but the amount that you can learn by those methods is limited by what you know, how much personal attention you could get in a classroom, and the notes on the printed page. Private lessons are free of these limitations and assure that the learning environment will be catered specifically to your own pace, ability and goals.
How is this different from my classical piano teacher?
- The main difference is the approach and the repertoire. Proper piano technique and learning to read music are still very important, and heavily emphasized with beginners, but too often a teacher will downplay the importance of music theory, improvisation, aural skills and popular repertoire. These elements will be taught with less focus on printed music and a greater emphasis on your ear. You will learn how to recognize different scales, chord progressions, styles and patterns and how to use these to play what you hear on the radio or in your imagination.
Do I need any prior musical training to learn how to play rock?
- No, you are ready to take lessons now! However... the more experience you have, the quicker you will reach your goals. A beginning piano student will have a period of time where, along with the rock and roll material, they will have to be playing scales, arpeggios, and other boring (but necessary!) things so that you can familiarize yourself with the instrument, build some muscle memory in your fingers, and start a habit of active listening.
Why can't I just buy the sheet music at the music store and learn it?
- Because sheet music is often incorrect, almost always simplified, and will only teach you how to play one song. Sheet music is a good place to start when you only want to learn one song and you are not comfortable with your ability to learn the song by ear. However, it is almost always incorrectly transcribed or simplified so that a beginning piano student can play it. This simplification sacrifices a lot of the rhythmic and tonal content of the song, as well as the song's texture, pace, solos and application to technique. We will meticulously disect a song and learn everything correctly. Most importantly, we will learn the song so that the audience's full expectations for your performance are met. What good would Bohemian Rhapsody be without the guitar solos at the end? The sheet music you can buy doesn't include them!
Furthermore, sheet music only tells you how to play a song in its original written key. Try singing anything by Journey in its original key and you'll see why this is a problem. A digital piano has a transpose button, but what if you want to perform a song in a venue with an acoustic grand? With my private lessons, you will learn how to transpose music to any key. You can choose the key that best fits your voice, or a key that works well with the rest of your band.
Why Can't I learn piano from piano lesson websites?
- For much the same reason that you need 1 on 1 lessons and shouldn't trust popular sheet music: The information you get is very limiting (and sometimes incorrect) and will not prepare you to perform. The point of learning music is to share it with other people, and it may be fun to watch a youtube video showing you how to play "Forget You" by Cee Lo Green, but what if they leave out the bridge? Let's also not underestimate Cee Lo's voice - if you plan on singing along, its a very good idea to change the key, which is not information you'll get from many online sources. You don't want to prepare for a performance without learning the entire song and finding a key that is comfortable for your unique vocal range.
These sites may also offer printable notation for the music that has the note names stacked on top of eachother with the hands printed in different colors, with no music staves or proper rhythmic notation whatsoever. This can help you learn one song that you are very familiar with because you already know the rhythm from having heard it so much. However, this format of music notation is used solely for this purpose. It is not used in performance or in school, so when you want to learn music with other musicians, these printable notations will not help you at all. Its similar to tablature notation for guitar: It is highly unlikely that a band will give their guitar player the music written in tab, and a musician who can learn music on the fly, without crutches like fake music notation or tablature, will play more gigs, more songs, and with more people.
(Why) Do I need to read music?
- If you don't know how, I will teach you how to read music because it is very hard to apply ear training otherwise. We can sit together for a lesson and learn something by ear, but we need to know how to write it down on manuscript paper so that when you sit down at your practice piano the next day, without me there to assist you, you remember exactly what it was that we learned. This process of writing down what you hear is called Transcription, and we will do a lot of it in lessons! We need to know how to write music to ensure that you will not forget it, and also to make sure that someone else can play it (or add to it, if you are playing in a band). The aural skills and music theory that you will learn will also help you teach music to other musicians, but sometimes, intricate licks and rhythm patters are easier to share when they are written down.
*note - if you are not interested in learning how to read music, then I suggest you record your private lessons so that you can listen to them later and remember what we learned.
Why is the ear so important?
- If you learn to play music by ear, there is no limit to what you can play. You will be able to play your favorite song on the radio, your favorite John Coltrane solo, your favorite Christmas song, and virtually any song that a friend, relative or audience member may request. Once you become extremely proficient in this technique, you will be able to play a song almost perfectly the first time you try! No sheet music required.
How long will it take to develop my ear?
- Do not be fooled - this can not be mastered over night. There is really no consistent answer to this question. Some people are born with a very attuned ear, others are born with an inherent knowledge of the piano and how it works. You may have trouble with one or both of these aspects, so the time frame varies. Very often, the ear is easier to train because all it has to do is recognize and decipher what its hearing. Your fingers have the difficult task of assigning what you hear to individual notes, scales, chords, arpeggios or licks and then instantaneously performing them on the keyboard (this is why we still practice the scales and other technical passages on keyboard, to facilitate this part of the "play by ear" process). Training the ear and building the muscle memory and response time in your fingers is like working out - consistency is key!
How do you develop the ear?
- Chances are that you've already heard everything there is to hear - you just need to learn how to recognize and label it. It starts by simply recognizing that two notes or chords are disimmilar. From there, you start to narrow it down and identify not only each individual note or chord that is being played, but exactly how far away they are from each other. We'll start to identify these intervals and chord progressions and how to find them in popular songs. Then you start to recognize patterns, and how to translate them into multiple keys (tonal centers). Pretty soon, you'll be hearing a song on the radio for the first time, and you'll find yourself giving it a note-by-note analysis.
What equipment will I need?
- The student who wishes to improve quickest will have:
- a piano (or keyboard with 88 weighted keys) on which to practice
- a notebook
- a book of blank manuscript paper
- a metronome
- some sort of media playing device, like a CD player, mp3 player, turn table, tape deck, or computer media player like iTunes or Windows Media Player (these are best for learning by ear as you can start and stop a song anywhere you please with little effort).
How much will I need to practice?
- Practicing is a workout, mentally and physically. The key to any work out is consistency! You should practice at least one hour a day (that doesn't have to be all at once!) on the keyboard, and you should spend some time actively listening to music every day. As a frame of reference, I typically practice piano 3 hours a day, and I am constantly listening to music.
What popular songs will I learn in my lesson?
- Whichever song you want! Lessons are built around your favorite artists and styles. All western music (not country/western, but 'western hemisphere'), whether it be Beethoven, the Beatles or the Beastie Boys, is based on the same underlying principles. I start with what you know - your favorite artist, the lick that you learned on youtube, or that song you can't get out of your head - and I show you how its related to music fundamentals.
Lastly, why should I learn from you?
- I make a living playing popular music on stage, and I firmly believe that students learn more practical skills from career performers than career teachers. I started taking piano lessons when I was eight years old. In High School I started playing my favorite songs by ear for fun. Now whenever I hear music, I can't help but actively analyze it in my head. I put this habit to good use and started a career as a dueling piano player. For the last seven years I have been playing every style of popular music on stage, including rock, classic rock, country, punk, funk, disco, ballads, 80s, dance music, alternative, polka, reggae ska, and even rap. I play throughout all of the United States. Almost every night that I'm on stage, I perform a song that I have never played before, using the methods I will teach you. In addition to teaching piano, I have also taught marching bands and music software classes, and firmly believe that one can apply knowledge from all musical environments to his or her chosen instrument or performance medium.
If you have any other questions, please refer to the 'contact' site