Author Topic: Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician  (Read 623 times)

englishteacheralex

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Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician
« on: July 20, 2017, 04:01:40 PM »
Hi Mustachian musicians!

I took piano lessons for ten years as a child. I loved piano and developed some proficiency at playing from sheet music. I also played clarinet in the band and sang alto in the choir. Music played a big role in my life as a child but it has fallen by the wayside as other responsibilities have taken priority in adulthood.

Lately I've been playing on my digital keyboard (weighted, 88 keys) for about 1/2 an hour per day. Just noodling around, learning a new song. So fun! But...

I really plateaued as a musician when I was young because I was too lazy to do the hard work involved to truly know what I was doing. I couldn't understand music theory, so I didn't bother with it. This means that now I can't play any simple music based only on chords because I don't really know anything about chords. I have to have sheet music in front of me in order to play anything.

I also have very sloppy technique because I never bothered with exercises or drills or worrying about fingering. My piano teacher let me get away with all this because I was able to fudge things pretty well. But there was definitely a lot of fudging going on.

I'd really like to have better technique and also to understand basic chord theory so that I could play keyboard with the worship band at church. I sing backup vocals a lot in the band, but considering the years and years of lessons that I took, I really should be able to play piano with them as well.

Any recommendations for good practice habits and possibly helpful resources for teaching oneself basic music theory?

Thanks!!
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yakamashii

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YogiKitti

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Re: Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2017, 10:15:47 PM »
Honestly, I think you would benefit from having formal lessons. Maybe just a handful to get you started. But teachers would notice technique more than you would, as long as you find one that doesn't let you fudge.

DoubleDown

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Re: Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2017, 12:11:17 PM »
Wow, there is so much great information available on the internet, especially youtube videos. You can learn all kinds of music theory online. Do some searches, I'll bet you'll find just about everything you'd want to know. Plus of course I assume your local library has books on the subject. I would pursue those avenues first, then determine if private lessons might help you go further. But you can learn a tremendous amount about music theory from just reading or watching videos. It really is not very complicated, you'll likely learn it in no time. I will say, once you learn about chord structures and how to play them differently across the keyboard, it does open up whole new worlds! It will definitely help you to play by ear, as you'll quickly recognize how different chords sound and typical progressions or arrangements*.

So go for it, and good luck!

*Hint: Once you've learned basic music theory/chords, I've found that one thing that helps me quickly figure out a piece by ear is to follow and learn the bass line. This works in all genres of music, including classical. Once you know what the bass line is doing and the chord being played with the bass, the rest follows very easily. Doing this I can usually quickly figure out a piece by ear identically or so close that any differences are beyond perception. The only exception is in cases where the music is so complex or there is so much happening that it's impossible to distinguish individual notes, in which cases sheet music will help.
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DoubleDown

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Re: Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2017, 12:17:17 PM »
Hey OP, also if you'd like to PM me, I'd be happy to set up Skype or something between us to help teach you about music theory. I can point my webcam at the keyboard and show you how different chords are formed and some techniques for using them. And I will offer the special MMM rate of "free." I'm not a professional music teacher, but I understand basic theory well enough that I think I could get you pretty far along. I'll bet after just a few hours spread over a few weeks you'll have it all down.
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GuitarStv

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Re: Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2017, 01:09:41 PM »
There is a tremendous amount of information around on the internet . . . but it can be overwhelming and difficult to wade through.  I've found that it's worth getting a couple books from the library about an area or genre that interests you and working your way through them.  If the book turns out to be too easy or too hard then you can return it and try another one.

Music theory is something that takes a while to get comfortable with, but the more of it that you learn the more that concepts start to make sense and the easier it is to get the things in your head out from your instrument.  FWIW - some people find great benefit in lessons, some people find that lessons kill the enjoyment they get out of playing.  What I would recommend is to try and find some people to play with regularly once you've got the basics down.  Music is a language, and talking to yourself is a difficult way to get great at it.

llorona

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Re: Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2017, 04:23:36 AM »
As far as piano technique goes, learning scales and arpeggios will help you build a strong foundation. You might also want to look into finger exercises like Hanon or Czerny.
 
If you're serious about improving, I'd recommend finding an acoustic piano to practice on. The sound and nuances are simply not the same on an electronic keyboard, even if the keys are weighted.

Good luck with your musical endeavors!


englishteacheralex

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Re: Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2017, 10:26:53 AM »
Private lessons! Ha! I am mustachian. Plus I have two kids in daycare. No time, no money. Real piano? Ha! I am part of a family of four in an 850 square foot condo. The digital keyboard is going to have to suffice. But I appreciate the tips. I know that private lessons and an acoustic piano would both be more ideal, but they're just not in the cards right now and I still want to improve.

What I really want is pretty modest: I want better technique so that I'm not constantly fumbling through my sheet music. I've played in front of audiences enough to schmeer over mistakes as though nothing happened (important skill!), but I'd like to make way fewer mistakes. And I want to understand chords and key signatures enough to be able to play simple pop music with a band while I sing backup.

I've read a few articles on line about effective practice strategies and am a little irritated with my piano teacher all those years ago. I wasn't practicing well at all and she never explained that to me--just let me keep practicing for hours and hours but in a very inefficient way. I would just zone out and let my fingers run wild, enjoying the music. Which is fine, but it's not really conducive to improvement.

Trying to get through the circle of fifths thing. I know my scales very well because I needed them for the annual competition I participated in every year through high school. But it's all muscle memory--I don't know the theory behind them. Shame on me--I can't even identify most key signatures.

Thanks so much for the advice. Right now I'm learning a very nice arrangement of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" for which I found the sheet music at a garage sale (yeah! Mustachian!). Using my new practice skills, I'm getting it down much better than I would have in the past. Next, though, I need to learn the chord theory behind the song. I don't even know the key signature...just a ton of flats. Sigh. Pathetic.

I journal at https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/the-aloha-journal/msg1267277/#msg1267277

Tales of a haole teacher whose futon washed up on Oahu over a decade ago.

aetheldrea

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Re: Advice Request: I want to improve as a musician
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2017, 08:01:34 PM »
Are you friendly with any of the people in the worship band? You could ask some of them to go over some stuff with you. Most people who know things don't mind sharing them with people who are interested. It's going to take some work to be able to create a piano part based on a lead sheet, but at least they could show you what one looks like, the Nashville numbering system, etc.