About Learning to Play

Will I Need a Teacher if I Want to Play the Piano?

The short answer is YES.

There is a much longer answer which starts out with MAYBE. Here's what you have to consider.

First of all, a piano teacher is more than a teacher. She or he is also a COACH. The reason for coaching is that playing the keyboard is as much a SPORT as it is an academic subject.

It IS a subject. And there is a lot to learn, and teaching can be helpful. But playing is made up of very finely tuned movements of hands, wrists, arms, fingers, and other parts of your body - as well as having the knowledge that it takes to press the correct keys at the correct time, and with appropriate and multiple fingers at the same time.

There really is a whole lot to learn if you want to play the keyboard well. If you are a grade school child, you will certainly need a teacher. If you are of high school age, you almost surely will need a teacher. If you are of college age or an adult, you certainly will be able to learn to play without a teacher. But how well will you learn? How long will it take?

Do you play the piano? What does that question mean? It becomes a different question if we are talking about Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star or Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto! Eveyone can learn to play to some extent. How well you play and how hard it is to learn depend on many more things than I can mention. But one thing is sure: Learning to play is easier, faster, and better with a competent teacher/coach.

In summary, yes, you certainly can learn to play from our instructional materials without a teacher. But you almost surely will learn to play sooner and better with a teacher/coach. We've included extensive explanations on how to play within our instructional materials and have provided great exercises to help you develop your skills. And we've provided world class pieces for you to play. We've tried very hard to make these materials as self-explanatory as we can. In the final analysis, get a great teacher/coach if you can.

A final thought. The internet is loaded with information on how to play the keyboard. One of the first places to go is youtube.com. It's loaded with instructional videos. Also, you can learn a great deal by watching skilled performers playing all kinds and styles of music. You can go to google.com to search and find just about anything you can think of relating to the keyboard. Be creative and determined. Decide to learn to play, then make it happen!

How do we learn to read keyboard music?

Many traditional piano methods begin by having the new student learn to play a few notes on the traditional treble staff, usually starting with middle C. Once these are learned well enough, a few more notes are added, and so on until the student learns them all. This is very hard and takes a very long time.

More-recent methods often begin with the student playing from notes without a staff. These notes are identified by letter name, and they go up and down on the page as necessary. The student must learn the names of the piano keys so as to match the notes with them. Shortly after learning a few notes, the staff is included with the notes. This approach is difficult, slow, and tedious.

The basic problem with this approach is that it is very difficult (for some students, not all) to learn to play the keys and AT THE SAME TIME, learn to read the notes. These are two very complex skills that could and should be separated - as is done with learning our native language.

With regard to our native language, the child must first learn to understand spoken words, speak the words, and coincidentally attach meanings to them. Do we give preschool children books? Yes. What kind of books? Well, picture books of course. Do they read the books? Yes, of course. They read the pictures! Do they read the words? Some do, but only after learning to read the pictures. Most don't learn to read the words until they get into school -- long after they learned to read the pictures.

Key maps are pictures of the music. Not pictures of the sounds, but pictures of what keys you play to make the musical sounds. The music is a map of where you place your fingers on the keyboard. The maps also show pictures of how long you hold the sounds by stretching the notes in proportion to how long they are held. Lines crossing the staff mark the locations of the beats from which you determine how long the sounds should last. So the maps are the picture books of our keyboard music.

The traditional notes on the other hand are like the words in a text. They are abstractions. They are codes. We must learn the codes before we can play the music. Clearly, this can and is being done. But it is unnecessarily difficult, time consuming, and for many keyboard students, a daunting task. You would be well advised to learn to play using keyboard diagrams and maps before you learn to read traditional notation.

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John M. Honeycutt,
Jul 31, 2019, 7:02 PM
John M. Honeycutt,
Jul 31, 2019, 7:02 PM