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Topic: Learning to play the keyboard

  1. #1

    Learning to play the keyboard

    I finally got a keyboard for Christmas (woohoo!) and as I begin my second semester in college, I'd like to learn how to play it. I'd love to get private lessons, but I'm far too poor for that, so for now I'll have to teach myself. Of course, when I start playing too fast or too slow, nobody will be able to stop me! Bwa ha ha ha!

    I went to my university's library and found a couple books on piano playing. A digital keyboard is different from a piano, but the library certainly doesn't have digital keyboard books, so piano books shall have to do. Anyway, after a bit of reading, I honestly have no idea where to start.

    I believe first learning to read notes fluently would be a nice skill to develop. I can of course read notes already, but I think I'm going to need practice to be able to read them and play them with more ease. Unfortunately, all the sheet music in the library is not allowed to be checked out. What good does that do me? Argh. So any sheet music I get will have to be off the internet I guess (unless I want to pay money to make copies, which I don't have the money to do).

    So my question is, does anybody have any suggestions on learning to play the keyboard? Any ideas on how I can make lesson plans for myself? Any ideas on where to start?

    Thanks for your time! It's great to be among such talented people.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  2. #2
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    West Seneca, NY

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    I can say that before I went to Music College I made a point in learning all the fingering for every scale Major and minor. As much as I am not a pianist I can say that without that basic knowledge and ability, more than half of programming from score would be a hundred times more difficult. Learn your fingering for scales if you haven't already.

  3. #3
    Power Profile User lukpcn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    on the end of the bow...

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    Styxx is right.... Scales and fingering which is very important ehm *feature* in piano playing...Of course scales are pain in the A S S too

  4. #4
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    California Redwoods

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernstinen
    My favorite book to make your fingers happy is "Hanon --- The Virtuoso Pianist in Sixty Exercises." They'll really Pump You Up! I believe the publisher is G. Schirmer.

    Agreed. Hanon is quite good for finger independence, strength, and endurance. Also has some good exercises for thumb under, and all the scales, with fingerings.

    But to read notes fluently there is only one solution. Read and play everything that you possibly can. Hear the notes before you play them. Let your arms do as much of the work as possible, keep your hands and wrists flexible. Play the keyboard and any available piano at every opportunity.

    The advantage of the keyboard is that you can practice with headphones, and not drive your family and friend batty! We did not have such things when I was learning, and my poor neighbours sure had to endure a lot when I worked on something that I liked, but was difficult to learn.


  5. #5

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    If the digital keyboard has 88 white and black keys and a sustain pedal, then there should really be no functional difference between it and a piano, at least where a piano method book is concerned. Just put it into the mode where it plays the piano sounds when you're going through the exercises in the piano book. Other than that, here's a list to help you start out:

    1) Setup and Posture - Before you begin any sort of piano lessons, take some time first to properly set up your practice environment. Just as it is with other instruments, getting the keyboard at the proper height and your feet the proper distance from the pedals (assuming you have them) will allow you to practice for hours without fatigue or soreness. In general, you want to be sitting away from the keyboard just far enough so your arms hang pretty much straight down from the shoulders (roll the shoulders forward a little bit so your arms have some freedom of movement in front of your body), forearms parallel to the ground, and wrists flat. You should also be sitting so your chin is at the middle key of the keyboard (on pianos or 88 key keyboards this is middle E, not middle C). If the keyboard is at the right height, you should be able to rest your fingers on the surface of the keys without altering your posture. The chair, stool, or whatever you're sitting on should be low enough to the ground so your feet rest on your heels in a neutral position (similar to how your feet are setup on the gas pedal/clutch when you drive a car). You may have to experiment a bit with the keyboard stand and chair to get the optimum position, so don't be afraid to take a saw to something if it doesn't sit right. If you get a chance, roll through some concert footage of famous pianists to get a more visual idea of how the whole posture thing works. The main thing is that when you sit at your keyboard the whole body is RELAXED, otherwise you risk developing any number of repetitive stress conditions, which will really put you at odds at wanting to practice (let alone touch) a keyboard ever again.

    2) Music Notation - Since you already know how to read music, the next step is to figure out how the notes on the bass/treble clefs correspond to keys on the keyboard. In any beginning piano method book, this is usually covered in the first chapter or two. Don't worry about scales/fingering at this point. You're just trying to learn a new method of hand/eye coordination.

    3) Single Hand/Two Hand Coordination - The next step in any piano method is developing the coordination between what you see and what your fingers are trained to play. Any piano method worth its salt will start you out with simple songs laid out for one (usually the right) hand. If you can, find a piano method book that also has these simple songs fingered for the left hand as well. I think it's a good thing to try and break out of the "right hand melody, left hand harmony" paradigm from the beginning. After single hand exercises usually come exercises that involve playing both hands together. Once you've mastered the basics of two hand coordination, you have the tools necessary to start picking up sheet music and playing.

    4) Scales And Fingering - From a sight reading/performance perspective, working with the scales in the genre you're interested in (major/minor for classical or most kinds of rock, blues and jazz scales for, well, blues and jazz) will help you develop the chops to play stuff at the tempo you want to play it at with little or no errors. A knowledge of scales is also essential should you want to do more with composition down the road. Any piano method book will cover the simple major/minor scales (C,A,G,F) and probably the other ones too. Start with the easy ones (C,G, F Major) and work your way up.

    One thing you can do to help offset the lack of sheet music is to play along with songs on CD, tape - whatever medium works for you. This will develop your ability to internalize and play music by ear, which is a really, really useful skill to have, especially if you find your way into a band. There's no really systematic way to do this that I'm aware of - you just sit down and try. Some people are more adept at it than others.

    Hope this helps. And good luck with the keyboard. Remember, chicks dig keyboard players.

    "Welcome to Rivendell, Mr. Anderson."

  6. #6

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    Thanks for all the feedback, I really appreciate it!

    The Hanon book looks very affordable, so I'll look into purchasing it. I guess I'll work on reading notes, getting my hands coordinated, and playing scales (and get used to all the major and minor keys).

    As mentioned, head phones are a nice advantage of keyboards. Listening to somebody who can't play the keyboard, but is learning, is pretty annoying. Also, keyboards can't be out of tune, and with GPO on my computer, I can play a pretty Steinway

    I know I'll definitely have to work some exercises with my left hand because it is weak and un-coordinated . . .

    Thanks again for the feedback, it is very helpful!

    And if keyboard playing will attract chicks, that's always a plus! (Especially since I'm so ugly! Just kidding . . . or am I?)
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  7. #7

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    I like the idea of four parallel approaches:

    1) Hannon and scales for correct fingering, flexibility, coordination and smooth playing,

    2) As many "kiddie" books as you can get your hands on. They are great for learning to read music. Don't learn the songs. Play and forget.

    3) A couple of "signature" pieces. Find something you like that is a stretch. Maybe Fur Elise by Beethoven. Maybe a Scott Joplin tune.

    4) Improvise. Have fun!

    That covers it all.


  8. #8

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    Did you say you were in college? If you are a music major you should easily be able to take a basic piano class. If you are a non major you should talk to you advisor about taking the class. Take it from me, that being self taught can cause much pain and suffering. I learned some things wrong and my piano teacher in college lambasted me. I had to unlearn a lot of things that I was doing wrong. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to scare you. The Hanon books are fabulous exercises, but they can be very difficult for beginners. The best way to learn is to get instruction if you can find any way.

    If you do end up self teaching, everyone is right. Fingerings are essential. As are things like using your wrists and not holding your fingers flat. Oh, and when you practice.... don't touch the pedal until you know the piece. The pedal can become a huge crutch to fingering and technique.

    Check on keyboard classes at you school. And good luck.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  9. #9

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    I am in college, but I'm not a music major. My interest in music and composition kind of popped out of nowhere in high school, so I'd still say I'm very much a newbie. My university's music department doesn't seem that open to non-majors or non-minors (except for the silly 'music appreciation' courses) and I'd never be able to get into one of those with all my inexperience. I could get private lessons from the university if I'm willing to pay a few hundred dollars, which I simply don't have.

    Tomorrow I'll have a class in which the professor is the Heritage Chair in Music, so I'll do my best to let him know my predicament Perhaps he will be helpful.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  10. #10

    Re: Learning to play the keyboard

    You should be able to get piano lessons from a reputable teacher for around $20 per lesson off campus. You should check into that because good teachers will also teach you some music theory.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

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