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Topic: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

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  1. #1

    Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    Hello guys and dolls (sorry, in a jazzy mood

    As some may know, I'm a student perusing a career in media composition. As a sax player by trade, I'm finding a lack of speed in creating scores due to the absence of anything resembling piano skills, and was looking for advice on how to best tackle this problem with as much efficiency as possible (i.e. without taking "classical piano lessons.") I dont want to become a big pianist

    I've taken some piano classes at CSUN, both jazz and classical, but unfortunately I learnt just enough to get by (e.g. the songs) and never did figure out how to apply these skills towards my compositions, etc. What I feel is mainly lacking (besides improved coordination) is my piano chordal vocabulary, and ability to "piano sketch" pieces and then orchestrate. Do you think I would be best off getting a jazz piano voicing book and just jamming with Band in the box? Anyone know a good book? Or should I do something completely different?

    The main problem is that I'm not "playing piano" when I write music, and thus resort to entering single lines with a single finger, which really slows me down. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Many thanks,
    Jon

  2. #2
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    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    Practise major scales on the piano with both hands and the proper fingering. Schirmer publishing has a book with all the scales and fingering. This well help a ton.

    If you did indeed learn Jazz voicings you should practise those. A good jazz or standard fake book will have lots of tunes somthat you can practise building chords underneath the melody. Learning to play a tune with and change from chord to chord will develop piano facility and enhance your writing as well.

  3. #3

    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    Hi Jon,

    I suggest playing as much as you can but without reading scores. Inevitably you will discover your own style sooner or later. Knowing a few scales and modes helps a lot.
    If you can be very careful at observing what you are playing from a score and understanding it, it's a good way as well. There is a wealth of chord movements in classical sheets.

    Another thing i find of help is to listen to a lot of new and old music -> Whenever you hear something very interesting going on in a piece, try to understand what the composer did in your head and then re-create the chord movement on the piano. Slowly you will start cementing all the movements you learnt and registering them as a pallete of feelings depending on the situation. Your listening/analyzing skills will improve as well and you will start understanding what each music does to be what it is.

    I have learnt most movements, chord combinations, inversions, 7ths and 9th chords on the A Minor key because i think it's one of the easiest on the fingers, so i usually compose there whenever i play piano and afterwards, when i make it into midi i usually transpose it somewhere else ( avoid having songs in A minor, its too common key! )


    Cheers
    Theo Krueger - Composer

    www.TheoKrueger.com

    Kontakt 2 Scripts

  4. #4
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    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by JT3_Jon
    Hello guys and dolls (sorry, in a jazzy mood
    I dont want to become a big pianist
    The main problem is that I'm not "playing piano" when I write music, and thus resort to entering single lines with a single finger, which really slows me down. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
    Many thanks,
    Jon
    This has been covered quite a few times here Jon.

    Is there an easy way for me to learn the Sax? Doubt it in general.

    Get a grade one theory book - get a grade one scale book - one octave - each hand seperately - Cmaj and then Gmaj and so on. Then Amin and then Emin.

    Do those 4 scales over and over and over again until it becomes so boring you just want to die.

    I would have suggested both hands at once - but if you're at the stage whereby you are using 'one' finger currently - let's walk before we can run.

    A lot of non-keyboard players can probably type, better than they can play the keyboard. Why?

    More practice on a computer keyboard than on a musical one probably.

  5. #5
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    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    yo John you should be able to enter a single note as you say creating a meldoy and then adding harmony to the music then arranging that to whatever style ensemble you desire. everything can just start with the melody man, and once you have that the harmony you desire for it, well sky is the limit to arrangement style you can do with it.
    Most Jazz is the melody with the Chords on top, so you could say hand that to a keyboardist and let him do his thing as long as they know harmony and rhythm they'll be able to jam with ya^_*
    So maybe it's not lack of piano skills but a lack of theory and harmony and knowing modes and other scales? In Jazz harmony is different from say classical harmonization and basic rule of thumb harmony(proper voice leading etc.)
    well just my two cents good luck
    All I can Say is...HA!...HA!...HAAAAAAA!!!!!

  6. #6

    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulR
    This has been covered quite a few times here Jon.
    I did a search and can't seem to find any posts relating to learning the piano. Perhaps I do not know how to use the search feature adequately, or maybe you are thinking of a different forum (if so, which one so that I may check their archives as well). Do you mind pointing me to the threads you are thinking about? (if not, dont worry about it. I dont want to take up too much of your time)

    Is there an easy way for me to learn the Sax? Doubt it in general.
    Good point, but there is a difference. Piano is not restricted to reading melody. I do not want nor need to simply play "classical" pieces and become a piano virtuoso. I was only looking for some resources to get my "piano compositional chops" up to speed. Of course nothing beats practicing, but when looking at a piano, or sax for that matter, without any form of instruction, its hard to know where to start. Thus I was asking for a little guidance.

    Get a grade one theory book - get a grade one scale book - one octave - each hand separately - Cmaj and then Gmaj and so on. Then Amin and then Emin.
    Do you think scales will help more then chords and voicings? Why?

    More practice on a computer keyboard than on a musical one probably.
    Agreed, thus I'm looking for some practicing tips. Its real easy to waste many hours practicing and going nowhere. As I am not much of a piano player, and I'm assuming there are a few decent ones here, and I was hoping to gain some advice and to avoid pitfalls. BTW, if anyone needs help with sax, wind controllers, etc, please feel free to ask. I would love to share.

    Quote Originally Posted by StrangeCat
    yo John you should be able to enter a single note as you say creating a meldoy and then adding harmony to the music then arranging that to whatever style ensemble you desire. everything can just start with the melody man, and once you have that the harmony you desire for it, well sky is the limit
    I agree, and this has served me well thus far. However, when I'm on a deadline, it would be nice to be able to "jam" to the picture in real time, rather then be forced to sequence it out one part at a time. Isnt this what the pros do?

    Maybe I'm wrong and should just get faster with my sequencing!

    Thanks once again for those who have contributed thus far, and thanks for those who post in the future. Once again, I'm sorry if this has been covered before, but I cannot seem to locate it! If you can find it, I will gladly delete this one.

  7. #7
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    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by JT3_Jon
    I dont want to take up too much of your time)
    You're not taking up any of my time Jon - that's quite alright. I was watching the World Match Play from my old course Wentworth - but that's OK.

    This is the type of conversation that can go nowhere - or everywhere - fast.

    Sometimes, it's necessary to understand WHY a musician wants to become a better keyboard player in the first place - if the piano say, is not their first, or even second instrument.

    I said this somewhere else I think (can't remember actually) - the trouble with composition of any kind today when using computers and samples from minute one is - the keyboard 99.999% of the time is the usual interface. Not a sax or violin etc. Which is unfortunate, but there it is.

    How does this effect writers in general. Don't really know, but when listening to a lot of MP3's here and elsewhere, it is all too apparent that some compositions are hampered by plinkity plonk hamfisted playing - which is NOT the fault of the composer - but because of the natural interface - the keyboard. Keyboard style doesn't necessarily lend itself to how an orchestra works - if you get my meaning.

    To get get flowing lines OUT of the keyboard you need to start from scratch. Scales - very boring. Why scales? Because the muscles and bones in the hand and wrist have GOT to learn muscle memory first. Chords mean nothing to me. Chords will come when the muscles understand what they are supposed to be doing. Anyone can play chords and you can make your own chords up - heck you can get your favourite pet to stand on your keyboard and write the notes down. You need to practice scales and arps - arps are just broken chords and can take any form you like - but that is later.

    There is no quick way in this society where everything has to be instant all the time. Do as I say, not as I do - I think that's the best way. My scales these days are non existent and totally rubbish - but I have muscle memory which gets me by.

  8. #8

    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    I see many sugestions here that will not make you piano player, not even a real bad one.
    Praticing scales, voicings and theory is useless if you don´t know the basics about the technique of the instrument, and that you can only learn from an experienced pianist. You have to know the tricks, like hand positioning, basic fingerings, muscle training... and I am not talking about making you a specialist, I am talking about basic stuff you have to know if you want to do anything useful with a piano or a keyboard. If you skip these things you will end up very frustraded.
    Besides, maybe you should consider if leaning piano will really help you in first place, since you don´t want to learn classical repertoire wich is by far the best thing you could extract from learning piano.

  9. #9

    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    BTW, the time you will spend to become a terrible pianist is just about the same you will spend to become a real good one. It´s all about the orientation you get in the beginning.

    Now, go hunt some teachers and enjoy this great instrument!

  10. #10
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    Re: Improving Piano Skills for quicker composition: Ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by musikman
    I see many sugestions here that will not make you piano player, not even a real bad one.
    Praticing scales, voicings and theory is useless if you don´t know the basics about the technique of the instrument, and that you can only learn from an experienced pianist. You have to know the tricks, like hand positioning, basic fingerings, muscle training... and I am not talking about making you a specialist, I am talking about basic stuff you have to know if you want to do anything useful with a piano or a keyboard. If you skip these things you will end up very frustraded.
    I understand what you're saying and where you're coming from on this and that's very commendable. But we're not talking about becoming Bernstein - we're talking about getting things into a computer - easier than it currently is.

    There are no tricks - there is just technique as afaic. Unfortunately, I don't think in this case there's time to go through all of that and out the other end.

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