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I Took Piano Lessons As a Kid, But I've Forgotten Almost Everything

Aug 18, 2007
There are literally millions of adults today who took piano lessons when they were growing up, but at some point along the way gave them up. Some couldn't care less, but many have an urge down deep to take up piano playing again someday.

Over the years I have never heard anyone say "I'm glad I never learned to play the piano", but I have heard hundreds say something like "I sure wish I had paid attention when I was a kid", or "My piano teacher was too strict (or too boring), but I would love to get back to the piano some day."

And most people that feel that way have the "round-tuit" problem that we all have; they mean well, but the busyness of life distracts them from starting to play again. And they really don't want to take lessons again from the little old lady down the street who can't tell the Beatles from Beethoven. Plus it's hard to work regular lessons into their already-packed schedule.

So what's the solution?

There are two inter-related factors that when combined create an opportunity for adults such as this unlike any in history.

1. For the first time ever there is the world-wide web and all its endless and growing sources of information. Up to nearly 2000AD an individual was limited to the piano teachers of the region in which he or she lived. But it's not so anymore. Many piano teachers have moved their teaching into the cyber world of the internet in the form of online lessons. Others have DVDs and CDs available in all aspects of piano playing, from the basics of a beginner to the improvisations of an advanced player. And they are easy to find, too. Simply type in phrases such as "piano lessons for adults" or "how to play the piano" or "I want to learn piano chords" into any search engine such as Google, and up pops a vast array of intriguing possibilities. (Try it -- you'll see!)

2. The second factor is one that has always existed, but until recent times has not been articulated well so that the average person could understand the concept. And that is simply that there are 3 different ways to learn to play the piano, and adults can pick one of the three, two of the three, or all three in any combination, and come out with a synergy far better than any one method alone.

The 3 methods are:

1. Reading music from the printed score. Well over 95% of all piano lessons revolve around the ability to read a piece of sheet music, and the technical facility to make your fingers do what your mind tells them to do. This is the traditional method of piano lessons; scales, drills, finger exercises, and practice reading endless pieces from the very first "Left thumb, right thumb" piece to the most advanced classical piece such as Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" or Rachmaninoff's "Prelude in C# minor". And there are teachers online who can teach music reading. Search for them by typing in such phrases as "learn to read music" or "classical piano lessons online".

2. Playing by ear. There are a very few individuals who can really play by ear, but they don't need our help -- they can play what they want any way they want. Playing by ear can be taught to some degree, but anyone who thinks they can end up playing like Ray Charles is kidding himself or herself. Still, normal individuals can learn to pick out a tune by ear and then match a chord to that melody, and eventually entertain themselves and others while having a ball.

3. Playing from chord symbols. Many professional pianists -- especially jazz pianists -- use "fake books". Fake books are collections of songs in a "lead sheet" format, which means the melody of the song plus the chord symbols that go with the melody. To learn this form of playing you will need to learn chords -- at least enough to play the songs you want to play -- and you will need to learn to read the tune of the song in the treble clef -- a skill much easier than learning to read masses of notes in both the treble and bass clefs.

Most people don't even know that this form of playing exists, or if they do, they thing it is limited to pros. Not so. It is a straightforward process and produces good results after a relatively short period of time. In other words, you'll be playing enough to enjoy yourself and maybe amaze your friends in a matter of weeks instead of years.

All of these methods are viable, and all can be learned from piano teachers online. But probably the best way of all is a synergy of the 3 ways: learn to read sheet music, develop your ear, and learn chords and how to use chord symbols to create your own styles of music.

Which ever method you pick is fine -- just pick one and get going. A world of fun and satisfaction await!
About the Author
Duane Shinn is the author of the popular free 101-week online e-mail newsletter titled "Piano Lessons Online For Adults Using Chords"
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