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The Play Piano Roadmap - Your Journey From Beginner To Advanced

Jan 16, 2008
Whether you already play piano or want to learn, I'm glad you stumbled across this page. It means there's one more person out there looking for a better way to add music to his or her life, or perhaps to improve on an already established skill set.

Either way, welcome. The good new is, I've got helpful advice for any level you may be at. I invite you to discover your potential and take the necessary steps to reach your goals.

If your idea of a scale is something in your bathroom that seems to know you like donuts, you're definitely among the beginners. But seriously, if you know only a handful of basic chords, a song or two, or you have never touched a keyboard, you will want to learn the basics.

I recommend you take a course in introductory musical theory. You'll want to learn the names of the notes, practice the scales, begin to put together chords, and embrace the art of repetition. That's right, the key to picking up on the basics is to imprint them into your psyche, increase your dexterity, train your hands to make those stretches they're not used to making, and find the connection between mind and body that will enable you to play naturally.

At the beginner level, students should have the patience to put off learning actual songs or performance styles in favor of getting comfortable learning chords, fingering, etc. The good news is, with the right training, you can pass through the beginner level relatively quickly. Of course, the right training is, at best, half the equation. Your ability to master the above skills will depend on your determination to practice every day. Just like physical training, by going through the correct motions a little each day, you can accomplish much more than inconsistent practice every so often.

How you decide to learn is up to your preferred method of absorbing new information. Some people are visual learners, others are aural. What this means to you is, you might need to learn to play with the aid of sheet music (visual) or by listening to someone play a note or chord and you copy them (aural). The latter method is also known as playing by ear. Most websites that promote piano lessons offer a sample of their training style so you can try before you buy. It's a good idea to try both so you can get started in the right direction and not waste time learning in a way that's against your learning style.

By this point in your piano education, you should know all the scales, the popular chord styles, and be able to perform with confidence. This isn't to say you should be a virtuoso. At the intermediate level, many musicians can find work playing out at various venues. But their skills are limited.

Now is a good time to think about the type or types of music you want to play. Will you study classical? Are you more into jazz or blues? Would you prefer to play rock? Or are you saving yourself for religious styles like gospel? With your intermediate skill level, you understand many of the chords and progressions you will use in your chosen genre. Now you need to focus on lessons that show you the fundamentals, the nuances, and the tricks behind playing a particular style.

Like the tip I gave for beginners, it applies here as well: Determine if you are a visual or auditory learner and pick the package you are most likely to understand, enjoy, and stick with.

And again, practice!

Congratulations, you've come a long way in your musical journey. But you're far from finished. With your advanced skills, you can sit in with another musician or ensemble and play along. You can listen to a song and learn it with relative ease, or perhaps you can open sheet music and read the notes as easily as you read printed text. And just maybe, you are ready to flex your creativity and explore new horizons.

Some performers don't know how to recognize when they surpassed the intermediate level. That's okay, it will be clear eventually. If you are already performing comfortably but you want to infuse your music with more complex chord structures, creative runs, or you want to add another genre to your repertoire (that's a lot of French!), you are most likely advanced and ready to take on a bigger challenge. It's been said many times, learning to perform music is not a destination but a journey.

Many professional artists play multiple instruments. They are skilled guitarists or drummers who also play a little piano. It is not uncommon to encounter a musician who is very good at any instrument he or she decides to learn. If you are just such a person, and piano is one of your secondary instruments, consider how you could benefit from actual lessons.

I've discovered some outstanding courses for advanced piano playing that can be purchased online. Take the time to evaluate the publishers' websites and read reviews if possible. Most lesson packages are moderately priced, so you shouldn't have trouble finding a good, affordable lesson system.

And in case you forgot already, you still need to practice! Just remember to keep the fun in the fundamentals. Learning to play piano can be a lot of work, but it's a form of entertainment and should never be a chore. Good luck!
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