by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Through my years as a pianist and piano teacher, I met so many people who were looking to start piano lessons for themselves, a friend, or a child, but didn’t really know how to start or even what basics are truly essential for a successful piano education.
I met many adults after my piano or vocal/piano performances who expressed to me that they were so intimidated by various perceived obstacles to learning piano that they wanted to give up—even though they really want to play piano!
A lot of adults shared they thought they were too old to start piano lessons. Like it was a dream that they’d never be able to grasp.
Couple that disappointment with the frustration that there is so much noise in the online space offering quick tricks or gimmicks to learn piano faster than before.
Plus all the questions about how to find a piano teacher, or get the right instrument can be confusing. Those new to or wanting to return to piano playing after a gap can easily feel overwhelmed by the multitude of options available.
I’m not saying that some things available online or elsewhere aren’t offering any value. Sure, it’s nice to learn a few tricks!
But the truth is that these gimmicks or tricks for fast piano learning don’t work in the long run—or at least not as a foundation—for those who truly want to progress in playing piano successfully and continue to progress as a musician.
My new ebook, What You Need To Know, Have & Do To Start Piano Right! is meant to dispel the myth—that piano playing can be accomplished with a fast, easy trick or gimmick—through straight talk from someone who has taught and played piano for 30 years. But my ebook also offers answers to every question or doubt new or returning piano learners may have about starting piano lessons.
I’ve retired from one-on-one piano teaching, but I’m offering value to those who want to learn piano for themselves, get their child started with piano lessons, or introduce a friend to the piano through my online content, my new ebook, and a second upcoming ebook and course on how to practice piano effectively.
(You can share this with a friend or join TEAM YCC here to be the first to know about my upcoming ebooks and courses as well as more empowering strategies for nurturing creativity and inspiration!)
Over the years, many people asked me all the questions featured in my new ebook! I’ve already written several blogs answering a lot of those questions from new or returning piano learners.
But I decided to offer an all-in-one, easy-to-read resource where those interested in starting piano lessons can find all the answers to their questions about how to successfully begin and forge a strong foundation for continued piano progress.
For anyone who’s interested in exploring piano learning, this is THE ebook that gives you everything you need to get started learning piano right.
‘Right’ means with the confidence that you’ve got the right teacher, method, instrument, setup, routine, advice, age, and anything else needed to successfully begin piano!
As with all the adult piano students I’ve taught over 30 years as a piano and music teacher, you can learn piano and enjoy all the benefits of piano study that they did!
Start Piano: What You Need For Successful Learning Ebook
A practical, down-to-earth, all-in-one resource and easy-to-read guide for anyone interested in getting started or returning to piano lessons.
As my gift to you, with every purchase of my ebook, you'll automatically receive a FREE download of my original photo with a self-care affirmation.
Get Everything You Need To Successfully Start Piano With My Ebook, "Start Piano: What You Need For Successful Learning" A practical, down-to-earth, all-in-one resource and easy-to-read guide for anyone interested in getting started or returning to piano lessons. Topics include what kind of keyboard is necessary, how to find a quality instrument and piano method, whether you need and how to find a good piano teacher, whether online tools for piano learning are valuable, what’s needed for a successful start to piano learning, and how to maintain continued piano progress. This ebook provides answers to those seeking a successful start or greater momentum for piano progress.
As my gift to you, with every purchase of my ebook, you'll automatically receive a FREE download of my original photo with an affirmation. The affirmation poster is completely free to download, print, use as a desktop wallpaper or screensaver for your computer.
The beauty of nature and positive words brings inspiration. We all need reminders. May this small gift of beauty and positive thought remind you of your immense potential for creative energy and inspire you to tap into your best self.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I recommend two approaches to composing for piano:
COMPOSE BY IMPROVISING
(Listen to my original piano music here.)
A: Determine A Chord Progression
For example, use C major key and this chord progression: C, Am, F major, G7. Typical ‘Heart and Soul’ chord progression. If you can’t remember the order, write these on paper.
B: Practice Playing
Play each chord’s bass home tone (C,A,F,G) with your LH, and perhaps the chord triad itself in your right hand.
Play each chord/bass tone for one measure.
Experiment within that perimeter by using RHYTHM only to alter the feel/groove of your progression.
C: Use MELODY
Once you have a chord progression and a bass line mastered, drop the chord triads from RH and use RH to play around with notes in the C major scale as you continue playing your LH bass line progression.
For me, I like to use a DAW’s drum loop to find a groove and play along with that for tempo and rhythmic phrasing/groove.
You can also alternate between playing the chords and the melody to make things more varied.
D: Practice Specific Piano Styles
Since you are interested primarily in PIANO, use the above basic improvisation exercises to practice specific piano styles: walking bass, chords with color tones (7, 9, 11, 13ths), arpeggios, triads, 6ths, octaves, doubled notes, etc…
Simply repeat the chord progression using one or more of those (or other) piano techniques.
These are some of my ideas for improvising outside of the jazz tradition. Of course, pick your own chord progressions for more challenging, intriguing and fresh music.
COMPOSE BY BLUEPRINT
A: Song Form
For the blueprint approach, either on paper or using a DAW, I like to map out a song FORM (ABAB, ABABCBB, AABB, et) first to set a parameter of structure.
Write out 16 blank measures and call that A section.
Follow that with another 16 bars as B section, and so on. Or limit to 8 bars per section.
Possibly add a C section with few or more bars or equal–whatever you want for your structure. An even numbers of bars seems to feel better for most contemporary music, though.
Alternately, you could copy the form of a favorite song or blues style as a template.
B: Determine Harmonic Progression
Once you have a form or structure for your music mapped out, determine a chord progression for each section. Usually the B section changes keys to the dominant chord or something else to be less predictable and sound different from the A section.
For example if A section uses that C major progression above (C, Am, F, G), then the B section would start in the key of G major (or often Am, the minor 6th of C major). Then go back to your original chord/key in the next A section.
C: Discover Melodic Motifs
Once your form, key and chord progressions are drafted (this may change, pending how your melody transpires! Be flexible and go where you musical ideas take you, of course!), using notes within that progression/key (C major in the A section), play around with melodic motifs that fit within that key/chord progression.
A good rule of thumb is to make something, then repeat it, then CHANGE it very slightly. AAA1. Or, same, same, slightly varied. The ear likes patterns and repetition. But not TOO much! Continue until you have a few motifs/lines to complete your A section.
Then CHANGE to the new key in the B section and play around with creating a motif/line/melody that is completely different than what you did in A section.
For example, if you used lots of busy, faster rhythmic phrases in the A section, use longer, slower rhythmic phrases with lots of rests and breathing space within the B section.
Or, if your A section note ranges are low, then use higher ranges of notes within the B section.
Another idea for creating the melodic motif is to limit the amount of melodic notes used and focus more on the rhythmic patterns of those limited notes used.
Think of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony: only 2 melodic notes used in the opening line (dun dun dun DUN) and four rhythmic notes/durations. But WOW he repeated that phrase and developed it into a massive symphony of greatness!
There are SO many things you can do, and so many books have good suggestions for your question, so check some of them out! Hope this gave you good food for thought!
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if this blog is helpful to you, or if you have questions or suggestions!
If you’re a piano teacher, feel free to leave one of your favorite piano practice tips in the comment section!
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Learning To Be Creative
Listen to my original piano music here.
In my PIANO blogs, you'll find ways to overcome boredom, get past musical and mental blocks, explore the creative process with piano, and improve musical progress through piano teacher recommended best practices and effective piano practice tips.