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Learning Piano Music

Learning Piano Music

Learning Piano MusicLearning piano music is a rewarding practice that takes time and effort. Many adults choose to learn piano by either taking private lessons, or perhaps a class. Self-study methods are also very popular. Regardless of the format of your piano studies, you will find it useful to understand the basic approaches that instruction usually follows. In very general terms, there are three different types of music that students study: classical, jazz, and popular music. Each of these musical styles have different focuses of study for the player.

The most traditional approach to the piano is the study of classical music and its performance techniques. Here students strive to find a balance between developing their technical proficiency through scales and arpeggio exercises, and their repertoire and interpretive skills. To develop their understanding of the music, students spend their time in the progressive study of pieces and etudes from the different historical style periods: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern.

Students typically start taking private lessons at a young age, between four and six years old. They learn how to read traditional musical notation almost immediately. Serious students will augment their lessons with separate courses in music theory and history. During their tutelage they will likely be given the opportunity to perform in student recitals, perhaps in their church or other social organizations, and even in competitions.

Classical students will also often work towards the completion various graded certificate programs. Institutes such as the Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) offer a system of external examinations for which students prepare for with their private instructors.

The jazz pianist may have begun learning piano music as a classical player, but switched to jazz at some point. Often a student’s first exposure to jazz is in high school band. Once they decide to focus on jazz piano, the player will spend a great deal of time learning different scales and chords, as well as memorizing the tunes and chord progressions to many jazz standards.

Although their scale and chord exercises will complement the jazz student’s technical development, their real purpose is to help them learn the ins and outs of improvisation. For the jazz musician, the relationship between chords, scales, and improvisation is fundamental. This knowledge, along with a thorough understanding of different musical forms and a large repertoire of jazz standards, will help the piano player generate musical ideas in the moment of improvisation.

The popular pianist will also have a strong foundation in reading traditional notation, understanding of different chord types and some improvisation skills. They will also be adept at creating solo arrangements and accompaniments for other soloists from very basic materials like the lead sheet. A lead sheet simply outlines a song’s chord progression, and basic melody with lyrics.

The popular pianist’s real mastery will be a thorough understanding of different genres and playing styles across many different idioms, as well as an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of popular songs from different time periods. It is truly fascinating to see and hear a gifted performer in this style.

Students learn classical, jazz, or popular music through private lessons, classes, self-study, or even some combination. Learning piano music in any of these styles takes a great deal of patience and time on the part of the student and their instructors. For the aspiring professional player, studies continue past high school age through college and university. It is not uncommon for players at this level to have advanced degrees in music.

If you are learning piano music for personal enjoyment, there is no reason not to explore each of these three larger genres of classical, jazz, and popular music. In fact many adult piano programs try to integrate all three styles as a way of keeping the student’s interest over the long term. A well balanced method can really help you develop your basic musicianship, along with reading skills, a good solid ear, and some basic improvisational skills.

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