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So let me open this by saying that I've been on PW for some time, but mainly hanging out in the Pianos forum and getting to know the crowd there.

I feel I am a both a beginner and not a beginner. Let me explain. I have played the keyboard and piano for the better part of the past 22 years. Aside from learning to play chords and reading lead sheets when I was nine, I have had no formal lessons and have relied on playing by ear and am entirely self-taught. I took some general music theory classes in college years ago, but have forgotten a large part of it.

I never had an acoustic piano in the house until the past year, playing mostly on keyboards and DPs until that point.

I'm hoping to make a career as a professional composer, but I am functionally musically illiterate. I look at a staff and have to painfully pick out each note from what little I know of theory. I'm not used to playing to click or know proper posture for playing. Terms that are tossed around by classically-trained musicians sail over my head. A local composer/teacher asked me "Oh! Where did you learn your harmonies?" I didn't even know how to answer the question.

So now I am at a point where I feel I can put it off no longer and need to gain the musical knowledge that I need to read and write notation and finally fill in the missing knowledge gaps. I am daunted by going back to the very beginning and am hoping for a way I can learn dynamically that will put the sheet music knowledge to what I already know. I am also strongly considering studying formally with a teacher, specifically the one mentioned above.

This is a sample of a sketch I'm working on for an original piece, called "The Spark." As you can hear, my playing is far from perfect, but I feel it has improved immensely since getting a real piano.

The Spark

I apologize if this is the wrong forum to post this, but I am kind of stumped at how to go about this the right way and not discourage myself. Thanks, everyone!

Last edited by Markarian; 11/13/14 06:20 PM.

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It's going to be tricky....
your hear is definitely developed, but you probably need to start from the basis... find an excellent teacher, somebody teaching music theory and harmony in the local college would be a good beginning.

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There are book resources for learning harmony, but you need to be able to read sheet music:

Harmony. by Walter Piston
The Jazz Harmony Book. by David Berkman

Between the two of these, you'll have more than you ever want to know about the subject.

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Thanks for the suggestions. I definitely can't read sheet music. I feel like a preschooler trying to comprehend a college essay when I see a score.


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Tonal Harmony, Stefano Kostka book and workbook are IMHO more approachable than Piston ( I studied on Piston as teenager and I'm doing Kostka right now ).

Another series that might be considered before you get the other books is the whole series of the Berklee guides:
Music notation, music theory 1 and 2... easier and more approachable than Kostka and Piston... they don't go as deep but they complement the others.

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I have nothing to say about all your questions except to say... your composition is wonderful.

Study and understand what it is you are playing.... You will only get better.

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I totally agree with Peyton -- it's a beatiful piece, one that seems to me pure emotional expression set to music. Nicely done and thanks for posting.

I also agree with Ataru074, that the fastest and most efficient way to get up to speed reading scores and learning theory, is to find a teacher to teach you these things, but be sure that they don't try to "un-teach" you your beautiful musical insights. I look forward to hearing of your progress.

Edit: let me guess -- you recorded this on your MP11, didn't you? It has a very rich sound, one that tempted me sorely.

Last edited by petes1; 11/13/14 07:30 PM.

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Originally Posted by petes1

I also agree with Ataru074, that the fastest and most efficient way to get up to speed reading scores and learning theory, is to find a teacher to teach you these things, but be sure that they don't try to "un-teach" you your beautiful musical insights. I look forward to hearing of your progress.

I would be scared to go with his "sound" to a teacher that does't teach in college and has already a "successful" career. Envy is an ugly beast.

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Thank you so deeply for your insights and compliments.

Petes, alas, this was recorded on my Steinway. While I adore the action and feel of the Kawai, its piano sounds are really nothing to write home about so far. Your Roland would probably destroy my Kawai in a sound test. I much preferred the sound of the Korg it replaced. Maybe I just need to massage the patch some more. There's a pretty vibrant MP11 owners community on here and I haven't had much chance to get deep into the discussion. It lives in my studio, so I should probably just get some spare cables and use Ivory II with it instead of whining about the on board patches. smile

To me, music is JUST emotion. It's very "right brained" to me, if you will. I play what I feel and I think that's one of the reasons I may have shied away from formal lessons for so long, since I worried I wouldn't have the analytical mind to match the theory with what I was playing.

Ataru, is this something that actually happens? I guess I hadn't thought of this, but I think it's because I never considered myself on any professional level historically. Whenever I see someone who has a strong command of theory, or those people on YouTube slamming out Chopin, I feel pretty darn envious myself!







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Originally Posted by Markarian

Ataru, is this something that actually happens? I guess I hadn't thought of this, but I think it's because I never considered myself on any professional level historically. Whenever I see someone who has a strong command of theory, or those people on YouTube slamming out Chopin, I feel pretty darn envious myself!


Knowledge of theory and rules of harmony are an acquired knowledge... the talent and instinct to make something sound good... is a gift.
At the end of the day, the difference between a Mozart and any other composer of his time is the amount of the gift... they all master theory, harmony, orchestration and did play multiple instruments at very high level...
Develop your basic knowledge and let's see where your instinct brings you.

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Markarian
Based on what you've written, I would say that Duane Schinn's "52 week crash course in exciting piano playing" might be worth investing in. It's pretty pricey, around $1000. It's crazy expensive compared to a lot of beginner methods, but not quite so crazy compared to weekly in-person lessons (that's the model of the course, a weekly lesson on DVD then a bunch of assignments for you to work on for the week). Normally I don't recommend it much around here because it's so expensive, but I think it matches your goals quite well.

It starts off teaching you to play lead sheets and chords (which you apparently already know), but then transitions to full music reading with the grand staff. But more than just reading and playing music, it teaches you a LOT of different techniques for composing and arranging songs in different ways. It covers a good bit of theory and gives a very strong foundation for future endeavors. IMO, it's ideally suited for what you want. So, it might be worth looking into.

If you google Duane Shinn 1 year crash course, you can find it if you're interested.

If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask (here or you can PM me) and I'll answer any of them that I can.





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Maybe there will be envy. Maybe there won't be. I haven't a clue. But, I do know you need to know how to read music and write music notation if you are going to compose. And "afraid to start at the beginning"? Everyone starts at the beginning. Maybe at different ages. But you just have to start.

Look at organizations like the MTNA to search for teachers. There are good ones out there. A good one won't be envious of a student.


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Originally Posted by Markarian
So now I am at a point where I feel I can put it off no longer and need to gain the musical knowledge that I need to read and write notation and finally fill in the missing knowledge gaps.


This reminds me of Irving Berlin. He had a different solution to the problem. He hired a music copyist/editor/assistant to write stuff down for him. Before notation software, there used to be copyists who wrote out parts for movie and TV scores. Maybe you could find a retired copyist who'd like a little spending money gig. Maybe someone on the composers' forum could help you find one.


Last edited by JohnSprung; 11/13/14 08:53 PM.

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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by Markarian
So now I am at a point where I feel I can put it off no longer and need to gain the musical knowledge that I need to read and write notation and finally fill in the missing knowledge gaps.


This reminds me of Irving Berlin. He had a different solution to the problem. He hired a music copyist/editor/assistant to write stuff down for him. Before notation software, there used to be copyists who wrote out parts for movie and TV scores. Maybe you could find a retired copyist who'd like a little spending money gig. Maybe someone on the composers' forum could help you find one.



You bring up an interesting point. My main goal is to write for film. I've already scored a couple smaller student projects and I have heard that there are several prominent movie composers who don't have a background in formal music theory or strong sheet music skills. I won't list them, lest their status as such actually be some tired old canard. But I always kind of hoped that behind many great contemporary composers was an equally awesome orchestrator.

That's not to say I don't want to learn, but it is something that helps me from getting completely discouraged.


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Wow, that was beautiful.
I think JohnSprung's suggestion is an excellent one.


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beautiful piece and of course nothing beats an original when it's so well done.


Surprisingly easy, barely an inconvenience.

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Originally Posted by Markarian
....
This is a sample of a sketch I'm working on for an original piece, called "The Spark." As you can hear, my playing is far from perfect, but I feel it has improved immensely since getting a real piano.

The Spark

I apologize if this is the wrong forum to post this, but I am kind of stumped at how to go about this the right way and not discourage myself. Thanks, everyone!
...


Wow, what a wonderful piece of original music !! I agree with the suggestion that you should post in the Composers forum to get more focused guidance from other composers in that section of the forum.

And since you are in the Seattle, WA area it might be useful to get some inputs from Forrest Kinney who is the composer/author of several Frederick Harris books.
Quote
Forrest Kinney is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM) as recognized by Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). He has taught music for over 35 years. His goal is to help his students become creative, whole musicians capable of enjoying the Four Arts of Music: improvising, arranging, composing, and interpreting.

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+1 on a wonderful piece. Good luck on your journey smile


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Absolutely beautiful! I understand your frustration with wanting to write and compose your music. To lose it would be a shame for you and for us who enjoy it.

I have been shopping digital pianos lately. One feature that may solve your dilemma is that you can plug a computer into the piano and with the correct software, the computer will write the music as you play. I don't know any more on this. It was just a feature that the sales people have been telling me about.

Good Luck - Love your music and would love to see it written so I could play it someday.

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Originally Posted by robn
Absolutely beautiful! I understand your frustration with wanting to write and compose your music. To lose it would be a shame for you and for us who enjoy it.

I have been shopping digital pianos lately. One feature that may solve your dilemma is that you can plug a computer into the piano and with the correct software, the computer will write the music as you play. I don't know any more on this. It was just a feature that the sales people have been telling me about.

Good Luck - Love your music and would love to see it written so I could play it someday.


Thank you all for the warm feedback on my piece and the great advice thus far. Robn, I am very keenly aware of the software options available for transcribing and notation. My main issue is wanting to learn for my own benefit and musical literacy.


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