Wanting to pick up piano/keys again - how to structure my study

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by sws1, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. sws1

    sws1 Member

    Aug 19, 2002
    East of the west
    I played some piano when I was a kid. (Who didn't?) But at this point, I'm far far far more versed on the guitar. Emphasis on pop-rock-blues. I've played long enough that I "get" how to approach the instrument, and can "see" how many common progressions fit together on the guitar. e.g., for a I-IV progression, I am able to play that in a myriad a ways, depending on the shape of the I chord I am currently playing, and can navigate easily. And with guitar, I only need to 'get' those spatial patterns once, and can then move to different keys. I am pretty well-versed in theory, up and til you get to jazz beyond ii-V-I.

    So, in trying to get re-acquainted with the piano/keys, I want to leverage my knowledge of music, and apply in a way that helps me "get" it most efficiently. But I'm not entirely sure how someone skilled in keyboards "sees" the piano.

    Is each key a completely different animal? To get started, should I emphasize the keys that I'd likely play in for the style of music?
    Should I learn all the various ways to play a chord inversion, left hand included?
    Should I learn to play the key scales in the important keys?
    I guess what I'm thinking...should I structure my thought process around "keys". i.e., "get" C (scales, chords, inversions), then move to G?
    By saying I want to avoid the key of Bb, is that suggesting I'm looking at it wrong?
    Or am I completely missing it?

    For you guys skilled in keys (and guitar) how do you "see" it, and how best should I structure my curriculum?
  2. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

    Dec 29, 2009
    check this out...(BTW his sons played with Zappa):
  3. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

    May 30, 2007
    A serious pianist would insist you be able to play in any of the 12 keys. The major scale in the key of Bb - since you brought up Bb - is actually not difficult to play - right hand is easy, left hand is even easier.

    Honestly, your best option would be to take lessons with a good piano teacher. My last piano teacher had me get these books:

    Alfreds All-In-One Basic Adult Piano Course Vol. 1 (note you can also get CD or DVD):

    Jazz Bits and Pieces:

    My teacher showed me a couple of things that the books cannot do:

    1. How to curl the fingers and otherwise physically play the keys without hurting oneself.
    2. How to add ornamentation like grace notes that is missing from the sheet music - this particularly applies to Jazz Bits and Pieces.

    The above Alfreds book and the followup vol. 2 should give you a solid foundation. Probably best to concentrate on that foundation before going too crazy looking for exercises. Believe me, you'll get exercises in those two books. Be sure to work through the songs too. Some of them may seem boring, but they're there to help reinforce the lessons that they're paired with.

    Again, I recommend a piano teacher if you want to get serious about playing piano. Yeah, I know nobody wants to get a teacher, but it's an upfront investment of time for a long-term gain in time saved.

    That said, I did get some good recommendations for self-study from the Keyboard Corner, but they're for jazz piano, so I don't want to bore you if you're not into that.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
    guitarjazz likes this.
  4. Phil the Kill Bill V2 guy

    Phil the Kill Bill V2 guy Member

    Sep 11, 2018
    Not sure what to recommend.
    But I think there's a lot of things in common between guitar and piano (and differences too of course)
    So concepts and knowledge you pick up on one instrument can help with the other.
    I never studied piano, but figured out what I do know because of my guitar knowledge.
    And...if you get pretty good on keys, you could be an asset to a band by playing two instruments.
  5. silver surfer

    silver surfer Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    Freehold, New Jersey
    I play both guitar and keyboard. For keyboard, each key has a different finger feel as opposed to the guitar where like you say you can just move patterns to different keys. I think the main thing is to approach each key by learning the scale for that key. Get a feel for the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th and then the b7 and the b5 etc. The best thing I can suggest is to just practice that in the more commonly used keys until you get more comfortable. Starting with the key of C is the easiest as all the white keys are the major scale and black keys are most of the variations. As far as chord inversions, I recommend finding the ones that you like both fingering wise and sound wise and just work with those. You don't need to work on all the possibilities - and maybe only one that you are comfortable with. If you are doing a I IV V, find an easy approach that minimizes your finger movement and use that in every key. Get a couple patterns like you would on guitar - like a blues run like 3rd 4th b5 5th - 3rd 1st ( notes in key of C = E F F# G - E C) and practice that in different keys.
    sws1 likes this.
  6. dave999z

    dave999z Member

    Jun 1, 2013
    Can't recommend Kent Hewitt's youtube videos enough. Great vibe, and awesome organization of information and exercises. You can download materials from his website too (tons of it is free).

  7. DeadLazy

    DeadLazy Member

    Apr 21, 2018
    That’s not how I look at it but I can’t say you’re wrong.

    It’s all about relationships, right?

    I would use those keys as a way to see common tones and what that means; what are the relationships between chords you’ve never seen before? Where do seemingly opposing scales chords overlap?

    That’s what the practice of the piano does for me.

    I’d also recommend - and can’t stress how strongly I believe it enough - a compact drum kit or some type of percussion practice everyday.

    Bang trash can lids with sticks but study drums/percussion too. 20-30 minutes a day on each will vastly improve your musicianship.
  8. stevel

    stevel Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Hampton Roads, Virginia
    A teacher would be ideal.

    But learning to play the actual parts from actual songs is the next best teacher - just like I hope you did on guitar.

    Just playing organ pads (held, sustained chords) in a 12 Bar blues as well as organ stabs/hits would be a great place to start.

    A bit of advice: They're aren't completely different animals and you can transfer what you know on one instrument to the other, but - and this is a big but - it's easy to get frustrated because you'll be like "I can do this on guitar, why can't I do it on keys..."

    So in many ways you have to put yourself back into the position of a complete beginner (and maybe take lessons :) and go into it with that mindset so you don't get too frustrated.
  9. Steve Hotra

    Steve Hotra Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2007
    Camas WA.
    Buy a piano chord book, and get some lessons from someone who plays guitar and piano.
    I teach both and there are a lot of similarities.
    Basic theory helps too.

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