I have a pretty interesting story today. 4 Years ago I stumbled upon a free online piano lesson that was talking about some concepts that I found were amazing – little did I know that the website would disappear. I picked up an old piano that was lying around and in 4 days I was accompanying most songs playing through the radio and reading chorded tabs with the techniques in the site. A Week after that I was playing piano for my local church; something in that blog taught me how to see music in a more ‘science’ efficient way – answering the why instead of the how. Today’s article is the introduction to what’s going to be this site’s quick-start guide – in hopes that this sites helps someone just like the other blog helped me. Ultimately we’ll be a free resource to people that want to have fun with the piano and play songs that they already know without having to learn how to read music, learn about rhythms and “copying” music by playing what the author of the song wrote (you’ll be having fun improvising instead of trying to sound like someone else).
We’ll be how to play piano by reverse programming it; in the end you’ll know a bit of the fundamentals that form music and hopefully you’ll be able to at least play “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars without hesitation. After these few lessons you’ll know if the piano is something you should pursue and you’ll know if you really want to invest more time and money into learning more advanced techniques.
Our first step is an introduction to novice music theory; since everything I know has been self taught, there were some points where I needed definitions and explanations that went deeper than just hitting keys. I’ll give you a brief section with theory and jump directly into playing right afterwards with the next posts.
To start off, you are certain you want to play ‘Music’ right? You don’t want to create noise you want to play a song and feel good about playing it. Well, the fact that you can identify ‘good’ music from ‘bad’ music is the key to playing any instrument. However…
Do you know what music is?
A simple Google search with define:music brings up the following results;
- an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner
- any agreeable (pleasing and harmonious) sounds; “he fell asleep to the music of the wind chimes”
- musical activity (singing or whistling etc.); “his music was his central interest”
…And some more redundant search results. Now, let’s analyze these 3 definitions.
The first one says a lot of mumbo jumbo that you probably won’t need right now; it’s a technical term. Like Richard P. Feynman once said, “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel Prize. “ In physics that’s a valid point, research plays a major role in those camps and so… using specific terms help identify things from the core out; but in music, I don’t want you guys to get confused so let’s start easy; let’s see the third definition. Musical activity… hmm, pretty “all-over-the-place” definition if you ask me, at this point we should also avoid explanations and information that just doesn’t explain anything. Too complicated won’t help if you are a complete newbie and too simple will just leave you in the same level. So…
Let’s take a look at the lazy definition #2 :
“any agreeable (pleasing and harmonious) sounds; “he fell asleep to the music of the wind chimes”
Aaah, doesn’t that sound more pleasant, more direct, more usable that the other two? Music is more than an art, and we can define it as a science term.
This definition relates music to a feeling: Pleasure. Now, can you define pleasure? Lets google that one.
- a fundamental feeling that is hard to define but that people desire to experience; “he was tingling with pleasure”
- joy: something or someone that provides a source of happiness; “a joy to behold”; “the pleasure of his company”; “the new car is a delight”
- a formal expression; “he serves at the pleasure of the President”
These definitions won’t work for us, they are giving you an idea of what pleasure is; but they aren’t explaining how pleasure works. Lets hack it. Back in the day when Socrates, Plato, and all those important old guys were around; they didn’t have Google to define words, they instead asked questions to their pupils and they would answer them and find logic.
Let’s do that here:
What is pleasure? Pleasure is a feeling, you can “feel” pleasure; When you eat, you feel pleasure; why? Because you felt relieved when you ate the thing you wanted to eat, you create an urge – something that was creating pressure/stress/tension and then you released that pressure and ended the urge by eating. Can you define pleasure better now? Yes. Pleasure is the result of releasing any tension. If you were a rubber band, if someone were to stretch you and let go, making you go back to your relaxed neutral state wouldn’t you feel pleasure? If you go a day wanting to eat a succulent Baconator and you know you can’t go to Wendy’s until you get out of work at 5PM; you can bet you’ll feel pleasure when you finally eat it.
Pleasure is the effect that comes from Tension and Release.
You can create pleasure if you pinch yourself for a few seconds and then release.
Of course, at this point you might be asking. What does this have to do piano playing? Well, read back at the second definition of Music.
Any agreeable (pleasing and harmonious) sounds; “he fell asleep to the music of the wind chimes”
If pleasure is tension and release, then we can do this the math way and add it up; we’ll get a more usable definition of music.
Music is any sound that creates tension and at some point releases said tension to cause a pleasing effect.
Note: You can read more about Tension and Release relations in music here.
When you understand tension and release, you start listening to sounds differently; you’ll also start hearing music from normal sounds.
Now, this “Tension and release” has many more explanations, and it plays a major role in music theory.
For now, we’ll center in the fast way to play the piano; I’ll try to avoid technical terms that are common to musicians but confusing to any other person, to help those that have 0 music knowledge. This will give you a good start point to Piano playing.
On the next post we’ll start solid, we’ll learn the names of every note and we’ll learn how to shrink the piano; we’ll create Pleasure with sounds and in the end of the lessons we’ll be playing complete songs (our first song will be “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars). Remember to like our facebook page to stay up to date! The way we’ll learn to play the piano is with chords and simple rhythms. You’ll learn that to “make” music you don’t have to “replicate” music, playing what other people wrote and covering songs is fun and you’ll do it soon enough; but the real art in playing is putting your thoughts into play, your own style. This is what this week long system will aim for. If you’re up for the ride, lets continue.
—Got the theory down? Lets start playing the keys!
- Lesson 1: Notes and shrinking the piano.
- Lesson 2: Fingering and Introduction to Chords
- Lesson 3: Chord Formation and Application
- Lesson 4: Scales, Sharp/Flat chords and Complemented Chords
- Lesson 5: Conclusion, Lets play “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars