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Seeking Advice from Musicians, Please


Pingo
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My youngest boy is interested in playing the keyboard.

 

In school up til now he's played the saxophone, which he wasn't bad at but his heart was never in it.

 

We told him if he demonstrated actual application we'd let him take piano lessons next year in school (He has his own electronic keyboard, but never did much with it until now).

 

On his own initiative, he dug out my old copy of "Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer" and has done quite a good job figuring out the first few bars of "The Irish Ballad" (until a too-wide spread stymied his not-quite-adolescent hands), particularly since he's never played more than one note at a time before now.

 

I would like to gently encourage this without being too overbearing. Do the musicians on the board here have any suggestions?

 

Is a book of music a good idea? All I can think of is Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier."

 

If it helps, his elder siblings are quite accomplished with classical guitar and flute and they all get along well.

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A good teacher and practicing at least some everyday is the best bet. My son took piano lessons for 9 years, he only stopped taking lessons because she moved away. He still practices some at home, and plays piano in jazz band at school. He also plays tuba in concert band and marching band. If you can find a Suzuki teacher, I would highly recommend that teaching style. My son can sit down and play a piece after hearing it just a few times.

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Well guitar is much like piano so I know that would be helpful If the siblings can provide insight. I'm working with my 3 year old nephew with piano at the moment. Nothing extreme, I'll put a simple 4/4 rhythm on and play a major scale. He's getting the hang of it and seems to enjoy it.

 

I'm not sure what books to recommend on the topic, I had a wonderful one awhile back but for the life of me I cannot remember the name. If he's just starting out, I'd wait a bit before going for the Well Tampered Clavier. At least til he gets better dexterity and reach. That's personal opinion though. The dexterity will come with practice and the reach will come with stretching those muscles and age.

Edited by MissMelons
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I don't play myself, but I hear there are some really good YouTube videos for instruction out there.  One of the personal finance bloggers I used o read had a post about learning the the keyboard (bought a used keyboard off Craiglist and lessons fro YouTube = inexpensive hobby).  I'll see if I can dig up the post and any specific recommendations.

ETA:  here is the post: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/make-your-own-kind-of-music/.  There are links to other sites and such.  Hope it helps.

Edited by Dilvish the Deliverer
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My wife teaches Elementary Music, and has been playing piano for as long as she can remember, along with gods know how many other instruments.  She has also instructed in the past.  I just asked her.  Her personal preferences for beginner piano players.

 

John Thompson's series of instructional books.

Alfred's... book series by William A Palmer, Morton Manus and Amanda Vick Lethco

 

Our daughter is 8, and is really loving the John Thompson series.

 

She's not as much a fan of the Suzuki method because it primarily teaches by ear, and doesn't really teach notation or reading music until much later.

 

Really, regular practice, regardless of the method of instruction is key.  Having a skilled teacher certainly helps.

 

For the record, the only thing I play is a radio or CD player.  I sang and danced a very long time ago.

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I taught myself every instrument I play. When I took lessons, I tended not to learn much, because I am the sort who has to be inspired and who learns by doing. My first sessions with a guitar teacher (about three) amounted to him showing me some chords, and me showing him some riffs I picked up from a couple of blues-jazz songs. A few years later, in High School, I took a college course in guitar to try to learn to read (my weak point), and the teacher was shocked at how well I could "fake" my way through pretty much any song, better than the guys who had been reading for years.

 

By the time I was 15, I was playing and singing in a band with 18 and 19-year-olds.

 

In my twenties I recorded locally with, and sat in with bands playing drums, guitar, bass, singing, and on rare occasions, keys. I was very successful, but sometimes lazy, and - alas - eventually having to pay rent won out.

 

I'm not bragging. I'm throwing this out there as a counter to the main thrust of the responses, which is that you get your son a teacher. Well, if your son plays the sax and can read music (which seems obvious), then you already know all that. In my case, inspiration was what drove me, and love. So there's that, too, and that is VERY important.

 

You can't MAKE your son stick with an instrument, any more than you can make him love it. And though lessons are great (I regret not being a better reader myself, believe me), I think what is really needed here is a different mindset.

 

You seem hesitant. More than most, you understand the cost, both monetary and emotional, in investing in this sort of thing. But really, this is an organic process that he must work out for himself. So my recommendation is to encourage him by simply providing the tools he needs and helping him take advantage of opportunities, such as lessons and performances. Do not push. And just try not to be too disappointed if it does not pan out. You can always sell his instruments and books, and whatnot, later. It's hard, but this is really his thing. And all this is just part of growing up.

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The Suzuki method, like any, comes down to the skill of the instructor. My son's teacher was awesome, very good at motivating the students. She also started teaching notes the second time thru book one, so my son can read notes just fine. Every summer she had a sight reading contest, were the students with the most pages read got a price.

 

Whichever route you go Pingo, your son will have to put in the effort of practicing. And in my opinion, the effort of worth it in the end, because he will learn a fun skill he can enjoy the rest of his life. And practicing music helps with his other school subjects as well.

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I play flute and oboe, and my son who is 17 plays piano and tuba. I did have various teachers, but I never had a Suzuki teacher myself. A good teacher can prevent bad habits from taking hold, that can stifle later progress.

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I play mandolin, and drums (preferably the Irish bodhran, but if you can make noise hitting it, I will try) and used to play slide trombone (need to get one so i can again) I am self taught with those, except the trombone which I played in middle school band. I can not recommend getting a teacher that works on reading music. I can't yet. Not fast enough to play along with at any rate. Translating notation into action is one of the things I find limits my music ability as much as anything.

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