Ive written a lot over the past few month about online piano lessons and that its more important how you learn than what you learn. In other words, your teacher can give you reams of data and information but it easily can go in one ear and out the other. Thats why choosing the right online piano teacher is so important.
Learning piano properly is all about doing. You learn by doing because good practice habits are easily formed and data gets stored in the subconscious allowing you to pull it out whenever you need it without thinking. Thats why repetition is so valuable because your body learns movement and your subconscious stores the sounds.
But, exactly what is the data you need to learn. Once youve convinced yourself that how you learn is important you still need to get the right information when it comes to harmony, chords, scales, choice of songs etc. What should you be looking for?
Im a big believer in learning music not just notes. When I was younger the process of learning piano was all about notes. I learned to read music at an early age and learned how to play other peoples music by practicing their pieces over and over again. However, the only drawback to this type of learning is its not the most creative way to discover music. For example; imagine that for your entire life all you know how to do is play other peoples music by learning it from sheet music.
There is an entire side to music that many musicians do not get to discover and thats the fundamental building blocks of music. Once learned, it becomes so much easier to play by earn, improvise and even compose. To me, this is the entire point to music. Its easier to express your heart and soul when youre using and understanding the entire palette of musical colors.
So, what goes into that palette? In my opinion scales are the most important aspect of music. Why? Because, out of scales comes melody and chords. Everything in music can be broken down into standards scales such as; major, minor and all of the modes like dorian, phrygian, mixolydian and so on.
Lets take a simple example. Since everything is built from scales lets use a C major Scale. The notes of a C major scale would be C D E F G A B. Simple enough right? Ok so how do we get chords out of that. Well, most western harmony is based on tertian harmony or intervals of 3. That means that if you take the first note of the scale which is C and create a chord by placing 3rd on top from the same scale the chord would be C E G making a simple major triad.
If you kept placing notes on top in 3rds the next note would be B. So, the chord would be C E G B making what we call a major 7th chord. If you continue in thirds the next notes would be D F A then arriving back at C. So the richest chord you could have by choosing just notes from the C major scale would be C E G B D F A. Yet, you cant use F because it creates a tri-tone (minor 5th) against the B. Therefore the chord would be C E G B D A making a major 7th chord with a 9th and 13th as extensions. This chord is written like this C maj7 9 13.
Then, if you tried to do the same thing starting on D the chord you would end up with is D F A C E G B. You must remove the B because it creates a tri-tone with the F so the final chord would be D F A C E G which is called a D minor 7th chord with a 9th and 11th and is written like this; D min7 11.
If you kept doing this with all 7 notes of the scale thats where your chords will come from. Take the chords from the scale then add a melody using the notes from the scale and youve got the building blocks of all western music.
While this may seem like a fairly simple explanation, it is. Music was never meant to be complicated but used as a way of expressing sentiment, emotional and happiness. Over complicating music just takes the fun out of it. So, the next time you decide to learn piano, find yourself some lessons that help you understand music from the inside out. Playing notes from a page will only take you so far. Understanding music will take you the rest of the way.