Every so often, understandably, folks ask me the same question in a variety of guises. The wording is different, but fundamentally, the question is the same…
Alternate wordings include:
Before I continue, let me first say that everything I write here is written with the greatest of respect for each and every Musiah student and prospective student.
I absolutely understand why students ask questions like these. We all want certainty in life… a clear path mapped out before us, a crystallization of the precise benefits we will obtain at the end of a period of endeavor.
However, I think it’s important to understand that questions of this nature are fundamentally hard to answer as they really are “crystal ball gazing”.
To give some parallel examples, if you were to go down to your local gym and ask how many workouts you would have to do to obtain abs like a young Brad Pitt, it would be a question the trainer would be unable to answer because it depends on too many variables.
They’ll be able to guarantee that, provided you follow their instructions regarding diet and exercise, you will improve over time, but just how much improvement you will see is anyone’s guess.
However, coming back to piano lessons… I will, for the benefit of those who wish to have their ‘musical tea leaves’ read, attempt to give the best answers I can to the most common crystal ball gazing questions.
Whether you will be able to play a specific piece you wish to learn will depend on a number of variables.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are many different aspects to what makes a piece 'difficult'.
For example, exam syllabii, in my opinion, tend to focus excessively on the length of pieces rather than the content (longer pieces do take more time and practice to master, but if the challenge is largely the same throughout the whole piece, there is limited benefit in this), and they also tend to have excessively long lists of scales and technical exercises (one can definitely have too much of a good thing).
By contrast, the Musiah syllabus emphasizes short pieces that get right to the point, and challenge the student mostly in terms of their technique and coordination. This helps Musiah students to develop advanced playing skills that normally take years to develop in a much shorter period of time than would be possible in other learning scenarios.
When you reach the end of the Musiah course, you will have reading and playing skills equivalent to around Grade 5-6 and this will enable you to learn and, with practice, play more or less any piece within reason.
If you are not sure what is meant by the term “Grade 5-6 standard”, or if you are unfamiliar with how high up the musical hierarchy a grade 5-6 skill level is, you may find my article Are Piano / Keyboard Exams Necessary? helpful as, among other things, it outlines the sequence of grades commonly offered by examining bodies in most Western countries.
Of course, if you happen to choose a relatively easy piece, this will of course take less time to learn, practice and master than a very advanced piece that may take many weeks or even months to master.
This same dynamic holds true even for piano teachers and professional musicians.
Fundamentally, the important thing to understand is that the primary goal of the Musiah piano lessons course is to give you a range of skills that will empower you to continue to go forth on your own, creating your own musical journey and destiny.
Again, there are too many variables to answer this precisely. Factors that can influence your rate of progress include
... and so on.
It depends. Some students who work hard and practice say 2 hours a day complete the course in less than a year, some in a matter of weeks. Others, especially busy adult students, take more than a year to complete the course.
On average, for an adult student, it typically takes somewhere between 6 months to 18 months to complete the course.
Ultimately, how long it takes to finish the course is not the most important consideration, but rather the quality and enjoyment of your learning.
Remember, it’s not a race. If you keep chipping away at it, you will get there in your own time.
The most logical way for you to continue your learning after Musiah will depend on a number of variables such as your individual goals and aims, what you want to achieve musically, what particular style(s) you want to play in, whether there are any particular skills you want to specialize in, your individual character, and so on.
One of the main skills Musiah will give you is the ability to teach yourself any song (within reason) you want to learn. You will know how to read the sheet music and will be able to tell whether you are playing it correctly, and you will be accustomed to learning and practicing efficiently, so simply building up a repertoire of pieces you can learn by yourself without the assistance of a teacher or web site is definitely an option.
In terms of considering whether to continue your learning with a live teacher, this is also an option that will suit some students. But an alternative spin on this is... with the skills you will have, you could potentially learn a range of pieces, and then once you have done the basic learning, if you feel you would like some help / guidance from a live teacher to finish the songs to a really high standard, you could consult with a live teacher as needed / on an occasional basis (rather than every week) just to make sure you are on the right track, seek any tips they may have, etc.
As with most of these questions, it depends on a number of factors.
Once you have passed the beginner stage and become a little more advanced, as you learn pieces (e.g. from the sheet music), it is good to try develop the skill / habit of memorizing your pieces so that you can play them without the need for sheet music.
Although most concert pianists, for example, learn their pieces by reading the sheet music, they nearly always perform those pieces without sheet music. In part, this is because, quite often, when playing very advanced pieces, you simply don't have time to look at the sheet music. The ability to play from memory without having to refer to the sheet music also means you can devote all your attention to playing expressively.
So learning pieces from the sheet music in no way ties you to having the play pieces from the sheet music.
In terms of whether you will be able to learn songs by ear and subsequently play them by ear without ever having referred to the sheet music, I think it's important to understand that this is a separate skill which you can work on and develop over time if that is what you wish to do.
No doubt, if you choose to work on this, you will naturally improve at it over time.
Does learning to play piano by initially studying the sheet music of various pieces in any way inhibit your ability to also learn to play by ear? Absolutely not.
If anything, it will help you to play by ear as you will understand more about the structure of music.
Like playing by ear, improvisation is a separate skill which you can work on and develop over time if that is what you wish to do.
Like ear training, it improvisation is something you choose to work on, you will naturally improve at it over time.
While the Musiah course does not provide specific instruction on improvisation, what you will find is that learning music theory including how to read sheet music and also learning to play scales and a range of pieces in different styles will help improve your understanding of the structure of music, which is a necessary pre-requisite for improvisation.
So one might reasonably regard improvisation as a skill that is best nurtured after one has mastered the basics — which are covered in Musiah's piano lessons.
Yes. Not only will the music reading and playing skills you will acquire from Musiah help you develop the skills needed to accompany others, one of the great aspects of Musiah is that many of the pieces are ensemble pieces in which you get to play along with a backing track that includes the other parts.
Being able to play your part in a song while others are playing (or singing) a different part is invaluable and is very much a part of the Musiah course of piano lessons.
In terms of whether we will add more levels / lessons to the program, time will tell but probably not – since the Musiah course in its current form achieves its objective which is to give you the knowledge and skills to be able to learn more or less any song (within reason) on your own.
That said, we have recently added a library of optional extra songs to the app that you may enjoy both during and after completing the course. Over time, it is likely that we will continue to add more songs to the library.
To be honest, beyond Musiah, I would not be looking on the internet. I would be trying to find the right balance between self-teaching and / or a live teacher to suit you and your individual circumstances and goals.
Anyway, I hope the above thoughts and comments are helpful and will go some way towards
a) answering any crystal ball gazing questions you may have and
b) shedding some light on why answers to these questions are necessarily open-ended.
At the end of the day, if you would like to experience your own life-changing piano lessons journey, you have absolutely come to the right place.
And so I warmly invite you (dear reader) to begin your piano lessons journey now.
To take the next step, simply click this link: Online Piano Lessons 14 Day Free Trial.
And of course, if you would like to know more about Musiah’s piano lessons, please feel free to browse around the site or contact me directly.
Thanks for reading.
Til next time,
Brendan Hogan L.Mus.A, A.Mus.A.
Piano Teacher & Musiah Inventor
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