Piano in a Flash! Or, Play the Piano Without Taking Lessons!
Did you know that you can learn how to play the piano in one afternoon? It's true! I saw a program recently on PBS called "Piano in a Flash with Scott the Piano Guy." This guy made it look easy - and it is! I didn't even buy his book or video, but I'm teaching myself to play the piano just from what I learned while watching the show. In the hour or so that Scott Houston spent with his audience, I came to realize that everything I needed in order to play was right at my fingertips.
Scott Houston ("The Piano Guy") tells you step by step everything you need to know to play the piano just like the pros. After just one session you are able to play any tune from any piece of popular sheet music or song book - with two hands, both melody and chord accompaniment!
The way he unlocked the mystery of the piano was a real eye-opener for me. The idea of playing the piano, which had always seemed overwhelming to me, was suddenly shown to be tremendously simple. Even better, this entertaining, informative program demonstrates how learning to play the piano can be fun.
This technique does not teach you music theory or how to play classical music. But, what it does teach you is how to play all styles of pop music, whether you're interested in old standards, jazz, blues, country, rock, whatever. It's easy, fun, and musically correct!
This course is for everyone whose goal is not to be a professional classical pianist. The objective is to be a good piano player, not a great note reader. The whole point is to learn the notes for the songs you wish to play, instead of trying to learn them all. You don't have to take a lesson once a week forever. You can play without even reading sheet music. And best of all, you can start out by playing your favorite song first.
By bypassing the traditional route to classical piano playing, you can learn how to play based on your own needs and interests, not someone else telling you what to do. Do you want to practice scales forever, or would you rather sit down and start playing your favorite tune? The difference is that regular piano teachers teach note reading, while piano playing professionals use chords. Playing in this style lets you make your own music, not follow someone else's. These techniques can be applied to organs, synthesizers and keyboards as well.
Now, don't get me wrong - no one loves classical music more than I do. Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Rachmaninoff are just a few of my favorites, and I enjoy listening to performances by professional musicians. So if you want to study classical piano, by all means go for it. I truly admire your dedication. However, many children who take lessons become frustrated and give up. In fact, 60% of piano students drop out after the first few lessons. Often this is before they even learn how to play anything! But look at it this way - maybe they didn't fail the piano lessons, perhaps the lessons failed them.
There are a lot of people who like music, but aren't willing to take piano lessons once a week for the next couple of years just to get to a point where they can play "Mary Had A Little Lamb." In this case, not only are the traditional lessons time consuming and expensive, but they are not providing what they really want, which is to be able to sit down and "play a tune."
For those students who want to learn how to play the piano, but don't want to go through years of weekly lessons and recitals, there is another way to learn how to play. If your piano goals are not to pursue a career in music or become a concert pianist, you can experience the joy of playing the piano - without the frustration of piano lessons.
Because the truth is, you don't have to be a great note reader to play the piano. If this were the case, how did Ray Charles learn how to play? Most traditional piano teachers teach note reading, while most popular piano playing professionals use chords. Classical piano lessons are dependent on needing to be a note reader. When you're playing non-classical music, you don't have to be challenged by the sheet music.You can ignore 90% of what's on the sheet music, while still playing it stylistically correctly.
The "Chord Piano Method" is not stressful or frustrating. This method is perfect for most people who don't want to be a classical concert pianist, but just want to have fun playing. It allows you to have fun and learn how to play music at the same time. Practicing scales is work, but making music is good for the soul.
My Piano Story
Even though I sang in the chorus every year when I was in school, I never really learned how to read music. My mother, on the other hand, had taken ten years of classical piano lessons as a child. A couple of weeks ago, she called and told me about this program that was going to be on TV, that supposedly teaches you how to play piano "in a flash." Although it sounded hard to believe, I was curious as to how this Scott Houston guy could claim to accomplish that, so I watched it. My mom was watching it at her house, too, and my 13-year-old son watched it along with me.
As I viewed this program, I listened intently to Scott's secret "tricks of the trade" and copied what he did on the keyboard that we have at home. Although I had never had a piano lesson before in my life, in just an hour I was playing a tune. I was so excited, I called my mom as soon as the show was over and exclaimed, "It really works! I can play the piano!"
I knew the techniques shown in the program wouldn't mean as much to my mom because she already knew how to play the piano, but I was totally impressed. I didn't have any previous piano training at all, and yet I had learned the basics in an hour and a half! Ever since then, I haven't been able to stay away from the keyboard. The program took the mystery out of piano playing and eliminated my fear of reading sheet music. Now I know how to read the chord symbols, and I don't get freaked out at the sharps and flats!
It was great to finally stop dusting off that keyboard and start playing it. Even though I was never interested in taking piano lessons, I must admit I always wished that I could at least play a few of my favorite songs, especially Christmas carols during the holidays. Now I finally can, and I'm working on learning several songs. And despite the piano guy's emphasis on not playing classical music in this style, I just finished playing one of my favorite classics - Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"! I'm confident that I will be able to play some more simple classical melodies as well. I'm also looking forward to playing Christmas carols for my family this year.
Piano in a Flash for Kids of all Ages
"Piano in a Flash with Scott the Piano Guy" is aimed at adults who have always wanted to learn how to play piano or keyboards but for whatever reason have been unable to accomplish their goal. Nevertheless, my teenage son and I watched it together and I can say that it works for kids as well.
After we finished watching the PBS special, Peter and I were both able to play some simple songs like "Yankee Doodle." I was excited for him, because he has shown the ability to play the piano but would have been frustrated and bored with traditional lessons. We had looked into piano lessons for him in the past, but he wasn't interested enough to have the patience to practice every day. Still, he often liked to doodle around on the keyboard and experiment with different note combinations. Many times I wished that we could find someone who would be willing to teach him to play creatively the way he wants to play, to inspire him to sit down and play some tunes on the keyboard for his own enjoyment. The "Piano in a Flash" program does just that.
This is such a wonderfully simple approach to learning to play, it is perfect for all ages. Using this method, Peter and I can spend some quality time learning to play the piano together. With this program, all parents and children can have fun learning and playing together. Piano playing is so easy when you know how to do chords! I'm so excited that we'll have the chance to play the songs we love to hear, and spend time together doing so.
Piano playing seems to be a deep longing in many people's hearts, and yet most of us don't have the time, money, or patience to spend years taking lessons. Do you have a secret desire to be able to go out and play a piano? No matter what your age, you can! Young people can use these techniques to learn how to play the piano for the first time. Working professionals (and homemakers) will find that playing music is a great stress reliever. Wouldn't you love to be able to come home after a hard day, sit down behind that piece of furniture that's been gathering dust over in the corner, and relax by playing your favorite song? As you get older, learning to play the piano will keep your mind active and playing beautiful music will help you to feel "alive."
As with any new skill, persistence is the key, but practicing your favorite songs is not a chore, it's a joy. Start out with something simple and as you keep at it, you will gradually be able to work your way up to more complex melodies. Soon you will be confident enough to begin adding intros and endings as well as experimenting with a few extra chords to add more depth to the songs. In this way, you can transform a simple melody and some basic chords into something special.
Did You Know…?
The piano is physically and mechanically an easy instrument to play. If you tried to play the same note on a trumpet or other instrument, it would be more difficult. Your only obligation with the piano is to get your fingers over the right notes. Other instrumentalists quit because they can't play the instruments; piano players quit because they can't read the music.
Scott "The Piano Guy" Houston says he can teach anyone how to play the piano in a few hours! Sound too good to be true? Don't just take my word for it! Read what others are saying:
"I'm a former piano teacher, a classically trained pianist for a local church. I'm very excited to see a program that combines fun and a relaxed attitude for something that should be a joy rather than a chore. Music is something to be enjoyed, embraced and shared." - L. Treadwell, Lampasas TX
"The evening I spent in [Scott's] class was one of the most fun times I have had in a long time. I learned more in that 3 and a half hours, than in many years of piano lessons." - Edna Anne S., Portsmouth OH
"I was looking for a method book that would allow my students to quickly learn some type of chord playing while continuing their classical studies. This method is a very fun one to work with and there has been much positive response from my students. I also showed your pamphlet to my husband after the class and he picked up Jingle Bells right away!" - Doreen H., Cleveland OH
"The Piano in a Flash class was wonderful & inspiring. I've been playing a lot and believe I'm getting better all the time. Slowly, but surely. It's great fun!" - Julie B., Elgin IL
"My piano teacher is ecstatic about the course. She also teaches chord structure and was amazed at the program." - Nancy Lorig, Springfield OH
"Haven't played the piano in about 10 years and have lost most of what I learned. This helped me a great deal." - Marta K. Shinker, Champaign IL
"It was eye opening. It removed a lot of the mystery of music and made the "work" of learning to play a lot more fun. A great value." -T. Submit, Middletown OH
"I sat down tonight and can play Silent Night with chords included after 15 minutes of work. Yes, I am still hunting for notes at times but I was thoroughly impressed…. This time, I think I really can do this." - R. Hubbard
"I am a piano teacher watching this on a PBS station, and I am amazed that there is another teacher out there utilizing this similar method. Although I teach both classical and pop, I began to learn using a similar method...the chord method. When playing publicly, I never seem to play anything the same way more than once ever....I am a born improviser. Trying to explain the chord method to classical teachers is outrageous. I've been slammed more than you can imagine. I have taught kawai and technic methods, as well as classical methods…. Scott really does a good job at promoting music education…[and is] an inspiration." - S. Andrews, Tisdale, Saskatchewan
"Very informative as well as entertaining! I have been looking for a class like this for at least 30 years! At the age of 15 (45 years ago) I had a teacher who taught with a very similar method. I LOVED IT! I used to go to my lessons with books containing blank staffs and she would ask me what current tunes I liked and would take a pencil and write them out for me adding the chords. What a blast! I've been wanting to get back to the piano, but just didn't want to go back to more traditional lessons." -Sharon Stanley, Beavercreek OH
NEXT: FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF HOW EASY PLAYING THE PIANO CAN BE!
If you would like to learn to play the piano, why not start with your favorite song first. Most people don't want to practice scales forever, they want to play a tune. If you wish you could have fun and sound good at a piano without devoting the years required to study classical piano, the Chord Piano Method is for you. It provides a better awareness of how pop keyboardists play, too.
The piano is physically a simple instrument to play. You don't need long skinny fingers or years of weekly lessons. In just one day you can learn everything you need to play any song from any piece of sheet music or song book. This will give you years of musical enjoyment.
If you can find middle C, can recognize a treble clef, and know the meaning of "Every Good Boy Does Fine," you already know enough to begin playing the piano.
Middle C is simply the C that's in the middle of the keyboard, whether it's a small electronic keyboard or a full size piano. From there, you go up the alphabet to G, then start over again on A. Every eight white keys you get to the same note. You can do the same thing backwards.
Sharps and flats are simply a naming convention for the black keys. A sharp is the closest note higher to what the note name is; a flat is the closest note lower to what the note name is. Sharps go up; flats go down.
A chord can be played wherever it sounds good, usually in the octave just below middle C. Whatever the letter name is at the beginning of the chord, that's the root of the chord.
C, F, and G all happen to be three-note chords, exactly the same shape under your hand. These chords start on the letter name of the chord and are played with three fingers of your left hand, using every other white key. They all have the same hand position, but just start on a different note.
Knowing how to play chords opens up a whole new world in music. By just learning a few chords (C, F, and G), your playing can sound impressive. Much of what we hear in pop music is based on these chords. They are the three main chords used in the blues.
You can do a lot with these three simple chords, because you can play the same three notes in many different ways. For example, you can play the notes all together or separate them a little bit. You can play the chord with a rhythmic pattern, or hold it down for the full measure.
Try playing around with them in various combinations and you can see how you easily have the basis for hundreds of tunes. While there are other chords, with just these three chords and a melody line, you're armed to play thousands of songs.
The chord piano method focuses on the treble clef and ignores the bass clef. All you need to learn is how to play a single one-note melody line in the treble clef. You simply play the chords with your left hand. Instead of reading all those notes in the bass clef, just follow the chord symbols.
There are 5 lines on a staff, with 4 spaces between it. Whatever line or space the note is on, that's the note you play. Memorize the lines on the treble staff from bottom to top: Every Good Boy Does Fine. The spaces in between spell out: FACE. These lines and spaces go right up the keys on the piano. You must memorize these, but once you learn them, you're ready to play.
Once you learn the basics, pick out your favorite tune that you have always wanted to play and practice just the right hand melody part first. Then learn the chords to that song and practice them (with your left hand) one chord at a time. It will be slow at first, but you will get it. Then you will be amazed how quickly your playing improves as you actually play your favorite tune.
Did You Know…?
Pros don't bother reading regular sheet music. They use lead sheets. Lead-sheet notation is simply a one-note melody line with chords above it. Professional musicians want to get down to the business of playing music, not reading notes. This also gives them the freedom to play music the way they want to, not the way the arranger made it. If you understand lead-sheet notation, you can become a music maker, not a note regurgitator, and play some beautiful music of your own.
In summary: The one-note melody line is played in the treble clef with your right hand and the chords are played with your left hand, typically one per measure. You play a chord whenever a chord symbol appears. The chord symbols are shown above the music. Remember what hand position you're in when playing the chords. Most songs don't have 20-30 chords; they only have 5-8. Forget about the bass clef; you'll never have to look at a bass clef again. Once you learn how to read a lead sheet and play in this style, every tune becomes equally easy. You can sit down and play a tune the way you want to play it.
Reading a melody line is a simple thing even if you've never looked at a piece of music before. And while this type of playing works for "musical newbies," it also provides new inspiration for non-beginners. Take what you've learned and apply it to blues, jazz, or any other style. Pick your favorite songs, Christimas carols, hymns, etc. You too can experience making music, not just reading lines and dots.
How to Get Started Playing the Piano
If you understand everything as described so far, you already know enough to begin. If not, go to www.scottthepianoguy.com to download a free pamphlet that will explain all you need to know. It includes illustrated examples of everything I've mentioned above, plus more. You can also sign up for Scott's free "Piano Notes" monthly newsletter and access Scott's on-line audio piano tips.
Then if you want, you can continue learning with Play Piano in a Flash, available as a book, video or DVD. Of all the self-taught piano lessons, I think this is the best, by far. At $17.95 - less than the cost of a traditional piano lesson - the book by Scott Houston will give you years worth of information. Written for total beginners all the way to people who have had years of lessons, it will show you how to play any piece of pop sheet music on a piano or keyboard. Better yet, you'll be able to do it in a fraction of the time that it takes to learn how to play traditional classical piano. And best of all, it's fun! No heavy note reading, no laborious practice. Just an incredibly simplified version of reading sheet music that will have you playing your all-time favorite tune first, regardless of your preconceived notions of difficulty. It's available as an eBook, too! You can also purchase an audio CD containing the book examples.
The Play Piano in a Flash video/DVD contains the same hour-long special as seen on PBS, plus an additional hour and a half of bonus material. Total running time is 145 minutes, and it costs $49.95. You can order it at www.scottthepianoguy.com. The video and book complement each other, but they can also stand alone. This would be a great Christmas gift for the "piano player wannabe" in your family, perfect for someone who always wanted to learn how to play but never had a chance to take lessons. Give someone (or yourself) the gift of music for a fraction of the traditional cost!
If you like Scott's style of chord piano playing, his website also offers a variety of supplemental instructional materials. Choose from Blues/Boogie Woogie, a Christmas Carol Fake Book, an introduction to Praise piano using church/gospel songs and hymns, and more.
Scott recommends purchasing a full size keyboard (88 keys) that has weighted keys. He suggests getting the cheapest digital piano that you can find, rather than an electronic keyboard. The electronic "bells and whistles" are not necessary, and he says that even the beginning-level player will quickly become disappointed with the sound of an electronic keyboard. We already had an electronic keyboard, though, so that's what I'm using.
Fake Books and Lead Sheets
A lead sheet contains the basic information needed to play a song - melody, lyrics, meter, and chords - written in simple form. You can get lead sheets in books commonly called "fake books." Lead sheets and fake books are designed for the keyboard player who would like to create arrangements (and accompaniments) using only a melody line and chord symbols. They can be purchased from music stores or in large chain bookstores. Scott also has a collection of them on his website. Visit www.scottthepianoguy.com and click on the button titled "fake books."
Who is the Piano Guy?
Scott Houston is a professional speaker, trainer, and educator. He started out as a drummer, and learned how to play the piano himself using the Chord Piano Method. Scott Houston's background combines a degree from Indiana University with over 15 years experience in the music industry. Previous to his work in educational music publishing, Mr. Houston worked as a professional musician playing and programming MIDI based keyboards. From teaching, to playing professionally, to managing a music publishing company, he has experienced a well-rounded view of the music world. Realizing that most students do not aspire to become concert pianists, but rather want to enjoy being able to sit down at a keyboard and play their favorite music, he began giving half-day workshops using that method. He has taught the workshop successfully for over 4 years nationwide at over 50 colleges and universities. His other workshops include "How to Play Music by Ear" and "Holiday Songs for Chord Piano Players." For more information, visit his website at www.scottthepianoguy.com.
Beginning Music and Song Books
A good accompaniment to the chord piano method described above is The Usborne First Book of the Keyboard, by Anthony Marks. This book, based on The Usborne First Book of the Piano by John C. Miles, was adapted for use with electronic keyboards. It's a colorful guide to playing electronic keyboard instruments. The approach to reading music is easy for beginners to understand. As soon as the first notes have been mastered there are simple tunes to play, with guidance from friendly cartoon figures. Each new concept is accompanied by a practice tune, and there are many pages of music to play later in the book. These include well-known tunes, folk songs, and Christmas carols. There are also hints on using the various features of the keyboard, as well as interesting facts about the history of electronic instruments. An excellent book for any beginning keyboardist.
I also recommend the Wee Sing series: America, Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies, Bible Songs, Fun n' Folk, Children's Songs and Fingerplays, etc. While designed to be sing-alongs, the Wee Sing books contain simple musical scores consisting of the treble clef and chords- just what we beginning piano players need!
Related Site: Teach Yourself Beginner Piano
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