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jab.phila 01-12-2020 08:07 AM

Value of Learning Piano Basics to Improve Guitar
 
I did not grow up in a musical family, so learning guitar as an adult has felt like learning a second language. It has been a wonderful and challenging experience and I would describe my skills as solidly intermediate with dreams to be able to play at an advanced level some day.

My teenage son is already an advanced flute player and we will be hosting an international piano virtuoso for the next six months, so getting a nice piano went from being a hope to someday idea to just bought a used Charles Walter upright yesterday.

So, with time always a limiting factor, what encouragement or suggestions do you have on the value or best approach for me learning some piano basics to grow in my guitar playing? My thoughts are improving basic musicality like ear and stronger theory, but I'm not sure it's worth it just because it feels like I'm already getting at some of that through the guitar and starting piano puts me at the very foot of some huge mountain.

Appreciate whatever support, insight and practical suggestions are out there in the AGF universe.

Thanks, Jake

ljguitar 01-12-2020 08:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jab.phila (Post 6262957)
…with time always a limiting factor, what encouragement or suggestions do you have on the value or best approach for me learning some piano basics to grow in my guitar playing? My thoughts are improving basic musicality like ear and stronger theory, but I'm not sure it's worth it just because it feels like I'm already getting at some of that through the guitar and starting piano puts me at the very foot of some huge mountain.

Appreciate whatever support, insight and practical suggestions are out there in the AGF universe.

Thanks, Jake

Hi Jake

I'm biased in favor of piano. I have a degree in music, and a minor in theory. Music theory is best taught and learned on piano, and then it translates well to other instruments.

I cannot speak to whether it's worth it to you. I play several instruments, and life began for me musically in 3rd grade with accordion (which I played for the next 12 years), and trumpet, vocal training, piano, and eventually guitar.

Chords are best visualized on keyboards, as are scales.

Many junior colleges have a piano lab and offer 1 or 2 semester theory classes.

My brother told all 7 of his children they could play any instrument they wanted after they took a year of piano, which all 7 did. All 7 went on to play other instruments quite well, and when visiting their home, I've often overheard most of them slip into the den unprompted to play piano for a while.




TBman 01-12-2020 08:23 AM

The piano, to me, is the foundation for all music.

Even though I just have rudimentary experience with the piano (lessons at age 5), what I had learned about the scales, both in lessons and later in "music class" in elementary school, built a small, yet solid footing, to learn the guitar later in life.

Methos1979 01-12-2020 09:01 AM

I played drums my whole life up until my forties before transitioning over to guitar. As such I knew how to read drum music, which basically is only good for understanding time. I'm pretty much completely self-taught on guitar so just learned chords and songs. Any attempt to understand music theory or read music was just a bridge too far for me.

Several years back we bought a nice electric piano for the house as my daughter always wanted to learn to play the piano. I signed both her and I up for lessons from a local teacher that is very well thought of in the community. Needless to say, my daughter never did take a single lesson but I took lessons for almost two years. It was like a lightbulb going off. Music theory makes complete sense on a piano! It really took my understanding of guitar to another level.

That said, as an adult with a full time job and other responsibilities, time was a factor. And as the piano helped push the guitar to new levels the guitar started to require more time. Basically I had to decide between putting the time and effort into playing the piano or playing the guitar. Since I had an acoustic duo with my wife and we had dreams of playing out, I chose the guitar. It was the right decision and we are now a fully functioning, gigging act.

But sometimes I wonder just how much farther along I'd be on the piano had I had the time to stick with it. Get yourself a good teacher. Like anything, it's slow going at first but very much worth the effort for your guitar playing. At least that was my experience.

DCCougar 01-12-2020 10:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Methos1979 (Post 6263017)
....I took lessons for almost two years. It was like a lightbulb going off. Music theory makes complete sense on a piano! It really took my understanding of guitar to another level.

...Get yourself a good teacher. Like anything, it's slow going at first but very much worth the effort for your guitar playing. At least that was my experience.

I've played piano and keyboards for about 65 years. I had some lessons, but not for too many years. I didn't do music academically (my degree is in math, heh). As Methos suggests, learning chord structure and musical composition on a piano is much more visual and sensical compared to guitar. I highly recommend it! (Cougar keyboard sample :D )

FrankHudson 01-12-2020 10:39 AM

It's already been brought up that the nature of a piano keyboard lends itself to certain kinds of visual demonstrations of musical factors. Guitarists have other things they are lead to concentrate on from the nature of their instrument (string vibrato, hands-on variations in timbre, instrument-led "incidental" suggestions for harmonic construction come to mind).

Similarly, if one was to take up a wind instrument one would learn about focusing on phrasing, concentration on compelling melodic statement, breath-based variation of timbre, and all that.

We've already heard from a drummer, but I'm often reminded that a surprising number of interesting guitarists started with or can play drums well.

Personally, I find piano a wonderful instrument to mix with guitar. The mix of a percussive/melodic instrument like the piano just seems so right with the plucked and/or legato guitaristic sounds. I can barely operate a piano keyboard, but I'm drawn to using it in compositions and recordings even when I don't have access to my long time keyboard-playing musical partner.

So enjoy the opportunity.

jim1960 01-12-2020 10:05 PM

The only music education I had growing up was learning to play the recorder in elementary school and a couple of years of trumpet in junior high. I could read notes but I have no foundation at all in music theory. I started playing guitar when I was 12. Chords at first, then I started experimenting with finger-picking (just two fingers at first) when I was about 14 or 15.

Sometime around age 17 someone gave us a piano. None of us played, my mother just thought it would look good in the living room. I was curious about it so I began trying to apply to the piano what I knew or could decipher from my various song books. That was my self-taught introduction to music theory. I was figuring out what chords actually were by matching the notes in the book or on the fretboard to notes on the piano. Before too long I could accompany myself to some degree. What I was essentially doing was fingerpicking on the piano by doing simple two-handed arpeggiations with chords. I never became a great piano player but I could get by well enough for my own needs and I learned a lot.

Later on in college I took theory courses that taught me much more but the time I spent on the piano was a good foundation.

rwhitney 01-16-2020 11:07 PM

I’d say pick out some melodies you already know. Learn one song on the piano with melody and chords. See if you can improvise and figure some things out, maybe be creative and make a song. Take music you know on guitar and apply that to the piano. Use things you figure out on piano and apply it to the guitar. Music is synergistic; anything you do in one medium will make you a better musician in the others. If you read music, try some easy piano sheet music.

The keyboard layout being linear is especially good for conceptualizing harmony. It might be helpful to learn some chords on the piano, playing the root with your left hand, and the full chord with your right. After getting the major and minor triads down in various keys, add progressions, e.g, I-vi-ii-V-I (major keys), then learn diminished and augmented chords, add extensions to form seventh, ninth chords, initially, then alterations, e.g. b5 & b9. This is fundamental to theory, which you may find useful in all realms of musical experience.

Maximilian 01-17-2020 03:08 AM

I love pianos as much as the next guy, and love playing other instruments with a pianist. They have access to a lot of bass notes which I think is fun to play along with.

But I guess I'm still of the opinion that if reaching an advanced stage of guitar playing is your goal, and you only have so many hours in a week to play, I think any time you have getting to know the guitar fingerboard is time well spent.

Learning the notes to chords and scales is one thing (which is more visually laid out on the piano, but not impossible to figure out on the guitar), but getting the shapes of the chords and scales and the notes that tie them together musically into your muscle memory takes time and active work too. I'm not so sure you can really speed up that process in any other way than simply spending time with your hands on the guitar.

If you were a child starting from scratch, I think the piano is a great start to get a a basic understanding of music. But of course, you are not a child starting from scratch. With that said, since you already have the piano in your home, definitely mess around with it (of course you will)! You don't have to make an active commitment to "study" it or not right now. See if it seems like fun or not.

Disclaimer: I'm not a music teacher nor trying to pretend I am, this is just me thinking out loud.


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