Advice for a new learner please

Questions on learning to play the piano, and piano music.

Moderators: Feg, Gill the Piano

Post Reply
New Member
New Member
Posts: 1
Joined: 08 Jul 2012, 23:13

Advice for a new learner please

Post by Liverpoolone » 08 Jul 2012, 23:28

I started playing the piano at age 38 i have just passed my grade 4 this year with a merit after 3 years, but my teacher just seems to be teaching me the pieces and scales/ items for the exams. When i read the forums people are talking about broken chords and 6ths and I feel a bit dim. Should I know these things?? I,m a bit worried that I,m not getting a good grounding.

We are due to move out of the area so I do have the opportunity to go to another piano teacher but what should I actually know at grade 4? Sorry if this seems a daft question but I don,t know anyone who is musical and none of my family play any instruments, could someone please advise me if my current teacher is teaching me to the right standard? Thanks

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1836
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland

Re: Advice for a new learner please

Post by Colin Nicholson » 10 Jul 2012, 01:25

Welcome to the forum.

Can you tell me which examining board you did Grade 4 with?
Depending on the 'Board' - syllabuses vary.

If its the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) - I teach this syllabus, and grade 4 consists of Scales in B, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db major. C#, G# C, F minor - hands together & separate - 2 octaves.

There are also contrary motion & chromatic scales in various keys, and the arpeggios are the same keys as the scales. Is this what you learnt?

Firstly, I wouldnt worry too much about what other people are learning on this forum, some dont have structured lessons.

Scales in 6ths are not covered until Grade 7 & 8, and only Grades 1 & 2 do broken chords..... so you may becoming confused with different grades?

From Grade 3 onwards, only arpeggios are played (where grades 1 & 2 do both arpeggios & broken chords) .

I dont think its a good idea to just move onto the next exam grade immediately - there are loads of pieces of music at the intermediate stages between grades 4 & 5 you could be learning aswell. For example: 'Fur Elise' by Beethoven; sonatinas by Diabelli or Kuhlau are good, various Mozart pieces.... and even well known popular music such as The Entertainer, Titanic, TV & Film music etc.

Are you doing the theory aswell?
Are you using the sustain pedal fluently?

I cant comment 'how' your teacher teaches you, but I would recommend to learn other pieces of music as above "between grades". Also try Micro Jazz by Christopher Norton - some good pieces in there around grade 4-5 standard. Check the grade though.

Just have a word with your teacher, and tell them you would like to have a break from exam stuff, and do some other music.

I myself arrange music for pupils between grades, and adults also like things like "The Model" by Kraftwerk (1981), The James Bond Theme.... The Pink Panther theme/ and I have recently arranged a good version of ''Sing'' (Diamond Jubilee signature tune by Gary Barlow & Andrew Lloyd Webber). Also - some music from the shows such as "Music of the Night" (Phantom of the Opera).... and loads more!

It also depends on your sight reading ability? .... and if you can manage to read several sharps & flats in the key signatures.

OK.... on the other side of the coin, your piano lessons may have come to a stalemate? .... or told to start the next exam? whatever.
However, in defence of the teacher - you are NOT a new learner now(as you put on your title of this subject) - and I would suggest you visit some music shops - ask your teacher for some suggestions and have a look yourself.... afterall - you are an adult!

I tend to find that some "exam orientated" tutors are perhaps elderly, and dont have time to buy & search for music, on the off-chance you wont like it. I myself spend quite a bit on music and print my own arrangements/ send examples to pupils, and sometimes no reply. I have a 9 year old just about to start grade 4, and I feel his parents are just waiting for the next exam music to fall into his lap!!

When I was a learner, none of my teachers ever pre-bought other intermediate for me - I had to get out there myself to look. Music festivals & exam music was provided sometimes.... however, some teachers cannot afford to buy music then on the off-chance the pupil declines it!

Hope that makes sense.

Hope that helps....

AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 238
Joined: 30 Oct 2010, 14:28

Re: Advice for a new learner please

Post by gizzy » 10 Jul 2012, 09:35

Endorsing what Colin says - there are players (not just pianists but other instruments as well) who are sometimes called "24-piece wonders" becasue they've only ever properly learned the three pieces necessary for each grade.

With orchestral instruments this may not be so much of a drawback, as the player does so often take part in group activities from trios to symphony orchestras, and gains a specialist repertoire in those fields, even if not as a soloist. But pianists are notoriously solitary; a grade 8 player who can only play solo music is no use to anyone except him/herself unless they are good enough to consider a career as a concert pianist, or alternatively as a teacher. But get that player working in chamber music, or particularly in accompanying, and their horizons have been broadened immensely.

Gozzy in Cambridge

Post Reply