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#27927 - 08/20/03 06:03 AM Teaching Praise & Worship
pianoc Offline
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Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
Does anyone have a successful way of teaching Praise & Worship music?

It's not just adding your own LH accomp. but making up the whole thing using chords only - not even melody.

Books are hard to find - they either have too much written - or nothing.

It seems like some students have no problem transferring all the theory that they've learned - and some just can't. Those are the ones that I'm talking about.

I've used Music Pathways in the past - and even many of those students have a problem, even though they've been composing and finishing songs with Question/Answer phrases and the like. It's like they freeze up or something - suggestions??

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#27928 - 08/20/03 09:14 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Carole Offline
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Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
Are you talking about reading lead sheets? If so, this is my weak area too and, from what I have heard, many others feel the same. It is not something many of us were taught. Fortunately, in my church, I do not play with a band so I get to read my music in the traditional way. However, I am going to learn the other. I know a lady who is very very good with chords (plays mostly by ear) and have asked for help. Once one has a good grounding in chords, I guess just learn by doing. Become part of a Sunday morning praise band, and one should learn fairly quickly. Sink or swim. ;\)

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#27929 - 08/20/03 09:55 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
pianoc Offline
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Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
Unfortunately, that's what seems to happen - sink or swim, and mostly sink.

I can play praise and worship, but I don't know how I learned it. I don't play by ear. - my students that are wanting to do this play chords, inverted triads, arpeggios, chord cadences - all the stuff that it takes.

Theory - application. All the theory in the world - regardless of the subject - is worthless if you can't do anything with it.

I've had several students that have come to me for only this - they've moved through the method books - they know all the theory - but they're wanting to learn to read from lead sheets. For some it's been just a matter of stepping through what they know. We sing while playing the chords in root position. Then we sing while playing the chords in cadences. Then we sing while playing cadences in RH and Bass note in LH. At this point - many can swim and off they go. They 'figure' out all the interesting ways of creating sounds on their own.

It's for the rest of them that I want to know more. Anybody can teach what I just described to the student that learns quickly and has enough confidence to just jump and do it. It's hardly called teaching.

In my head it seems like this is where CD's and midi's should come in. Maybe playing with a recording and looking at only a lead sheet. But how do you do this in a progressive order? It just seems like this should already be out there, but I don't have time to discover it. Why does this seem so hard?

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#27930 - 08/20/03 10:18 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
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Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
You're going to hate me, but I'll say this, then shut up. I learned how to play from lead sheets by "just doing it." Yes, it was sink or swim. I swam.

It wasn't easy. I was a classical trained pianist having to play praise & worship choruses by ear. Sometimes I wasn't even given a lead sheet, & many times the song leader would just start singing & I'd first have to figure out what key he was singing in before I could provide the accompaniment.

But ya know what? The more I did it, the better I got at doing it. I got so good that the song leader could hand me a cassette tape of new praise & worship choruses that he was going to teach to the congregation, & I would take those tapes home, listen to them, & write the lead sheets for him to give to the organist & to the members of the church orchestra.

Of course, I devoted a lot of time to practicing & performing; much more than the average young person would do. I was taking 2 piano lessons per week & learning the classical repertoire required by my piano teacher; I was playing professionally for weddings & performing as a collaborative artist (fancy term for accompanist); I was church pianist (which involved not only playing for church services but also playing for adult, teen & children's choirs); & much more. I put in a lot of hours listening to music, jamming with my guitarist friends (I learned a lot from them), & working on repertoire for recitals & other piano solo performances.

I don't know how many teens today have the amount of time I had to devote to all this. It really does take a lot of time & work. If you only have a very limited amount of time, you're not going to learn very much, no matter how badly you want to.

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#27931 - 08/20/03 10:21 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Lilla Offline
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Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1573
Loc: Chicago
FWIW, I play lead sheets easily because I taught myself to play electronic organ as a child, using lefthand chords and a bass pedal. (See? There is a value to electronic organ. LOL!) As a result, I know a jillion chords by chord symbol. The trick in converting organ playing to piano is that you also have to know all those chords in all their inversions. Not just "know" them, but to be able to "grab" them immediately upon viewing the chord symbol. It is also necessary to be able to make the bass note/chord leap without looking, and in quick tempos. No easy feat. For those who are just beginning with chord symbols, pick up a couple chord spellers, or a good jazz/improvisation book, learn how to create the chords, but more importantly, practice playing the chords quickly, in all inversions, and rhythmically with the bass note, chord pattern. Once you're secure in the major, minor, augmented, diminished, 7th's, and 9th's you should be well on your way. You can then explore arranging the chords/bass notes in arpeggiated patterns and rhythms, etc. This part will actually come easier to a well-trained pianist. Continue adding chord structures to your chord mastery skill - there is seemingly no end to the varieties of chords. Almost all of my accompaniment when a teen was from lead sheets.

[ 08-20-2003: Message edited by: Lilla ]

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#27932 - 08/20/03 11:25 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
pianoc Offline
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Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
Jalape, I'm glad to hear you swam. Sounds like you're quite the pianist. I can do it too. My question was how to teach it.

If someone doesn't have as much time as you had to experiment - and they're not as confident with their playing to put themselves on the line as you did - does that mean that as a teacher we don't have anything to offer them?

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#27933 - 08/20/03 11:26 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
pianoc Offline
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Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
Lilla, do you have a good jazz/improvisational book to recommend?

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#27934 - 08/20/03 11:27 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
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Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
My piano teacher, who didn't teach me to play by ear (didn't even want me to play by ear), DID teach me theory--including scales, cadences, chords, fills & runs. By the time I was expected to play by ear at church (& read lead sheets), I already knew all my chords, both by sight (reading them notated on paper & also reading chord symbols) & by feel (grasping them quickly). Playing the hymns (from the hymnbook, not from easy "pedagogically sound" arrangements) helped a lot because most are chordal.

Students need to have the time necessary to devote to learning to improvise & play by ear. They also need to possess the ability to transfer what they know from classical piano training (especially theory, like described in the above paragraph of this post) to the musicianship skills they're learning (improvising, playing by ear, transposing). Of course, the teacher can help, but a lot of it is still "sink or swim" because the student is not playing from written notation, but either from a lead sheet or completely by ear.

Do not be afraid of making mistakes. In improvisation & ear playing, the only mistake you can make is to play the wrong chord. So what? You keep trying 'til you play the right one. The rest (all the fills & runs) is icing on the cake so to speak. Learn scales, cadences & chords first, & learn to play a simple melody with chordal accompaniment (very basic "hymn style" playing). One you master that, learn to add fills & runs.

The classically trained pianist will, of course, sound better when s/he improvises or plays by ear because s/he will already have received training in the proper use of the pedal, voicing the melody over the accompaniment, etc. Classical training is always an asset, even if you like to play by ear, because you learn how to create beautiful sounds on the piano. You learn how to make the piano "sing."

[ 08-20-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]

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#27935 - 08/20/03 02:46 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
NancyK Offline
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Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
I learned to play by lead sheet and just straight chord symbols, period, by doing it. It was sink or swim for me too, in a worship team at church. I had been playing piano and reading, only, up until then. Then I got put on a keyboard, and the music director (who later became my husband!) told me NO MELODY. Comp off the chords! I was paralyzed! Looking back it was very funny. BUT I had to do it so I just tried and before long I knew what to do. I had all the theory knowledge I just had to apply it and FAST. Anyway....that was 13 years ago and I have done much more since then and do it all the time in our classic rock band where I work with guitar players constantly, including my husband. I spent ALL summer teaching this in my studio. I decided it would be my summer curriculum afer reading the chapter THE BLACK HOLE in the new pedagogy book by MBJ. It IS much more abstract to teach and I did more demonstrating that I might normally do, as I watched students sit paralyzed as I once was. I started them out lead sheet style so that they could still play melody in their RH but had to improvise with the LH after just playing root triads first. THEN...we went straight to improvising with both hands NO MELODY. We would sing the melody some or I would play it up high or on my other piano so they could hear their work against the melody. It was pretty fun and I think most learned a lot. I plan to do more of this all the time.

[ 08-20-2003: Message edited by: NancyK ]

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#27936 - 08/20/03 03:16 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Arlene Steffen Offline
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Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
I've had some success by having students learn some tasteful written-out arrangements first. Once they have the style in their ears and fingers, we can analyze what makes them work the way they do.

From there, take a song they know well and have them add one or two of the elements they used in the arrangement.

I find it's always best to start with something they know and work to the unknown.

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#27937 - 08/20/03 03:35 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
NancyK Offline
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Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
Yes..I chose familiar tunes for them such as Happy Birthday, Amazing Grace and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. We were also going to do My Country Tis of Thee, but didn't get to it, so it will be next. Also, Alleluia and Father I Adore You. Some did those.

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#27938 - 08/20/03 03:39 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Lisa Kalmar Offline
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Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Check out Lead Lines and Chord Changes by Anne Collins, published by Alfred. I read about it somewhere, but don't have yet. Noona used to have a series called FOllow the Lead. I messed around with the first book and hated it, so I can't recommend it.

ALso, there is the John Schaum Pop Piano Course, volumes 1-4, circa 1946 or so, that Eric told me about, that might teach the types o' twirls and thangs you're looking for. It's out of print, but copies are probably lying in attics all across America. Carole managed to find Warner's only copy left when she checked last week. I found volume 4 listed on eBay, but didn't buy because it came with a bunch of expensive old stuff I didn't want. Anyone here have it? It's not the pop books that are out right now - it's a course to teach lead line, etc.

Alfred has a whole series of thangs that might teach how to teach it. I went to an awesome Alfed workshop today with Domenic Cicchetti. The two books that look the most useful are Jazz Keyboard Harmony and 30-Day Keyboard Workout. This last one has a daily plan for getting your chops up to play out-of-the-box music. Both these books are advanced and directed at the teacher.

Although the afore-mentioned isn't churchly music, the theory aspect is certainly apropos to the situation. For students, DOmenic recommended either the Beginning Rock Keyboard or Beginning Jass Keyboard series, also by Alfred. The rock one would probably fit in with the praise band stuff. He also said their Learn from the Legends series is excellent. I can tell you from personal experience that Bert Konowitz's series stinks - or at least about 20 kids of mine in Omaha hated it when I put them in it a few years ago. It was like Alfred Method Does Jazz - pretty gross. I don't know WHAT I was thinking!

Nancy, I loved that chapter on the Black Hole also. Since I am guilty as charged, \:o I've decided to start my own JP - Jazz Project. As luck would have it, we are having a tri-state MTNA conference here in October and Anne Collins is a keynote speaker. The theme for the weekend is jazz and improv! My plan is to devote 15 minutes a day to it and see what happens.

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#27939 - 08/20/03 04:37 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
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Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
Books are nice, but you really need to immerse yourself in the musical style by listening to it a lot. If you're going to play with a worship team at church, for instance, then you need to attend church & listen to the music, then join a worship team, jump right in there & do it. Sink or swim. If you know your theory & you're familiar with the style, you'll swim.

It's really the same with jazz, folk, latin, pop, rock & any other musical style you wish to play. You need to do a lot of listening to familiarize yourself with the style before you can ever expect to render an authentic performance of that style.

Teachers, are your students listening to a variety of musical styles? If a student comes to you & tells you s/he wishes to play jazz, do you ask her/him if s/he listens to jazz? Do you ask her/him how familiar s/he is with that musical style? It really is important to be intimately familiar with a musical style before attempting to perform it. I'm as serious as a heart attack on this issue. Listen, listen, listen to the musical styles you wish to perform. Make sure you have a good "feel" for the style.

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#27940 - 08/20/03 04:49 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Lisa Kalmar Offline
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Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
And that's the beauty of those Alfred series - they come with either CD's or midi disks to practice along with. You can also take one speaker off so you're just practicing with drums and bass if you want to instead of the whole arrangement if you don't have MIDI. And several in his demo looped so you can keep doing it til you get it right.

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#27941 - 08/21/03 07:18 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
pianoc Offline
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Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
I just discovered that I have a book from Kevin Olson - Keys to Success Book 1 - probably came through the New Release program.

Has anyone used this yet? It doesn't have anything to do with Praise & Worship - however for some students that can't seem to get past the note thing, it has songs listing finger number/scale tones and rhythms, Jam Session - with each of the pentascales.

I thought it might be helpful for some that can't do anything without music in front of them. Just curious to know if anyone has tried it - if it is helpful or just another book?

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#27942 - 08/21/03 12:33 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Arlene Steffen Offline
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Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jalapeņa:
Books are nice, but you really need to immerse yourself in the musical style by listening to it a lot.


To a point, yes. But if you are not an aural learner but a visual or kinesthetic one, playing from a book first is the first step. A teacher can help a student in their aural development, but I think you need to start from the student's strength.

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#27943 - 08/21/03 02:14 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
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Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
Yes, but if you aren't able to learn aurally, then how in the hay are you supposed to catch the style? You can only learn so much from books. That's the point I was trying to make.

Actually, when I was listening to all those recordings, I was also following along in the songbooks. Back in those days, Christian music publishers sold songbooks that had notated vocal scores & piano accompaniments that were almost exactly like the recordings. I could use the recordings to help me "catch" the rhythms, etc. that were notated in the songbooks. That's how I learned to play the styles of music that my piano teacher wasn't teaching me. The songbooks & recordings were especially helpful for jazz & Latin styles. Nowadays, music publishers still print songbooks, but the arrangements are simplified, making it difficult for students to learn the way I learned. It's kinda hard to use a book when, for example, the rhythms you see on the page don't match what you hear on the recording! :rolleyes: This is a pet peeve of mine, so don't get me started or I'll never shut up, but I really wish publishers would quit simplifying rhythms! If they feel the need to simplify chords or whatever to make the music easier for people to play, fine; but leave the rhythms alone. Let piano students see how the rhythms they hear are supposed to be notated! No wonder piano students are confused. Wouldn't you be, if what you saw on the page didn't match what you heard???

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#27944 - 08/21/03 07:37 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Elbe Offline
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Registered: 07/16/03
Posts: 323
Loc: The Great Northwest
I'm going to be teaching this also as I just signed on a thirteen year old boy who seems gifted. Just tonight We went over my list of praise and worship lead sheets and checked off all of the songs he knew. I'm going to hunt for those with 4 chords or less and have him first play/learn the key scale then work on the chords. Then we'll embellish (2 - 4 notes) and notice that the embellishment works within the scale pattern. Then we'll work on rhythm. Then I'll take the sheet away and call out the chords etc. Then when that doesn't work I'll try something else. Years ago, I tried the above approach with an adult student who was slowly picking it up. After one month she came to her lesson and announced that at some point during her church service she had impulsively walked up to the piano and started playing and singing......oooweee! would I have loved to have been a fly on the wall! he he. Anyway, its the only way I know to do it. I think Jalapena is right, you just have to dive in. That's how I learned. I've played in quite a few worship groups and just from observation cannot discount the part that desire and commitment play in wanting to learn " how to do worship". So it may boil down to the personality of your student and whether they are going to be extra motivated to learn this. I also wanted to point out that not only do you need to teach reading charts you need to teach the student that there are times to make noise and times to be quiet and there are times to play funky rhythm and times to play slow arpeggiated leads.....to every thing turn, turn, turn......

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#27945 - 08/22/03 05:59 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Arlene Steffen Offline
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Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jalapeņa:
Yes, but if you aren't able to learn aurally, then how in the hay are you supposed to catch the style?


That's where the teaching comes in! Visual learners need to see it, even if it doesn't match exactly. And that is the road to helping the student develop aural skills. You cannot expect an visual learner to just listen to something enough times that they pick it up. They won't. That's why you start with the eye and move to the ear.

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#27946 - 08/22/03 06:46 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Susan Offline
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Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 2168
Loc: Texas
Jalapeņa, I remember you said you have perfect pitch. That puts you miles ahead of the average person. I would love to hear you improvise. I bet it's beautiful.
I've never had any trouble teaching a student with perfect pitch how to play from a lead sheets. They just seem to be able to listen and do it. But the average student needs more structure and visual help. The new PA Adult book 2 offers a little help in learning to play lead sheets, but it doesn't go very far. I'm still interested in the original question, what is the best book available to teach this (that is not out of print!!).

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#27947 - 08/22/03 07:10 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
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Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
Yes, I'm blessed with perfect pitch, & I agree that it helps. \:\) However, remember that when I was asked to play choruses by ear at church, I was scared stiff. I had never played by ear before, & the song leader didn't even provide me with a lead sheet! I could play quite competently (Mozart sonatas, etc.) from notated music, for I had already taken traditional piano lessons for years; but my piano teacher had always told me not to ever play by ear (I guess because I did have a good ear & she was afraid if I played by ear I wouldn't learn to sightread fluently), so I had no earthly idea what to do. Thankfully, I'm the type of person who likes a challenge, & doesn't mind learning by just diving right in there & doing it. Besides, at the time, I was the only pianist in the church. They had no one else, so I had nothing to lose by trying. Also, I wasn't being paid. What were they going to do to me if I failed? Fire me? ROFLMREO! \:D

Arlene, listen to yourself for a moment. You say that students who are visual learners need to start with the music in front of them. Don't you think that's what I did? I had years & years of traditional piano lessons, where I learned to read & play notated music, before I started learning how to improvise & play by ear. Sure, I have a good ear, but I don't consider myself an aural learner. My ear was trained, by my teacher doing ear training exercises with me, & by my decision to listen to lots & lots of musuc & to sing in the church choir & in various vocal groups. What talent I have was developed.

Now, regarding what teachers can do to help people who just can't play without the music in front of them. If you have Finale Print Music software, here are some ideas: You can notate melody line in the treble clef with chord symbols above, & have students write in their own accompaniment (chords, alberti bass, or whatever other bass line they choose). You can do the same in reverse (put melody line in bass & have student write accompaniment in treble clef). You can also notate just the accompaniment & have the student notate the melody line. If you have a scanner (I don't, but wish I did), you don't have to notate anything; just scan the music into Print Music, then go into the file & edit the music. Also, once you have your song notated, you can have Print Music transpose it to any key you wish. This is a handy dandy feature, because you can have the student practice a praise/worship chorus in all keys.

Let's say you don't have Finale Print Music. Okay. You can do what I used to do: copy, cut & paste. I used to photocopy hymns from the hymnbook (my parents purchased a hymnal for me to use at home, so we didn't violate any copyright laws), then paste the music on staff paper, leaving room between certain measures so I could write in my own intro, runs & fills, modulations, etc.

Let's not forget that many arrangements already have chord symbols notated above the Grand Staff, so you can have your students learn an arrangement as written, then go back & play the melody with a chordal accompaniment using the notated chord symbols. This is a good way to teach chord theory to those students who don't want to learn it workbook style. It's the way I learned chords; not from a book, but from playing music that had chord symbols on it. After learning to use chord symbols, learning to play competely by ear (without a lead sheet) was a relatively easy thing to learn because I already knew chords inside & out.

Hope this helps.

Happy Arlene??? ;\) \:D

[ 08-22-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]

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#27948 - 08/22/03 09:58 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
For the record, I'm not saying that using books (such as the Alfred books Lisa recommends) is a bad idea. I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'm dissing the use of books. I'm not. I'm just trying to tell people how I learned to improvise. Those of you who already know how to improvise can create your own materials using Finale Print Music or whatever. If you don't already know how to improvise, you can most certainly start with books. No harm in doing that.

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#27949 - 08/22/03 11:16 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Arlene, on behalf of Visual Learners Everywhere I called Jala and gave her a tongue lashing and said you were Right. I hope that was OK with you. ;\) \:D

Your Internet Pal,
Battered Lisa

PS We heatedly discussed the issue in one of those vicious Circles of This-Will-Never-Be-Agreed-Upon-Really for some time and then I said I refused to discuss it anymore. She said, and I paraphrase, "OK, if you're not interested in being enlightened." She might as well've waved a red flag in front of a bull! \:o \:D

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#27950 - 08/22/03 11:24 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Susan Offline
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Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 2168
Loc: Texas
Thanks, Jalapeņa, for some very good, practical ideas.
For the record, I can play from lead sheets. I learned when I was in high school. I had already taught myself how to play guitar and I bought some Beatles music that was in fake book form. So started fooling around on the piano, playing the chords in a broken manner, and singing the melody. Like you say, it gets easier the more you do. It came so easy to me I had no idea others found it hard until I started teaching it. Not that I sound very good, but I can keep it going and it impresses anyone who doesn't know anything about piano!! I still do it when no one is home to hear me singing.
\:D When I get popular sheet music, it's a lot easier for me to fake it than play what's written. --Susan

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#27951 - 08/22/03 12:43 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
Arlene, on behalf of Visual Learners Everywhere I called Jala and gave her a tongue lashing and said you were Right. I hope that was OK with you. ;\) \:D

Your Internet Pal,
Battered Lisa

PS We heatedly discussed the issue in one of those vicious Circles of This-Will-Never-Be-Agreed-Upon-Really for some time and then I said I refused to discuss it anymore. She said, and I paraphrase, "OK, if you're not interested in being enlightened." She might as well've waved a red flag in front of a bull! \:o \:D


Lisa, verbose Lisa, is this your way of saying I had it coming? \:o ;\) For the record... oh, never mind! :rolleyes: \:D

The problem I have with most books is that the arrangements are so simplified that I might as well play them by ear 'cuz I can play them better by ear than the way they're notated on the page--not because I'm so great at improvising, only that the arrangements are so bad. Really! Why waste the money on those books? Better to buy a recording, listen to it, then do my own thang. Can anyone who improvises relate to what I'm saying? (I don't expect Arlene & Lisa to understand; they can skip this question)

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#27952 - 08/22/03 01:38 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
\:D \:D \:D \:D \:D \:D \:D \:D

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#27953 - 08/22/03 02:33 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jason Offline
Star Member

Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 2019
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I'm gonna side with Jala on this one. Part because I agree with her, and part because I want to annoy Lisa. \:\)

That being said, I will add that there is something about improvisation that cannot really be taught. You can teach the theory part and give a student a few ideas of what to do, but there is no set of instructions or recipe for developing the skill completely. Part of improvisation is, after all, being able to come up with something when you do not know what to do. \:D
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


www.pianoped.com

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#27954 - 08/22/03 03:43 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
For the record, I agree with Jason, but not Jalapeno all the way. And only partially with Arlene. \:D

Part of the problem is one of semantics: No one here is really talking about the same thing/same results/same type of playing. And you would need only one extended phone conversation with Jalapeno about her history with music to understand this. I think... ;\)

And because everyone's definition of what we're talking about is different, not to mention misunderstood, Jason only thinks he disagrees with moi. Just as it should be between a Man and a Woman. Right, Jalapeno? \:D

Lisa, who thinks Jason may need a Patch Treatment, hehe \:o \:D

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#27955 - 08/22/03 04:11 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
I agree with Jason. It cannot fully be taught. Too much comes from within the person. With improv the possibilities are endless.

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#27956 - 08/22/03 04:24 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
pianoc Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
I do relate with you. I don't buy many books because they are so simplified. I play with lead sheets - and I play by turning on a recording and going along with it. I don't tend to think of this as playing by ear because I 'translate' what I'm hearing into theory terms. But when I try to teach somebody what I do - that's where my problem has been. If all I have to do is do a little demonstrating and explain how to apply all the theory that they've learned - then I may have opened up a new world of music to them - but I haven't really taught them much. It may be fun - and it may make me feel good - but there's not much teaching there.

So for the students that need more...I have really enjoyed reading everyone's comments and suggestions. I feel like I have a few books to go buy and try out. I feel better about what I've been doing - and now have more to try. That's what I was after!

Thanks much!

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#27957 - 08/22/03 04:50 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
I didn't realize I had struck a noive until I spoke with Lisa on the phone this AM. Sorry, Lisa. Hope you accept both my personal & my online apologies. \:\) (I'm adding a smiley for good will. Peace, sister.)

I agree with Jason that improvisation can't be fully taught. I also agree with Arlene & Lisa that students who are notation dependent & aurally challenged (I hope I'm using politically correct terms here; don't want to get myself in deep doo-doo) need to start with printed materials--either books or sheets created by their teacher.

I think teachers should teach scales, cadences, chords, runs & fills, & bass lines so that students have a solid theory foundation to draw on & build from. Having said that, however, both students & teachers must realize that for many individuals (including me), learning to improvise takes a lot of time & effort. It involves listening to a lot of music, sitting down at the piano & experimenting with different harmonies, learning to transpose, learning how to notate correctly, etc. I say this because many times students say they want to learn to improvise & play by ear, but they're not willing to work. Learning to improvise & play by ear can take just as much time & practice as learning to sightread & perform classical pieces.

Teaching it takes time, too, & just thinking about it overwhelms me. Heck, I spend so much time just trying to get my students to play with a steady beat & sightread fluently at an elementary level, & certain pedagogues try to lay a guilt trip on me because I'm not teaching improvisation to fill in the so-called "black hole." :rolleyes: Gimme a break! If students want me to teach them how to improvise, then their parents are gonna have to pay for 60-minute weekly lessons so I can fit all this extra stuff into my curricula. The only other solution is to forget about teaching sightreading & technique & just focus on improvisation. Something has to give, ya know? When I was learning to improvise & play by ear, I was still working on the classical pieces my piano teacher expected me to master, so I was taking two 30-minute lessons per week. On top of that, I was performing regularly & listening to what seemed like a ton of LPs. It was time consuming. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed every minute of it. It's just that I doubt that most students today are willing to do what I did. Most will drop classical repertoire & just piddle around with improvisation; their technical (& possibly their sightreading skills as well) will suffer as a result.

As a teacher, I feel qualified to teach basic skills that students need to learn to improvise, but they need to experiment around & discover things for themselves. They need to dive in & just do it; not expect me to teach them everything. I can teach them up to a certain point, but the rest is up to them.

I hope I didn't step on anyone's toes. I'm just kinda sick & tired of students expecting teachers to teach them everything. My teacher didn't teach me everything. I figured out a lot of things on my own.

[ 08-22-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]

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#27958 - 08/22/03 05:54 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Nyah, no noives struck here on this old rhino hide and no apologies necessary at all. Remember, I worked in The Curch for 20+ years! ;\) Susan, I thinks, post is what got me to thinking about how everyone's definitions are different. I can do the stuff she described, but I don't consider it, meaning the quality of the work that I alone (& not anyone else do/es so I;m not being judgemental :rolleyes: ), to be at an acceptable level.

Along the lines of what you just posted: My original degree was in organ performance. I was totally struck this week at the workshop when Dominic described the steps to improv and stressed the necessity of doing the boring gruntwork in a sequential way. It was excruciatiingly similiar to the discipline one goes through to become a (pipe) organ improvisationalist or whatever the word is supposed to be. Yet many folks walking around the US with organ degrees have never been introduced to that discipline and many go to Europe to study improv. Keyboard study in America of any kind lacks a lot of the disciplined theoretical background you get over there. Not surprisingly, most of the really advanced liturgical improvisors I know are also excellent jazz players!

Sorry to get off your original topic, but thanks for the thread. It's been very interesting!

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#27959 - 08/22/03 07:06 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
Jala...back to a little bit earelier post of yours.....I know when I am doing improv on keys I RARELY have any written music. I am listening to the others in the band and the music and going from there, not just with chords but with which inversions and passing notes,which register and what rhythm and accents. Same as when I am on bass guitar. I sometimes follow chord charts but I am never playing from music. The way I learned bass and the way I learned piano is TOTALLY different. Although I had to improvise on keys before I ever learned bass guitar.

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#27960 - 08/22/03 07:26 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
I make a distinction between improvising & playing by ear. By my definition, improvising simply involves adding to what's already on a page of music; intros, runs, fills, modulations. You're working from printed music, adding embellishments to make it sound better. Playing by ear, on the other hand, does not involve using printed music, except perhaps a lead sheet for chords.

Having said that, I consider my improvisational skills to be very good, but not in jazz style. I do quite well improvising in Southern Gospel, Country, Folk, Pop & Blues styles because most Protestant hymns & praise/worship choruses are written in those styles & that's what I'm familiar with. I'm not a jazz pianist, & I can't improvise in jazz style. I can, however, play any notated jazz-style piano arrangement. If I were interested, I could take the time to learn to improvise in jazz style. However, I'm not interested. I was only interested in improvising & playing by ear when I was a teen. Once I matured, I returned to my senses & decided to focus once again on classical music. I realized that learning to sightread fluently & perform classical repertoire was the lifelong skill I most cherished; not improvisation. It irks me when certain pedagogues say we IMTs should be teaching improvisation because it's a lifelong skill. Sure it is, but so is fluent sightreading & solid technique. Rather than forcing all piano students to learn all skills so they'll become functional musicians, maybe we IMTs ought to ask students which skills they want to learn, & just teach them those skills. Sounds radical, I know, but I get so tired of trying to convince students of the need to learn to sightread & develop good technique. Seems like most students just want to goof around & learn to improvise. It's not that I don't like to improvise. It's just that there's so much more to music than that. When I perform classical music, I feel like I'm really doing something special. When I improvise, I don't feel like I'm really doing anything special. I don't know if anyone can relate or not, but I just don't think improvisation is something that must be taught. It's a nice skill to have, but to me it's not that important. I wouldn't trade my ability to sightread & play expressively for the ability to improvise or play by ear. I enjoy being able to buy piano music & learn it on my own, without a teacher. This skill is what, IMO, made my 11 years of piano study worthwhile. I can teach myself!

Enough blabbing already. I just think that some people make too big a deal out of improvising & playing by ear.

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#27961 - 08/23/03 08:55 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Susan Offline
Star Member

Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 2168
Loc: Texas
I'm confused. I thought we were all talking about Praise and Worship music which is usually done with lead sheets. You have to be able to improvise patterns and fills and read from a lead sheet. The question was how to teach that. What else were we talking about?

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#27962 - 08/23/03 09:17 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
 Quote:
Originally posted by Susan:
I'm confused. I thought we were all talking about Praise and Worship music which is usually done with lead sheets. You have to be able to improvise patterns and fills and read from a lead sheet. The question was how to teach that. What else were we talking about?


I'm probably the one who has made everything as clear as mud. \:o Sorry.

It's just that in the church I attended, where I was church pianist for over 15 years, most of the praise & worship choruses were played by ear. No lead sheets. I don't know how to teach someone how to do that, other than to teach them scales, chords, runs, fills, etc. & tell them to just do it.

Most of the church musicians I knew who played by ear didn't even know theory. They didn't know the names of certain chords. They just picked up their instruments & played. They experimented around & played whatever they thought sounded good. Honestly! We had one guitarist who was phenominally talented (wrote a lot of choruses for the church, etc.) but couldn't tell me the names of the chords he was playing (not even the major I chords)! To create lead sheets for the music he composed, I had to sit down with him & listen to every single chord he played, then write it down for him. He couldn't do it himself because he never took music lessons. He learned to play the guitar by watching people perform on television. Can you imagine that? Anyhoo, it goes to show that you don't have to know anything about music theory to be able to play an instrument well. Some people really do have "the gift."

Several years after I became church pianist, our church grew & we had a couple of musicians who couldn't play completely by ear but could play from lead sheets. I was the one who made the lead sheets & provided copies to them so they could play along with the rest of us (me & members of the orchestra who could play completely by ear).

I assume that when you say that playing praise & worship choruses usually involves playing from lead sheets, it's because you attend a church where lead sheets are provided to the church musicians. Lucky you! But let's not assume that every church musician plays praise & worship choruses from lead sheets, because that certainly wasn't the case when I became church pianist. I had to play completely by ear.

Now, if someone wants me to teach them how to play from lead sheets, I can make my own materials, or use books to teach them how to play from lead sheets. I don't think you can really classify this as playing by ear, though, since you are provided with a chord progression to follow. You're not completely relying on your ear to guide you.

But never mind me. I'm just splitting hairs & confusing people! \:D

What worked for me was a solid background of technique, theory & ear training (through listening)--all the musicianship skills you find in the PA theory & T&A books. It's all there. Teach it to your students. Why do you think these things are included in the PA curricula? Because students need to learn them in order to become functional musicians. If you skip the theory, &/or you skip the ear training exercises, you're cheating your students. They really do need to know all this stuff. Trust me. Without a solid background in the basics, students will have a tough time learning to improvise.

While Jason is right that certain aspects of improvisation can't be taught, there are a lot of basic concepts & skills that can be taught. The question is whether or not students will be willing to work on such "unimportant" things such as scales, chords, cadences, etc. If students are not willing to work to learn these things, then the teacher's hands are tied.

[ 08-23-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]

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#27963 - 08/23/03 05:40 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Susan Offline
Star Member

Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 2168
Loc: Texas
Jalapeņa, thanks that did clear it up for me.
Off topic, kind of:
I have also known people who played by ear and did not know a note of music, but I don't have the gift. I have a semi-gift. \:D
When I wanted to take piano as a little girl the local teacher said my hands were too little and I cried and cried. (I was in 2nd grade). Dad told me to just try to play songs on my own, and I did that for 2 years, mostly melodies. I got a lot better once I learned about chords.
Paul McCartney said he would love to be able to read music, but he has never been able to learn. He just plays and memorizes what he makes up.
I bet I could teach him!!! \:D

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#27964 - 09/13/03 08:00 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
dlinder Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/11/01
Posts: 689
Loc: Ohio
I don't think there's a question about teaching someone to play from a lead sheet or a chord chart. If you can play chords and the inversions and keep a steady rhythm (LH plays beats 1 and 3, RH plays all beats), you can play in a band using chord charts.
I believe the real question is can you teach someone to play by ear?
Get some recordings of simple I, IV, V songs. Country music and Southern gospel are great for this as well as many of the children's recordings.
Teach the student to hear the difference between these chords. Play the recording of a I, IV, V song and have them write a chord chart--away from the piano. Do this with many different songs.
When they can easily hear the chord changes, find some songs that use the ii or II chord before the V. You can add difficulty from there.
If you can't find recordings, have them turn around from the piano and you play the songs on the piano while they write. You will also need to teach them the I6/4 chords (a I chord played in the RH over a V octave in the LH) and other inversions. Teach them to always listen for the bass line first, then figure out the chord changes over the bass line.
This CAN be taught. However, some will only catch a little of it and maybe have basic functioning skills; others will really run with it.
Remember, the more you do it, the better you get. And if the person learning it can get involved in a situation where they have to sink or swim,they will learn it much faster. If there is not a band they can join right away, you play with them on another keyboard using an organ setting, or drums and singing--whatever, just something to make them keep going.
Now, improvisation----to me, this is taking the basic chord structure and adding nice things in between. How to learn this? Listen to recordings of the style you want to play and try to duplicate that nice little "trick" you hear. Keep doing this until you have your own little "bag of tricks."
If anyone has more questions on this, I'll be happy to answer.
And for the record:
I agree with everyone on this issue (except those that say it can't be taught). Books are a great help, because you can memorize and analyze so that you can add what you learn to other songs. But figuring things out on your own is also a very necessary component. The more time the student takes on his own, the faster and more thoroughly he will learn it. Sink or swim??? I give my 5 year old water wings to help her be successful at swimming!
\:D

[ 09-13-2003: Message edited by: dlinder ]

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#27965 - 09/13/03 10:44 AM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
You can teach it to the extent that you can show examples of what can be done. After that the possibilities are many. How I improvise off a lead sheet or how I might play by ear can be very different from what another may do, playing the very same song. Using a lead sheet, all have the same chord structure and progression going but HOW you play out a particular chord is up to the player and there can be many ideas. As far as by ear..not all would choose the exact some chords or progressions even playing the same piece. Arrangements would vary. You can only teach it so far.
As far as what Arlene wrote way earlier, about seeing it first then playing it by ear. That is the opposite of what Sizuki teachers do, correct? I am not a Sizuki teacher but I know they have students hearing everything before they see it written. Same as in learning to speak. We learn and copy our parents and speak our language before we ever read the written word or write it ourselves. I am amazed at the vocabulary my little 2 year old granddaughter has, yet, she is much too young to read the written word or write it. I was often taught in my own music study that hearing first is best. ??????????

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#27966 - 09/13/03 02:23 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
Some people have better musical ears than others, so the extent to which people can learn to play by ear varies. If someone has no ear for music, then s/he may never learn how to play by ear even if a teacher works with him/her, while someone with a great ear for music will learn without being "taught." In this sense, Jason is correct. Playing by ear is "caught," not "taught."

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#27967 - 09/13/03 04:20 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
My point was, and still is, that people learn differently. I do agree that you must learn to use the ear. I merely tried to suggest that a visual learner might find it easier to start with something on the printed page and learn how to improvise more easily with this jumping off point from listening and comparing the printed page with what they might hear on a recording or from the teacher playing and by analyzing the chords and patterns they see and hear.

I'll say it again: it's a starting point.

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#27968 - 09/13/03 05:23 PM Re: Teaching Praise & Worship
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
I can tell you my experience has been that I pretty much need to see it first. My ear is not so great, as far as I can tell. Strict playing by ear I do not do very well. I have learned to improvise off of chord and lead sheets.

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