First Piano Lesson
Gary and I have set ourselves a challenge to learn each other’s instruments; I will learn piano and Gary will learn drums. We are going to enter ourselves for the next Grade 1 exams for both instruments.
In the first piano lesson we went over some of the fundamentals that Gary feels are important to tackle at the outset. First we looked at the height of my seat. When sat at the piano, Gary recommends there should be an imaginary straight line from the tip of the little finger, through to the wrist and then to the elbow. An example of this is shown in the photo below.
Next I needed to position my hands correctly. To do this Gary asked me to put my hand on to my knee and cup my knee like in the photo, forming a mould. From there I kept that hand position and placed my hand on the piano. Gary said this is the hand position I should always use as it is the most natural and produces the best sound.
Notes on the Piano
Before I even played a note on the piano Gary went through each key on the keyboard is and also how they are related to notes written on paper. Gary showed me a really useful website that tests you on what notes are written for both treble and bass clef. The website is called Musicards and has lots of other useful things to help.
Gary taught me a good way of remembering the notes of the treble clef (which we use mostly for the right hand notes). The first is for all the notes in spaces between the lines going from bottom to top of the stave (the five lines music is written on). There is a saying that helped me to remember notes between the lines: “if in a space, spell F-A-C-E”.
For all the notes on the lines we used the phrase “Elephants Going Backwards Down Fire-escapes”, referring to the notes E-G-B-D-F, which are the notes on the lines.
We use similar sayings for the notes in the bass clef (which is used mostly for the left hand notes).
A-C-E-G are the notes in all the spaces, and to remember that you say “All Cows Eat Grass”.
The notes that sit on the lines are G-B-D-F-A, which I remember using the phrase “Getting Better Daily For Albert”.
Using the Right Hand
The first playing on the piano I did was a song called Ode to joy by Beethoven. (I will be telling everybody I play Beethoven on the piano!) We focused just on the right hand and treble clef.
I found reading the notes on the piano harder then I expected. In drums you don’t sustain notes like you do on piano. For example, when you play a crotchet on a snare drum, the sound dies instantly. As soon as you strike the drum that is it, the drum does not resonate for the full length of a crotchet. On the piano, you have to hold the note for its entire duration. I sometimes released my fingers too early, which is something I need to keep an eye on when practising on my own.
Using the Left Hand
When starting with the left hand, the piece of music Gary showed me was called Song of a Cello. I found the bass clef harder to read but this will get easier with practice.
Both Hands Together
After working through the left and right hands individually we then attempted to get both hands working together. Gary gave me a song called Alpine Melody which uses both the left and right hands together. I struggled again to play the notes for their full length but this got easier after a few tries, so I realised that the more I practise this the better it will become.
Over the next few days I am going to be working on mastering all of the basics we covered so that I can be well placed to get going with Grade 1.