Why Every Musician Should Learn Piano
Not properly learning to play piano when I was a kid is one of those things my father told me I would regret someday. And it turns out he was right. You see, whether or not you realize it, there are multiple reasons why every musician should learn piano.
As a wind instrument player, you learn to think in melodic lines. You might be playing a melody or harmony in actual context, depending on where you are playing. In a band or orchestra, you might even be playing fill or patterns or rhythm parts in certain pieces.
But it's pretty plain that wind instruments play one note at a time. And THAT is why you tend to think in terms of melodic lines. Or, as I tell my kids, if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to think of everything in terms of how much you can treat it like a nail.
You should learn piano because it rounds out your musicianship.
I will never forget one night, many years ago, when I was asked to participate in a music night at one of the churches in town. Various artists and musical groups came to participate. And they asked me if I would come and play a couple songs.
Not having a group that was ready to come with me at the drop of a hat, I came equipped with a couple CDs with accompaniment tracks on them. I don't like doing that so much anymore if I can help it; but it works in a pinch.
Now, when I was asked to play, there was a group that had played before me. They were also involved with doing music for some of the congregational singing going on. And when I went up to play, they were already sitting up there. So they just sat in place while I played out in front of them with my CD for a backing track.
So there we were - me on my saxophone, and about 5 of these guys: a guitarist, a bass player, a guy on the B3, a drummer and a pianist. And what I noticed as I was playing was that some of the people in the crowd who knew me were pointing behind me with the "look, look" point. I turned around and could see these cats were kinda wanting to play along, ya know. In fact, it was a bit of a peppy tune and you could tell they were really chomping at the bit to play along. So I gave them the cue. I knew they were pretty good.
It was nice. And when I finished and went to sit down, the guy leading the congregation in worship said, "no, no. You stay up here." So I did. I stuck around and ad libbed with the guys up there for about an hour. It was sweet. Had a blast.
It turns out all those guys that night could play piano.
It was quite an experience for me. Because what I was seeing up there was that these guys were having the kind of fun I couldn't have. About every 10 minutes, these cats switched instruments! The bass player went to the B3, the B3 guy went to the drums, the drummer picked up the guitar and the guitar player went onto the bass.
They were all good at everything! It made me sick!
Well, maybe not sick. I actually thought it was fascinating. Because the only thing I could play was the saxophone. And these cats could play it all!!
The fact is, having some background on various instruments makes you more aware of how your part is a ONLY PART of the whole package. That can be really beneficial in all kinds of ways.
But I wanted to talk here specifically about why you should get a little piano under your belt. You see, part of the beauty of learning piano (as compared to guitar, for instance) is that you learn to play on an instrument that gives you a visual representation of the structure of our whole western way of scoring music on a 12 tone scale, right in front of you on the keyboard.
Most of you probably know this. But if you don't, the musical notation system we use on our sheet music uses a series of "sharps" and "flats" that are the same ones as are found on the piano keyboard. (Sort of, anyway. But if you already know where I'm going, this is oversimplified but you'll be ok with it. And if you don't, then this is probably where you need to just "trust me.")
Should you take formal piano lessons?
Off hand, I would say that if you're in a position to do so, taking formal piano lessons is more often than not a good idea. There are all kinds of aspects to becoming a fluent pianist. And taking lessons from someone with a good background in the instrument can walk you through so much of that. While you don't always know why you're told to do something, it pans out in the end. And it saves you some time in the long run with a good teacher.
What if you don't have time to study the piano the formal way?
Perhaps you work full time or have kids at home that take up your time. Maybe you dabbled at piano as a kid but now, as an adult, you're not sure where to start. Maybe you don't know whether to devote time to it.
Is there a way to maybe just get some basics? Is there a way to pick up a few "tricks," maybe, that you can learn that could give you an ability to "fill in" in a pinch on piano if you needed to do so? Or maybe you have a basic idea for a song you'd like to capture in GarageBand but you don't know how to play. But if you could capture a basic feel to get the song down for your worship team, it would be nice to find your way around the basic chords.
Maybe you just like the sound of the instrument and you want to be able to play a little for nothing other than the personal enjoyment of expressing yourself through that keyboard.
I found something that might help if you're looking for a basic course in learning to play "worship piano."
Now, I'm going to tell you something here and I hope you understand what this means as far as how highly I think of a "course" in worship piano that I'm going to tell you about.
What I want to tell you first up, here, is that I do recommend products on the site from time to time. But with this one, I obtain NO PERSONAL benefit from recommending this course. What does that mean?
Well, you see, there are "affiliate links" on some of the posts I put up here from time to time. An "affiliate link" means that if I tell you about a product or service, and you click on a link on my site, the company selling that product pays me a bit of a "finder's fee" for referring you to their website.
I'm telling you that because I want you to know that I DON'T get that on this piano course I'm going to tell you about. I want you to know that I'm just recommending this course because I plunked down some bucks for it today and after having reviewed it, I felt it was well worth the small "price of admission" this guy is charging for the course.
Have you ever seen this guy's face pop up on a YouTube ad when you're poking through worship tunes?
His name is Jared Messer. He says he is a former Nashville music pro. Perhaps he is a pro. You can find him in some videos on YouTube. But I'm not seeing him turn up much. But that's ok. That in itself doesn't mean a lot.
I actually know a few guys who are full-time professional performers and studio musicians. And knowing what some of these other guys have done, it's surprising how little of them I can actually find on the internet, whether listed as studio cats or session musicians or anything. So not having any way to know, I will take him at his word.
And regardless of whether he is or not, I'm impressed with this guy's stuff. I enrolled in the course today. And overall, I am impressed with the value that he's offering in this course. I've purchased a number of courses now from many artists and educators.
I've purchased courses from sax players on saxophone performance and on jazz improvisation. And on a scale compared to other courses - based on what they charge and what they deliver for what they charge, this guy OVER-DELIVERS on the material. I really believe he does.
Now, I don't know what you know about me as a musician. But I think having a bit pertinent background about me musically will help you gage what I'm saying and whether or not this course recommendation will really make any difference for you or not.
Keep in mind 1) that I'm not a pianist.
Like I said above, I took piano lessons as a kid. But I never stuck much with it. I can poke my way around and can find chords I need on the piano. I can hear chords and know the difference between a C, a Cm, a C6, a Cmaj7, a Csus and the like. But I can't play those chords on the fly in a setting where I'm playing in front of people and trying to be a worship pianist or anything.
Keep in mind 2) that I'm an adult.
I mention this because adults and kids learn differently. There are neural pathways that are carved more easily when you're a kid. Learning as a kid is kind of developing fresh paths for everything as you go; whereas learning as an adult is kind of like layering new information onto layers of information you already know.
I say all of that to say that if you learned piano as a kid but got away from it, what you learned as a kid will help you pick up what this guy is showing you a little more easily. In some ways, the basics of some of what you learned as a kid is like riding a bike. It will come back pretty quick.
If you're looking at throwing this program at a kid to help him learn piano, it's not a bad idea, I don't think. Now, I see him teaching some things in there that would make a classical piano teacher cringe. I will be honest. It's just a fact.
There is still value in piano lessons, if you can do it.
In fact, I can see some places where he gives some direction that I know most any piano teacher would quickly point out to be problematic habits and if you learned to play only the way this guy is showing you (for example, the way he has you playing some chords or scale patterns in some of the keys with more accidentals) it could be a little bit of stuff you'd have to "unlearn." But honestly, I can't see any of it being a show-stopper. If you were to take formal training, the steps and styles he covers can easily be played with the more "correct" fingering patterns. I really can't see any major harm here. And if you're not going farther than this, you're going to be fine.
But his program is geared more for adults who want to learn some basics. Kids could probably pick it up pretty quickly with this guy, too.
But I think he is very encouraging for adults. And I do believe what he offers gives you a chance to pick up enough that it might be the difference for you - being able to play enough to support the team with some basic keyboarding skills with this course where you otherwise might not.
Keep in mind 3) that I'm a pretty good musician already.
Again, my point isn't to talk about me so much, but rather to give you a frame of reference. I don't know how well this will work for you if you don't have any musical background at all. I suspect it can do a lot, but there would be some other learning you'll eventually want to do in tandem with a course like this.
You see, I skipped pretty quickly through the sections where he talks about the different kinds of chords because I already know what they are; so I didn't pay a lot of attention to it other than to see he does break it down to a pretty simple level. How quickly you pick it up and retain it is an individual thing.
But he does cover the basics. And even if he maybe doesn't do it perfectly, I think there is enough in this course to a) certainly give you your money's worth and b) give you a good place to start and build some basic skills.
The long and short: like I said, definitely worth checking out.
I like the way he offers the course: a one-time fee (and a very modest one, actually). And I think he gives you about 30 days to try it with a money-back guarantee that if you're not happy, he will refund it.
But as for me and my house, I'm leaving the very modest fee I paid for the course right where it belongs. A workman is worthy of his hire. And as I said before, in my opinion, this guy over-delivers.
Check it out here: Worship Music Academy.