how to learn honky-tonk style piano?
April 20, 2009 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Learning a little honky-tonk piano...

I'm not a great piano player but I'm not bad either. Lately, I've been getting into some Texas-style honky tonk music - like the Derailers, Pat Green, and some others.

I'd like to learn the style and chops, but other than sitting at the piano with a CD player and plinking some things out by ear, I wondered if there were any technique videos or books or CDs I could listen to or study/practice with. I love that rollicking style and would like to try it out.
posted by Thistledown to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
YouTube has some videos with a good view of the fingers.
posted by Phssthpok at 6:16 PM on April 20, 2009

: ... other than sitting at the piano with a CD player and plinking some things out by ear, I wondered if there were any technique videos or books or CDs I could listen to or study/practice with.

This isn't much of an answer, I know, but as a Jazz piano player who did this with stride a few years ago, there really is no substitute for sitting down with a CD player and plinking it out by ear. This is the single best way to learn a style of music that you like.

That, and learning to pay attention to the music theory that underlies the style; what does the right hand usually do? What does the left hand usually do? What chords are common? You can read these things in a book, and I'm actually a big fan of music theory books, but when you want to learn how to play something, the fastest and most beneficial route is by listening and learning; the process of reading it on the page, understanding what is meant, and translating that to your fingers actually ends up taking longer.

One thing that helps a whole lot is writing stuff down as you're going along; even if you can't play from sheet music (I sure as hell can't) it's a great mnemonic device to be marking down the notes and chords as you figure them out. And it makes it a more methodical and approachable process: what I do is I'll have a song I'd like to learn, and I'll just sit down for an afternoon and play-pause-rewind, chord by chord, until I have every note down (or maybe just every chord or the song, if I'm shorter on time or it's tough music).
posted by koeselitz at 6:32 PM on April 20, 2009

There's software for the Mac, Amazing Slow Downer among them, and maybe Sound Studio, that will allow you to record from a CD or iTunes into the app, and then slow it down without changing the pitch. It's great for learning from pre~recorded music.
posted by davoid at 11:25 PM on April 20, 2009

Thanks for the info, guys.

koeselitz - do you have a recommended publisher or title re: the theory books?
posted by Thistledown at 7:21 AM on April 21, 2009

Well... it runs through a lot of technique as well, but I think a blend of technique and theory is best anyway. The best book on piano that I know of, bar none, is

The Jazz Piano Book, by Mark Levine

Yes, it's a 'jazz' book, but it's ridiculously all-encompassing; it includes a fine amount of theory (which is useful since jazz theory is the basis for the bulk of American music in the last century, including honky-tonk piano). I've found it's possible to skim through certain parts and learn certain techniques as you choose without working through it note by note, but it's good enough to offer a whole lot if you do. If you study some of the bits that discuss stride piano and left-hand/right-hand coordination and techniques and the composition and makeup of a two-handed theory, you should have plenty of knowledgeability to play a bit of honky-tonky stuff.
posted by koeselitz at 1:11 AM on April 24, 2009

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