beginner piano study for a teenager?
August 29, 2019 2:52 PM   Subscribe

My fifteen-year-old daughter would like to explore piano for a month. I play at an intermediate level, but I don't know how to teach piano (especially correct technique). Help me explore options? Snowflakes within.

- My daughter does not read music and has no previous experience with music lessons. She's smart, so she could probably pick it up quickly, but I don't know how best to teach it. I've been reading music since I was six (soprano/bass clef, later also alto clef) so I don't remember the process of learning it.

- We don't have a piano, but we do have a USB MIDI keyboard controller with 88 weighted keys (a first-generation Komplete Kontrol S88). Right now I just set it up with Cockos Reaper and a piano VST instrument for playing around.

- I learned piano in South Korea, which mostly consisted of a lot of Hanon and Burgmüller. I appreciate them now, but I suspect Hanon in particular would bore my kid, and I don't own the books anymore due to many moves. Is Suzuki the preferred approach in the West? Or is there another course that I should be looking into? (We're in the USA.) I think she would enjoy this more if she could start learning some simple songs along with things like scales.

- I hear there are iPad apps now that help teach piano? (Obviously not available back in the 1980s when I was learning.) We have an iPad Pro 11". Should I be looking into an app, and if so, which one?

- Piano lessons could definitely be a thing, especially since if she continues with this I think it would be good to get proper technique, theory, etc. (And if I can find a piano teacher who doesn't mind teaching on a MIDI controller, eep.) I just want to see if this is a passing fancy or a more long-term interest.

- She thinks she would like to experiment with composing, which I can actually help her with once she gets some fundamentals down; I compose as a hobby (piano, electronica, chamber orchestra) and she's grown up listening to me doing that. But if there are introductions to composing that would be suitable for a beginner, I'd love to hear about those. I have a vague memory of doing some lessons related to that at the Houston Music Institute but I don't remember the name of the author. I think William Russo's Composing Music: A New Approach is a ton of fun but it might require more prerequisites in terms of theory than she will have for some time yet.

- Anything else I should think about or consider? I love music and I'm thrilled that my daughter is showing an interest; I didn't sign her up for piano lessons earlier in life because, er, I'm Asian (she's half-Asian) and unwanted piano lessons are a Thing among my people and I didn't want to push her into something if she wasn't interested before, which she wasn't. But now that she is, what can I do to make this fun and interesting for her?
posted by yhlee to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If it was me, I would get some easy rock/pop songs (whatever she listens to) and teach her chords. She doesn’t even have to read music at first - she can just learn chord positions (like learning guitar). G, C, A, F, etc. Then if she likes it, she can start to learn how to read music. I think keeping it fun and interesting at first will keep her more interested in it for longer. (I am also Asian and was forced to practice piano )
posted by gt2 at 3:06 PM on August 29, 2019

I've had some fun and relative success (I'm so bad at making myself do it) with Yousician. You can try it for free, but it only allows 15 minutes a day at the free tier.
posted by General Malaise at 3:08 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

I really like this app for music theory.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:38 PM on August 29, 2019

I also came to recommend yousician for "just for fun" playing. It mixes theory in with pop music and honestly it's pretty fun - while it won't remind you to check your posture the way a teacher would, seems pretty perfect for exploration-for-a-month.
posted by mosst at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2019

I suggest going straight to lessons. Ask your daughter to commit to some medium-length time, like three months. In my experience, most teachers ask you to pay weekly or monthly, so if she doesn’t stick with it when the three months are up, it’s okay.
posted by MangoNews at 4:04 PM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]

I've heard many good things about Hoffman Academy and liked the sample videos I tried. You can access all the video lessons for free, to see if they appeal to your daughter.
posted by belladonna at 4:05 PM on August 29, 2019

I second piano lessons, that are regular, in person, so that theres a sense of (good) pressure to practice and keep up.
posted by catbird at 5:07 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I recommend Simply Music. The method focuses on learning to play and understanding the building blocks of piano music and how to navigate a piano, not reading music. (The theory is that's a bit like asking a toddler to read before you let them talk.) You can play something at the end of your first lesson, and within a few lessons you're building a repertoire of ballads, rock, jazz, blues and classical pieces. Comes with online books and videos. They seem to have a 'start for free' thing at the moment.
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 5:29 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is Suzuki the preferred approach in the West?

Isn't it intended for very young children?
posted by thelonius at 5:48 PM on August 29, 2019

A piano teacher that can add some jazz/blues ideas in combination is the best teacher.
posted by ovvl at 6:53 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Suzuki is an approach to teaching through lessons. It's not a teach yourself thing really. It's good for working with small children, although I imagine it's been adapted for older pupils.

I think the two approaches that will work best for her are either a 'teach yourself classical piano' book like Alfred's self-teaching adult piano, or teaching herself in the same way that people learn guitar - by learning basic chords and playing by ear.
posted by plonkee at 4:52 AM on August 30, 2019

Thanks everyone for all the options! I'll look into some of the apps for supplemental practice.

I remembered that a friend of ours used to teach piano and queried him; he does in fact still teach so now it's a matter of hoping that we can get the schedules to align. Since I do not actually want to be on-call at all hours for piano help, I think y'all are right and getting her a real teacher is the right call.

Meanwhile, I have obtained an adult beginner piano book, plus a book of pop/rock songs that my daughter picked out because she knows and likes two of the songs in it, and for something to aspire to, the Hamilton easy piano book. I think the melody of the King George song is probably approachable with help.

Yesterday I taught her "Mary Has a Little Lamb" and then she wanted to try a kpop song, so I picked out Red Velvet's "Sunny Side Up" and have been transcribing it in pieces so that she can learn to play the basic melody by ear.
posted by yhlee at 5:32 PM on August 31, 2019

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