Post by Henry
I am a 38 years old male thinking of starting piano lessons. I played
guitar in a amateur rock band when I was in high school, and stopped
when I graduated from college. Never touch any musical instrument ever
since and I never learned to read music.
My concern is, will I be able to find a teacher, or a certain piano
method that uses exclusively some simplify pieces of JS Bach's work
for practicing or learning ? The only reason I want to learn piano is
to play Bach's music, and I cannot bear the idea of being force into
playing something i don't like (Mozart, Beethoven, etc.) I know this
sounds ridiculous since Bach never wrote anything for the piano, but I
think his music sounds heavenly on anything.
I don't mind practing scales, just can't bear to play something I
And it is practical, or does it make any sense to look for a teacher
who loves Bach's music like I do ?
Motivation will go a long way. If you like Bach and want to learn it on
the piano, don't let anyone tell you it can't or shouldn't be done : try
it, and don't waste a minute ! You'll wonder what you ever lived for before.
As others have pointed out, Bach was a teacher and many of his works
were written with the purpose of teaching. Bach wrote lots of simple
pieces that are very enjoyable to play.
I am a Bach lover like you. I also listen to a lot of other composers
from other periods, but Bach is the one I listen to the most, by a very
long shot, and the one I have increasingly wanted to play over the years.
I took the plunge last year. This is my story :.
I had solfège for 1hr a week for 7 years (ages 7-14), as is mandatory in
public schools in France. I played the recorder, but only as much as I
needed to have passing grades. I could never sing at all. What I
retained from this was primarily the ability to read the treble clef.
At age 14 I decided to take on piano lessons. I already had an interest
in classical music, but not so much in baroque or Bach then. However, I
didn't like my teacher, and I didn't take the time to practice at home.
Teaching myself computer prorgramming (my profession today) was more
important. School assignments were second. Piano was interesting too,
but after I was done with the two priorities, it was about 11pm or
midnight, and my father would never allow me to practice that late. I
dropped piano lessons after less than a year, unable to play anything at
It did not occur to me to play music for the next 12 years.
Last year, I had made the determination that I wanted to learn music
again, and I wanted to play Bach.
It wasn't clear to me that piano was the instrument for me. Indeed I
hesitated between a harpsichord and a piano.
I was not sure if this was going to work for me, and I was not ready to
spend the big bucks. So, in april 2002, I bought a $400 Casio keyboard,
and lots of sheet music from Bach. I tried to teach myself, as I did my
profession. I realized that I was not going anywhere. Unlike a computer
keyboard, there is no delete key on a music keyboard - you can't go back
in time. Pitch or rythm errors are especially problematic in playing
Bach. They cannot be hidden. I was very frustrated, but I did not give up.
In July 2002, I resold the Casio keyboard for half its price, and bought
a Roland FP-3 weighted keyboard. This felt much more like a real piano.
This was about a $1200 investment with the stand. I immediately
interviewed a local teacher whose name I got from the music store, and
started taking lessons with him.
He started me on the Alfred method at level 2. However, there was not
much music that was of interest to me in it, and quickly I brought my
own sheet music and he helped me figure out some simple Bach pieces, in
addition to helping my technique. Soon enough I could play Minuet in G
and Musette in D. The first invention took a few more months.
By fall, I knew that I was going to be playing music for a long time,
and I started shopping for an acoustic piano. For Christmas, I wrote my
biggest check yet, and bought a new 5'7 Schimmel grand piano.
After that I did a little Mozart (Ah vous-dirai-je maman, better known
in the US as Twinkle Twinkle Little star, and the first variation on
it). Some Clementi sonata, the first page of a Mozart sonata in C.
But I kept coming back to Bach :-) I wanted to play the Goldberg
variations - I had told my teacher as much on the day I interviewed him,
and after I showed him the sheet music, he said he would get me started
on one within months.
So I started, and struggled with variation 1. Eventually, after much
practice, I got to the point of being able to play the first page
relatively cleanly. In march 2003, my teacher told me that I should be
taking lessons with another teacher. His favorite style of music was
jazz, as a composer, and I would be served better by a teacher who knew
more about all the instricacies of Bach fingerings and ornamentation. He
gave me 3 referrals at the end of that month.
For a variety of personal reasons (mainly going abroad for an extended
period), I waited three more months before calling any the referrals. I
started taking lessons again just two weeks ago. I am going along nicely
- no one or nothing can ever stand in the way of me playing the Goldberg
If you are interested, I maintain a web page of my music that contains
my amateur recordings of Bach : http://www.madbrain.com/music.html .
Retrospectively, I think some of them are quite bad, especially the
earlier ones. But I still keep them on, because it's fun to listen to
again and then hear the progress on the newer recordings. I just made
one of the Goldberg today that I'm proud of (see the very bottom of the
page). I will probably hate it in another 2 months.
While I admit to having more background in music at the time I started
over piano, I hope the story is helpful to you or others.
The advice I have for you as an adult student is :
1) Plan lots and lots of practice, every day. Do it whenever you have
any spare time, day or night. Never give up !
2) If you are unsure about the right keyboard instrument for you to play
Bach on, my recommendation is to start with a digital piano with
Like all electronic instruments, you can practice at any time of the day
or night on a digital piano without bothering your neighbors, as long as
you don't mind putting headphones. I find it very important not to have
any excuse not to practice. I still use my digital quite a bit for this
very reason, even though I have a very nice acoustic also.
The reason to get one with weighted keys is because most piano teachers
will not teach you if you use a digital with unweighted keys, and for
good reason. If you get a keyboard with unweighted keys, you will not be
able to play on an acoustic piano. Some teachers may not want to teach
you if you use any kind of digital at all; just find another teacher if
you run into that.
The other great thing about the digital piano is that you can switch to
the harpsichord and organ sounds which are natural for many pieces from
Bach. When doing so, make sure to disable the sensitivity of the
keyboard so the volume is the same for all notes. It will sound very
Have fun !