When you start piano lessons, no matter what age you are, there are certain goals; reading the music, playing scales and finger exercises, understanding chords. What is neglected however, particularly for children learning the piano, is listening. Listening to piano music of different styles should go hand-in-hand with lessons.
Piano Listening for Beginners
When you start learning the piano, you begin with simple rhythms and music that has three or four beats in a bar. In turn, it’s a really good idea to start listening to piano music with these same rhythms. Look to classical Handel marches or waltzes by Chopin. Don’t underestimate children’s capacity to listen to classical music either, they will quite happily listen to all kinds of music when they are young, and clapping along will help them to identify how many beats in a bar. Children will love listening to music from the films that they enjoy watching too.
Moving on to Jazz
Jazz rhythms can be tricky, but listening to piano music, particularly from the 1920s onwards will really secure your knowledge and help you to understand the forms. You might learn the techniques of jazz in lessons, but afterwards you can simply enjoy the music outside of the classroom.
If you are playing ragtime music with a jumping baseline, Scott Joplin wrote a vast quantity of compositions featuring a ragtime bass. For boogie woogie, barrelhouse and stride, try some Claude Bolling who has an excellent repertoire. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are excellent for jazz music as so many recordings have now been remastered for new ears to listen to them. Jazz has been making a big resurgence, with a lot of credible artists recording material in this style.
Chord-Based Songs for Pop Piano
Many adults taking up piano will learn chord-based songs rather than learning to read sheet music. The internet is brilliant for getting free arrangements of songs, as well as YouTube videos. It will really help your playing if you can identify the chords that you are playing in recordings.
Streaming singer-songwriter playlists online will give you a great start to chord progressions that work well if you are looking to write your own music. Listening to artists who feature piano heavily in their music, such as Elton John, John Legend, Regina Spektor and Ed Harcourt can help you understand chord sequences better and improve your playing. Even better if you play along – it will help your counting too.
Listening to music will improve your playing and give you a wider repertoire of musical understanding. It will give you great joy and help you on the way to writing your own compositions and songs too.