Piano Lessons for an Old Spinet and a New Yamaha Keyboard
It’s never too late – lessons from an old dog learning new piano lessons tricks…
Our little Lowry spinet piano was born the same year of my birth and was brought home to its young family the same month of J. F. Kennedy’s assassination. From its origins in Kansas City, it traveled with us to Maryland, and then to Colorado. It now resides more than 50 years later in our great room at our Colorado ranch.
As a child in the 1960s and 1970s, my mother’s soaring soprano voice filled our living room. She accompanied herself on that spinet, playing everything from Handel’s Messiah, to Christmas carols, to simple folk songs. I was always in awe by her ability to both sing and play as if it was as easy as breathing.
I requested piano lessons. Dutifully, I walked a mile twice a week to our pastor’s house in Maryland, where his wife gave me lessons. Hugging my new shiny lesson book, I skipped home and practiced. I learned my right-hand notes and learned to recognize them on the treble staff. By the time we got to learning the left-hand, however, either it became too difficult for me, or learning the piano lost its appeal. It was hard work after all, and there were trees to climb and friends playing outside.
Fast-forward to Colorado. When we moved to Colorado in 1976, the piano came with us, but my parents had stopped going to church. My mother stopped playing and singing. My brother took up playing and did a good job of keeping the dust from the keys, but after a few years, this also came to a stop. The spinet now suffered from a lack of tuning and the dry climate.
A few years ago, my parents, husband and I moved into our new ranch on the Colorado Eastern Plains. Even though the neglected spinet was 20 years out of tune with some dead key action, it had to come with us. It was a part of my childhood and something with which I could not part.
After watching it gather yet more dust, last week I finally called a tuner. He was booked for two weeks. He thinks he can bring her back to life. We will see. Yet, I was eager to take up playing in the meantime…
After some days of research, I found a Yamaha keyboard with a good entry level price point. I needed something to learn on. I wanted something with keys that felt like the real thing.
The Yamaha YPG-235 76-Key Portable Grand Piano Keyboard is the perfect compromise.
It has lots of nifty “voices” such as organ, a full drum kit, flute (my favorite), a database of songs, and many more options that I’ll probably never use.
To my amazement, I was able to get the midi driver installed on two laptops without any problems.
This was important because I wanted to find some software for lessons. This leads to my next topic…
Researching a few piano lesson software packages, I settled on Piano Marvel. It is free to evaluate.
I went through about 100 piano lessons on a Sunday and got to Level Two. Since I don’t have a tablet to sit on my keyboard music stand, I made a podium for the laptop in front of the keyboard. It is a little clunky with the mouse on the keyboard, but still, I will continue because I found the method and the lessons enjoyable and quality.
Each section of 20 lessons starts with a 5-6 minute video lesson of what will be covered.
I should also mention that installing the Piano Marvel plug-in and getting it working with the Yamaha midi driver was simple.
Rote v. Reading Music
A couple of the Piano Marvel lessons forced me to learn a song by rote. It would be nice to have the option to skip that if you’d like to avoid playing by ear. I want to play by reading music, so playing “off the page” is not a habit I want to encourage. For those who don’t care so much about reading music, in another post, for another day, I will review an online course that does promote the rote learning by ear method.
Whether you are tuning up your acoustic piano or unwrapping a new digital keyboard, we all learn in different ways. I bought a lesson book that I like, but I found that I had trouble getting myself to work through it.
There is something about using software that is more interactive and keeps me not only engaged but looking forward to each new session. And as with writing, showing up and keeping the butt in the chair is more than half the battle.