I learned how to read music when I was a kid; then I went through a couple of decades without playing a piano. Recently, I decided to try to learn to play boogie, so I bought the Tipitina arrangement, which was way beyond my skill level, and began plunking away. A few months of driving my family crazy later, and I can play it at 105bpm!
Cool. Didn't think I'd be able to do that.
But take away the sheet music, and I sit at the piano with a blank look on my face. Playing with other musicians? No clue. Tipitina taught me to use my hands better. How do I learn to make music without being spoon-fed?
Hi Jesse 😊
This is such an interesting question and one that I could’ve asked myself a few years ago …..
I’ve been playing classical piano for years and can read music well but couldn’t play anything at all without sheet music . My mum has a piano at her house and I am always asked to play something whenever I visit …. It was so embarrassing having to say “I can’t , I haven’t got my sheet music ” 🙈 in the end I took some music round and left it there for such occasions 😆
Anyway , when I started having lessons with Arthur I was very attracted to his method of teaching without music but I really didn’t think I would be able to do it . I even told him as much at my first lesson 🙈🤣
However , it turns out that I can memorize boogie and blues just fine and I think there are two reasons for this …
I’m not sure if you’ve learnt all of Arthur’s 8 licks on his YouTube ? For me that is key . Every song I learn , I no longer think of individual notes , but in terms of licks and big sections of music .
Using Chorus 3 of Pinetops Boogie as an example
For me this is ….
Lick 2 for 8 bars
Then a G7 chord
Then lick 5 going up and down but using G instead of A
Then lick 1 into 5 into lick 3
I don’t think “Eb - E - C&E “ etc etc 😊
Last year I learnt Arthurs Lick etude with boogie bass , I decided to learn it using the sheet music 🤔 because it’s short and I thought it would be quicker than trying to copy his video. After spending a fair amount of time working on it I noticed that it just wasn’t sinking into my memory and I had literally zero idea of what came next if I wasn’t looking at the music ☹️
It then dawned on me that it was precisely because I was using the sheet music that I couldn’t remember it 😮 I had gone back to looking at each individual note on the page and not making the connection regarding which licks were in use at any given time . So I looked at the music and analysed what I could see . Once I spotted the licks and their variations I put the sheets away and forced myself to remember it by thinking, for example….
Intro . Lick 1 , lick 5 , the lick etc etc , and I had it memorised in about an hour 😅
So my very long winded advice to you is to learn all the licks first ( if you haven’t already ) and then if you like to initially learn songs from sheet music (which is absolutely fine 😊) , analyse the music to find out which licks are in use at each point 😊 then turn the sheets over and try to play it thinking of those licks instead of individual notes 😊
Finally , also very important, lots and lots of listening to the song you’re trying to learn 😊
I hope this is useful 😊 good luck 🎹❤️🎹
I am learning to improvise using the blues scales and what's great is you can make up stuff and it sounds cool - no sheet music at all.
Holy cow, yes, that's me exactly! Even the part about "I can't play anything because I don't have my sheet music." Sounds like you were in the same situation I'm in now. I've learned a bunch of the licks, but I guess I should go back and learn them all. And that's a great idea about trying to hear Tipitina as a collection of licks and chord progressions. Not really sure how to do it, but I'll give it a shot...