So you’ve been thinking about digging out your old keyboard from the loft and giving it a dust off to see if you can still remember that old song you used to play when you were younger. Or maybe someone has given you their old piano and it’s sitting there looking all sad and lonely and you feel like it needs to be played.
No matter what the reason you have for wanting to learn how to play the keyboard or piano, you don’t really need an excuse! Especially if you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the blues or boogie woogie like Jools Holland or Jerry Lee Lewis.
OK, so I’ve got a keyboard and I’m ready to learn – how hard can it be to learn blues piano?
I often get asked this question, as I teach blues and boogie woogie on the piano as well as classical music, and my answer is always the same – it’s as easy as you want it to be.
So you’ve probably got a very confused look on your face right now, which is perfectly normal and I’m very used to seeing it when I say this. But it’s the absolute truth! But how is this possible, and why is it all don’t to my choice I hear you ask?
Well, like anything in this world that we want to learn and get good at, many hours of practice and dedication have to be completed. However, there is a much faster way of learning to play blues and boogie woogie piano, and it all comes down to how you approach your practice.
How many hours will I need to practice to be able to play piano blues?
Putting a number to this is very difficult, and if this question is on your mind then I would advise you stop thinking about it. One of the main reasons why people either put off learning to play the piano, or start and give up really quickly is that they don’t see a quick enough progression. Or, they just don’t realise how much better they are getting each day, and get frustrated.
So what’s the best way to practice and keep motivated?
Everyone wants to learn how to play the piano quickly, especially when they want to learn how to play piano blues or boogie woogie, as this style can be learned fairly quickly without having to be able to read music like Beethoven.
So what’s the secret?
It all comes down to HOW you practice, rather than HOW LONG you practice. Time and time again I see people practicing the piano and they constantly start from the beginning of a song and play right until the end – and then start again.
This is absolutely the wrong way to practice, and hundreds of hours will be lost if you practice this way. The secret is to practice only small passages over and over, rather than do too much in one go.
So whether you are attempting to learn from music, or even if you are watching a tutorial video, the same approach always applies and is guaranteed to work better than any other method.
But this seems really simple right? It is – but you have to remember to do it every single time you sit down to play. I have taught many people over the years taking them through classical grades, teaching the blues, jazz, pop songs and so on – and the method that works is always the same.
If you don’t believe me, then give it a go! Take a piece of music you’ve been struggling to learn, or go watch a tutorial video (obviously something that you know you can do, and not too hard at this stage).
*Remember, never attempt something which you know is too hard for you – it’s extremely demotivating and will only leave you frustrated*
Once you’ve found what you want to play and are happy that you will be able to learn it in a reasonable amount of time – now look at the very first bar or section of the video. Whatever you do, don’t attempt more than just a few notes or the very first bar. In some cases you might even want to just start with the first note, chord or even half a bar.
Now that you’ve narrowed down a small part of the beginning of the song, give it a go. Did it go well? Maybe, but in most cases probably not. But this doesn’t matter. I’ve been playing for over 30 years and I make mistakes every time I try to learn something new. Don’t worry, and have plenty of patience!
Now, try again, and again, and again – until you get it right. Often I find with my students that it takes them anywhere between 5-10 plays to notice a huge difference from the very first play. Take note of how well your first couple of attempts were, and even record them. Now when you’re on your tenth play through – see the difference?
Did you notice how long it actually took to learn that small part? Not much! You might have only been a few minutes. Of course, you need to keep playing the part over and over and do as many as you can until you feel that it isn’t getting any better. You are now ready for the next part.
My motto when it comes to practice is this:
If you are finding it hard when practicing – you’re doing it wrong!