Learning to Play the Piano, James Rhodes’ Style + Extra

About a month ago, I saw an article on the BBC, with video, about pianist James Rhodes and his attempt to teach the masses to play a Bach prelude (in C, BWV 846) on the piano in six weeks at about 40 minutes per day. I thought it was convincing. I liked how it wasn’t about scales and other monotonous piano and mandatory musical teachings. And I thought six weeks at 40 minutes a day was a reasonable commitment I could commit to just to see if I could do it as a catalyst to a more serious attempt at learning piano. So off I went to order a cheap keyboard and James Rhodes’ How to Play the Piano book, to be supplemented by his website, to learn the piece below!

I’m reporting now that after 2.5 weeks of getting my keyboard, I am able to play the piece above! I don’t play it as well, of course. There’s more musicality that could be put into it, yes. I still make small mistakes more than half the time, but that’s my concentration problem of a wandering mind when I know the next set of notes far enough in advance that my mind wanders, then scrambles when it’s time to play those notes. When I can keep that concentration and bore my mind a few seconds at a time throughout the piece, then it’s no problem to get through! 🙂

I was able to “cheat” the system timing a bit in already knowing how to read music, albeit very slowly in bass clef. I also knew the keys on the piano keyboard. However, none of that saved a huge amount of time. Maybe a week’s learning time of the six weeks. I just found other ways to learn it like writing out the letter notes so as not to have to struggle to read them each time around. I also used some pattern recognition efforts to remember the notes in batches relative to each other, or as progressions with patterns, etc. rather than what might be treated as just notes to be memorized like random letter sequences. I got the concept from this great TEDx video below on memorizing piano music, which I found very help to understand the concepts and methods to use. However, the details of actually doing the work like recognizing patterns, I did myself in analyzing the music, be it visually on paper, or playing and noticing I was doing some of the same things in sequences of notes I was playing.

At this point, I am super excited to be able to play Bach’s Prelude in C BWV 846! I go to the public pianos in Halifax on my runs, and sometimes errand walks, to play them for the real piano experience I can’t get with my cheap keyboard. I no longer have to go by those pianos and just look at them in envy, wishing I could play on them! They and James Rhodes have inspired me to take do I’ve been wanting to do all my life, on a serious basis rather than a half hearted attempt I once gave about 20 years ago that didn’t last long.

In conclusion, I am delighted I gave James Rhodes’ method a try and would highly recommend it to others! He says to get a piano teacher next if you want to learn more so it does leave you hanging a bit after having acquired some skills. I have found some other resources online which I will try before getting a teacher, which could occupy me for a rather long time, I think, to keep this rather affordable besides a $70 Cdn keyboard.

More on those other resources and what’s next for my piano playing next week. In the meanwhile, I have to nail down my Bach to be mistake free most of the time so I don’t have to apologize for mistakes when people are watching and/or listening to me play on those public pianos. I can’t use the “only been at this for 2 weeks” excuse very long, know you! 🙂

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