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Oct 4 11

The Top Three Myths About Learning to Play the Piano

by Bruce Siegel


I keep this very old post up top because, as one of the commenters says, it looks at the BIG picture of how we learn to play. You’ll find practical tips here as well as exercises, resources, and the philosophy behind the DoctorKeys piano courses.

Whether you’ve been playing the piano for years or are just getting started, what you think you know may be holding you back.

Here are the common fallacies we’ll debunk:

• It all starts with learning to read music.
• It’s all about the fingers.
• Practicing means playing a piece over and over.

read more…

Oct 19 17

Learning To Improvise: A Musician’s Manifesto

by Bruce Siegel

Back in the 1950′s, I was taught to play the piano through a process of learning to read notes on a page. Though this is characteristic of instruction to this day, I’ve posted here before about the reading-first approach and its limitations.

Happily, over the years, my interest in music persisted, and I thrived despite what I now see as a less-than-ideal start. But how I envied those who could improvise, or spontaneously play by ear their own versions of familiar songs. read more…

Jul 27 17

Saved By The Tick

by Bruce Siegel

Do you ever use a metronome when you practice? I don’t mean all the time, but sometimes?

If not, it’s probably because you haven’t yet learned how helpful this little device can be.

Starting with the most basic of the metronome’s functions, here’s what I mean:

1. It can help you learn to play in time.

Pianists have a reputation for terrible timing. Do you know why? It’s because we so often play by ourselves. read more…

Apr 12 17

Enjoy the Largest Selection of Free Songs (Chord-And-Lyric Sheets) on the Web!

by Bruce Siegel

So now that my shameless headline has grabbed your attention, perhaps I should explain. The songs aren’t here on DoctorKeys. They’re on (and similar sites).

I’m thinking about this today because someone just asked me if I provide PDF downloads for the songs I teach. So I told her that for copyright reasons, I can’t do that. But because of UltimateGuitar, I don’t need to.

If this sounds too good to be true, let me be clear: virtually every pop song in existence is available for free, including chords and lyrics. UltimateGuitar even has a feature you can use to transpose the song into the ideal key for your vocal range. read more…

Jan 30 17

Free Audio Lesson: How To Accompany Almost Like Being In Love and Other Standards

by Bruce Siegel

A subscriber named Stan writes:

I have really enjoyed both of your courses! I’m playing piano for a local senior citizen group and leading a sing-along, and have been struggling with ‘It’s Almost Like Being in Love.’ I cannot find a rhythmic pattern to fit the song.  Can you suggest one, Bruce?

I’ll be glad to, Stan! In this audio-only lesson, I present a pattern you can use for countless ballads of that sort. I’ll also provide a variety of options to keep it interesting, teach a simple intro, and show you how to apply the same style to two other standards: I’ve Never Been In Love Before, and Isn’t It Romantic. read more…

Dec 21 16

Your Aching Back: Does Your Piano Technique Help It or Hurt It?

by Bruce Siegel

My back never hurts or gets tired while I play, but it wasn’t until recently that I understood why: since I play using arm weight, my hands rest on the keyboard, supporting me and helping me to stay upright. The result—my back does a lot less work.

Without question, back discomfort is a problem for many pianists. If you’re one of them, and you’d like to do something about it, this post’s for you.

When I was a music major in college, practicing many hours a day, my back would often become fatigued and begin to ache terribly. It was a real problem, one which I was never able to resolve. At least, not while I was in school. read more…

Sep 16 16

Four Secrets to Becoming a Better Reader

by Bruce Siegel

Now I know that music reading is the last thing you expect to see me write about. After all, my courses teach you to play by ear, through understanding chords and rhythmic patterns.

But I recently got an email from a subscriber with a problem I address constantly in my private teaching. And in thinking about how to help her, I realized I had the makings of a great change-of-pace post for this blog. So here goes.

Andrea Stramiello writes:

I am completely intrigued by your Play and Sing lessons. read more…

Jul 25 16

How To Love Your Practice Sessions

by Bruce Siegel

There’s obviously no getting better at the piano without practice. And the more you know about how to practice, the quicker you’ll learn, and the more fun you’ll have doing it. read more…

Jun 16 16

What’s That Tutorial Doing in Your Course?!

by Bruce Siegel

One of the great things about having two million YouTube views is that I receive a lot of useful feedback. I just got this from Tone Rose, in response to one of my videos:

Hello; I went to your website for “Piano Technique: A Whole-Body Approach Part 2″ and all I found was classes on pop accompaniment.

So I told her that the tutorial is, in fact, a cornerstone of one of my pop courses. I explained that I teach a relaxed, efficient technique that makes it easier to play all styles of music, from the funkiest to the most classical. read more…

May 4 16

How to Play a Simple Introduction

by Bruce Siegel

When accompanying a singer, you’ll almost always need to play an introduction of some sort. It can be extremely basic, as long as it:

• Tells the singer when to start (so you’re both in synch).
• Helps the singer know what pitch to sing.
• Sets the tempo.

Listen to Billy Joel’s introduction for She’s Got a Way About Her.
read more…

Dec 16 15

Buying a Piano or Keyboard: Advice for Beginners

by Bruce Siegel

People sometimes ask me: Can I (or my child) learn to play on a keyboard, or do I need a real piano?

You can learn to play using a keyboard. Many of my students have done so.

Still, at some point, depending on your interests, you may find yourself itching to get an acoustic. Here are some thoughts on both sides of the divide. read more…

Sep 22 15

How to Read the Chord Charts on

by Bruce Siegel

I just got an email from Cal, a recent DoctorKeys subscriber. He said:

In one of your lessons you show how to read a chord chart. But can you explain how to read a chord chart like Let It Be? [He's referring to the sort of chord chart you get on] It has the chords but no bar lines, so how do I know exactly when to play each chord? Please help for I enjoy both your courses very much.

What a great question! And since there may be others of you who are wondering the same thing, I’ll explain. read more…

Aug 21 15

Three New Tutorials!

by Bruce Siegel

I just added some great new lessons to Pop Piano Accompaniment. Here’s a little about each:

How to Play a Song in Any Key (Transposing Made Easy)
There’s a big difference between singing a song in a key that sort of works, and singing it in the key that brings out the best in your voice. If you’re currently singing and playing any of your songs in less than the ideal range simply because you don’t know how to transpose, this lesson can help. Read more.

Empowering Your Left Hand with Open Voicings
Now that you understand the magic of open voicings, a whole new world of possibilities is within your reach.

The left hand pattern you’ll learn in this lesson is so versatile, and so satisfying, I’ve gone through periods when I’ve thought: Bruce you’ve gotta stop using this so much in your music—people will get sick of it! Read more.

Intermediate Styles and Beyond
In this lesson, you’ll learn to make your accompaniments sound fuller and richer. As you add open voicings in the left hand, and a fourth note to the three your right hand is already playing, your arrangements will sound more and more like the recordings you love to listen to. Read more.

Jun 10 15

New Voicing Tutorial Teaches a Very Special Amazing Grace

by Bruce Siegel

Recently, several of my private students wanted to learn Nora Jones’ Don’t Know Why. It’s a song whose chord roots largely follow the circle of fifths, the sort of progression I’ve always found strangely irresistible. (We discussed this pattern in an earlier lesson.)

So that got me fooling around with Nora’s chords, and I discovered that with only a few alterations I could use them to play an accompaniment for Amazing Grace. You can hear it in the video above. read more…

May 8 15

Tired of Playing the Same Old Song in the Same Old Way?

by Bruce Siegel

Then play it differently! And one of the simplest, most effective, ways to do that is to change the voice leading.

Here’s what I mean. read more…

Mar 5 15

Three New Tutorials

by Bruce Siegel

Subscribers to Pop Piano Accompaniment will be pleased to know that I just uploaded three new lessons to the course — you can preview them here.

I’m particularly thrilled to be offering the one called “Voice Leading: How to Connect Chords Beautifully While Bringing Variety to Your Playing.” As I say in the video: read more…