Learning Songs At The Piano Faster

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  • Would you like to learn a song a week at the piano?
  • Do you wish you could memorize songs?
  • Do you need sheet music in order to play the piano?
  • Do find it difficult to play music with others because you don’t know common songs?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you were asked to play…but had to say “I can’t…I don’t have my music.”?

Hopefully these questions have gotten the wheels turning in your brain. Maybe they have sparked even more questions. This is good.

So, how do we learn songs at the piano faster, easier, more effectively? In this article I’m going to share some techniques that will help you get organized and learn songs easier.

Getting Organized

In order to become more effective at learning songs, you first need to become organized. This should come as no surprise, but the more organized your music is…the easier it is to review and memorize.

If your music is in your piano bench, on top of the piano, on the floor, on a bookshelf or thrown all over the place…it will be next to impossible to build your repertoire.

I suggest using a 3-ring binder to keep all of your music organized.

“I’ll Take That Music To Go!”

Once you get your music organized in a nice 3-ring binder, the last thing you want to do is lose it! This is why I suggest you make a travel copy.

Your travel copy of your music can simply be a photocopy of 3 or 4 songs that you staple together and take with you when you go to work, school, etc.

Why only 3 or 4 songs? Because you don’t want to carry around a stack of paper for one. Second, you want to focus your memorization practice so you are not trying to memorize too much all at once.

Analysis of Music…Say What?!?

Analyzeexamine methodically and in detail the constitution or structure of (something, especially information), typically for purposes of explanation and interpretation. (source: Google)

We analyze music in order to interpret and memorize. We look for patterns.

So how is this done?

I’ve created two lessons to cover this topic:

  1. Willie Answers: Memorization & Analysis, and
  2. Analysis, Memorization and Transposition

But I’m Not Good At Music Theory!

You don’t need to have a degree in music in order to analyze your songs. Our brains naturally categorize thousands of objects and actions.

When looking at your music, try the following:

  1. Put yourself in “analysis mode.” Find a quiet place away from distractions and away from the piano. Right now you should only sit with your music. If you don’t read music (or want to improve your reading skills) this exercise will be extremely valuable to you because you are training your eyes to focus on the music, not your hands and not the piano!
  2. Start by scanning your eyes over the music and try to hear the melody in your head. Follow any repeats. So, you are “playing” the song in your head.
  3. Break the song into sections. How many measures is each section? Usually sections are even numbers and are typically 4 or 8 measures in length. Usually…but not always!
  4. Memorize the length of the sections. Assign letters to the sections, so A, B and C. Most music is only going to have 2 to 3 sections. You normally never have a D section.
  5. Pay attention to the melody. Where does it repeat?
  6. Pay attention to the key-signature and time-signature. Do they change? If so, where in the song?
  7. Pay attention to your repeats. Where do they happen? What does this do to the length of the section?
  8. What about the Coda or Del Segno symbols? Make sure you don’t miss those if they are present!

Summary

Following these three steps will help you learn songs faster at the piano:

  1. Get your music organized (3-ring binder)
  2. Make copies of your music to take with you
  3. Analyze music (as best you can) to learn more about its structure

Work is involved in any endeavor worth taking. Piano is no different. However, setting yourself up for success from the beginning is the smart way to go. Follow the tips I’ve laid out here and you’ll notice a difference in your piano practice routine!

Willie Myette

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  1. I just became a studio member. I learned the music theory in college, but never used in a real life. I will follow the direction and analyze the songs I love. Thanks for letting us know the importance of analysis. Thanks to give us the step-by-step action to become a jazz pianist. I will actually DO what you suggest.

  2. I liked reinforcing this principle, plus another suggestion you mentioned in another article about starting on the B (or C Section) first & work backwards.