Long post! TL;DR below!

So when I was a kid I took some piano lessons.

I had an electronic keyboard and what I think was a terrible teacher.

The guy basically gave me almost zero theory, no practicing to a metronome, no reading, solfege, no ear training - just made me play simple pieces with (I must give it to him) good attention to fingerings and hand and thumb position. Then at some point around 16 I stopped for a variety of reasons.

I spent my late adolescence playing guitar in bands and - a few years after that - keyboards in a few cover bands.

I think that guitar gave me something in the theory department ("oh, so this is a major triad - nice") which in turn gave me something in the reading department, along with the pressure of playing in a cover band with deadlines to meet ("*hey, this is three notes two notes apart from each other, resting on the C - it's a C major! I don't have to read all the notes, just the shape!* Oh, we have a show tomorrow, better get back to transcribing those songs and learning them").

And, just so that we are on the same page, that was in the past. Circa 10 years later, I can't stand rock music. I don't mean playing, I actually mean I can't stand to hear rock music.

But I'd like to start playing piano again.

Now what do you do? You certainly don't go asking stuff on the internet, right? You get a teacher and rent a piano, right?


I mean, right, but I cannot do that at the moment because of various family and job commitments that mean I have no spare money and that my schedules make it impossible to arrange for lessons and I don't even have a place to put the piano.

What I'd like to is some advice on what to do with my battered Korg synth and the little time I have on my hands (pun intended) before, in one or two years, I am able to move into a Frasier-style apartment complete with a full grand piano, sherry and an obnoxious brother.

Basically, here is my situation:

I can almost sight-play the early Satie stuff (rythmically it's simple, simple chord shapes and a sparse bassline), I can play comfortably something like the first page off Kinderszenen with just an afternoon of practice, I start having problems with more serious stuff.

I think I have some major problems with reading rhythmically dense stuff and I have major problems with hand dexterity and independence (as well as "thinking" in two or more voices).

Also I have never owned or had permanent access to a real piano (only synth action), so you can imagine what my trills or general hand shape are like (hint: it's typically brown and unsavory).

So (here comes the actual question): can you please suggest

  • A number of pieces, preferably of increasing difficulty, that are interesting/challenging enough to play but are also rewarding? Maybe some 5 or 10 pieces?
  • Some technical excercises, drills, something? A book?**


Thankfully, my ear does not require a hummable tune to be satisfied. I love listening to music from the 1500s to the 20th century, I have a massive collections of CDs, I go to concerts and I can appreciate piano music even if - well, especially if it's not Michael Nyman or Ludovico Einaudi.

in fact, my favourites are Kreisleriana or some Faure (I can't stop loving the Barcarolle #1).

Thank you very, very much.

TL;DR: Rusty. Can still sight play Satie, I can play the first pages of Kinderszenen comfortably. Never had a real piano.

Can you suggest a few exercises and a few pieces of increasing difficulty that are more or less within my abilities and will do something for me for when when I get a real piano and sign up for lessons?

No Nyman, no Einaudi, thank you very much.

closed as off-topic by piofusco, Tim, Shevliaskovic, Meaningful Username, MrTheBard Feb 25 '15 at 12:59

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There is so much repertoire that is interesting and playable for someone in your position that it's hard to know where to begin.

If it were me, knowing my own preferences, I would start with some of the more manageable J.S. Bach. The two-part inventions are playable for most people, but will require some patience and practice. They are extremely rewarding, however, and will likely be something you will return to again and again as you improve.

There are other small Bach works too such as the Little Preludes (Kleine Prälüdien beginning with BWV 924) that are manageable and rewarding. And of course there are the keyboard works from the Anna Magdalena Notebook, which are ready made for learning the keyboard, although they may not be challenging enough to keep you interested.

Another nice thing about Bach is that the music endures whatever instrument it's played on pretty well. So unlike a lot of 19th century repertoire, most of Bach's music will sound and play pretty well on a reasonably nice electronic keyboard.

  • Yessssss, thank you, Anna Magdalena and the Inventions were on my list practically by default, sure. I agree with you - the beauty of Bach is that it sounds good even on tin cans; after all AFAIK Bach himself was keen on transcriptions for other instruments and recycling bits here and there. On the other hand, I don't know of a 19th century equivalent (something that "scales" progressively, is intersting in its own right and it's an obvious option), so I'd love if anybody has suggestions on those as well - ladies at dinner parties dig romantic music after all :-P – Some Dude On The Interwebs Feb 24 '15 at 20:05
  • More to the point - which techniques will this strengthen and what might benefit from further work? Trills, I guess, there should be a fair share of them in baroque keyboard. But arpeggios? Reading rhythmically complex stuff? – Some Dude On The Interwebs Feb 24 '15 at 20:16

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