Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Next step in the piano journey

So since starting piano lessons I've actually been playing way LESS than before.  This is... Not exactly the desired result :(  The issue isn't lessons themselves, so much as fit between the teacher and myself.  In this case, I think the biggest challenge for me is the lack of plan.  He asks me what I want to do each week and we do that.  Like, great for flexibility but...  I don't know what I should do?  I'm a real beginner, I don't know what I don't know.  I raised that point, but nothing really changed.  And we have yet to do anything to completion.   We did one scale once - never any follow up.   We've done a ton of songs either in the book or that I brought music in, and he'll give me the 101 on parts of them but never actually get to the point of being able to play them.  In the entire time I've been taking lessons, I haven't learned a single piece well enough to play it through (seriously - my YouTube has died a sad death).   I even tried bringing a lesson book and he just kind of flipped through it and picked some random songs, we'd work through the fingering and any interesting timing etc, but again - just enough to get the concept, never enough to play it well.  So suffice to say, when lessons end at end of Jan, I won't be continuing them.

Nola walks across my keyboard occasionally,
but it's less dramatic with a digital piano ;)

At some point, I will prob start a search for another teacher.  But...  Options are not great where I live these days (ironically there are a ton where I used to live...  you know, when I didn't have a piano ;-P)

So things I know:

- I still really enjoy playing and would like to improve

- I am completely stalled in improving my skills without help

- I absolutely need a program and/or direction of some sort

- Depending on what definition is used, I'm either "high beginner" or "low intermediate" lol - whatever that means  

- I am, historically, very good at following structured programs and self-learning 

So...  I once again consulted my friend Google.   It's been a year - what might have changed?   The app I've been using (Flowkey) still ranks as basically the top for what I need, but I was super frustrated with their lessons which had a wicked combination of: no plan or structure to them AND depending on the course, if you couldn't play a particular piece well enough you couldn't progress, which would be okay except their course software doesn't let you slow songs down in short sections to learn like their song software does.   So I was REALLY struggling and super-frustrated with the lessons.

However, there are a couple this time around that I didn't try before.  Of those, after more research than is reasonable to do for such a thing, I narrowed it down to PianoNote (live instructors) and Playground Sessions (another app).   PS I originally dismissed last year because their whole selling feature was big names attached to it, except that the names mean very little to me and I don't need superstars, I need people who can teach.  However, the reviews this year suggested they've thoroughly revamped their classes and their software and so it was back in the running.  PN...  Idk, it has fabulous reviews, but I was really turned off by their website.  I couldn't tell whether it came with an app, how you access their live teachers, etc etc.  Too much advertising w too little info for me.

And then I found out that PS has BootCamp and a dashboard of stats.  Lol sold.  Anybody who's actually met me has probably realised boot camps are pretty much my thing.   Go super hard on something for a condensed period of time and see what happens?  I'm in!   (remember P90X3 days???)  And I love my data.  Even if it has no practical purpose whatsoever.   So the dashboard was an extra win.

So I now have both Flowkey (from last year) and Playground Sessions.  And I can say song selection and song-learning software is definitely better in Flowkey (although PS still has tons of songs I want to learn, so no lack).  However, the lessons are WAY better in PS.   Three levels: Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced.   I'm doing Intermediate, and it's legitimately the right level for me -- I'm learning something new in almost every class and the lessons are challenging but achievable.  Win.  They absolutely build on one another in a structured manner and use a combination of video lessons and practical application which is great.  Also, the issue I ran into with FK about not being able to learn a section fast enough to survive a lesson is a non issue here -- you can slow down the track to whatever speed you can play and still get "full credit" for it.   Although I'm determined enough that I keep at it till I can get 100% at full speed -- at least with this app I have a chance to get there.   It also tracks every note red or green (as does FK) but also shows what I actually played if it's not green.  Was I too early?  Too late?  Wrong note?   Now I know...  Super helpful.   It's also much pickier about timing that FK, which while brutal at first, has been super helpful to my learning.   And it has background tracks which make it feel like you're playing something interesting even when you're doing very basic whole note cords ;).  So yeah, the app for learning random songs - not nearly as good as FK's, but the instructional portion?  WAY better.  Which is awesome.

Maybe between the two of them my piano skills will continue to improve this year :).  Wish me luck!


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