Byron Alexander

My Journey to Becoming a Teacher

Category: Learning Project

Goodnight and thanks for tuning in…

It seems like only yesterday I started this learning project, but soon I’ll be putting away my books and pens for another semester.  This semester I was able to try my efforts at playing the piano which is something I have always wanted to try out.  I can gladly say that I am proud of my progress but there is still lots of room for improvement, but I coming into this I knew that was going to be the case.  When I look at my progress from a high level it is easy to scoff at what I have accomplished, but then I started diving down into where I was and where I am now and it makes me proud of what I have learnt in this short time.

Here is an overview of my journey from Week #1 to where I am now…

Piano? Sounds Easy.  

What was I getting myself into?  I don’t think I was really sure at this point.  I knew that I wanted to be able to play piano somewhat, I just wasn’t even really sure how I was going to do it or what my goal was.  Come to think of it, I am not sure I ever really laid out a goal for me in regards to piano playing.  It was such an unknown for me that I just wanted to go with it and see where it would take me.  I started my first week referencing my daughters piano book that she was using for her lessons and it was a great resource to kick start my learning.  It was a Lesson Book – Level 1A and I would recommend it for anyone (especially children) that are looking to begin playing piano.

Keep practicing…. 

This week I focused on finger placement and understanding what the book was referencing when it used letters such as A,B,C,D,E,F,G.  In all my previous music classes I have taken (including EMUS101 last semester) I have come to realize that I tend to play music by ear, I have never been an overly technical person and I was quickly seeing that when it came to notes and sounds.  I would much rather make my way through the keys until I found combinations that sounded the way I thought it should to match the song I desired to play.  The only problem with that is, what I think I sound like playing and what I actually sound like are often two very different things, I often think of it as karaoke.  Those of us who have been brave enough to venture up onto the stage truly feel like this is our American Idol moment to serenade the audience, however, the moment as experienced by the audience is often not synchronized with that of the performer.  Back to practicing piano.

Old MacDonald

Piano man?  Close but not yet…

Quarter notes, half notes and whole note!  This would not have meant anything to me a few short week prior to starting this project.  This was the week I actually learnt my first song, wait for it…. Merry Had A Little Lamb!  I also started to utilize YouTube this week for my learning as I was able to find numerous awesome videos that helped me!  This was the week that I finally felt like I was making some progress towards becoming a master pianist!

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Tickling the ivories…

This week I was able to utilize a video from YouTube titled top 5 piano exercises for beginners.  This was also the week that I started to experience hand cramping, which was the worst!  I finally got to a point where I was playing for longer stretches of time and was making (what I thought at least) some good sounding music.  I had found that my left hand was much more precise than my right hand when it came to playing piano even though I am right handed, which I found to be surprising. Practice was going well!

They’re creepy and they’re kooky

As I had been seeing through my project, each week tended to take on a life of its own.  This week I just so happened to stumble across The Addams Family and the theme song that went along with it.  Again, through a great online tutorial from YouTube I was able to find another fun song to play and learn on the piano. Check it out…

The Addams Family

Left side, strong side

This week’s focus was on my left hand, as I had seen my left hand doing well off the start, it had started to fall behind the more I practiced.  It may have been more of my right hand getting used to what we were doing and surpassing my left hand.  So again, I went back to YouTube and found some exercises that stress the left hand to complete the majority of the lesson.  While this may have been one of the more frustrating weeks as it forced me to grind away on something that was not coming easy to me, it was definitely beneficial. 

Is that Byron or John Legend?

This is the week that I began my journey towards transforming into John Legend on the piano!  I choose to try and learn the song All of Me.  While there are numerous different versions of this song that you can find online, some more complex that other.  I was able to find one that was not overly difficult, the beginning of it atleast!  I was able to get the start of the song down pat fairly quickly, but then the song has a lot of individual key stokes that get somewhat complicated.  Back to practicing…

Intro…

Ok, so I feel really confident with the beginning of the song All of Me.  A few comments have asked that I sing while playing this song and while I think that would be awesome, I will have to pass for now.  I can barely look away from what I am doing when playing piano without messing up, let alone sing.  I really have a new appreciation for artists that are able to make that skill look so smooth and seamless because it is incredibly difficult!  This is as far as I was able to get with All of Me, I plan to continue working to incorporate my left hand for the entire song!

All of Me

Well, this bring me to the end of my FINAL post about my learning project.  Learning the piano, or I should say, beginning to learn to play the piano was an awesome experience.  It is such a difficult instrument to play and people that have devoted themselves to mastering it got my vote!  It is an incredibly satisfying thing to learn, even if it just elementary level song like I was able to play.  My plan is to continue playing the piano and potentially even take lessons from someone.  While online instruction videos are great (and many of them free) they can only take you so far, for me at least.  Thank you all so much for coming along with me for this journey, for you 90’s babies out there, you might recognize this last song.  Thanks to a duet with my wife and amazing camera work by my 6-year-old daughter, I am very happy to share my last video.  Enjoy…

Heart & Soul

Intro…

This last week of my learning project was unlike anything I have ever experienced. With everything going on I found it difficult to devote much time to it to be honest as there were seemingly plenty of other things to do. However, I was able to put in some more time towards learning All of Me by John Legend. I feel that I have a pretty good handle on the intro to the song and I am currently working my way through the remainder.

Check out my progress…

While the video is short and sweet, it is progress nonetheless. I will tell you, while it doesn’t necessarily look like much, using both hands it much more difficult that is appears. One great piece of news is that I found a new video that completely breaks down the song into six separate parts, which I think will really help me be successful in my journey.

I have found some easier versions for the second part, so I may only utilize this for the intro, but we will see how it goes.

I hope everyone is keeping healthy and taking this opportunity to spend some time with their immediate family and loved ones. Until next time…

Is that Byron or John Legend…

My learning project has been coming along nicely as I recently completed week 7 of the project. I did not practice as much as I would have liked to this past week but still feel that I am progressing. As I mentioned last week I have decided to devote my time to learning a song. The song that I have chosen is All of Me by John Legend . I almost have the beginning of the song down pat as I have found a great tutorial on Youtube that shows the chords to play at a very slow pace. After practicing at the pace of the tutorial for awhile I was caught off guard by how fast the actual song seemed when I went back and listened. But I figure if I can get a good handle on the chords at a slow pace I can slowly continue to increase my speed as I get more comfortable.

This is John, he is a legend

I have found that I no longer get hands cramps while playing piano and that in itself is a success in my mind. It is an incredibly instrument to try and self teach yourself, I would love to one day take lessons from an instructor. As for now, I will continue to utilize Youtube videos and my daughters learn to play piano book. On that note, has anyone taken piano lessons from anyone in the city that they would recommend?

On that note, I must get back to practicing if I want to serenade the masses one day. Thank you for reading, until next time.

Left side, strong side…

This week I chose to focus on my left hand more since I was struggling when it came to playing anything with both hands. I feel that (being right-handed) I am starting to feel fairly comfortable in playing the piano with my right hand, however, my left hand is definitely the weakest link. I utilized YouTube this week to find a couple lessons that focused on left handed playing and while they were fairly basic, I found them to be beneficial. I enjoyed one of the videos for the first half of the instruction and then I found that the instructor dialed up the difficultly and lost me at that point. It was at this moment where I had to change the way I was doing things. I have found myself starting to lose interest in the piano as I feel as though I am smashing on the same keys over and over again to see minimal progress. Yes, I know I know! I must slow down and stick to the process, but that is so much easier said that done and I want to play some music now!

So, I have taken the approach going forward that I am going to learn a song! I am narrowing it down to a couple and am going to decide in next weeks blog post as to which one I am going to choose. I am leaning towards All Of Me by John Legend, but I am definitely open to suggestions. But enough typing for now, I must practice if I wish you master a song before the end of this semester. Thanks for reading, until next time.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky…

Each week of my learning project has taken on a life of its own, what I mean by that is that I tend to find a theme while practicing and that tends to be the focus. In weeks past I have focused on children’s songs, playing notes and this week (I am not sure how) I found myself learning the Addams Family theme song! I was able to find some really awesome tutorials on Youtube that made learning this song seem somewhat obtainable, while I have yet to master the “quicker” parts of the song I am starting to see some progress. Playing different notes with both hands has proven to be incredibly difficult, it reminds me of my old math teacher who would tap the top of his head with one hand and rub his belly with the other.

Accurate picture of me after kids bedtime and piano practice

I have found the best practice time to be after we put the kids to bed (albeit it requires my to play quietly) as I can focus on the task at hand and not have wondering little fingers pressing random keys at every opportunity. The funny thing about trying to learn this song has been that I feel I look similar to Lurch on those evening practice sessions.

Tickling the ivories…

Week 4 has come and gone as I continue my journey towards becoming a master pianist. While I can not say I am “there” yet, I think I am starting to see some progress. However, practicing has grown to be increasingly difficult as every time I press a key its like a dog whistle to my son as he comes running over to try mash away on the keys, so most of my practice time involves me defending the keys with on hand from this piano crazed toddler while playing sweet rhythms with the other.

How I feel practicing

This week I utilized a video from Youtube that highlights the top 5 piano exercises for beginners which I found to be very helpful. I have come to notice that my left hand is much more coordinated than my right, even though I am right handed! Also, my right hand tends to cramp up much faster too, I will have to look at my form as that must have something to do with it. Well, if I hope to improve at piano I must quit spending time typing on here and “type on the keyboard”, til next time…

Piano man? Close but not yet…

Week 3 of learning to play the piano has definitely been the most progress I have seen to date. I focused on quarter, half and whole notes this week, while also trying to get a better grasp on finger placement on the keys. I am happy to report that I was able to play “Merry Had a Little Lamb” and while that is not going to get my invited on the stage at the next duelling pianos performance, it certainly strikes a tune with my kids as they have been singing along to me keying away. While in reality I am keying one slow note at a time, in my mind I can’t help by feel like I am blazing a trail of notes as I shred the piano.

I have found many useful videos on Youtube to teach me along as I try new things on the piano, unfortunately I have yet to find a very good App that can guide me along as they all look great off the start but then quickly upon filling out a profile are asked for your credit card information. I am going to keep looking for something that can guide me a little bit better than my self paced approach I am currently taking. Well, I must get back to practicing as I continue on my journey to becoming a piano SUPERSTAR!

Keep practicing…

So week two is in the bag and I am absolutely thrilled with the progress I am seeing…from my daughter! Her grasp on remembering finger placements has been awesome. Me on the other hand, I need to keep practicing! I utilized an online resource this week to help me along with my learnings. This video was great, however, while it said that it was basic and beginner lesson #1, I still found it to be a lot of information to take in.

I have always thought I knew the alphabet and would never need to “brush up” on my alphabetical skills. That was until the instructor would move up and down the alphabet I found my fingers bumbling along the keys as I kept thinking “ok, what comes before G? A,B,C,D,E,F, thats it, F”. With that said, I feel as thought this lesson went well and I have learnt a lot that I just need to practice. I can now find all the keys on the piano and can “somewhat” put them together to make notes.

Well, time to get back to practicing if I want to one day be referred to as the piano man!

Piano? Sounds Easy…

For my Learning Project I will be attempting to learn to play the piano. This is something I have always wished I would have done when I was a child, so my options were to find a time machine and go back to my childhood and enrol in piano lessons OR crack my knuckles and get to work. The timing is perfect as my daughter has also begun taking piano lessons and I figure, why not join her on the journey of becoming a pianist. I will be using the same workbook as my daughter and tracking my progress on this blog. She doesn’t know it yet, but lets the games begin!

I will be contributing 40 hours over the next 12 weeks into learning the piano and documenting my progression. While I have ZERO experience with the piano and besides a cup of coffee playing guitar as a child, my experience with music is very elementary to say the least. Still, I must temper my expectations as reality is this will likely be a long process. But still! How I see myself playing the piano versus how I actually sound playing the piano I am sure will be completely different things. However, let the journey begin!

Book I will be using for the piano lessons

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