Earlier I'd briefly looked at Lesson 4, lost my bottle and ran back to Lesson 3, but today it is time to have a real crack at it. Being a Sunday, I can give it a good few hours.
Lesson 4 is all about rhythm – notes, half notes, quarter notes and measures. Now, I like to think I have a little bit of natural rhythm, but reading music as you play it while keeping it all in time is another matter entirely. That said, the lesson is pretty simple to follow – it's only the play-along bit that is a little tricky.
I practise Lesson 4 for a few hours, making sure I try and grasp all the main concepts. Thanks to tab notation, when I learned to play the guitar I didn't have to learn to read music. I didn't realise how much of learning to play the piano is about learning to read proper music.
Over the last few days I've ventured on to Lessons 5 and 6. It's not that I am progressing at an incredible rate, I'm just getting frustrated and want to challenge myself – and Lesson 6's title, Rhythmic Accents, intrigues me.
Lesson 5 is actually quite interesting, covering flats, sharps and Arpeggio. Arpeggio – a new way for me to play chords by stepping through the notes – is very rewarding and enables me to experiment with some changes in rhythms. I feel like I can at last put a tune together.
I can't read music properly yet, but I know what most notation means. I feel as though I've definitely learnt a lot about the piano from Tim, and more importantly he's not annoying me, but my execution isn't quite as good as I'd like it to be. Lesson 6 is going to take some time. GarageBand's lessons have really gotten into the intricacies of reading music – dots, ties and accents.
Again, whilst I understand, I doubt I will be able to read music competently before the month is up.
The last two days have been difficult. I can't help feeling that Tim is looking at me with a sense of disappointment, but he's always encouraging. My hands aren't working with my head and I'm getting lost. It's a real set-back.
I moved on to Lesson 7 yesterday and learnt about major and minor chords and chord inversions, which, by using notes in a different key within the chord, create some beautiful sounds – but I still can't get my fingering right.
I am useless playing along with Tim in the lesson. I'm much happier strumming my guitar instead. It took me a long time to change chord shapes on the guitar; I shouldn't be so hard on myself.
My head is too full of theory, so over the next week I'm going to practise all the lessons again and try to get my notation reading up to speed. Today I also had a crack at Lesson 8 – scales – which I found terrifyingly hard, especially playing along with Minuet in G.
The month is up.
Has GarageBand turned me into a virtuoso pianist? Well, no. I'd seriously underestimated the amount of theory involved. If I'd have devoted five hours a day to the cause, I would be a lot better. I have a good grasp of chords, can read notes on a stave and, although I still have some issues – mainly with rhythm notation – I feel pretty confident when it comes to reading music and playing a few basic pieces.
I never got the chance to play the 12 bar blues in Lesson 9. It's on the to-do list, but being able to learn at my own convenience is great and GarageBand's lessons are fun, easy to understand and hugely rewarding.
First published in MacFormat Issue 208
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