What is ‘pop piano,’ and how is it different from learning the classical way of playing the piano? In pop piano lessons, students learn to play chords rather than playing lots of individual notes, much like how one learns how to play the acoustic guitar strumming patterns. This is because the foundation of most pop music is made up of chords, which serve to accompany the singer. Moreover, in pop piano lessons, students usually learn by listening, feeling, and memorising the hand positions of these chords, and not necessarily reading notation. In the classical way of learning, however, students usually learn by reading musical notation. Note reading can be tedious and tiring for certain types of people and pop piano definitely allows for more creativity for those who consider themselves more free-spirited. Pop piano encourages improvisation and allows the student to play around with the rhythms and transpose keys which suit his or her vocal range, without being inhibited by a musical score. Improvising (or in other words, making up your own music) allows for endless musical possibilities, which could generate more spontaneous and exciting music. Improvising is essential in playing pop piano, as it allows you to change the chords depending on where the singer will go. It also allows you to accompany yourself if you fancy singing pop songs!
Enrolling in pop piano courses and having pop music lessons can also further your skills in other genres such as blues, rock, reggae, and jazz, because a lot of the chords and chord progressions are similar. You’ll be able to play along many of the popular songs that you like in many different genres that are related to pop music. For example, Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” shares the same exact chords as Adele’s “Someone Like You”, Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts”, Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”, The Beatles’ “Let it Be”, and Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours”. That’s already SIX very different songs you can play (and sing) just by learning the same chords, and there are surely plenty more.
However, that’s not to say that having a classical music background won’t enable you to play pop piano. In fact, pop music takes much of its roots from classical music – many of the chord progressions originated from classical compositions. Although they might sound different (because of different instruments used), many of the chords have stood the test of time from the Baroque era all the way to present day. For example, the chord progression used in Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D, which was composed sometime in the late 17th century, have been used in pop songs such as “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis, “Basket Case” by Green Day, and “Everytime” by Britney Spears! Therefore, many a time, it is still beneficial to have some classical training in the mix as it allows you to have smoother playing technique and enables you to read whatever kind of sheet music is put in front of you. In fact, a lot of famous pop artists have classical piano backgrounds, such as Alicia Keys and Elton John.
In conclusion, both classical and pop learning methods have their own benefits depending on your goals. Pop piano gives you more space to improvise and enhances your hearing skills; however, classical pedagogy will help your piano playing technique and your note reading. Many teachers can teach both methods concurrently! The best way to find out what you’re better suited for is to find a highly qualified and versatile teacher and sign up for lessons. You can discover more about having Piano lessons here!