Guitar Lessons in Tulsa | Guitar Duets

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Hi, this is Andrea with Curtis Music Academy here with a podcast about playing duets, playing duets is one of my favorite things to do on the piano, and it really just means there’s two people playing the piano at one time. And so normally there will be one person playing the high part of the piano, another person playing the low part of the piano. And this is a really important thing for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s a lot of fun to be able to sit down at the piano and play with somebody else. And so for that reason alone, it’s just very fulfilling. For another reason. It’s a good learning tool. And so you actually learn so much quicker by playing duets on the piano or during guitar lessons. 

And so I often try to incorporate them into my piano or guitar lessons as much as possible. So when I start off with a student who’s never played a duet before, I do go through a number of things. First of all, I say that duets are more challenging than just playing the piano by yourself. And so if the duet falls apart, it’s no issue. Duets fall apart all the time on behalf of the student and on behalf of the teacher. Right. Because even the teachers make mistakes throughout the song. So I always say there’s no pressure throughout the duet. And if we make a mistake, we’ll just either go back to the beginning or we’ll go back to a measure that is agreeable. 

Like if we’re halfway through the song, we’ll just go back to maybe the start of the second page, for example. Secondly, a really important part of playing the duet is timing and rhythm. And so if the person who’s playing the top half of the piano is going faster than the person who’s playing the bottom half of the piano, that’s going to be a problem because the most critical thing of playing duets is that you’re playing together, you’re playing at the same time. So it’s really important to be on cue with each other. So if you are going at a speed of eighty eight beats per minute, for example, both of you need to be on the same page. And this is actually where I’m going to pause and talk about counting for just a moment for piano or guitar lessons.

And we’ll get back to the topic of duets in just a moment. You could even do duets in the guitar lessons. But I grew up playing music in school. I was in choir, I was in something called handbells. And so in those two things, I was used to having a conductor counting as in. So if the song was in four or four timing, he would count one, two, three, four. And that’s kind of in some ways like a pretend measure so that everybody in the choir or everybody in the handbell choir is on the same page. And so we all start off in the same timing. And so that’s critical. And so one thing I’ve realized teaching music is that not everyone has had that musical experience of having a conductor. And so I try to kind of implement that as much as possible. 

So I say when we’re playing the duets, I say we’re going to count one full measure of pretend beats before we start off at the song. And I usually point to the measure the first measure of the song, and I usually point to the area of the page that’s right before the song. So that way there’s kind of a little bit of a visual representation that we’re just pretend counting. Now, we even noticed this in rock songs, songs that are in pop music. Oftentimes the drummer will click his drumsticks for beats and he’ll say, one, two, three, four. And that’s exactly the same thing. He’s not a conductor of a orchestra or a symphony or anything, but he’s leading the tide. The same is true for guitar lessons. 

And so he’s counting off the four beats to start off the band so that everyone is at the same time. And so that is critical. I notice that with my younger, more beginner, less experienced players, that when we’re playing through a song, they might go a little bit faster in some areas of the song and go a little bit slower in other areas of the song. And I overlook that at the beginning stage because you’re an A student is learning for the first time. There’s so much that they’re learning that we’re just going to save some stuff for later on. But normally it would be ideal to be at the same speed, the whole song. So I use the example of beats per minute earlier. The same is true for guitar lessons.

So if we start the song off at 80 beats per minute, we want to go through the whole song at eighty eight beats per minute. We don’t want to go up to ninety three or ninety four. We don’t want to slow down to, you know, seventy nine or sixty five for example. So when I’m playing with a student I’m the more experienced player, they’re the ones who are learning. So I usually tailor my playing with them. If we’re playing through measure four and five and they’re slowing down a little bit, I will also slow down a little bit just to stay on track with them. So that is something that I do as well. The unison is there. Now, if you were let’s just say for an example, if there was a brother and sister who both played the piano at home. This could also apply to guitar lessons. 

And they do a lot of duets in this case, if you were practicing duets every single day with another person, you would get used to their rhythm and how they sync up and you would kind of learn what they’re thinking even without them saying it. And so when you play together with someone so often, there’s just that natural unison there. And so that is really important to now. When I’m playing once a week with a student, we haven’t really built up that repertoire of that connection where it seems really natural. But still it’s a learning and a growing process. Another thing that duets is really important for is the opportunity to play with positive pressure, and what I mean by that is there’s never any negative pressure in piano or guitar lessons. 

There’s never like, oh, no, you messed up 50 lashes. But what we want to do is provide positive pressure that helps people grow and accomplish more in regards to the piano. So an example of positive pressure in a education realm would be getting up in front of a class and giving a speech. And that is a little bit nerve wracking for some people, but it actually builds and then the confidence to do it. So if they have been able to do it in a classroom setting, they can do it in a job setting or they can do it in various settings throughout their life. And it’s the same with the piano. And I’m going to talk specifically about that in terms of getting through a song for piano or guitar lessons.

And so I am not the world’s best sight reader. It’s actually probably a weakness of mine at the piano. And so sometimes I sit down with a student and they might be a an eight year old beginner at the piano who’s been playing for six months, for example. And so they have learned some of the rudimentary things of the piano, like playing the CD notes. We might be playing through the song Mary had a Little Lamb. It could be another song for guitar lessons. And the funniest thing is that when I go to play a duet with them, they actually might be playing all the notes correctly while I’m struggling to read the sheet music for the teacher’s duet part, because oftentimes they might be playing on the black notes of the piano and it’s easier for them because they’re just thinking finger for three too. 

But I am actually reading in a very challenging key and sometimes there’s a lot of changes going on during piano or guitar lessons. And so as much as I would hate to admit it, sometimes I am actually the one who’s making the mistakes doing the duet. And so when I’m talking about positive pressure, I’m even letting that apply to myself, because one way or the other, we are going to get through the song and we’re going to play the duet. And so even if I have to not play the duet exactly, I have to kind of make it sound complete and make it get through measure for and measure five. Like sometimes it’s like you start off and everything sounds good and everything, and then you get to a certain measure and let’s just say it’s measure four. 

And there’s a lot of tricky changes on my part in the duet. Well, one way or the other, I’m just going to have to make it sound good. And so I consider that to be positive pressure because in a band or in a performance setting, there would be that like, OK, I’m not quite sure what I’m reading, but I’m just going to make it sound good. And then at the end of the song, most students don’t even notice that there has been a mistake. They just think, oh, wow, cool. We played a song and it sounded really good together. The same can be applied to guitar lessons. So I’m even saying that for myself, there’s that positive pressure when you’re reading music, it’s just the pressure to get through difficult measures without having to stop and to reassess and restart over now. 

In the case that you would have to stop, which often happens, like I said at the very beginning, there is often the times where either the student or the accompaniment of a teacher has messed up during piano or guitar lessons. And so it’s like, OK, we need to stop, where are we going to start? And so usually we pick up nearby where we left off. And so it would be an easy place for the student and the teacher to play together. And oftentimes there will be mile markers in the music that are helpful for that. So sometimes starting off at measure number five, measure nine, measure 13, etc would be a really good place to do that. So I hope that brings some helpful hints about playing duets with others. Have a wonderful day.