Learning Piano Aged 79
This inspiring piano story shows how Mike, who was unable to learn piano as a child (struggled with sheet music notation) made incredible progress learning piano at age 79. What he achieved in 5 days was amazing enough, but what happened after that is even more amazing!
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How did Mike Learn Piano in Days?
The incredibly simple DecPlay 5 Step Formula is the reason Mike was able to learn to play songs on piano at age 79, after being unable to play piano as a child. See it for yourself in the free taster video below:-
Transcription of Mike's Story - Learning Piano At Age 79
[00:00:06.050] - Declan
Hi, it's Declan here. I've just finished doing an interview with Mike and I thought I've got to upload it straightaway and share it with people. I'm not going to do any of the usual graphics in the front, I'm just going to put it straight up. If you're a senior citizen and you've always wanted to play piano then you've got to see this video. Mike is 79 and he tried playing piano in his childhood but couldn't get to grips with reading music notation so that was the end of his piano journey. Until recently. At 79, he..... well, I'll let Mike explain the story. Basically, though, what happens on day five is amazing. But that's not the most amazing bit - it gets even better! So if you're a senior citizen and have always wanted to play piano, you're going to find this video inspiring.
[00:01:12.550] - Declan
Mike - tell me about your background on piano. What experience had you had before trying DecPlay?
[00:01:19.810] - Mike
It was almost nonexistent. I'm nearly 80 now, and when I was around 15 - and I had a younger brother who would have been 13 and a half - my parents bought a really decrepit old piano. It still had the screw marks on it where the candelabra holders had been. They wanted to see if there was any music in us. My father could vamp on piano, but he only used the black notes, ever. He reckoned it was confusing to have more than the black notes in his compositions. I started to try and learn. There was no tuition - we couldn't afford it. I did kind of learn to read music, but very slowly. Also, my fingers were fat and I was very tentative on it. More irritatingly, my younger brother took to it like a duck to water, so I gave it up. There's been absolutely nothing since then.
[00:02:27.560] - Declan
So what age was that, when you gave it up?
[00:02:34.520] - Mike
Certainly before I left school, which was at 18.
[00:02:37.450] - Declan
Wow, many, many years ago! I had assumed that you'd played a lot more than that because your progress was so quick.
[00:02:48.570] - Mike
Well, that's thanks to DecPlay!
[00:02:52.960] - Declan
So you hadn't played since school? You'd learnt a bit of notation but you weren't fluent in it?
[00:03:00.970] - Mike
I wasn't anywhere near fluent. The only time I could play something which moderately pleased me was when I'd learned it off by heart and didn't have to look at the sheet music. My brain and my hands didn't coordinate the dots on the page with the notes on the piano.
[00:03:24.620] - Declan
And what made you want to play piano again, many years later?
[00:03:30.370] - Mike
My daughter, who you know, told me about DecPlay. I don't have so many commitments, being retired now, and I've always had an idea that it'd be really nice to play - not brilliantly - but to be able to produce a tune - something that people could recognise -through my own efforts. That was rather appealing so I thought I'd give it a try. A simplified method of learning to play was just what I was looking for.
[00:04:09.810] - Declan
And what was your first impression of DecPlay?
[00:04:14.950] - Mike
I thought it was very smart. To get rid of those awful black dots up and down the page was terrific. Just numbers, and numbering the keyboard corresponding with it, and also the whole concept of needing - right at the beginning at least - only one finger on your right hand. Also, although you play three notes with the left hand, in essence it's almost one finger on the left hand too, because the three fingers you use move in synchronicity. So, just by being able to combine one finger and three fingers, read some numbers, and hammer out a tune, that was very appealing.
[00:05:02.830] - Declan
How long did it take you to play something which sounded meaningful to you?
[00:05:10.210] - Mike
I would say probably a week. I wasn't going at it hammer and tongs every day as my nearly-80-year-old brain doesn't function as brilliantly as maybe it once did. But, yes, half an hour a day, no more. This included a large amount of messing around because I like the idea of the left hand with the fixed fingers. I was forever moving it up and down the keyboard and trying to put some of the black notes in and seeing what sounds came out. But, yes, "Amazing Grace" I had stopped murdering, completely, within about five days! Grace became alive and well on day six, shall we say!
[00:06:02.030] - Declan
That's brilliant! It's great that not only were you actually able to learn a piece in a week, which you're happy with the level of, but to mess around - as you put it - is what I would call to improvise. That's great because the old way of teaching is that there are all these abstract dots on a page and your job is to exactly replicate those dots and, if you do anything other than what's on the page, that's wrong. The whole idea about experimenting, having fun, improvising, is actually classed as wrong, so it's great to hear that in your first week you were confident enough to start to experiment and try your own way.
[00:06:49.790] - Mike
It's been the biggest benefit by far of starting to use DecPlay. I used your numerations for the stuff we downloaded from your website - the DecPlay format stuff - and then I thought it would be nice to play some of the tunes that I like. I'm old-fashioned. Trish, my wife, and I, our musical interests lay back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s so I got a book with simple, normal, notation in it from that era. By concentrating hard, and with a pencil and a ruler, I was able to transform the notation of the melodies from the book into the DecPlay form of numbers. Then, by working out from your lessons, which three-finger combinations went with which right-finger note, I was actually able to produce five or six songs from that music book into DecPlay form. I could enjoy playing the music I liked, rather than the music that I had to play because it was available in the DecPlay units you provided.
[00:08:27.770] - Mike
What was really interesting, for me, was that it required me to practise a bit with which three-finger combinations went with which right-hand one finger combination. I almost abandoned that because I found that I could produce melodies using just the right-hand one finger. I was able to compose melodies similar to the ones I'd been transcribing, and put a left hand to them. That was something I just never dreamed would be possible - to actually compose my own music. That's been an amazing discovery for me, and by far the greatest benefit of DecPlay.
[00:09:16.760] - Declan
That's brilliant. How long, from you starting, was that? That you were composing your own music?
[00:09:22.090] - Mike
Well, I first downloaded DecPlay just over a year ago. That was playing on a keyboard that had been up in the attic for at least 30 years. It didn't work very well, and it wasn't very long. It was a cheap one. So I packed up for a while and I scoured e-bay and then got this keyboard. I more or less started again at that point and, I would say, from then through to realising that I could compose something on my own, was something like three or four months.
[00:10:04.340] - Declan
[00:10:05.390] - Mike
It's rather laborious transcribing melodies from the book I bought into DecPlay numeration so I wasn't practising hard every day but, towards the end of it, I managed to produce my first piece. I've probably done, now, nine or ten. The annoying thing is that I've got so interested in producing melodies of my own composition that I don't practise the stuff that I've written down, enough. So I'm not really properly fluent in any of them. I've made a New Year's resolution to stop trying to produce new stuff and work my way through, getting my brain to deal with my fingers properly so that I can play the bits that I have written to my own satisfaction. That's the next stage. After that, who knows, but Rachmaninov has nothing to fear!
[00:11:04.370] - Declan
That's amazing for one year to be, effectively, writing nine to ten songs.
[00:11:11.370] - Mike
Yes, I'm amazed!
[00:11:11.370] - Declan
And, basically, you've only seen the first level of the DecPlay courses, haven't you?
[00:11:16.600] - Mike
[00:11:18.050] - Declan
The FastPlay version.
[00:11:19.530] - Mike
Yes. I rather went off piste when I went composing.....
[00:11:22.550] - Declan
Well that's brilliant, because all the things you're talking about, like transcribing other songs into the DecPlay format, there is an actual course on that which makes it easy, with charts, but you found your own way to do it. Then composing as well - there is a whole course on how to compose, but you just bypassed all of that and just did it yourself, which is fantastic!
[00:11:52.430] - Mike
Yes, I'm truly surprised at myself, and thank you for it. I would never have been in this place if it hadn't been for DecPlay.
[00:12:03.350] - Declan
I think that is really inspiring for other people who don't believe that they are musical. There are so many people who have maybe tried a little bit of piano through the old-style, formal, classical route -as I did, as a child - and most people cannot play a tune by that route, even if they study for a year. There are lots of people who actually tried piano for, say, a year and still can't get up at a party and play anything. So I think it's really inspiring to hear your story. That you can start playing very quickly and then have the freedom to improvise. It's all about fun, really, so you're a perfect example of just trying it, having a go, not really knowing what to expect.
[00:13:03.830] - Mike
With my fat fingers, I really didn't think I'd get anywhere, but the DecPlay system diminishes the effect of fat-finger syndrome because you don't have to move them all that much.
[00:13:18.770] - Declan
That's something I don't have on my marketing list as one of the benefits - "removes the obstacle of fat-finger syndrome" - I like that! What would you say to any people who are thinking they would love to play piano but think they might not be able to, or are hesitating about trying? What would you say?
[00:13:44.090] - Mike
Give it a try because it's totally different. If you've tried before with musical notation and failed, here's that obstacle removed. You don't have to read music and, if you can count up to seven, and if your fingers are still reasonably flexible, you can do it. And you can do it well. Like everything, the more you practise, the better you get. It's a liberating experience for me. It's added a new dimension to my retirement for which I'm truly grateful.
[00:14:23.730] - Declan
That's brilliant. I'm so glad to hear that. If I asked you to sum up DecPlay in two or three words, what would you say?
[00:14:34.890] - Mike
It's easy to start and, once you've started, it's easy to move on rapidly. So long as you've got the slightest interest in producing music for your own amusement - or for others if you're brave enough to play in public - then this is the answer. This will do it for you.
[00:14:56.490] - Declan
Here is Mike playing a song that he wrote himself.
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