“Can’t believe that I’ve finished three songs in only 12 weeks!”
“I studied music in conservatories for 8 years and couldn’t play by ear till now.”
“I started your course before my 70th birthday and now play with a skill I never thought possible at any age.”
“I’ve been wanting this sound for years. People who’ve played are very impressed, and ask what are you doing?”
“Waiting in a lounge I played for 20 people. The owner asked if I wanted a job.”
“Your system works, even for the most skeptical. Now when I enter a piano store I can sit down and try one.”
“I’ve been a late starter but I’m going to make it, thanks to your fantastic method.”
“Hurdles the wall adults put between themselves and learning to play.”
“My father was pianist Arthur Rubinstein. I had the best lessons money could buy. But I always wanted to play Mercer rather than Mozart. With David’s course I’m having the time of my life.”
“I’m 56 and feel like a kid. I can really play, a feat I thought impossible.”
“Breaks through to new understandings of what behavior, experience and learning are all about.”
“Debunks the myth of talent.”
Our Mission – what we really care about:
There are few greater joys than finding your own musical voice, letting loose upon the world even the smallest expression of what makes you unique. That’s what cheers us up the most. That’s what we’d like for everyone who joins our little adventure.
This is a major upgrade to the Sudnow Method web site – don’t be bashful about using the contact form or email to let me know what I missed.
You’ll need to purchase a renewal and register (which can be done as part purchase process) – your account won’t be activated on this site until you do.
Please review the membership options in the ‘store’ link to determine if you qualify as a ‘Previous student renewal’ – or email me with specific questions and we’ll get you set up.
I know this is a bit of a pain but we have two motives here:
- To confirm who’s actively engaged in the Method and, selfishly, to save ourselves the hassle of dealing with a bunch of legacy issues.
- We hope you’re willing to spend a few bucks to help offset the costs of this rework – if you’ve struggled with the Method before, I think the new format will be a big help to you.
Thanks for your support – we hope you enjoy the new web site.
The old site will be active until the end of 2016 here.
“Have a ball with Dave’s great course.”
(Accompanist to Billy Holiday, Peggy Lee, and Ella Fitzgerald.)
“Given half an hour of your time and spirit and a quiet room, I could teach any of you how to play the piano – everything there is to know about playing the piano can be taught in half an hour. I’m convinced of it.” -Glenn Gould
There’s not a music education program in the world for teaching adults to play songs on the piano that competes. Two decades of studies on over 25,000 students prove that no program will have you playing songs well in as short a time.
The Sudnow Method is a recorded seminar broken up into three basic lessons that you can access via your own private student account page. There are over 3 hours of recorded material and countless pages of supplemental resources – all available via any device capable of accessing the Internet.
You work through the recorded seminar at your own pace, to get yourself oriented (you can revisit lessons at any time). Then you go right to the piano to use a program that’s laid out in perfectly clear detail. Follow it for a careful half-hour a day and you’ll be amazing your friends in just months.
You start on a full blown adult version of a song (Erroll Garner’s ‘Misty’), notated in an easy-to-follow way – you do not have to read music. And you gain all your skill in the context of the kind of music you want to play, instead of working on certain drills just because tradition says they
might help. By tackling adult arrangements, the music you want to learn shows you how to play it.
And in the clearest terms you’ll find anywhere, you’ll know what you need to: about melodies, scales, chords, voicing, harmony, the development of good technique, and the ingredients of rapid adult learning.
David Sudnow earned his PhD at Berkeley. In 1978, Harvard University published his classic study of keyboard learning, Ways of the Hand (a new edition was published by MIT in 2001). He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is the author of four books.
On a 1981 flight from NY to SF, he sat next to an architect from Stanford. The guy spoke of a lifelong frustration with learning music. In the time it took to fly from over the the Mississippi to San Francisco, on a few paper napkins Sudnow laid out a full method the guy could use, starting from scratch, to learn to play songs well.
Three months later Sudnow got a letter that changed his life. The architect bought a new piano, was now playing some songs well, and was drawing up plans to convert his garage into a music studio.
Knowing a short course was needed, Sudnow started meeting groups at his home. In several years he had a large studio in NY. The course went through changes: a big teaching workshop in Texas, over 100 weekend seminars taught in most major US cities, and lots of feedback from many students of the recorded seminar who came from three NBC Today Show appearances.
To this day, the program contains the same basic insight that led to its first success: a very complete, short recorded seminar, with good illustrations, very clear talk, and a
jump straight into the deep water approach especially suited to the adult amateur. Over 25,000 students later, Sudnow would do it no other way.
Below is a collection of three essays from David Sudnow, probably from around 1999, that prefaced his CD-based course of that period (with a couple minor edits to align with the current seminar delivery) -dmh
The Broken Piano Lesson
Don’t feel bad if you had piano lessons and can’t play. Forty million living Americans had keyboard instruction and no longer touch the instrument, most likely the biggest educational fiasco in history. Worldwide figures are probably staggering.
The reason? Of course there’s a big decline in household sociability, gathering around a piano, say. Ever since radio, TV, the Internet. Some grieve the loss. These are powerful trends. But we’ve been long rendered resource-less against the commercialized shaping of leisure time. Pianos are a noteworthy example. Had lessons been good, had we really seen to that, as we most certainly can, many more would play. Everywhere there’d be yet another alternative to Channel Four: Homemade Music.
We should’ve better respected Art if it set us off from other creatures. Yet we’ve devised an economy that makes no room for aesthetic educations that stick. One must consume, work to gain leisure time that’s then spent consuming, watching TV, surfing the Net, so on. Just sitting around and playing piano, making rather than buying music? Bad for business. Obviously we can’t teach music well or pay players decently. Happy musicians prefer little else (a risk you might take). So too many pianists pose a definite hazard, which is why we’re kept in dank little holes in the ground. And, as you’d expect, piano lessons are preordained disasters, designed, in detail, to fail.
Disregard dusty apartments, horrors of one-on-oneness with a stranger at age seven, like at the doctor’s. Forget rulers, nasty nuns, barking dogs and halitosis. (Our culture has piano teacher tales like it’s got mother-in-law jokes). Piano lessons fail because of what’s taught, and how.
The teacher gets a referral. Thank goodness. Make the lessons last. There’s no great surplus of prospects. Use a slowly grade method, like the red John Thompson books.
John Thompson. The very words may nauseate millions. Organization Charts, Policy Manuals for a Quasi-Profession of Frustrated Pianists, Ethnographic Artifacts par excellence, reflecting as they help define a family’s typical evening.
Of course an official assumption is that each silly little piece provides a basis for the next, cultivating early phases of what will become more intricate classes of maneuvers.
In fact, the transfer from piece to piece or grade to grade is rarely substantial, if clear enough at all, to warrant the intolerable elongation of material common to all “graded” programs. At each new “level” (time for a next Gradebook) it seems you’re starting from the beginning. Bach feels as different from Chopin as Ping Pong does from Tennis. Because it is.
These serialized, graded, lesson inspired and intended pieces are so dreadfully slow they become unbearable and few stick it out with the likes of them for long. Teachers thus have frequently reconstituted clienteles. Naturally, piano store owners don’t complains. Teachers make brand/dealer referrals to patents, and piano stores pay teachers a sales commission, often quietly. Teacher to Sell – recently our leading pianomaker’s slogan. To grasp the full context for the massively failed lesson one must appreciate its role in a strategy the piano industry devised for selling our third costliest item, after house and car: lessons lasting long enough to make a sale; an age-graded scheduling of when it’s legitimately decided that they ought to start; a small number of teachers; replenishment of new buyers with a regulated dropout.
So we’re all stuck with pianos just sitting there far out of tune, covered with lamps, doilies and pictures of servicemen. Ten million abandoned Chevys.
You get graded method books. Then there’s the lesson itself. So much time is filled filling the hour, much of what’s done right or wrong and why as obvious to you as to teacher, nearly all of what officially goes on more ritualistic than necessary. There are unconcealed glances at the watch , and completely commonsensical “wisdom” routinely passes as Expert Advice: “Start over from the beginning.” “This time go slower.” “Put just a touch more feeling into those last three chords.”
Bless their hearts, sharing a major occupational hazard with psychiatrists – “How to stay awake through the hour?” These kids study their childhoods away, sticking it out despite the system, by age ten having more or less given up everything for the piano. The youngest career choice possible alongside gymnastics, only to find, ten years later, fifty openings and 100,000 candidates for concertizing, or other barely decent jobs. So they go on to college for what’s gotten to be called a “Piano Pedagogy” degree, which gives them rights to put up their lesson advertisements on laundromat bulletin boards.
Now they sadly lose their grasp over those sophisticated pieces learned in school, having these marvelously well trained hands for very quickly acquiring new routes that are only rarely called upon once education is completed. Not required to play for students, seldom asked to play for others, they get rusty at reading scores, particularly as sight “reading”, rather than “memorizing”, was rarely stressed from the start. Unable to improvise, since taught in this century, many teachers, bitter and perplexed, eventually become more or less incapable of playing, except perfunctorily. Like you can recite the opening of the Gettysburg Address if you’re over fifty.
Years of practice end up with these stretch-it-out-by-keeping-the-learning-confined-by-the-lessonbook-lessons, for several million Johnnies and Susie’s each year. And a dozen openings at Julliard.
With no malice aforethought, societies having ways of working without respect for what we think we’re up to, if the inane method books don’t get you the Piano Teachers of America will, ensuring you eventually drop out by insisting, as a condition for a teacher’s certification, that you’re to play increasingly complex music up to Guild Certified Standard.
Here’s the rub: To sustain a half hour of adult level classical performance, not just three or four minutes of a recital but a half hour’s worth, enough at hand that you may sit down and play that much whenever you want more than a minute’s pleasure – they paid thousands for our thirty year old three bar remnants of Chopin Waltzes and Bach Fugues – to maintain just that much of such adult classical music played such ways? You’ll practice many hours a day. Forever. Teach classical-professional modes of music-making to would-be amateurs and they won’t possibly attain lasting satisfaction because the practice needed for such ways of playing doesn’t fit the work or leisure economy. The Piano Program is designed to fail, these get-it-perfect-and-then-forget-it pieces for on factory financed uprights (strange objects, pianos standing on end with the sound facing into the wall!).
They’ve rationalized the whole failed process: “you’re a good parent if you provide your child the ‘sense of discipline’ piano lessons bring”. Playing is never conceived as a value in its own right. (God forbid the kid really takes it seriously). Taught under the aegis of such a massive deception – how do you reconcile “discipline” with a huge dropout? – who’d expect good teaching?
Teach Yourself to Play Standards
Piano lessons are badly broken, and must be fixed. We must preserve two-hand keyboard play. No instrument stands alone as well. Available staring at $100 everywhere in the world, hardly anyone in the world knows what in the world to do with them, their multitude an ironic comment on desire and failure.
Hold it in mind that human hands employ more brain matter than any other body part, so complex their axes of movement and sensitivi