The Pianist’s Expertise

The Pianist’s Reflections Series

How do you feel when so-called “experts” say things that just don’t match your experience? Is their academic learning superior to your practical experience?

Does the input of the “expert” leave you feeling more, or less confident than you were before? 

I firmly believe that practical experience and academic learning should ideally go hand in hand – the one neither replacing nor outbalancing the other.

But it’s helpful to consider how the right balance between the two is best achieved, because different temperaments tend to be drawn more to one or the other. Western society as a whole perhaps needs to redress that balance and listen more carefully to voices of experience.

So what can we learn from one another?

Continue reading The Pianist’s Expertise

Confessions of a piano student.

Regular guest author Simon Reich (pictured above as a little boy) has a confession to make… 

“I’d let down my piano teacher, my parents and ultimately myself, by not being able to read music better than my grades suggested”. This was the unfortunate soundtrack playing inside my head, each time I went to piano lessons.

But deep inside me a sleeping talent was about to emerge – and I didn’t yet know it!

Continue reading Confessions of a piano student.

My First Schumann

Sheet Music Review

Schott Music, the revered German publishers founded back in 1770, are maintaining an impressive commitment to new piano music publishing projects, including a wide range of resources and publications for players of all levels.

Of particular interest to intermediate players (and their teachers) will be there ongoing “My First …” series. The first two issues (Bach and Mozart – see below) have recently been joined by “My First Schumann”, which I am delighted to review here.

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I got a nice new chair today

New Sounds
Andrew Eales: I got a nice new chair today

This week has been a bit of a struggle, with rather a lot on my plate.

On the plus side, I bought a new office chair to replace my broken one. And it’s good to celebrate small victories!

I sat down at the piano late yesterday evening and a little improvisation emerged from my fingers. At the encouragement of my family I hit the record button, and here’s my second attempt at playing around with this simple tune. I hope you enjoy it.

Follow: Andrew Eales on SoundCloud

Animal Jazz (Barbara Snow)

Sheet Music Review

Edition HH is a publishing house founded by Norwegian musician Per Hartmann, and based in Oxfordshire, UK. Their eclectic and ever-expanding catalogue embraces contemporary scores and scholarly performing editions of rarer items in the musical repertoire, from the Renaissance to the Romantic periods.

‘Animal Jazz’ is a recent addition, a selection of 15 brand new original short pieces for piano solo composed by London-based musician Barbara Snow.

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“Shifting” Michael McDonald

New Sounds
Michael McDonald: “Shifting”

Michael McDonald grew up in North Carolina, USA, but has for the last 15 years lived in Helsinki, Finland, where he is the music teacher in an english-language school.

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‘Magic Beans’ (Ben Crosland)

Sheet Music Review

‘Magic Beans’ is the latest collection of easy piano pieces by Ben Crosland, and will be published on Saturday 5th March 2016. Having received an advance copy from publisher Editions Musica Ferrum, I am delighted to offer this first in-depth review of the book…

Continue reading ‘Magic Beans’ (Ben Crosland)

Dustin Hoffman’s Dream

Ever wished you could be one of the top Hollywood movie stars of your generation?

It turns out that Dustin Hoffman had a different dream, as he relates in an interview with the Radio Times magazine (5-11 March 2016):

“I always wanted to be a piano player.
I grew up studying piano, particularly jazz.
I just didn’t have the talent.

I had the desire. I had the feeling for it – and I still have it – but I didn’t have a very good ear.
I couldn’t just sit down and play something if you whistled it, like many musicians can.
I could not read regular classical music quickly; it was all laborious for me.

I still feel I missed my calling in life.
If God said today, “You will be what you always wanted to be, starting right now, and that is a really good jazz pianist”, I’d quit everything and be quite happy.”

This collection of thoughts and statements suggests to me many ways in which we use language quite loosely. What, for example, is “a piano player” or for that matter “a really good jazz pianist”? Are these labels limited to those who can earn a living as a performer? At what stage in one’s development as a pianist is one allowed to use the term?

And then there is the question of “talent”. If ever there was a word that is used to convey so much, but actually conveys so little, “talent” is surely a contender!

Why did Dustin Hoffman believe that he “didn’t have the talent”? Did a teacher or parent take him to one side and gently break the news? Did he fail an exam or lose a competition? Or did he simply submit to the worst insults leveled at him by his own inner critic?

The answers to these questions are perhaps not for the knowing, but it is interesting that Dustin Hoffman goes on to talk about the ideas contained in Kung Fu Panda 3, the latest movie he is involved with. He concludes the interview with this thought:

“One of the themes of Kung Fu Panda 3 is that they use the word “Chi”, in other words finding your inner self; the purpose of life is to find your inner self. Your essence. And I think you spend a lifetime doing that.”

For me, being a pianist is a real part of my “inner self”, regardless of whether I have a successful concert career or not. And I suspect many readers will identify with piano playing in the same way – as a core part of our identity and means of self-expression.

If so, do not listen to your inner critic, to the teacher who puts you down, to the competition judge who overlooks you, or to the audition board that pass you over.

Be sure to pursue your dream, because the rest is just noise.

You can find out more in this recent post : Why Learn the Piano