In a special Christmas message for Pianodao, Karen Marshall offers generous words of encouragement and advice for musicians, teachers and parents during this busy season…
”Often we find ourselves in trouble simply because we are going too fast, disregarding signs of trouble that we would have seen if only we had been going a little slower.
All too often we get caught up in the rush; our whole culture is based on it. Get ahead! Do it now!
Sometimes the right thing to do is not to do anything.”
Solala Towler, Cha Dao (Singing Dragon, 2010)
These comments (which are taken from a book about the preparation and consumption of tea) offer golden advice which can be applied to pretty much any aspect of our lives. No wonder so many of us feel completely worn out most of the time!
For our purposes, I want to touch on the value of taking our time in two areas:
• firstly teaching and learning
• and then our personal piano practice…
“It is not so much what you believe in that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action.”
Lin Yutang (1895-1976)
The Importance of Living (1937)
I have long subscribed to the view that, as the old saying goes, “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is”.
It makes absolute sense that our beliefs about ‘life, the universe and everything’ will significantly impact and mould our daily behaviour. Indeed, self-esteem and understanding of our place in the world must surely have a huge impact on our reflexes, responses, and attitudes.
Lin Yutang offers a more nuanced, deeper insight. He points out that it is not so much what we believe as how we believe it: the way we go about acting out our beliefs.
It is easy to see how this idea might apply to our religious, political and social beliefs. Do we use our beliefs to divide, or as a means to bring people closer together? What action, if any, results from our beliefs?
But I think that Lin’s words are still more profound – can they not to be applied to any and all aspects of our lives, including our piano journey?
• What do we believe about ourselves as piano players?
• How about our beliefs about our teachers and teaching?
Could it be, for example, that we think our personal approach to piano playing favours certain composes or styles?
If so, does this belief help us to select Active Repertoire,
or does it limit our willingness to try new music?
Or could it be that we believe our talent is limited, and that our playing will never rise above the mediocre?
If so, does this belief help us enjoy playing without competing,
or does it limit our fulfilment and leave us frustrated?
There are perhaps no ‘right or wrong answers’ here, but taking time to consider Lin’s words, and to question the way in which our beliefs are manifest could prove fruitful as the starting point on a fresh journey of reflection and discovery.
“Upright” is a piano project with a difference …
I spoke to project coordinator, Garreth Brooke to find out more…
Paul Harris is one of the world’s most respected music educationalists. His compositions have delighted players and audiences around the world, and he has over 500 publications to his name. Paul is in great demand as a workshop and seminar leader in the UK, USA and the Far East.
Here he shares the story of how he discovered the piano as a child …
- What is it that motivates us as pianists?
- Why did we start learning to play the piano? ..
- And why do we continue to play?
- What are our piano goals for the future? ..
- And how do they excite us?
- How can we motivate and inspire our students?
Ask these questions to a hundred pianists, and there’s a good chance you will hear a hundred different answers – but some common themes will most likely emerge.
In this article I am going to consider the many and complex motivations we all experience in life, focussing in on the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and how each pertains to our piano playing.
Site Owner: Andrew Eales
I’m so pleased that you’ve found this site, and hope that you enjoy exploring the 300+ articles here, written to inform, encourage and inspire you on your piano journey!
Pianodao grows weekly, and as well as being my own online journal, the site features posts by some of the world’s most popular and respected writers about piano playing and music education.
Built around the metaphor of piano playing as a lifetime journey, you will find plenty of articles about playing, teaching, and broader lifestyle issues, along with interviews, stories, and my recommendations of great new resources.
And you can contribute too, by leaving comments, questions, even sharing Your Story here!
As I write this I am in India on a two-week yoga retreat, in which each day has started with a reflective discourse on the ethics outlined in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, the classic text from which yoga theory subsequently developed.
The first, foundational ethic presented by Patanjali was ahimsa, which can be literally translated no harm, and intrinsically means be kind. Without kindness, there can be no true yoga. And yet, as our teacher rather decisively noted:
“There are plenty of people in this world who can touch their toes – but who are still basically arseholes!”
As usual, what is true in one field can equally apply in another, and certainly from my own observations of pianists – both in online forums and the ‘real world’ – there are plenty of very fine piano players and teachers who, it would seem, somewhat lack kindness.
So how can we encourage the piano community to be a kinder one? As always, the answer must begin with ourselves …
January is, for many, a time of resolutions, grit and determination. Whether it’s a fresh commitment to healthy eating and exercise, or a renewal of discipline, setting aside time to practise the piano – this is a month where many make a decision to turn a new leaf.
I hope that as many as possible who make a commitment towards self-improvement in its many forms will succeed in their freshly stated aims. But what are the ingredients of perseverance which will foster that success? Here’s my theme for this month’s reflection!
And I will try to explain why I believe that Progress is a Process, and that perseverance is never simply a matter of grim resolve and self-discipline …
How your creative outlet survives an injury…
Guest Post by Simon Reich
Putting a brand new blade in a window scraper demanded concentration, as the surgically sharp implement would slice the end of a finger off in a millisecond. Unfortunately I didn’t give my scraper the respect it demanded…
While trying to multitask, taking a mobile phone call (with it wedged between my chin and shoulder), holding the scraper, and attempting to close the back door of my van, I accidentally sliced so deeply into my left hand, that I could see my bones and severed tendons.
Although not feeling pain straight away, the sight of the inner workings of my hand caused me to collapse onto the footpath, holding my skin together to stem the flow of blood.
As I sat in the back of an ambulance, it suddenly dawned on me I may never play piano again.
The paramedics informed me that because the blade was brand new and incredibly sharp, the cut would have made a surgeon proud. Amazingly I was still not feeling pain in my hand, but the thought of losing my musical outlet was causing me enough ache as it was. I knew this situation only too well, as my brother (while serving a cabinetmaking apprenticeship) lost three fingers to an electric wood buzzer. This severely curtailed his drumming career.