To learn to improve we get inspiration from others and then work hard to have the ability that they do. But we should always try to be realistic. To be a pianist of Mozart’s ability would be incredible. He was one of the great pianists of all time composing hundreds of pieces of work including sonatas, symphonies, masses, chamber music, concertos and operas. Mozart began playing when he was only three years old being taught by his father Leopold Mozart who was a composer, conductor, music teacher and violinist.
Yes, wouldn’t it be amazing to be as good as Mozart one of the greatest pianists of all time but as I said it would be wise to set my sights a lower so that I can continue to face the challenge of learning to play the piano better. Maybe be happy to just to be able to play a little of one of Mozart s pieces of music. If this is achieved then set the bar higher.
Realistically, I’ll start by aiming to play something by Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Alicia Keys or Billie Joel. All are great musicians but I think that they too would admit not quite of Mozart’s standard.
But they’ve not done so badly have they?
How they became so good
Well I would say that they set small achievable goals. Treated playing the piano like they did learning the fundamentals of life.
Learning to walk for example. First they had to stand up. Then they had to hold onto things to get their balance and then they fell over again and again before they could stand up without falling down. One foot had to then be put infront of the other and this was repeated until the muscles had developed perfectly as had balance and their motor skill became second nature. Small steps!
But we can’t all play like great pianist.
Elton John started to learn to play at three years old and must have been hooked immediately. Few of us have a piano to practice learning. Elton John, however did have a piano at his home and was a performer at school and at the age of eleven won the Royal Academy Music Scholarship to study classical music. Elton John, whilst having an understandable appreciation for the indisputable classical greats such as Bach and Handel also had disdain for the stuffiness of this music organisation.
It wasn’t long before, at only fifteen, Elton John was performing in pubs at the weekend and playing music on his terms.
But Elton John trained at first as a classical musician. Is that an important concept?
Classical Music Will Help Me
Many would say that to become a great musician classical music is very important to learn. Many argue that classical music is the key to all genres and without it your piano play won’t have the building blocks required to become a great musician. Your ability to build music in any genre will be limited. Furthermore, understanding the classical techniques then only makes it easier to perform in other styles.
The Advantage of Classical Music
Practicing classical music helps to improve your “chops”. This is your physical ability and the mastery of techniques, much like learning the motor skills necessary to touch type. Likewise, learning the chops found in classical music helps your hands to move magically and play fantastic solos or your favourte song. Technical control of your hands starts with classical training.
One thing then leads to another. Without first studying classical music it is more difficult to learn the songs you wish to play. It becomes part of the equation and gives, as it gave Elton John, more options. Not only will a tune be more easily learnt but a more comprehensive technical ability will have been gained and the ability to now read music.
Am I just dreaming?
The reality is I will never be the standard of Amedeus Mozart. That is fact. I can except that. It is also extremely unlikely that I will ever be on par with Elton John. I am aware of that too, but I would love to play some of his songs.
So by continually using the right learning tools available to me. Through learning the components of music theory as listed below:
- melody, harmony, rhythm, scales and chords
By putting the these elements of piano play into practice, well I can only get better.
But how do I learn to play quickly. I don’t want to waste time and I’m no longer eleven! The answer, though it does
perhaps sound a little crazy sound is actually to play slowly.
Let me explain. Speed is not necessarily an indicator of mastery but it actually just shows that you can move your fingers from key to key at high speed.
By playing slowly it is possible to:
- More easily identify a trouble spot and avoid continually hitting incorrect keys.
- Establish the correct fingers to use for keys that are to be played.
- Sit better with good posture preventing long lasting aches and pains.
- Develop precision and accuracy avoiding mistakes made repeatedly.
- Play with emotion rather than always simply playing to the end.
- Understand the dynamic of the music deconstructing the elements of the piece. Happy and sad delicately parts
- Learning to play with absolute focus and concentration.
Playing each hand individually also helps until familiarity with the melody and harmony is recognised. A metronome also helps to prevent you from increasing the speed and losing focus on the purpose of the reason for practice.
Putting In The Practice
- Set yourself a schedule to reach your weekly goal then make daily tasks towards the goal.
- Maybe keep a log of times played and level reached.
- If the schedule is realistic, your goal will be reached. Remember the practice small steps.
- Playing depends largely on muscle memory – repetition is one key to fast progress.
- Enjoy yourself.
When all is said and done if you do not enjoy doing something it is hard to have the enthusiasm to continue. So my final point is critical. Do enjoy learning and love playing.