As a piano teacher I enjoy reading the quotes of other pianists, musicians and artists. Here is a selection of some of my favourites:
- The piano is able to communicate the subtlest universal truths by means of wood, metal and vibrating air. - Kenneth Miller. American Biologist
- What has keys but can't listen to the beauty it unlocks? A piano. - Jarod Kintz
- Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key to another to cause vibrations in the soul. - Wassily Kandinsky, Russian Painter
- Prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when you're listening. Playing the piano allows you to do both at the same time. - Kelsey Grammer, American Actor
- I tell my piano the things I used to tell you. - Frederic Chopin, Polish Composer and Pianist
- One of my biggest thrills for me still is sitting down with a guitar or a piano and just out of nowhere trying to make a song happen. - Paul McCartney
- The piano is a monster that screams when you touch its teeth. - Andre Segouia
- There are eighty-eight keys on a piano and within that, an entire universe. - James Rhodes
- I dreamt of you last night - as if i was playing the piano and you were turning the pages for me. - Vladimir Nabokov
- I never practice, I always play. - Wansa Landowaska
- To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable. - Ludwig van Beethoven
A Piano New Year's Resolution
Piano lessons will resume again next week in the New Year of 2022 and so it will be good to begin teaching again. Before the christmas break I was teaching a piano lesson and I was asked about relative pitch. Relative pitch is an interesting subject which I will write a little about here but even more fun as it is something that anyone can learn with patience and practice.
When musicians talk about having 'pitch' they are usually either talking about relative or perfect pitch. Perfect pitch (or known as absolute pitch) is the ability to be able to identify any note/pitch and to know which note it is without any prior reference. You can try this at home with your piano - turn your back to the piano and ask somebody to play any note on that piano and are you now able to tell them exactly what note it is that was played? If not don't be too frustrated as this is actually a rare ability and I once read that only 4% of professional musicians have perfect pitch.
But in the piano lesson before Christmas I was asked about relative pitch. Relative pitch is the measurement between two piano notes pressed either together or in succession. The distance between these two notes is called an interval. So if you press middle C and then the G above middle C this interval is called a perfect fifth. Or if you play G and then the B above this interval is called a major third. So relative pitch is being able to distinguish and name the 'exact' distance between two notes.
With a lot of practice we can all develop our relative pitch and gain very sharp aural awareness. Having this ability will mean you can hear a song or melody somewhere and then be able to go home and then play it on your piano. It will mean you will be able to play the piano along with a piece of music you are listening to as your hearing will become so sharp you can hear all the chord changes and modulations you are hearing.
I can talk to you about how to develop this in our piano lessons and help you with practice methods but also there are Apps and Youtube that will play many intervals for you and so slowly your ear training will begin to evolve.
And so this is why this blog is called a New Year's Resolution - make a commitment and try listening to these intervals each day for maybe ten minutes and be pleasently suprised how much your hearing has developed a couple of months later.
Acoustic or Digital Piano
As I am teaching the piano I am often asked what is better for someone just starting out wanting to learn - an acoustic or digital piano. Luckily being around Macclesfield and Wilmslow we have good suppiers for both but unluckily it can be a difficult question for me to answer as each type has its pros and cons.
A big part of whichever you decide is your budget - a quality acoustic piano is usually always better than a quality digital piano but a cheap digital piano is usually better than a cheap acoustic piano.
There are two types of acoustic pianos - upright and grand. An acoustic has around 200 hundred strings and hundreds more moving parts. The keys are attached to individual hammers that strike the strings as you press the keys and it is this action that produces the sound.
With the digital piano there is a choice of three - upright, grand and portable. As you could imagine from the name the sound is produced digitally that samples the sound of an acoustic piano when you press the key.
The benefits of an acoustic piano are a warm resonant sound, an interior action and engineering you will enjoy commanding, a nice piece of furniture, playing compositions on the instrument for which they were intended to be played, your piano exams/grades will be on an acoustic, no electricity needed. All these benefits need to be considered along with the downside of acoustics - more maintenace needed/cost of piano tuning which is usually twice a year to be tuned and regulated, much louder especially if there are neighbours or other family members to consider and much heavier to move around the house.
A digital piano will give you the benefits of - less space needed, never need tuning, portable aroound the house or for taking out to gigs, can be used with headphones and a good digital piano will still give you a quality sound. But also consider that a digital won't make as nice a piece of furniture as an acoustic will, they of course will need electricity to be used and some models don't have the full 88 keys.
Piano Grade results
With the new ABRSM piano grade system I have received the exam results much earlier than I expected. Well done everyone we have another 100% pass success rate.
As soon as I have your certificates I will pass them on to you in our next piano lesson.
All your hard work and hours of practising has paid off.
Macclesfield and Congleton Piano Exams
Every body who I teach in Macclesfield and Congleton should now have done their piano grade exams. The length of time for me to receive the results can vary but often this is two to three weeks after the exam and so I hope to be able to give you your results before christmas.
For children first starting to have piano lessons it is usual to be ready for Grade 1 after around two years of lessons and for adults after around one year of lessons but this is totally dependent on your practice time and based roughly on twenty to thirty minutes a day practice. The piano grades can be useful in helping you to structure your learning of piano, to know your level, an enjoyable challenge, to receive feedback from the examiner and also the discipline and commitment of learning the three pieces to a high standard along with performing the scales and imporivng your sight-reading and listening skills.
After the Grade 5 practical exam (with ABRSM) you will need a Grade 5 Theory exam/certificate to then continute with the practical grades 6 through to Grade 8. As well as allowing you to continue with the practical exams the theory will also help you with GCSE and A level music you may be studying at school. It will also help with your general musicianship such as recognising the 24 keys, intervals and chord recognition etc.
How Often Should I Take a Piano Lesson
We are what we repeatedly do! - Aristotle
Having one piano lesson a week is optimal for making progress with the piano. A weekly lesson will push you forwards into another week of practice and as well as keeping you motivated it will fix any issues you may be having before they become too ingrained.
Learning the piano takes hard work and dedication and a typical lesson will cover the latest piece of music you are working on as well as sight-reading, scales and aural awareness. By doing this each week you will find progress will naturally evolve and what you have been shown in the lesson will stay fresh in your mind as you go through the week.
Taking a lesson every two weeks isn't optimal but for some adults who are particularly busy this might be their only option. Progress can still be made but a higher level of motivation to practice will be needed as there may be more difficulties in retaining the information that has been shown in the lesson. It is worth remembering that with a fortnightly piano lesson there are various national holidays thoughout the year which can turn the two weeks into three or even four weeks. For children and particularly very young children then a weekly lesson is essential, this is needed to develop the note reading, the motor skills and finger dexterity needed for playing the piano.
There is a lot to learn with the piano and so this can't be done with an app or Youtube - it is important to build a solid foundation with technique and posture which your piano lessons will help you to achieve.
Paul always works locally in Macclesfield, Wilmslow and Congleton and so your weekly piano lesson can always be accomodated.