You are still remembering the day you went to that piano recital and got hooked on the idea that you liked the piano. You thought that you wouldn’t mind expressing yourself with this instrument’s beautiful sounds and that you would love to have a go with this big, black piece of wood.
You happily started piano lessons and before you knew it you were playing piano studies and sonatas meticulously. Piano for you was a very expressive instrument that had endless capabilities. Even your family and your friends loved your playing, your musicality and passion and urged you to keep doing piano for longer.
Then, the day came when you had to do one of the most dreaded things known to mankind. The thing that if you did it, it would have “catapulted” you to become a real pianist. You realised that you had to actually… practise.
You realised that if you wanted to play your beloved virtuosic pieces, you had to suffer, and had to actually do something that you never thought it was needed when you first started your piano adventure; You needed to do this horrible “practising” thing… That meant you had to stay in solitude in a room for hours trying unsuccessfully to play scales, cadenzas and all the things that you loved listening to but weren’t willing to do. You suddenly realised that piano was not as easy as going shopping, dining in exclusive-membership clubs or even having a bob cut in a beauty parlour; it was a bit harder.
Piano wasn’t a happy activity after all; especially if you wanted to play a piece of music not only from start to finish, but also without stopping. You realised that piano and music in general is “boring” when you want to do it sort of seriously. You were saying to yourself: “I thought piano was like going to the gym or having salsa classes. It should be a leisure activity after all, not suffering. And what’s all this “practising” thing about? I doubt piano is as difficult as practising law, or completing a degree in medicine.”
In addition, you had to face the constant moaning for practising from your teacher, since for some reason he insisted on you practising for at least fifteen minutes a week! “And when am I supposed to watch TV?” “How am I going to be able to spend four and a half hours in the local coffee shop if I have to practise?”, you kept asking yourself.
You just had enough. Suddenly, you stopped liking the piano. You just wanted to do something else. But at the back of your mind you were still thinking that there must be a way to become a good pianist, but without all the suffering. In fact, you were convinced that you could still become a good pianist, but without practising seriously.
So can you become a good pianist but without practising? Can you become a pianist that other people consider good but without all the fuss?
Well, yes you can. And here’s how:
1. Make sure you understand that “good pianist” and “bad pianist” in music doesn’t exist. (read here why). All pianists possess the capacity to create beauty with their music. And, at the same time, every pianist has his/her limitations. So, you are not necessarily worst that your favourite pianist, you are just different. Perhaps, for instance, your playing that you consider “clunky” will inspire a composer to write some wonderful music that will later inspire people. Or that your amazing ability to play octaves cleanly will equally inspire your student to become a composer and in return write some fascinating music with lots of octaves that will torment future pianists. So, to recap, what is good is subjective. Sometimes even beginner students can play wonderfully.
2. Remember, that practising a lot or practising very little cannot in itself categorise your musical ability. A lot of famous pianists have said publicly that they don’t like their own performances or that they are not too happy with their musicality; and those were people that have practised for thousands of hours. There is no set amount of hours, despite what some people say, that will make you a good pianist. For example, believing that one million of practising hours will make you a good pianist, is not right. What makes a good musician changes from person to person and that’s why music is beautiful.
3. Good pianists are the ones that play good within themselves; and not necessarily one that plays virtuoso pieces. So, you are a fantastic pianist by only playing pieces beautifully within your own capacities. For instance, if your level of playing is “beginner” but can play your pieces beautifully, then yes, you are a good pianist. Don’t listen to the “musical judges” who say that you need to be able to play this-and-that in order to be considered great. Musical playing is always paramount.
And now, for some fun ways to be considered great:
4. Play only certain repertoire in public and never change it. So, first you need to find pieces that you feel you can play comfortably, and then keep practising them until you have perfected them. At parties never play anything that will give away your real level of pianistic ability, and always have a cadenza ready for after dessert.
5. If you hate practising the piano, set what you personally think is good playing. So, if you think that in order to be considered good you need to play the Cadenza from Rachmaninov’s second concerto or the first page from Chopin’s study op.10 No 4, then all you have to do is study them really hard. Just make sure that you don’t play anything else (even chopsticks…) in the presence of other pianists.
Remember, we choose what is good, acceptable, great, nice, beautiful, fair and so on so forth in life. So, don’t keep comparing yourself with other pianists and just consider yourself great anyway. There’s NO ONE that can prove that you are not a great musician or a musician at the end of the day. Because behind every single coin there’s another side.
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© Nikolaos Kokkinis – 07/02/2013.