Can I teach myself the classical piano?

Well, the easy but wrong in my opinion answer is that, yes you can teach yourself the piano. It’s a wrong answer however, because you can’t really teach yourself the classical piano, I’m afraid.

It’s true that there are many musicians that managed to build a successful career in music, and they were self-taught. However, none in my knowledge, (please, do correct me if I’m wrong) were entirely self-taught and became established performers in classical piano. Some of them they might have begun by being self-taught, but surely, they must have had some sort of formal studying at some point in their lives. I wouldn’t buy anything less than that.

The reason as to why this happens is, because, mastering classical piano needs the passing of traditions through physical representation; basically, what that means is, that you need a teacher to constantly scold you and tell you what to do in order to become a good pianist.

Please, let me elaborate:
What happens to a self-taught pianist is the following: they learn to play the piano by improving what they personally think needs improvement. The judge and the teacher of what to improve, is, ultimately, themselves.

The upsides to this, are:

1. Self-taught people pay no fees to learn.
2. They personally choose what needs to be improved.
3. There are no learning deadlines, and so, no stress.
4. They are free to express themselves however they feel like.

The downsides to be your own teacher, are:

1. I’m afraid, reaching a high interpretational level is not easily feasible.
2. You don’t direclty know what needs improvement, and so there’s a lot of guessing and a lot of going backwards and forwards, resulting in needless wasting of time.
3. Often, a self-taught pianist is choosing wrong things to improve and, unavoidably, attempting to improve them, with wrong approaches.
4. It can become harder to set learning milestones, in order to reach your goals faster.
5. Feedback on your progress can be sketchy. Friends can be supportive and all, but unless they are musicians they can’t take you further musically.

In life sometimes, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel and often we just need to follow the beaten-track.

From the beginning of time humans assisted each other when they were trying to learn and when they were trying to achieve things faster and efficiently. The same should apply to music, as well.

So: Why do you need a piano teacher and not an online guide or such?

Because, a good teacher will quickly identify and correctly eliminate your technical weaknesses. He will make you confident and reassured of your own performances. He will know what it will take for you personally, to improve faster. He will point you to the right directions to further your career later on. He will strive to understand your own interpetational approaches and enhance them. And, yes, he will make you sit on the piano stool more often, and practise.

So, to recap and simplify what I’ve already written above: if you want to play the piano for fun and require performing without caring to much about pianism and all that jazz, yes, you can use a book or an online guide to teach yourself how to play the piano; that’s not contemptible at all, and it’s absolutely great. However, demanding the deliverance of a convincing performance of a universally standardised musical medium, such as classical or jazz music, then one needs a professionally trained instructor.

Good luck to your musical endeavors.

Practice makes perfect (not)

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In this article I am going to discuss if there could be infinite improvement on a piece of music.

Arguably, a lot things in life have room for improvement; from trying to cook spaghetti aldente to creating a safe plane, humans apparently can infinitely improve things in life.

Not the case with a piece of music I’m afraid. Why do I say that, you might ask. Well, let me ask you this: how much can you improve playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano with your right hand? Do you think that, perhaps, the more hours you practise it, the better it will get? Do you believe that if you practised it, say, for three hours a day for six months it would be better interpreted  than just practising it for a couple of days?

There is only so much room for improvement on a piece and it depends on many factors. Here are some of them:

– Improvement of a piece depends on each individual musician’s technical and musical strength.
– Improvement of a piece depends on its appeal to the musician.
– Improvement of a piece can only happen if clear perception of what should be its optimum state exists.
– Improvent of a piece can happen if there is proof that our current interpretation doesn’t meet the gestalt of a globally accepted performance.
– Improvement of a piece is dependent on the external equipment we use. For example, we can improve a piano piece much more if we were to practise it on a sound instrument  (say on a new fazzioli grand perhaps?) than on a deteriorated instrument.

I think, that in order to improve something in life we must not be ready to do it in the first place. Lets say, as an example, that we cannot boil water more if it is already boiling. (Note: it’s different from overboiling water)

The seek for infinite improvement in life comes from the innate human need to reach perfection; which, in effect, is a major challenge, isn’t it. What do you think? Can we reach perfection?

At the same time,  if we accept that there is, indeed, infinite improvement of a piece, then, in essence, we accept that there is no perfect performance. And so, in a way, we accept that our prefered interpretation of a piece is actually not good enough, which is absolutely fine.  In life sometimes we can become content with something even if we know that its final outcome doesn’t meet our ultimate expectations. The same should apply with music, one might argue.

So, just enjoy practising and try to improve your piece as much you personally want or as much as your musical circumstances, well… dictate. Remember, that we must always observe the composer’s will, and at the same time we should acknowledge that every musician is different and has their own interpretational strengths and weaknesses.