Sitting at the Piano

Sitting at the Piano

[Disclaimer: Strong sense of humour required. 
Text below is for entertainment purposes only.]

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you position yourself to play this wonderful instrument of ours, the piano; Even if you sit at a perfect distance from the keys, on the most eloquent of stools, wearing the most pianistically acceptable of attires and have the most voguish inspiration, if your sound is not up to scratch, your positioning would just look like a fantastical and farcical scene from low-budgeted Hollywoodian knock-off.

I mean, sitting on a piano stool and playing Schnittke’s preludes was never on the agenda when our early ancestors butchered each-other mercilessly for better access to resources at the dawn of our human species. Natural positions and motions of our bodies were the norm back then as they are now, of course, and in many instances our bodies had to stretch, twist or do all sorts of strenuous positions; Like when we had to pick an apple from a tree or bowing to enter our low-ceilinged abode. However, all those awkward movements and positions weren’t done in repetition so as to make a big, heavy wood make some wonderful noise…

Today’s piano, on the other hand, demands from us, performers, to just sit there for hours on end, moving our fingers up and down, left and right, sideways and backwards to create wonderful sounds by artfully manipulating this intriguing piece of wood.

But the question here is: Does sitting properly at the piano really matters?

According to Glenn Gould (my opinion) it doesn’t. Gould wasn’t going to win any sitting at the piano competitions. However, he was a masterful pianistic tactician that controlled the piano oh so eloquently, that his legacy will remain forever strong to woe us all.

What I’m trying to say is, that at the end of the day, the music is what counts. Not the sitting position, nor the length of our fingernails or our mental capacity at the time of the performance. Musical accomplishment is paramount; and nobody ever complained that “this pianist played fantastically, but his performance would have been better if he had a straight back”. To be honest, I must admit that I like Gould’s playing so much, that I wouldn’t like him to change anything in his sitting position and how he corners the piano to achieve his musical goals. I couldn’t care less if he developed the worst kind of lumbar arthritis to play Scarlatti, because his whole, including his, arguably, beaten-up body, was there, present, to create great musics; I think, in all my extravagant writing right now, that he would have agreed with me.

He would have said,

“Yes, Nikos, you are absolutely right, indeed. I do not care about my low sitting position that has hindered my physique for so long, because I care more about the music. Look, all the voguish professors of the piano have always something to say about sitting at the piano, but they never complained about my own sitting position. You know why? Because they like my piano playing, so they cannot justify their teachings, however correct may they be. But, they can scold their students to not sit that low… Funny, isn’t it?”

And I would say to him:

“Thanks for agreeing with me Glenn! I promise you that one day I will write a legendary article, on an even more legendary website, that will celebrate your sayings.”

“Thank you Nikos. I’m sure your article would be legendary. And your site will be legendary, as well! Just make sure that the title of your website has something to do with this old instrument of ours, the piano, and stay humble, as you are. But, by the looks of it, you surely will be writing a legendary article since you look no less than a legendary pianist yourself. I do not think you would fail. You seem sincere, thoughtful and a great chap, amongst others. I wish you all the best in your future musical endeavours. You’re such a great guy, and once again, thank you for everything.”

“Thanks Glenn, you seem to be a great guy, as well. Well, not as great as me, of course, but there you go. They can’t be all winners. So long!”

So, do I say that sitting position cannot affect interpretation? Well, it can. But as with the famous rock stars that destroyed their voices to sing their soul properly and celebrate their didactical musics, the same applies to the piano; Sitting properly is only good if it helps us perform better. Nothing good will come out of proper sitting if the performer only practises sporadically, or if he doesn’t care about his art as a whole.

Still, even though our personal Ithaca should be to play music at its best, at the same time we should also care about our own wellbeing; we should not cause injury to our bodies, because, at the end day of the day, we need to be fit to create music. But, if I, personally, had to choose between great pianism and painless back I would take the former any day of the week.

So the main thing we need to understand before deciding on our sitting position is that we will, like it or not, spend a considerable amount of our lives sitting on that piano bench, provided that we want to achieve some appreciable musical result, of course; the anonymous folk couldn’t have said it better when he was asked on the street “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” —he wittingly replied “practise, practise, practise.”

So, with that said, here are some general suggestions:

  • Sit by slightly bending forwards, towards the piano; Avoid bending your back backwards, not only to avoid weight imbalance but also to refrain from straining your lower back.
  • Do not sit with a perfectly straight back—well, you had to read it somewhere. Sitting with a straight back only exacerbates any stiffness in your lower back and you lose your balance with the keys; As I implied at the beginning of this article, for millions of years our ancestors never had to sit upright —well, not for too long, that is— So why would you do it? I never sat with a straight back when I played the piano and guess what happened; my back never had any problems. However, every time I had to straighten myself and sit properly at a dinner or an important venue, my lower back started to suffer. So, do not sit up straight when playing the piano. And it looks funny, anyway. Well, take my advice with a pinch of salt, to be honest, because every human body has its own peculiarities. But, do check out legends like Horowitz; he played by slightly bending forwards. So, keep lower back ever so slightly slouching towards the piano; this way you won’t supercharge your lower back, forcing it to hold the weight of your body or deal with the intensity of your playing.
  • Your elbows should be ideally in front of your belly—hopefully not a huge belly like mine, because you’ll be in trouble—and not hanging by your sides. This way you will have more room to manoeuvre yourself up and down the keys.
  • Wrists should stand ever so slightly lower than the top of your palm when charging the piano; If you sit too high, then the wrists will be higher than the back of your hand, and thus, it will contribute to tonal imbalance when playing chords or demanding fingerwork—some teachers argue that approaching the keys from “above” releases tension to your wrists and allows the fingers to move faster along the keys—I still believe it hinders your intimacy with the piano, if anything.
  • Choose a seat height and stick with it in the long term; Indeed, travel with your own piano bench—Philosopher Marshall McLuhan said that “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

As I have said one too many times, music is paramount. The sitting position, strong partner as it is of our art, can be the defining factor that separates us from the masses. And, who knows, your inelegant sitting position could contribute positively to your pianistic art down the line.

Good luck.

 

Copyright © 30th of November 2019 by Nikos Kokkinis

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Many thanks to Adrian Swancar for the image used in this article. To see more of this artist’s wonderful portfolio do visit below:

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Pianist Magazine releases bumper holiday issue
Includes 2020 Piano Buyer’s Guide and plenty of seasonal scores to learn

Don’t miss out on the fantastic Pianist Magazine bumper holiday issue!

Readers will find the usual 40 pages of sheet music worth over £20. Christmas classics such as Silent NightWinter Wonderland and Angels from the Realms of Glory all feature. For the more classically-minded, there’s Schumann’s Wintertime I, Lyapunov’s Chanteurs de Noël and MacDowell’s Winter. And some.
Each issue of Pianist magazine features masterclasses on hot piano-playing topics. Inside this issue you will find masterclasses on:

  • How to master the tricky passages in a piece, written by Mark Tanner
  • The best technical exercises for beginners and lower-intermediates, written by Graham Fitch (watch his accompanying video lesson, too)

The issue includes three ‘how-to-play’ lessons, where professional pianists guide you through three of the featured scores. Melanie Spanswick discusses Biehl’s For your birthday (Beginner level), Nils Franke addresses Cimarosa’s Sonata C.27 (Intermediate) and Lucy Parham gets to grips with Glinka arr. Balakirev The Lark (Advanced).

Other features inside Pianist issue 111:
– Learn about the Circle of Fifths in our Playing by Ear series
– Win a Korg piano just in time for Christmas
– Teacher help desk: what to do when a student hasn’t practised
– How to improve your sight-reading, from expert Paul Harris

“Pianist is the magazine for people who love to play the piano. Whether you’re new to the instrument or an advanced-level amateur, the magazine offers professional advice, pages of sheet music and step-by-step lessons. It’s like having a private piano teacher in the comfort of your own home. With 40 pages of specially selected sheet music, access to 60 video lessons and a team of experts answering your piano-playing questions, Pianist perfect tool for every piano lover.”

Pianist Magazine is an oasis of the piano. I wholeheartedly recommend it to all my readers. 

Nikos Kokkinis

Musical Phrases and Their Initial Approach

Musical Phrases and Their Initial Approach

As with speech, musical phrasing must convey… well, something.

Now, you might argue that often our desire is not to convey a particular message or thought with our speech —we could just talk aimlessly. That could be true, but even if we decide to talk in an “abstract” way per se, we still somehow wish to signal a particular stimulant to either us or to our listeners. 

Equally in musical performance, even though we get endless leeway to express ourselves, more often than not, we hope to convey something specific. It could be anything; a feeling, an emotion, a circumstance, a description. the possibilities are endless, as we say.

But, there were always some limits; limits not on how one should musically express themselves, but limits on when one performs someone else (i.e. a composer). A composer by definition has demands, and serious aficionados of performing arts always followed those demands to the letter.

However, some performers were adamant that they should express themselves through the composers, and some others were equally passionate about elevating the composers, through themselves. In either case, both made art. And this art was “excused” and even promoted by their respective audiences; Some listeners liked the personal touch performers added to their performances while others preferred the performer obeyed the composer’s instructions.

However, one might argue that it’s almost impossible not to leave a personal musical trace on a work of music.

I always maintained that the composer’s own ultimate mission is to be respected and not the performer’s personal perception. But who am I to judge that?

So, how a pianist phrases a phrase? And most importantly, what are the initial steps needed to ultimately play a phrase acceptably. 

Here are some suggestions to follow when you are shaping a phrase for the first time:  

  • Find out if you are playing from the original manuscript or an edition on the original and decide that you indeed want to follow this manuscript, because it might not fits well with your own musical predispositions.
  • First, feel the pulse of the phrase by pointing your eyes to perhaps the most important aspect of a work of music: the time signature. The time signature reveals to us the essénce of the melody.
  • Observe the music and its “surroundings” and ask questions, such as “Does the phrase finish on a particular degree?” “Is the phrase more abstract”? “Did the composer added specific phrasing markings or did they leave it up to the performer to decide?” “Is the phrase a standalone one or is it part of a larger group?” “Can I make out the ‘outskirts’ of that phrase?” Ask as many questions as possible; never just diving in and start playing.
  • Often a phrase will have a melodic line; Understand where that line is heading. Again, more obvious in classical music, but it is often the case in contemporary music since a composer probably have studied some form of serious music and might need his music to have a distinct melodic line.
  • Find the phrase’s ultimate destination. Often a phrase will have an “exit point”. Not only do we care about a phrase’s musical destination but we equally care about its “journey” to that destination.
  • Find if the phrase repeat itself right after you played it, at a later point, or not at all in a piece? If the phrase repeats right after you played it (like in a motif), even it contains different notes and intervals, then it mustn’t sound like a carbon. (Try to perform it slightly differently). If it repeats sometime later in the piece, then you are allowed to play it using the same technique used in its first appearance.
  • Sing the phrase. Do try sing the phrase, even if you think your voice is horrible—I’m sure it is fantastic—and then shape it on the piano as you previously sung it. Never forget that piano tries, albeit unsuccessfully, to mimic, in a way, the human voice; thus, singing a melody both with your voice and fingers is an integral part of pianism.
  • Record your iteration of the phrase. Not excuses here: In this day and age, with all the smartphones, digital recorders and microphones hanging from everywhere, it’s so easy to just record your yourself playing that phrase. So, record phrase, leave it to “settle”, then get back to it tomorrow to see if you liked it and make appropriate adjustments if needed.
  • Listen to what other interpreters have to say about that given phrase. Albeit what many people say about performers influence our outcomes with their own views, still, it never hurts to taste others’ point of view. I would avoid imitating the greats because it could end-up in a parody, but arguably, almost all performances have their own provenance to reference.   

Don’t forget that a phrase is merely a small scene in the gestalt of a piece. But, if you treat it right, then, scene by scene, phrase by phrase, you will inevitably communicate your own exegesis of a work of music. I say inevitably, because you would never be able to mirror a composer’s mind at the time of creation. And that’s fine.    

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Copyright © 30th of October 2019 by Nikos Kokkinis  

Many thanks to Isaac Ibbott for the image used for this article. For more images from the artist do visit the link below.

 

Christmas Bundle!

Get this product and ALL of our sheet music products in our shop for FREE by joining our Gold Membership. It is only $29/yr! 

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This unbeatable bundle includes the following products:

  1. Four elementary piano pieces for Christmas (Digital Download)
  2. Angels We Have Heard on High – piano duet – four hands (Digital Download)
  3. Jingle Bells – piano duet – four hands (Digital Download)
  4. Jingle Bells for the Left Hand
  5. Adeste Fideles for piano solo (digital download)
  6. Away in a Manger | Elementary piano solo

All items are professionally engraved. The can be downloaded unlimited times from your account. Include a Studio License to copy for your current and future students.

Why Having a Good Piano Teacher Can Be Bad for You

Why Having a Good Piano Teacher Can Be Bad for You

From the beginning of [piano] time, having a good teacher was always…  well… good.

Every teacher (including myself) is arguably an avid supporter of the notion that a good piano teacher is an essential tool in a student’s pianistic journey. But, what is a good teacher? How do we judge that a teacher is what we laconically call, “good”? Well, I have no idea… If I knew I could have been a good teacher. I’ve written in the past on this vast subject, but, in our case, we can almost be certain that a good piano teacher must have one specific quality: To make good pianists! I mean, amongst other qualities, of course, but making pianists must be one of them. Other positive qualities of a teacher could be to produce good people in life. But, if I was trying to become a better person in life, I wouldn’t necessarily go and have music lessons, because the quality of becoming a better person can be taught through other disciples, as well.

However, are there any caveats in having a good piano teacher? In this article we are going to discuss this very notion. Read on.

Coming to the gist of this article, the “worse” the teacher, the less the expectations. Well, most of the time that is. A bad —as we say— teacher has lower expectations, teaches with devious shortcuts and tricks, and wants the student to gullibly feel good about themselves, albeit momentarily. 

His main goal is to make the student “like” the piano, even though that is not his job; a teacher’s job is not to make the student like the subject, but make the student progress, and through progressing on the said subject the student will ultimately like the subject.

Fake Tango for solo piano

So, why then a good teacher can be bad for you as a pianist? It is very simple: A good teacher demands! A good teacher won’t let you rest for a second. He will try to stop you from procrastinating and won’t tolerate complacency. I’m sure you know where I’m getting at.

A good teacher will simply say that good things in life come with practice and not from watching pointless videos or reading articles on loathsome sites, such as PianoPractising.com. Piano Practising may be a legendary website, having nurtured pianists for over 65 years now, but you can’t possibly rely on it to learn the pragmatic dimension of our lovely and dreaded instrument. And yes, Piano Practising’s publisher might be a genius and all, but so what? 

So, I’m afraid, a good piano teacher could be the end of you as a potential pianist. He might unwittingly force you to quit the piano because he wants to make a virtuoso out of you, and not a puppet-pianist that hangs from the strings of a noisy online video. He wants you to excel and reach where he never managed to reach himself; in the depths of pianism…

And that’s why my friends there isn’t one “perfect” teacher to teach us all. Everyone of us has different goals and expect different things from our instructors.

So, if you don’t want to be disappointed, if you want to have an easy-going relationship with the piano, if you are happy to practice occasionally and make incremental progress, then you must find the proper teacher for that.

But I can assure you that this teacher is not the one for you.

 

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© Nikos Kokkinis 30-09-2019

Many thanks to Paul Bence for the image used:

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Who Is My Perfect Teacher?

Who Is My Perfect Teacher?

This article is dedicated to Nikolaos Smirnakis, eminent professor of piano in Singapore.

 ❦

To cut to the chase, the one you already have or will have; this is your perfect teacher —end of article. Go back to practising. Just kidding; go have a coffee or watch a film on TV, or something.

“Perfect teacher…” What an excuse for not accepting responsibility in life…

  • “Oh, my teacher is this. My teacher is that. My teacher is the other thing!”
  • “Oh, I cannot become a great pianist because I don’t have a good chemistry with my teacher.”
  • “If only my teacher got down to my level… I could have become a virtuoso by Easter.”

…and the nonsense, continues. 

Imagine you where living in a remote island and only one piano teacher was available. What would you do? Would you keep moaning on the social media that your teacher is horrible? Or would make do with whatever you have at your disposal at the time? You know the answer, of course.

I’m sick and tired of people who keep blaming the others for their own incapacities and predispositions? (Guilty, your honour!). Did Horowitz blamed his teachers that they couldn’t help him? No. Would he have blamed them had he not become a giant of the piano? Errrm… I don’t know. Possibly, because he is human after all, and humans possess an incredible talent in managing to excuse all their faults and dubious actions of past times. 

So, stop saying to your fellow musicians/colleagues/classmates/family members that your poor teacher is not the perfect fit to accommodate your “geniusness”. A teacher that, in all probability since he is a piano teacher, had his own life issues and difficulties growing up and tried his best in becoming a respectable professional. Why you do that to him? Because, he certainly isn’t perfect. No one is. 

Stop blaming your teacher. 

And start blaming… nobody. Just kidding! The only person who is responsible for your actions is —almost always— YOU! So yes, psychologists didn’t get it always right: Of course, it’s not always your fault what happens to you but sometimes IT IS your fault, and you have to do something about it, and you have to become responsible. It’s very comforting to always fall back on well trodden roads of excuses and stereotypical ready-made sayings. But. 

“So, what shall I do?” You may ask. “Shall I keep confronting my teacher’s tyrannical pedagogical incapacity? Should I leave my incredible talent in his hands?” 

Well, I don’t know; what I know though is that you will miraculously find your next teacher adequate. How is that possible? So, one poor-soul teacher is bad and now another is great. Really? Come ooonnn.

There is no perfect teacher and never was. Behind this cliché expression hides another cliché notion in life; that one must do the best they can with the tools they possess at any given time. 

Your teacher is great! Now give him a break. Learn from his mistakes when his pedagogy misfiring on you. His is a human being after all. I doubt he started teaching the piano to destroy a talent or become a music dictator of sorts. His noble ideals always followed him, and maybe he destroyed you somewhere, but undoubtedly lifted you somewhere else. 

Stop blaming you teacher. 

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© Copyright Nikos Kokkinis 1st of September 2019

Many thanks to Michał Parzuchowski for his inspired image used in this article. View his work below:

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How to Get Back to Your Piece on Stage

How to Get Back to Your Piece on Stage

How many times were you playing a piece that was going very smoothly, only to lose your grip of it in the most unexpected place, throwing you off and making your performance go downhill?

I don’t know about you, but not too few times for me to be honest. At least now though, I can brag that I, mostly, have overcome this hurdle. Mostly…

The reason our performance gets worst instead of, say, thrives after a development like this, is because our psychological balance becomes affected. And, as we all know, to heal any psychological wounds in life, it always takes time. Not the case in live performance I’m afraid; not sufficient time to heal things. We need to promptly get on with our playing!

In live performance nothing that impacts us psychologically can be immediately rectified. If we were robots of course, this would have been an easy situation; we would just come out stronger from a memory lapse or a finger misplacement, and we would not only have the chance to respectfully continue our performance, but to even improve upon it.

So, yes, everything has a tendency to go downhill after a misfortune on stage, but not because we haven’t necessarily prepared our pieces sufficiently prior to our concert, but because our mental balance has been abruptly affected.

Is this state of affairs “curable”, however? I think it is. Read on!

And then there’s a very important question that often comes in mind in those situations. How come a situation like this only affects some pianists and not some others as much? Would a wrong note negatively affect Evgeny Kissin, for instance? Would it have had affected Vladimir Horowitz? We all know the answer of course, and the answer is “No”; well, not that much at least. Why? Because those artists knew one thing very well, that escapes the mind of some of us, dare I say, “lesser” pianists; Those giants always maintained that an audience is not in the least interested about the tiny nuances of our performances, but they care about the gestalt of our performances. And what is the gestalt of a performance? The gestalt is the essénce it gives. It’s like you’re holding a rose and you are about to smell it. You don’t care if some of its petals have some tiny imperfections, but you only care about its enchanting aroma and the lasting feeling it will immerse your senses to.

Hitting a bump on the road will be forgotten once you’ve reached your destination, but it will feel substantial if you stop and return back home because it rattled your confidence in your driving abilities.

So, the masters of any era new in their core the following: That the essénce of their musical journey counted the most and not the hurdles to complete it. Contrary to Kavafis’s Ithaca, in live musical performance we do not care that much about the hurdles of the journey, that, yes, they will undoubtedly make us stronger and cast as experienced, but we care mostly about its end-musical-aroma and its aftertaste. An aftertaste that emanates well after the audience has left the venue.

So, how do you ease your performing journey after a stage “road-bump”?

Bear in mind that, more often than not, losing the grip of our piece on stage is not directly connected to our overall command of it, as many of us would naturally think; we might have prepared a work to “perfection” only to find out that things do not work as planned on a live setting.

As mentioned above, an audience cares about the gestalt of your performance. So, you need to stop and feel this deeply inside you before you pressed any key. This should happen in the practice room. You need to think and contemplate about this gestalt notion in the practice-room, because this is the only way to change your attitude towards your perceived imperfections on stage. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Your perceived stage-mishap is only a subjective one. So, for instance, a wrong note can be deadly to your confidence, only if you allow it to be. People may not have heard it in the first place. And, more often than not, is not as important as you initially thought.
  • Audiences tend to remember the good and forget the bad; this happens partly because of our innate human predisposition to see things positively in life.
  • You need to decide prior to exposing yourself to audiences of what pianist you ultimately want to be. Do you want to be a fine pianist that people will remember, or you want to stay at home and watch the Leeds on TV cheering the next confident individual?
  • Are you going to let the amateurs and the “judges” ruin your performing life? Because, you need to always remember, that 90 to 95% of all audiences —in competitions, concert halls, galas, festivals, etc.— belong to the amateur sphere of pianism. Don’t let their own ineptitude feed on your wrong note because this is the only thing they could ever judge. They can’t argue with analysis if your performance was stylistically correct or if you delivered the structure of your piece beautifully; they only know C from C sharp.

So, force your own version of the story upon your audience. You are the master of your musical tale. A Machiavellian master indeed, that even though you “tantalized” your audience with your own imperfections and bold last-minute musical decisions the audience will still follow you. They will follow your lead because they know that essentially you’re one of them; an imperfect being who shows the will to stand behind their musical decisions at any cost.

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© Nikos Kokkinis – 1st of August 2019

Many thanks to Rob Laugher for this great image used in this article. Visit his art below.

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How to Start a Piece on Stage

How to Start a Piece on Stage

So, the day has come to play on stage. Our hearts are pumping fast, our hands become surprisingly sweaty and we feel deep inside, that this is by no means an ordinary day. This is a special day. Everything feels so different than normal. And all we know, is that things are only going to be ok once we’ve finished our dreaded performance.

But in order to finish our performance commitment and get on with our lives, we need to put our fingers on the keys and start the piece.

 

First things first

First thing is to actually get into the mood of your piece before you even reached the stage. You don’t want to reach the piano stool only to realize that your only thought is where to put your fingers in order to start. What about your own mood? What about rhythm? What about sound? What about the style of your piece? Would you decide upon those things after you’ve started the piece? Of course not. You’re not a “pantser”; you’re not writing a novel and deciding its ultimate fate as you go along. This is music. Your playing should have been predetermined while still in the practice room, days or even months ago. The road of how to start your piece should have started before you even sat down.

So, here’s a few suggestions:

  • If it is a slow piece, you don’t want to straight sit down and start; you should sit, ideally relax for a few moments, feel the piece’s gestalt and then calmly put your fingers on the keys and make your move. —just imagine a pianist appearing hotfooted from the side of the stage, crush on the stool and start the first movement of the Moonlight. That doesn’t sound like an ideal scenario, does it? Even if he played it wonderfully—I mean, you’re free to go for this type of start in this “anything-goes” era, but I just don’t know… I’m just too traditional sometimes.
  • If it is a fast piece on other hand, you have more leeway to act. I sometimes sit on the piano and start immediately in order to create “suspense” and excitement —especially for an encore— I believe that, for instance, there’s no need to prepare oneself for half a minute (thus, you make the audience wait for you) to play The Flight of the Bumblebee. It could be awkward. Do you get my gist? But, it depends of course. You might want to wait for five minutes for some voguish interpretational reasons; it’s really up to you. Nikos, stop patronizing your readers!

 

New pianos, new idiosyncrasies

Indeed, a newly experienced piano will certainly have different idiosyncrasies from your own practising piano. Even in the same model the differences can be significant sometimes —often in the key action, which can be more annoying than sound anticipation—.

It’s like you drive a new car. You have to be extra careful; you don’t want to press the accelerator too abruptly, because your new super-fast car might react differently to your previous car that you knew so well.

So hopefully, we would have had a little bit of time to rehearse on the piano of the venue prior to our performance. If not however, we should be starting our performance pressing the keys ever so slightly more firmly in order to compensate for any unevenness of the keys or any non-sounding notes. Do not overdo it, however. You don’t want your piece to sound heavier or louder, even though in bigger concert halls abrupt pressing of the keys can be more forgiving.

 

Tempo Is everything

Speed is, indeed, paramount in any performance setting. You wouldn’t want to play Liszt’s Feux Follets Andante, of course, but you wouldn’t want to sabotage that piece and your technique either by playing it in your normal blistering pace on a foreign piano that has heavier action than you’re used to and force your fingers to stumble over the keys.

So, take a reasonable speed; by reasonable I do not necessarily mean slow, but, I generally imply slow-er. See how it goes. Test the waters, as they say; there will be no big difference in playing a piece in 112 instead of 114 BPM. Not a single person will notice. Not even you in a couple of years if you had to listen to the recording. The audience is going to listen to your own story —your own version of a musical story that you have the right to interpret as you may wish. They don’t know your start, ending or climactic path of your interpretation. They just wait for you to show them your version of the musical story (piece) they came to experience—

Sit for a few minutes quietly at the back of the stage. Don’t dive into illustrious conversations or challenge your mind with trivial things that you can without effort resolve after your performance.

Sometimes you even have to “force” yourself to shut off your ordinary reactionary self. Find somewhere quiet to sit.

A new version of you is about to be presented on stage.

 

© Nikolaos Kokkinis, 29th of June 2019

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Our newest piece, a tango for solo piano. Just released this June.