Here at Piano Motivator, it’s tempting to rush ahead to one of our favorite question, which is, “Should I learn piano now?” However, some people face a more basic question: namely, should I learn piano at all? Of course, the Piano Motivator answer is a resounding “Yes,” but some of the reasons why might surprise you,
Your answer — or answers — will say a lot about how you approach music — and how you respond to it.
Should I experience the excittement of having it all right in front of me? Yes
More than any other instrument, when you sit down in front of a piano wondering “should I tame this beast,” you see no less than 88 keys, stretched out on either side of you. Some notes are high enough to be barely audible; others are so low that their rumbling might startle you. In between the ultra-thin and the muddy waters is “the fat zone” a rich middle region that you will want to revisit again and again.
Best of all, it’s all in plain sight in front of you. Every note you can play, you can see. Also visible are the relationships between notes. You’ll see how each group of 12 notes is higher or lower t
han the one next to it, but they all contain higher or lower versions of the same sounds. Sometimes, you will watch your hands move in opposite directions as they play notes in unison.
All right in front of you.
In contrast, most other instruments are mystery contraptions you have to hold like this or shake like that before you can even get a sound out of them — and they don’t give you a clue as to how different notes relate to one another.
And you can’t see anywhere near as much as what your ears experience.
With a Piano, it’s all right in front of you. Once you get comfortable navigating a piano, it’s all right in front of your mind when you return to any other instrument.
Should I be able to do It all myself? Yes
The majority of piano music follows a format in which the “singing part” — or melody — is played up on top in the right hand while the accompanying part — or harmony — is played further.below in the left hand.
Have you ever had a conversation (out loud) with yourself? It’s not easy, is it? Single line instruments face the same problem. It’s no wonder so many trumpets, flutes or violins languish in coat closets because “there’s no one to play with.” With work, family, maybe night school, maybe shuttling kids around, who has time to drive to church, school or other larger space to meet up with other, equally busy people?
It’s so much easier to just play on a piano or keyboard at home.
As for dialogue, we take question-and-answer sequences for granted. Anyone looking for the excitement of a “threesome” will encounter all sorts of forbidden excitement in J.S. Bach’s Three Part Inventions.
Of course, that’s the biggest catch in the all-by-myself realm: At the beginning, you will want to learn how to read at least a little music, trusting those little black dots to guide your hands and fingers along, and prevent them from bumping into one another as they navigate those incredible expanses of black and white.
Most exciting of all for some of us are the all-by-myself explorations in the improvised realm, which Piano Motivator will explore in future offerings. You will marvel to discover your left hand is sometimes even more adventurous than your right, playing not only chords but also bass lines — and even a few melodies here and there.
Should I be able to accompany myself singing? Yes
In 20th century rock and pop music, guitar and piano share a similar role providing background sounds for people who want to sing. As Tom Lehrer (2bth century pianist/comedian) once said while poking fun at earnest folksingers, “Just imagine I am playing an 88 string guitar.”
Unlike the all-by-myself approach, piano accompaniment is also the foundation of the music world’s first “paperless office” — otherwise known as Playing By Ear. Have you ever sung a song from memory? How about playing even a little of that same song on the piano without sheet music? A surprising number of folks know at least something on the piano — the chords to an old tune called “Heart and Soul” used to pop up all over the place — particularly among kids at church or school before some cranky oldster would shoo them away.
A big part of playing by ear is learning chords — groups of three notes played at the same time. Later, you can move on to 4-note chords, then to an assortment of impressionistic “voicings.” If you hang around non-classical musicians, it’s not unusual to encounter players of other instruments who tell you “I don’t really play piano, I just use piano to write with.” As we go along, Piano Motivator will include resources to help you learn chords and voicings.
Should I be able to orchestrate my daydreams? Yes
During the first portions of any piano journey, melody and harmony are segregated in the right and left hands, respectively. As you get more comfortable, however, you discover melodies being played in the left hand and — this is the intriguing part — clusters of melodic voicings that combine melody and harmony in the right hand while the left hand darts hither and yon with bass notes and fragments.
You also learn to play chords with the notes separated — a technique called arpeggiation. Music from 19th Century Europe contains numerous examples of arpeggiation.
Finally, you will experience music in a transcendental context. Playing it very fast creates a magnificent speed rush. Playing it very slow, creates a meditation experience.
Let’s Put It All Together
At Piano Motivator, the answer to Should I Learn Piano will never be “no.” Here, the follow-up question will always be “When Should I Learn Piano?” The answer will always be NOW, notwithstanding all of the would-be reasons not to.
- B-b-b-but, I’m 65. NOW
- B-b-b-but, my children are in Jr. High. NOW
- B-b-b-but, it’s only girls who ever play piano in my family. NOW
- B-b-b-but, I can’t read music. NOW
- B-b-b-but, I’ll never run out of excuses. NOW
At Piano Motivator, playing the piano NOW builds strong spirits and active imaginations.
Besides, it’s fun!