I have been playing the piano since I was 7 years old, and I still often wonder…
“am I a piano player?”
What makes a piano player? Is it extreme virtuosity displayed by playing works by the greats like Liszt and Chopin, where fingers are moving so fast and in such complex ways that it seems magical ? Or is a piano player the creator of soft spoken ambient music at a classy venue?
Everyday, I ask myself this question. After dedicating 17 years of my life to learning this art, thousands of dollars into lessons, competitions, and exams, and now having my work center around piano teaching, I still ask myself whether or not I am a real piano player. I know many friends who feel this way.
That is because piano is only the medium, and the substance is music. Music can be anything, and the brilliant thing about pianos, is that they can almost play everything. Of course, I’m not saying that the piano can ever replace the sweet sounds of a flute, or the gentle plucking a guitar. However, the piano can duplicate those notes that the flute and guitar playing, due to the piano’s large 88-key range. Because you can play as many notes as your hands can reach with the piano, you could even play the guitar and the flute part together on the piano to create a reduction of those two parts.
However, that doesn’t answer the question: What is a piano player?
A piano player is someone who can multi-task, because solo piano pieces require both harmonic (the music structure), and melodic (the catchy and/or beautiful tune) content. All piano players eventually learn the importance of balancing these two aspects of music with their two hands, through developing the ear to hear the subtle differences, and developing the fingers to reflect the correct changes. Don’t forget about the foot pedal too.
A piano player is someone who can adapt quickly to a new situation, because most pianos you will perform on will likely not only be owned by someone else, but have a completely surprising, and sometimes shocking, sound and touch to them. Any piano player will tell you the horror stories of playing on a dysfunctional piano. Maybe it was out of tune. Maybe one of the keys didn’t work. I once played on a piano where a piece of a key broke off as I was playing. Unfortunately, that’s just the problems of a piano player, since our instrument is too heavy to transport. Knowing this…we adapt! All piano players eventually learn to quickly understand their instrument onstage and perform to the best of their abilities.
A piano player is someone who enjoys being in the solo spotlight. This one may be a little more controversial, as I know many piano players feel like they’re not comfortable performing. There are also many opportunities to support other musicians as a piano player, such as being an accompanist to a choir, or being part of a piano quartet. However, the one thing that separates the piano from all the other instruments, is that there is usually only one spot for a pianist on stage. A piano can perform so many musical functions, that it can stand on the stage solo for an entire show. A piano player is brave enough to be up there solo and play their instrument
Of course, some of these points can be made for other instruments too! However, it is important to note that piano is commonly thought of as a important skill for all musicians to have.
Some Examples of Work that Require Piano Skills
- Leading a choir sectional (helping singers learning their notes)
- Transposing something quickly (changing the key)
- Composing (much easier to play all the parts on the piano rather than bring in many instruments!)
- Accompanying soloists (Instrumental players, like a violin player, often play pieces with piano accompaniment
The list goes on and on. A piano player is anyone who loves music, and uses the piano to express themselves. The very visual and intuitive piano is great for both beginners, and seasoned musicians.
Have a great day!
EN Music Studio