Saturday, February 11, 2012

Don’t Put the Piano on a Pedestal

The piano. It’s a musical instrument that many would love to play. Yet for most, it’s got a rarefied air about it. Something almost mystical as if touching a key would cause a Steinway lid to shut tight around unworthy fingers if the note wasn’t perfect.

The above scenario is humorous yet sad. Because my friends, in the classical music world, this is what we have. A reverence for ritual and the ‘masters.’ God forbid one should just go over to a piano and play off the top of one’s head. No. This isn’t usually the case as children are taught that to make music, ‘real’ music, one must study. And study hard!

It’s not enough to just learn a few chords and go off exploring. That wouldn’t be right now would it?

It’s so sad that some children learn the ‘Tiger Mom’ approach and then, after the policeman with a stick is gone, the adult never goes near the piano again. There’s no one threatening to punish them if they don’t practice so why bother.

Think I’m kidding about this? This is the rigmarole that some kids are put through right from the beginning. If a creative approach is taught, and that’s doubtful, it’s relegated to background status - a thing not to be valued.

Yet I argue that the creative, playing part is where the value really is.

I’m not saying that one shouldn’t practice. But music should be a place primarily for play and recreation, not a testing ground to see if one has mastered a piece or not. The reward for getting it right of course, is an atta boy or that’s great from an authority figure - the dreaded piano teacher.

And sadly, this turns into deadly approval seeking as the child now is programmed to give a good performance for a pat on the back. The piano is a great instrument, there's no doubt about it. But don't make the mistake of making it more important than you - that is, don't put it on a pedestal. It might be hard to reach.

Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 16 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Visit Online Piano Lessons by Quiescence Music now and get a FREE piano lesson!

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