Piano = Life

piano

I have been taking piano lessons for the last year and a half. When I quit tap dancing, I decided I needed another creative outlet. Gotta keep those neuronal connections in the brain growing. Though dusty and out of tune, my childhood piano stood waiting. When I began lessons , I was pleasantly surprised to find that much of what I had learned as a little girl was not lost.

Piano has been a great outlet for me though I don’t practice as often as I should or would like to. However, when I do, an immediate shift seems to take place and I am transformed. Besides being extremely enjoyable, playing the piano pushes me into the present moment.

As I did when I started tap dancing, I vowed I would never do a recital. Well, guess what? There is a mini recital coming up on Friday night at my piano teacher’s home and I am playing Singin in the Rain and Canon in D. It is actually just a group of adult students getting together to play for each other. It’s supposed to be very informal , but I’ve experienced some self induced pressure this past week to play those pieces perfectly.  

A few days ago, I became aware that I need to play a song at least three times for me to feel fluid and get anywhere close to a flawless performance. I also realized I probably wouldn’t have three opportunities to get it “right” (and just what IS right?) on Friday night.

I scheduled an extra piano lesson today and one of the first things my teacher said to me was that the goal was not to play without mistakes but to keep moving forward as fluidly as possible without dwelling on fumbles and stumbles. Keep the music flowing and have fun. Oh yes, fun. I had forgotten about that. She reminded me that there would always be something- a missed note, timing that is off, a lapse in attention. Anything is possible especially if I am a little nervous. And since I am not playing in the piano Olympics, it is okay.

My mental light bulb began to flicker. Now this was some great piano performance wisdom. But doesn’t this also apply to much of life? I was practicing to be perfect and it just wasn’t working. In fact, the harder I tried to be perfect, the more tense and tangled my fingers became. My teacher reminded me that it’s all about having a relaxed attitude and focusing on my own musical enjoyment. The rest would flow from there.

We may have been talking about playing the piano, but in essence we were also talking about life.

Any thoughts?

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0 thoughts on “Piano = Life

  • August 5, 2009 at 1:43 am
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    I been playing for three years, and I admit, I don’t practise a lot since life gets in the way.

    I love playing the piano, it is a lovely instrument to learn.

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  • August 4, 2009 at 10:11 pm
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    PIANO.  =D

    It is very healthy to accept the fact that you may make mistakes and to keep going when they occur.  I finally learned to do just that a few years ago, and it is golden.

    But I’ve never thought of it in the bigger picture.  You are perfectly (pun intended) right.  This acceptance of mistakes is a very healthy take on life.  Kudos to you!

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  • August 4, 2009 at 4:22 pm
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    Thank you so much for posting this. I have a piano exam next week and this is just what i needed to inspire/motivate me after having a major crisis. I guess i’ve just forgotten how to have fun with it which makes piano playing so stressful for me right now. 

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  • August 4, 2009 at 3:50 pm
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    I broke away from the piano years ago. Although, I continued playing my clarinet for 8 years in school.

    I always wanted to play without mistakes. But, I’ve learn over time that as long as I’m having fun and let my emotions pour into the keys, its okay to make a few mistakes especially if you’re nervous at the recital.

    Have fun with it!

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  • August 4, 2009 at 2:42 pm
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    I’m not so great at playing well.  I’ve been playing for 18 years, ended up majoring in music ed, focus on piano.  Anyway, my piano teacher keeps reminding me to play more than just the notes on the page. She says something along the lines of “Your audience does not want to listen to you play the black and white on the page perfectly.  They would rather listen to you play MUSICALLY with emotion, even with mistakes.”

    As a legalist and a recovering perfectionist, I realize life is similar.  It’s much better to worry less and live life, rather than going through each day focusing on doing everything perfect to the letter, and not enjoying life.  No wonder I was a bore as a kid.  heh heh.  (It’s true, I was a bore)

    (not to say mistakes in life and in piano can’t be worked on, but sometimes it’s okay to brush over them)

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  • August 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm
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    Yes, like everyone says — don’t think about playing ‘perfectly’. Even concert musicians make mistakes (they’re very good at hiding it!). An audience will not fret over a missed note, but can be very moved by how much you connect yourself with the piece. The more you connect with the piece, the more you’ll feel more confident and comfortable on stage on stage. For me, the connection between me and piano is indescribable to that of any other human connection I’ve ever had (cheesy, but true).

    Good pianists aren’t technically perfect, but they have strong appreciation and passion for an instrument ;]. Good luck at future performances.

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  • August 4, 2009 at 1:42 pm
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    I love playing the piano 🙂 I can’t play very much, but I am trying to learn more.

    That’s a really good way to look at life. I had never made that connection before 🙂

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  • August 4, 2009 at 1:25 pm
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    Hallo!

    I know one thing that helped me get used to public performances, is to do public performances. As in, calling together friends or family members to your own personal performance. It helps because, one, as family members they aren’t to harsh about anything and want to have a good time and two, it still places you in a position where you want to be perfect in presentation. Getting use on how to play under the nervous feeling is important. Once you’re good under pressure, you start to learn how to feel comfortable instead of nervous and that opens up some great possibilities.

    But good luck! You should do beautifully and everyone should love it :D.

    Reply
  • August 4, 2009 at 10:51 am
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    I took piano lessons for 6 years, and didn’t have fun until I stopped taking lessons and just played for myself.  🙂  I totally understand what you mean.

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  • August 4, 2009 at 2:39 am
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    I’m 19 and I’ve been playing for 12 years.

    I was just like you.  I’d always want to play every piece perfectly – no mistakes.  And my teacher would always get frustrated with me, because she’d have to remind me that the most important part of music is enjoying it.

    Ever since then, I play for myself.  And when I make a mistake…I move on.

    Such is life.

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  • August 4, 2009 at 1:50 am
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    Cheers! Maybe tomorrow I’ll play some piano and not be frustrated with it.

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  • August 4, 2009 at 1:23 am
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    I must admit that practicing piano has helped me overcome stuttering; counting the tempo out loud – while coordinating my hands and trying to focus on improving my playing – was terrific exercises for it.

    Anyways, I used to be intimidated and frustrated by not playing the music right.  This led me to not practice regularly despite the fact that I enjoyed playing.  When I did practice, I was more focused on playing it “perfectly” such that I’d always start from the beginning if I made a mistake when I was into the piece.  But I learned that practicing takes lots of small steps, iterations, refinement, and thought to make progress.  Although I haven’t “mastered” what goals I wanted to attain when I meet weekly with my instructor, I know that I’m still in the process of improving.  And I find that there’s more joy in going through this process – the challenges and discoveries – than just performing the final piece flawlessly.

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  • August 3, 2009 at 2:48 pm
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    I also play piano. i’ve been taking lessons for almost eight years. and have been playing recitals for 6 years… you have to enjoy the song that you’re playing. try not to worry if you mess up, just keep playing. when it’s your turn on the recital day. sit down in front of the piano, take a deep breath and think the keys you’re going to play. most of all, don’t rush when playing. play slow.. and try practicing playing in front of other people and be able to play with noise distractions with out stopping. meaning people slamming books on the ground, somebody talking, etc.. i hope i helped a little. and good luck on your recital. 😀

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  • August 3, 2009 at 11:56 am
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    I’ve learned that the key to playing the piano well isn’t the amount of practice and time I put into a piece, but the way I connect to it. I have to enjoy the music for it to come out as…well…musical. Because music in itself is a spiritual outlet <3

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  • August 3, 2009 at 10:07 am
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    Music: It’s really easy to forget to enjoy what we’re doing when we feel the pressure to perform.

    Life: We get so caught up in day-to-day things, petty arguments, worries and what have you that we tend to forget about this whole huge experience we’re having together – Life!

    When playing the piano it’s best not to dwell on the fumbles and mistakes but if there’s a consistent mistake we should try to take the time to work on it and smooth it out. Same with life. We shouldn’t dwell on our fumbles, but if we are able to smooth them out, we ought to try. And then we need to get on with our life, instilling it with as much of our personality as we can.

    Just as music is meant to be played, life is meant to be lived. Performance is simply the natural outcome of it all.

    Reply

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