Right Back to Basics (2/2)

and then some more...

(Read Part 1 or this article will make little sense to you)

Having spent about a week playing around with your newly discovered music box, a piano, and investigated its ins and outs, discovering patterns between the keys and coming to experience more and more how it is simply mirroring your emotions by providing you the opportunity to express yourself how you wish, without judgement or hesitation, I return for an update and to share a few more thoughts with you.

First, you talk about the patterns that you have discovered but for which you lack the correct vocabulary; I explain that from any note to the next note up or down is called a half step or half tone, that a space of two halves makes a whole step or tone and that by playing up or down one half step after the other is called a chromatic scale and that playing up or down in whole steps is called the whole tone scale.  This knowledge does not have any effect on your ability to execute those scales.

Further, you explain that you have observed how some notes sound the same despite being of a higher or lower position on the piano.  These, I explain, are octaves but first you must be introduced to the major scale.

All theory of the piano is based on the major scale.  As you know from the whole steps and half steps, knowledge does not in any way affect one's playing ability; this cannot be stressed enough.  Knowledge, to the artist, is merely words about words.

So, with this firmly in mind, understand that to make a major scale, from any note on the piano, one counts up using this magical template, paying no attention to the colour of the note (since they are not coloured black and white for any particular reason; they could all be pink and still produce the same sounds!):  whole, whole, half, whole whole whole half.  Very easy: WWH, WWWH.

Since, as you have noticed, there are 12 notes (half steps) until one arrives on the same note above or below from where they started, there exist therefore 12 starting points from which to create a major scale.

In traditional theory, the musical alphabet begins on C, the white note which is before the two black notes.  One names a black note by using sharp for movement to the right, and flat for movement to the left.  For example, "C Sharp" means look at a C and go to the black note immediately to its right.

All one need study from the beginning of their piano life, and not necessarily whilst playing with the fingers, is to internalise the patters for the 12 major scales.  This is very quick and easy and can be done anywhere.  With the visual of the keyboard firmly in your mind (from an image or from staring at the piano for a few minutes), one is then able to begin doing the best thing possible: training the mind to develop its internal piano.

Since there are 12 major scales, only 12 days (or less) are required to internalise these shapes.  Once internalise visually, your fingers will immediately be able to play them since the fingers are merely an extension of the mind; not separate, not with their own brain, but an extension of the mind.  Whatever the mind can imagine playing, the fingers can perform; whatever the brain cannot imagine playing, the fingers cannot perform.  This is key.
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By having such a masterful visual ability of seeing all 12 keys, the new pianist has an enormous advantage over almost any other pianist following a traditional 'school' or method of study, courses which do not even discuss certain of the 12 major scales until after many years because they are considered 'advanced'.

This is utter nonsense and must be eradicated.  A major scale is a major scale, no matter where it starts, and seeing all 12 in the first two weeks of becoming a pianist is the most valuable skill to possess, primarily due to the enormously heightened 'key bearing'; knowing where you are at all times without hesitation.

So you see that, what is first and foremost a musical box which reacts to whatever you play, whenever or however you play it, is structured and built in such a way as to provide 'safety rails' so that you may not get lost and apply some structure to what you are performing, but this knowledge truly does not affect in any way what you actually play... you simply are able to talk about it to others if necessary.  Please acknowledge this key point.

Since we have been discussing the piano itself and its very simple 12-keys-of-7-notes structure that you must memorise before do the next most important thing, that of discovering your Musical Personality, let's look at the fingers and the traditionally complex matter of 'keyboard fingering'.

As a new pianist, I could put you off piano for life by exposing (I use that word in a negative way, as if walking you into a highly radioactive chamber) you to current and traditional textbooks and theory and absolutely mind-numbingly boring, endless discussion on fingering.

I will not.

If you consider the fact that you have 10 fingers (or eight fingers and two thumbs for the pedantic amongst you, but I will say fingers for all) evenly distributed over two hands, there must be a limited number of combinations that these fingers can play.  This is not as complicated an idea as it sounds.

Consider:  From the left most finger on both hands, they can alternate with the other four fingers to their right.  The next fingers can alternate with the one finger to their left and the three remaining fingers to the right.  The middle fingers can alternate with the two on the left and two on the right, the next can alternate with the three on their left and one on the right and the far right can alternate with all four fingers to their left left.

Got it?

Now, the same can be said the using both hands together since what one is encouraged to realise is that you do not have two hands, but rather ten fingers.  If you had three fingers on the left and seven on the right, you would still be able to play the piano and what I am discussing would still hold true.  Please understand that.

So we could add the 'left hand's little finger in combination with the five fingers of the right hand, the left hand's ring finger in combination with the five fingers of the right hand, all the other three fingers on the left hand alternating with all fingers of the right hand... and then do exactly the same thing with each finger on the right hand alternating with each finger on the left.

What you end up with is ten perfectly trained soldiers who all know each other and who are all able to do exactly the same thing.  They may have different faces and be different heights and like different foods and enjoy different films, but they can all do the same as every other finger, no matter who they work with.  Again, please understand this.

Based on this, would you not agree that a piano is not required to train these ten soldiers to work in combination with each other?  Training them does not create music, so a piano is not required.  Would you not further agree that these ten soldiers, once combined with the foundational theory of major scales being the core of music, would be at your every command, never unable to fulfil one of your orders?

I like this metaphor:  "Soldiers do not train for battle by being in a battle".  What this means is that you must spend a few weeks or months, whatever is natural for you, making these ten soldiers meet each other and work with each other.  Do it on a table, on your lap, in mid-air, or on a digital piano with the power turned off.  Once they come out of training, you will be astonished it what is possible; absolutely astonished.

By extension, can you now see how 'methods' and 'structured learning' is very detrimental to your naturally rapid progress?
I would like to stop this article here and encourage you to leave a comment, share the article or contact me with your thoughts directly.  If you would like me to expand upon anything in article, podcast or video form, please let me know immediately so that I may do that.

In the meantime, thank you for reading and taking the time to go back to basics.  A combination of the contents of this article, part 1 and the article linked to above (Musical Personality) will make you a wonderful pianist very, very quickly.

And remember:
Play You.

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