Stilling the water to see deeper...
The simple fact of the matter is that without chaos, one cannot achieve order. Order comes from the existence of chaos; one should appreciate chaos for great satisfaction may be attained in establishing its order.
In terms of pianism, chaos may include such topics as fingering, scales, chords and touch, etc. When these topics are confronted out of context, they appear very complicated and often put off many beginners for unfounded reasons.
(Consider my new eBook: Water Pianism)
Putting these subjects and concepts into order may be likened to what may be called 'stilling the water'; seeing deeper is not possible when water is churned up and splashed around. This article shall therefore expand upon this notion through a philosophy I have created so that one may better visualise the, granted, rather daunting-at-first challenge of become a competent, Purposeful pianist who knows what is what and has a mind at rest.
First of all, here is the schematic (click it to enlarge) that I have mustered up:
As you may well already know, the energy channel from my Water Pianism philosophy is: Mind > Body > Piano. This discussion clearly goes into the Piano component, itself divided into two sections: physical and theoretical. The other components are discussed here (article) and here (video).
By considering the piano in this way, one can be said to be on their way to 'stilling the water'. Suddenly, there is no need to feel lost, overwhelmed or as if the journey is long and riddled with difficulties, for it truly is not. A full study of each sub-component is all that is needed to establish an incredibly solid foundation which shall certainly endure.
Before one worries about starting to acquire repertoire, understand that every piece ever written was based on the aforementioned components: you must make progress physically and you must understand enough theory to comprehend the piece in its totality.
Or, to be more precise, physically, your tendons and forearm muscles must be of adequate power and you must have trained your fingers to be comfortable with all possible demands as well as theoretically knowing all 12 major scales so that the piece does not present any problems in terms of key signature or key change and that you do not feel mal à l'aise at the piano in general as you move around it.
So how might one go about delving into these subcomponents and stilling the water? Let's begin with a discussion of the Physical.
The simple fact is that if your forearm muscles are not strong, your fingers won't move very well and if your tendons don't get flexed enough, they won't move fast enough, they will have trouble stretching between two notes and you will not have a very nice touch.
Spend time away from the piano doing the exercises as given here and spend time at the piano discovering the maximum, most comfortable stretch distance between each finger. For example, start with the right hand thumb on Middle C and discover how many notes you can stretch without discomfort or physical distortion using the index finger. Mine is C to Ab comfortably.
Then regularly alternate, as a daily exercise, these two fingers chromatically with the thumb on Middle C and the index finger going up to, for example, Ab, and back down again. Don't do any exercise for speed, do it for regularity and do it with your eyes closed.
Do this for each finger combination on both hands and know the maximum stretch distance for every finger combination, work them every day and you will be astonished at how powerful your hands will become at the piano. In fact, this is an excellent way to work towards the mind-frame of having 10 fingers rather than 2 hands.
With this becoming a habit, your fingers will be prepared to take on any piece, no matter its perceived, 'traditionally supposed' difficulty because every piece has been written by a human hand for a human hand. Sometimes a jump may be difficult or your fingering is challenged, but you either find a solution yourself or slow down for that particular difficulty; nobody can blame you for your hand size!
Now onto the Theoretical side.
It is almost certain that the music you wish to play is based on one of the 12 keys of Western music and will involve a pretty standard chord progression whilst being in a common time signature (3/4, 6/8, 2/4 or 4/4).
By mastering the twelve major scales both at and way from the piano before you start to acquire repertoire, you will be able to take on pieces which would otherwise be discouraged by advisers. Do not be put off or feel daunted. Every great piece, even this, was written by a human with 10 fingers for a human with 10 fingers. It uses major and minor triads and requires mastery of the twelve major scales so that newer scales may be rapidly identified (such as the opening run) as and when is necessary. As I always promote: learn what is required when it is required.
Spending time on chord progressions is also an excellent way to enforce keys, feel comfortable all over the piano and to be prepared for any piece you wish to take on. Jazz especially uses very common chord progressions, as does pop music and basically anything since the early 20th century to date so it isn't as difficult as perhaps supposed to be able to play lots of songs 'pretty well', n'est-ce pas?
Where you should be now is understanding that your piano life, certainly if you choose to become a Water Pianist, is a combination of the absolutely natural energy channel of mind to body to piano, and that each component may be broken down into manageable chunks of understanding (mind: mind triangle, body: muscles, tendons and their strengthening, piano: physical and theoretical as discussed herein). With such a unique understanding of the piano, no piece or technical requirement is beyond you, no matter how long it takes to master.
I hope, therefore, that you will now learn to prioritise your thoughts so that your time both at and away from the piano is always positive, without interference from your ego and completely inspired.
May you enjoy your destinationless journey at all times.
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