Variety & Yteirav

Still water stagnates.

It would be so cliché to employ the use of the age-old adage: variety is the spice of life, so that is exactly why I refuse to begin my article with it!

Would it be at all crass of me to suggest that you have never stopped and wondered that every tree is unique, even when it is of the same species?  That every red rose in a line of ten thousand red roses is a little different to the other nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine?  Every cloud, blade of grass and star is a little different from the others, despite being of exactly the same label.  It makes you wonder why we even label things at all... doesn't it?

(Consider my new eBook: Water Pianism)

Moving a little closer in analytical terms, one tree in and of itself never remains the same.  Bark breaks off the trunk, twigs are removed by nesting birds, wind blows the leaves away and branches snap due to playful children.

Besides water and sunlight to promote growth and produce oxygen, a tree is very much 'variety in action' and a great teacher.

I would like you to take away two teachings from the above.  Firstly, acknowledge that all life lessons are available simply by turning to the free and readily available Master herself, Mother Nature.  Secondly, the tree is a metaphor for everything in the universe; You, your pet, the weather, events and even... Art! In our case, Music.  Even more particularly in our case, the Piano.  Everything inherently varieties, to force a verb upon myself.

The sheer amount of music available to us from all over the world is genuinely unbelievable.  To say you only like two or three genres and not even wanting to discover new styles, yet hoping to become a good pianist, is like cutting your leg off before you start a marathon.

More genres in your bones equates to greater musical maturity, a wider range of rhythms and melodies, as well as new song structures and chord types... the list of benefits is genuinely too long for this article.  You would do exceptionally well to diversify your musical interests; you may (will) surprise yourself!

At the piano itself, it could be said that there are two components which can be explored in terms of variety: repertoire and technical exercises.  Similarly to but a little more specific than musical genres mentioned above, repertoire may be unique to one composer or one period such as the Romantic era.

Do you like Chopin but only play the Nocturnes?  Dive into the Préludes and find some you like.  Do you study Jazz piano but only like the hardcore bebop stuff?  Listen to an album by Nat King Cole or Ella Fitzgerald, discover pieces by George Gershwin and Cole Porter or see what Bill Evans has recorded, for example.

Technical exercises are generally seen as 'homework' or the "boring stuff I have to do to become a good pianist" but this is absolutely false and a tragic attitude to have towards the matter.

In fact, just like the trees in the title photo, as you pass through what seems like a row of trees which all look alike, with the trees representing technical exercises, realise that each one is absolutely different.  Each major scale you are learning, because you are mastering all twelve major scales, aren't you, has a particular look, touch and emotional feel.

For example, Ab was Liszt's 'key of love', E is a common rock key due to the open E string of the dominant rock instrument... the guitar; Eb is a very common jazz key, F is very popular in blues piano, etc.  Of course these are generalisations but the fact cannot go ignored.  As for touch, B major falls very nicely under the fingers whereas E may not due to the ring finger of the right hand having to reach the D# when ascending and the left hand having to jump from the E to the F# with the most commonly two weakest fingers: the little finger and ring finger.  At least that is the case for me.

Major scales can be varied in many ways during practice times:  one hand development, both hands together, parallel motion, alternate fingering practice, timing, chord creation, transposition, patience, modulation, etc., etc.  Just because they are twelve 'boring' major scales, just as when looking at twelve similar trees, see the variety in them and make the most of it.  The same of course goes for chords.

I hope that this article has given you some food for thought.  I felt it was necessary to encourage people to see the uniqueness and inherent variety in all things, from nature to the piano, so that playing and practice, even the mere thought of a piano, does not start to become stale or unsatisfying to you.

It is important that you maintain your Water Pianist mentality of not rushing, being satisfied with your current abilities, not comparing your progress to others and enjoying the fact that you're simply just another perfectly exceptional drop of water on a destinationless journey.

Now go forth and vary!

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