Feeling Lost?

A little light for you...

Sitting at the piano and not knowing what to do is not an uncommon occurrence for a pianist of any experience.  May this article give you some thoughts on good practices away from the piano during times of loss or disillusionment.  Do also note the significant amount of links provided to other articles and related videos for further enlightenment.

Recognise that 'to play the piano' and 'being a pianist' exist much more in the mind and body than they do actually sitting at the instrument.

You may enjoy this video for some things to do at the piano but if you read to the end, you have a little surprise:

As a Water Pianist, you understand that practice away from the piano is more beneficial than practice at the piano, for no amount of technique can replace a calm, positive and patient mind which has comprehended the many important philosophies I have discussed and present across my blog, books and videos.

Alas, if you feel lost:  consider not approaching the piano and focusing first on the follow away activities:

1.  Be patient.  One commits a disservice by wanting to jump onto the piano mindlessly and dive into technical exercises or repertoire reinforcement.  Understand that 'practice' does not only mean 'repeat stuff at the piano'; the Water Pianist understands that practice also takes place in the mind.

Try sitting in silence for 60 seconds or more, something difficult for many people with what is known as a 'monkey mind'.  Consider walking more slowly, appreciate drinking your tea sip by sip and observing clouds change shape as they pass overhead.  When you are performing, you will be grateful for your slower, more control pace and mental state and find more enjoyment in your leisurely progress.

2.  Understand internal philosophies.  Everybody has an internal piano or at least the ability to see the 12 notes of the chromatic scale from C to B so there is no excuse not to go over the major scales, see chord shapes, reinforce melody lines or master chord progressions when out and about.

In addition, there is the internal metronome which must be developed if any steadiness is to be present during practormance and of course this can be achieved away from the piano.  Actively seek patterns in your environment, from the obvious clock ticking to things like drops from a tap, a blinking light on an alarm, your own walking pace, birdsong (yes!), etc.  Being mindful of such events will train your mind to recognise steadiness in rhythm and thus develop your internal metronome.

Lastly, there is the internal jukebox which is where one is able to play back songs in the mind from beginning to end in the right key, at the right tempo, with the correct melody, knowing all the words and being able to hear all the little instrumental bits which adorn the piece.  Before acquiring pieces, make sure you have them on your internal jukebox because it makes dissection so much easier.

3.  Maintain the body.  As with all tri-philosophies, if one is missing, it all falls down; none is more important than the other.  Mastery of your mind and piano components is useless without a suitable vehicle through which the other two may connect.  From the core, power travels up a strong back, through solid shoulders, down strong yet relaxed arms, traverses feathered wrists and charges towards dexterous fingers, unperturbed en-route due to there being no 'uphill' portion - energy, like water, flows on the path of least resistance: downwards, for the pianist.

Give attention to the whole body by focusing on these smaller areas and do not fall into the trap of believing that the fingers can be 'strengthened'; they cannot because they don't have muscles.  Fingers are controlled by tendons which are connected to muscles in the hand and up the arm so focus should be on muscles if anything but even then one must be careful because the muscles in general are already strong enough to make the fingers press piano keys and if you do strengthen the wrong ones, you can actual impede your playing because the fingers become less flexible due to the 'wrong' (for the pianist) muscles having been strengthened.

As can be seen, it is a foggy area so simply understand that regular body exercise and general good health do go far in giving you that dexterity you may believe is only possible by sitting at the piano and doing 'finger exercises' or 'finger stretches'.  These are good indeed to keep them nimble but do not directly result in 'better fingering'.

Seek inspiration.  Consider this personal letter by Liszt (my bold): 

Here is a whole fortnight that my mind and fingers have been working like two lost spirits.   Homer, the Bible, Plato, Locke, Byron, Hugo, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Beethoven, Bach, Hummel, Mozart, Weber, are all around me. I study them, meditate on them, devour them with fury; besides this, I practise four to five hours of exercises (3rds, 6ths, 8ths, tremolos, repetition of notes, cadences, etc., etc.). Ah! Provided I don't go mad, you will find an artist 
in me!

As you can see, the Master himself spent no less than half his time away from the piano being inspired in musical and non-musical ways.  He understood that playing the piano is not all about technical mastery but mental stimulation and calm.  Consider the label: technique of the soul.

Listen to your favourite music and discover music you do not like and understand why.  Read about the lives of the great creative minds of times gone by and surprise yourself how Einstein, Tesla, Hemingway, Emerson, Picasso and Van Gogh can have such a profound effect on your psyche that you find you improve and mentally develop without ever playing a note.  Few understand this; the Water Pianist does.


Now that you have made it this far, here is the related video:

It is only through the repetition of a positive ideal that anything becomes possible.  The ideas above will only yield positive, observable benefits if they are implement often.  Be sure to repeat until they become second nature; this is to be well on the path of the Water Pianist.

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