Podcasts


For this update on 1st August, 2018, see the proposed episode titles for the second category, Theory and Technical Exercises.  Their opening paragraphs will follow; I'm just finishing the final episode.  The first category, Philosophies and the Mind, plus their opening paragraphs, follow...

Click here to return to the main blog article on the podcast series.

Category Two

1.  The Three Unavoidables.
2.  Key Signature, Cycle & Chord Progression Philosophy
3.  Key Signatures, Dynamics & Ornamentation
4.  Minor Scales, the Emotional Centre & Acquiring Repertoire
5.  The Three Sight-Reading Philosophies
6.  The Three Exercise Philosophies
7.  Individual Fingers with Scales & Chords
8.  Natural Fingering with Scales & Chords
9.  Using & Abusing Scales and Chords
10.  Experiencing Freedom at the Keys

Episodes 1-5 are theoretical, 6-10 are a collection of five technical exercise ideas, with associated philosophies and audio demonstrations.

Category One

The Three Components of Water Pianism & the Mind Triangle

Regrettably, of the three components, the Piano component has always received the largest share of focus, with the Body component receiving a lot less but still drastically more than the Mind component. Discussion about why this may be is beyond the scope of this podcast series but rectification of this imbalance is central to its purpose.

The nature of this disproportionality and almost total neglect of the Mind is so prevalent that it has become common knowledge, not to mention an automatic expectation for outsiders to the piano world, that progress can only be made if at least one of the following conditions is met: starting at a young age, having many hours a week available for practice, being ‘naturally gifted’, having an inherent ‘sense of rhythm’, possessing big hands, having a musical upbringing or being able to afford lots of expensive tutors and perhaps going through famous music schools on the way up to concert pianist stardom.  Of course, it is also supposed that a piano is absolutely necessary and 100% of one’s learning and progress will only take place at the piano.  It is also assumed that one must adhere absolutely to a score without the freedom to either add notes or be flexible with the tempo, dynamics or structure.  Throughout this podcast series, you will become very aware that associating with extremes is dangerous and impeding; altering a strict score is considered abhorrent by some and is actively encouraged by others, if at least you can play it as written first.  Your particular situation, personality and peers will all be part of your decision to alter scored compositions but do always remember that extremes in mind and at the piano are to be avoided and that a personalisation should always be sought if you are to remain true to your path.

The Four Internal Philosophies

Considering that the Mind component is the most important of the three, it is unsurprising the four most valuable tools available to the Water Pianist reside in it.  They are known as: the internal piano, internal metronome, internal jukebox and internal manuscript.  These four philosophies apply at the piano but are best mastered away from it, for the piano often serves more as a distraction than an aid and spending too much time at it reinforces the false notion that the Piano is the most important component; you really don’t become a great pianist, whatever ‘great’ means for you personally, by just sitting at the keys doing technical exercises from a book and playing over and over repertoire you already know.  It is so very important to understand, and I will repeat this very often throughout the series, that the Mind component, along with its philosophies, is the most important.

I present these four philosophies not in order of importance but in order of regularity of use.  All four are as important as each other and must be mastered individually, even if used only rarely.  You can be sure that, once pooled together, the resulting authority you will experience over the piano will be remarkable and when I say “over the piano”, I of course mean both at and away from it.

Your Musical Personality

The traditional approach to learning how to play the piano is to acquire repertoire from your piano method book, teacher recommendation or exam requirement but the problem is that these are rarely, if ever, part of your musical personality.  Of course, one does not challenge this because one believes it is part of the process of ‘becoming a proficient pianist’, trusting the authority to guide them to dexterous brilliance.  Regrettably, this is rarely the case for the simple reason that the student never had a chance to discover what they like and dislike, and why, being able to explain both using musical terms instead of just saying, “I don’t like it”.  Knowing why you don’t like something is just as beneficial as knowing why you do like something.  Anyway, after years of playing set and/or recommended repertoire and perhaps, by chance, liking some of it, you will be so far from your natural path that it will be almost impossible to return… note the use of the word ‘almost’.

I have read quite literally countless messages over the decades, either directly to me or online, of advanced, proficient pianists complaining that they either lack the skills to play the music they love, despite being otherwise very dexterous, able and knowledgeable, or not even knowing what kind of music they want to play because they are so programmed to play particular music due to their past piano study requirements.  Once they realised they were free, even from a very early stage, to begin learning and then playing progressively better the music they naturally wanted to play, they improved quicker than any method book would have them progress and in addition to that, they were happier with what they were playing so were less inclined to give up or just play in a frustrated or bored mind-frame all the time.

Metronomes & Finding Your Natural Limit

With regards to metronome usage, you will find two extreme parties whose claims are equally justified in their own right.  There are those who despise a metronomically perfect practice and performance and suggest feeling the rhythm yourself or together as a group, something that they say “comes with practice”, and then there is the other group who can’t fall asleep without a metronome and couldn’t imagine a piano music stand without one, no matter practice or performance.  The anti-metronomers proclaim, and quite justly so, that music is about feeling, interpretation and not being distracted by artificial external influences.  Even Liszt was against playing so strictly in time, stating in a letter to Schubert, “A metronomical performance is certainly tiresome and non-sensical; time and rhythm must be adapted to and identified with the melody, the harmony, the accent and the poetry…”  On the other hand, pro-metronomers will say that music is about rhythm and that rhythm itself implies steadiness; a drummer who can’t play steady will throw out the whole band and never get hired again!  A pianist who plays in a style such as ragtime with obvious timing difficulties would be embarrassing to listen to, if not a little frustrating and it is such situations which this group uses to justify the use of a metronome.  Scales and chord progressions and arpeggios are strictly executed according to a metronome and examiners will mark the student taking into consideration their metronomic steadiness.

As always, Water Pianism proposes two exceptionally applicable philosophies which come into play here:  personalisation and finding a balance between two extremes, having studied these extremes and understood them well.  After all, everybody listening to this episode has a different ability, path, theoretical foundation and sense of rhythm; some of you would benefit more from a metronome and others would find it distracting.  This is why it is dangerous to adhere to an extreme.

Dissection & Personalisation Philosophy

A great Master once gave a beautiful teaching of what Water Pianists refer to as the ‘dissection philosophy’.  Consider, a flower is made of non-flower elements.  She cannot be a flower on her own without her non-flower elements; she is aware that her existence is therefore only possible thanks to those elements that individually would not consider themselves flowers.  The Water Pianist sees music theory but more importantly repertoire in exactly this way.  By approaching complex ideas or pieces with the wisdom of dissection, one is less overwhelmed; the difficulty is then seen as a collection of smaller, non-difficult elements to be built up and blended together to form anything from a technical difficulty to a complete piece of music that can eventually be played with total mastery.

More often than not, unfortunately, pianists with little experience or technical ability are quickly overwhelmed and eventually give up altogether when faced with an as yet dissected difficulty.  Pianists with more experience and ability still struggle with pieces in different ways and sometimes never arrive at piece mastery either.  They may not give up but they are certainly negatively affected by their lack of progress and it shows in their playing.  It is safe to say, therefore, that dissection philosophy applies to all.

Practormance and Exertoires

One of the many reasons which brought Water Pianism into existence was my constant reading of and conversations about individuals getting totally bored with irrelevant or boring repertoire and irrelevant or boring technical exercises, not to mention stage fright or some kind of disappointment when performing in public if not fear-based.  Be sure that I do not imply that boring means not beneficial and I do not imply that irrelevant cannot be beneficial; in fact, these are not even my words but theirs.  Newcomers to piano are very often subjected to dry exercise drills and repertoire they do not enjoy, often because ‘that’s what the book says’ or ‘the teacher does it with everybody so I have to do it’; this is not the path to Self-mastery but long roads around it.  Rarely is a student allowed or even encouraged to identify their path to discover such things early on as their natural fingering, musical personality or natural style which does not mean they are to avoid the basics (remember, extremes are not welcome in the Water Pianism philosophy) but that the relevant basics might be mastered in a natural way.  This results is a higher level of enjoyment and the feeling of being on one’s path; success of one’s ambitions then feels closer and perhaps easier to achieve.

Misconceptions & Conscious Interference

Water Pianism discusses three primary misconceptions:  that black and whites notes carry some kind of different significance, that one plays with two separate hands of five fingers and that, theoretically, certain keys are easier or more difficult to play in or based on how many sharps or flats they have, as well as their commonality.  These shall be discussed and I shall give you some experiments to experience the truth for yourself but misconceptions also exist both at and away from the piano and as much in the mind as towards the body.  I’ll provide three common examples of those first, starting with your age, and then get into the primary misconceptions of Water Pianism.

Consider your age.  You would not believe how many people have written to me to thank me for releasing them from the dreadful misconception that you can’t play the piano if you’re over some ridiculous age like 12 or 30; child prodigies who often, and please note my use of ‘often’, disappear into oblivion having added nothing to the world of music either in composition or education, are a constant source of this mindset.  What this ignores is that many pianists have also started ‘very late’ and have acquired theory, technique and repertoire to a very satisfactory and admirable level in age groups above 60 and do please believe me because they have been sharing their progress with me for many years.  The growing worldwide Water Pianism community is also proof of this whereby everyone supports everyone else and inspires others by sharing their progress and most of the members are at least 40 and total newbies to the piano world.  It can’t be denied that being very young takes advantage of a purer, more pliable, sponge-like brain but a black and white situation this is not.  This destinationless journey is not about becoming a world-famous performer, composer or needing the technique of Liszt to say you’re a pianist; it’s about Playing You and being true to Your path as soon and for as long as possible.  Your age is utterly irrelevant to the truth eternally present within.

The Grade Fallacy and Perfectionism Illusion

This episode is inherently the most controversial of the entire podcast series but not because I want it to be.  Some people are understandably very proud, protective and supportive of certain or traditional education choices which then render them a little more sensitive to ideas which challenge their point of view and experiences, no matter how justified both sides are.  I urge you to keep in mind while listening to this episode that Water Pianism is all about personalisation (which includes people who choose the graded exam path just as well as those who do not) and the avoidance of extremes.  If you feel challenged in some way, you would do well to recognise that that is only happening because your position on the matter is locked in to an extreme and totally disregards the other extreme (which is just as dangerous and limiting as yours).  Water Pianism encourages you to recognise and then care to understand both extremes of whatever the topic may be and to find your own true, personalised path between them whilst respecting the unique path of others without judgement.

The Mind of a Water Pianist

To be a Water Pianist is to be a devout student of nature, the mind and music itself and in being, strive to share relevant teachings with those in need, both at and away from the piano, because it is in service, giving and teaching that we learn more about ourselves and experience more enjoyment and success on our own destinationless journey.  In this episode, I’d like to share some of the more dominant components present in the mind of the Water Pianist because to play the piano well is hardly to do with having good dexterity and a vast repertoire but more so in caring to maintain a certain mindset and way of living.  Some of you may turn your noses up at such a notion or even choose to stop listening; well, quite, and I ask you to imagine such an individual at the piano if such is their attitude away from it!  Having a positive mentality towards yourself, others and what you and others do is an often neglected part of being a pianist and it is my ambition to help change this as much and as soon as possible… but I can’t do it alone!

Water Pianists are patient, inwardly and outwardly observing, eternal students whose practice and performances are a reflection of their confidence, authenticity and serenity which themselves are all the result of a deeper understanding of the nature of the mind and which naturally support each other; after all, one must acquire the confidence to discover their authentic Self in order to find serenity but this can be very difficult, especially when the only tasks presented to most pianists are to master a piece of disliked music for an exam or to master unrelated technical exercises using unnatural fingering to keep your teacher happy because ‘that’s what the book says today’!  How abhorrent.  So, are you ready to become a Water Pianist?  To ignore or reject negative ego influence?  To be fearless in public performance?  To be honest in repertoire selection?  To be unashamed of your true path and musical personality?  To have in you even the smallest desire to entertain, educate and/or enlighten others, no matter your current abilities or knowledge?  Be sure, just because what you think is not important may well be the spark that someone else needs to change their life, so value highly everything you know and everything you can do, no matter its significance to your mind or importance to your path.