Leaving your Piano

Cruel to be kind...

If you're new to my blog and YouTube content and are yet to be flooded in new philosophies and wisdom which may appear unorthodox or against your experiences at first, you're probably coming from the traditional mindset of: sit at the piano, practise, get a bit better, leave the piano, do other things, repeat day after day, never thinking about the piano in between sessions.  By giving yourself a chance to adhere to the Water Pianism philosophy, you will discover the power, and please excuse the cliche because I really mean it, of your mind.

Yea, OK Dan.

No, really!  The power of your mind has probably remained undiscovered, at least in terms of piano progress because either you haven't thought about or dedicated yourself to your internal piano, internal jukebox, internal manuscript (video link) or internal metronome, depending on the need.  These are often neglected because tradition dictates that progress is only made at the piano, whether in a lesson or during daily practice time.  This is simply not true and you are doing yourself a disservice by not exploring these internal, away-from-the-piano philosophies, becoming familiar with them and finally mastering them.

Why not check out this video below but read the comments first?  It is one small example of many which demonstrates the success people have of being Mindful about their piano life when away from the piano.  It's 30 minutes so watch it in your own time.

Often, one only has 30-60 minutes per day to practise, with maybe a weekly hour or two lesson but think about all those dozens of hours available to you when doing other things, including relaxing?  You see, the parts of the brain which 'light up' in a scan when physically doing something and applying yourself to a skill are exactly the same parts which light up when you're only thinking about doing the skill; the only difference being the signals to move your body's muscles are not sent.  This is called 'motor imagery' and is a very rich science to read into.  Try these scientific articles, and this video in which a Zen master speaks about this very topic.  I hope you will enjoy it.

The purpose behind this post, in addition to the above introductory content, is to give you a three-step path to using primarily your internal piano because this is the most important of the four (jukebox, manuscript and metronome) but in particular, away from the piano.  Therefore, I am assuming you know what the internal piano is and can see your own one very strongly (the 12-note block, from C to B and can even put two blocks together).

1.  Mindfulness, which is the umbrella term for the internal philosophies, requires a concentrated mind achieved without effort.  This is the most difficult step if you are new to the concept so without success here, don't bother with the next two.  Learning to, well, shut the hell up, is very valuable (!) but is something your 'monkey mind' does not want to do! Therefore, you must practise how to be an observer to all that noise and chaos but you must see this as a fun thing to do.  Now please, don't get the image of a sitting Buddha, or some pseudo-spiritualist hugging a tree to 'connect with nature'; no, this can be done when you're making a tea, sitting on the bus, even walking amongst crowds of people.  Just be OK with all the random thoughts, memories, random connections and crazy things you witness.  In addition, accept any noises around you.  At some point, in minutes, hours or days, you will feel very comfortable with this mindset and then be ready to move onto step 2.  Each time, however, you would do well to do these steps in order.  If you are firmly against such a mental exercise for your own unimaginable benefit, or give up too easily, I regrettably cannot help you further at this time.

2.  On your internal piano, as often as possible, see the 12 major scales as a group of seven notes, as if a linear line.  Each one has its own unique shape and you will bypass the difficulty of playing or identifying major scales 'descending', which often trips people up.  Mastering these shapes and being able to see each major scale instantly will help you tremendously with your orientation at the piano, ability to find any chord, play/find jazz chord extensions (if you so desire), as well as helping you to master other scales.  Further, when memorising a piece you're working on, to know where you are in the major scale of the key of that particular moment will help to reinforce the melody line because instead of seeing it blended in with a bunch of 12 black and white notes, the melody will appear 'in context'; at home in its key, which is exactly how the composer wrote it in the first place.  As the chord changes, the melody notes change value according to the key of the particular chord for that moment; that's what music is at its core: the human emotional connection to intervals.  This is a very significant piece of wisdom.  So, use your away-from-the-piano time to master the 12 major scales and to play in your mind what you know you can play or are trying to learn at the piano.  You will be very surprised at the results when you return to the piano each time.  Remember: the fingers can do what the mind can imagine them doing and they cannot do what the mind cannot imagine them doing.

3.  Finally, please master the common chord progressions in all 12 keys, along with their associated chord types based on Modal Theory Law (video).  6 2 5 1 / 1 5 6 4 / 1 4 5.  This should become almost ritualistic until mastered to the point where you can converse about them fluently without a piano in sight, yet see them all instantly in your mind.  Note:  this is not a memory trick; it is the ability to instantly see the relevant major scale, chord type's notes and say what you see.  For example, I'm typing right now on my laptop and my keyboard is behind me.  I pick Db.  I instantly see the shape as one linear line of 7 notes... do you?  I then can see the 6th is Bb, the 2nd is Eb, the 5th is Ab and of course Db is the root.  Those numbers 'shine' above the others; they stand out instantly.  I then can see the notes of each chord:  Bbm7:  Bb, Db, F, Ab / Ebm7:  Eb, Gb, Bb, Db / Ab7:  Ab, C, Eb, Gb / DbM7:  Db, F, Ab, C.  I have  hundreds of hours on my internal piano but the ability to do this took only a few.  Don't be overwhelmed.  Little by little, the bird makes his nest, as the French say (petit à petit, l'oiseau fait son nid).

So in the end, the question is: Are you strong enough to leave your piano behind and trust the power of your mind?