Water Pianism Syllabus?

No more grades!

I'll say it right off the bat:  this is the most exciting article for me that I've written - and that's saying something because I always look forward to sharing some thoughts with you on a variety of Mind, Body and Piano topics to inspire, motivate and educate you.  This article is different because it will put everything I've ever said or recorded in my videos or podcasts into a syllabus... but not just any syllabus:  The Official Water Pianism Syllabus!  Enjoy the many links to external content, too!

Now, as you may expect, this is no ordinary syllabus because Water Pianism acknowledges that everyone is on a different path, so how can one syllabus apply to everyone?  This is the exact reason I wrote an article called The Fallacy of Grades quite a few years back.  I really, really, really recommend reading that before getting into this one so I don't need to repeat myself but the basic idea is as I said:  one syllabus simply cannot apply to everyone for many reasons (own path, natural ability, musical personality, learning style, etc) and the concept of breaking down the world of pianism into 8 'grades' and forcing everyone, of all ages, to follow them in the same order and choose music based on them based on that order, is detrimental absurdity.

Water Pianism, as you perhaps know by now, is a combination of philosophies, such as: acquire what you need when you need it, along with the enjoyable, self-motivating philosophy of:  personalisation is key!  If you're unfamiliar with Water Pianism, see here and consider my Water Pianism Podcast Collection.

As part of my plans to grow the WP Community and refine its mission, I feel the time has come to start creating a syllabus which reflects the many philosophies you're now or will become so familiar with.  Giving you a sense of progress based on your own path not only immediately discourages you from comparing yourself to others but guarantees success according to what it means to You.

In addition to mastering some essentials that apply to everyone (to be outlined below) regarding the Mind, Body and Piano components, you will then have 'options' of content to master; your theoretical knowledge will be according to Your path, not a fixed curriculum, although it may include recommended reading.  Repertoire will be Your own choice, no matter its traditional 'grade'.  Technical exercises will include some which benefit everyone but can still be personalised, with many being 'options', again, depending on Your path, with recommendations if you wish to try them out.  Not all internal philosophies need to be mastered; the internal manuscript, for example, isn't necessary since not everyone wants to learn how to sight-read.  Water Pianism is flexible in this way; rather than putting pressure on you to learn to read pieces at sight, which is detrimental if sight-reading isn't part of Your journey, you can focus on something else without feeling guilty yet still make progress.

By adhering to the Water Pianism philosophy, you will make significantly more progress than if you adopt the limiting, detrimental and unpersonalised grade system everyone knows and follows.  You will spend a lot more time in your Mind and with your Body, identifying yourself and overcoming challenges in Your own way, focusing all your energies on what is necessary for You and all this while acquiring and/or composing (something the regular grade system doesn't go near) according to Your Musical Personality.

As a bit of fun mixed with quite a powerful statement of progress, Water Pianism Progress Certificates will exist for you to aim for.  A little like grade certificates but not really at all awarded in the same vein and carrying no official value whatsoever, these will be 'awarded' upon posted proof in front of the Water Pianism Community (by posting a video or audio file, or showing me in a private online video session) that you have achieved either a required ability (such as absolute major scale mastery on your internal piano) or succeeded in a personal goal (being able to play the danthecomposer's Piano Challenge at 180bpm without fault, or performing a complex piece you otherwise thought impossible and knowing it away from the piano as well).  These are achievements which are non-existent in the regular grade system so although fun, represent significant abilities indeed!

General Overview of Syllabus Content & Structure

The Overview Part:

There are three primary categories of focus:  Mind, Body and Piano.

The Mind category involves: the Four Internal Philosophies (Piano, Metronome, Jukebox and Manuscript), as well as beneficial mindsets to the pianist such as Patience, Musical Personality Awareness and the ability to apply the Dissection Philosophy (to Your own path as well as teaching it to others in need).

The Body category involves:  Understanding and application of:  Good Posture/Energy Puddles, (Personalised) Daily Tendon & Muscle Exercises, Endurance Exercises, Natural Limits, Good General Personal Health Care (Diet & Exercise), Precision, Rapidity, Hand Independence, Two Hands as Ten Fingers, Fluidity and Finger Strength.

The Piano category involves:  1) Technical Exercises, 2) Repertoire and 3) Music Theory.  Each can be expanded to include but is not limited to:  1) Scales, Chords, Stride, Walking Bass, Octave Jumps, Comping, Chord Progressions and Keys, Brain-Breaking Ideas and Personalised Needs, 2) Eras, Genres, Composers & Own Composition and 3) Fundamentals of Music (Pitch, Harmony, Timbre, etc.), Knowledge of Italian Musical Terms, Time Signatures, Key Signatures, Notation, Rhythms, Transposition, Composers' Lives & Works, Improvisation, Chord Theory, Scales, Piano History, Jazz History & Jazz Musicians, Form & Structure (Arias, Symphonies, 12 Bar Blues, Binary Form, 32 Bar Jazz Pieces, etc), Composition Theory, Counterpoint, Solfege and Transcription.

It is important to understand that Water Pianism does not teach these concepts, per se (although I have made videos on many of these topics - just search my playlists to find them); rather, it helps guide you to realise what You need to learn then helping you acquire that knowledge or skill.  There is no need to rewrite the Oxford Companion to Music (!) or write every Italian term since they already exist.  Water Pianism simply helps you with self-mastery and shines a light in the right direction for you to them achieve what You need - and if a certificate can be offered to you by way of further inspiration, motivation and pride, then let it be so!

The Structure Part:

Once again, neither Water Pianism itself nor this syllabus structure is a fixed collection of rules which apply to everybody; you must pick and choose and blend what You have selected with Your own self-mastery desires, according to Your own schedule and to the level You decide as suitable for Your path... with a few words of guidance from myself and others, perhaps.  That said, some elements of pianism simply cannot be avoided by anybody, no matter their path, repertoire choices, age, natural abilities or mindset.

To briefly expand on this matter of particular importance, one cannot avoid at least a certain level of competence with the major scales; for some, the major scales must be absolutely perfect, at speed, both hands simultaneously (these are the ones chasing higher-level ambitions such as being a concert pianist), whereas if someone just wants to compose their own music for fun in their bedroom, just knowing them theoretically, by their shapes is enough.  Either way, they have to be known to some degree.

The same can be said for chord types and chord progressions.  If you like jazz, you need to know the common jazz chord progressions and extensions; if you want to play Chopin, this knowledge would be quite useless to you since he only uses major and minor triads, with a few whole diminisheds - on the other hand, you would have to study sight-reading and notation whereas the jazz head would not - an ability to transpose a song would be a more beneficial skill.  Do you see how both of these paths need to know how to make chords but they will use and master them in different ways and to different, personalised levels?  This is the Water Pianism philosophy and syllabus structure at work.

Here are the requirements, which can be personalised, to reach the first of a variety of fixed and/or personalised Water Pianism Progress certificates:

Major Scale Mastery:  all 12 keys, at and away from the piano (internal piano mastery), including note value awareness (F is the root of itself, the 5th of Bb, the 3rd of Db, etc.).  Performance of them is not necessary unless you set yourself a personalised goal.  Shape mastery and instantaneous note value awareness is the goal.

Four Primary Chord Types:  M7, dominant 7, m7, mM7 in all 12 keys, at and away from the piano (internal piano mastery), including inversions (which, as a Water Pianist, you know do not exist so shall not be an issue).  Performance of them is not necessary but recommended in a style or styles and tempo of your choosing.  Shape mastery and instantaneous inversion recognition is the goal.  Extra chords can be added if desired, depending on path.

Technical Exercise Personalisations:  At the piano, demonstration in at least three technical exercises of your choosing to prove precision, fluency and endurance involving some blend of chromaticism, major scales and chord types.  Both hands must be involved at some point.  Staccato only.

Musical Personality & Water Pianism Awareness:  This can be spoken or written (at least 300 words, I'd propose) and must involved a thorough analysis of your musical preferences, using as much theory as possible.  This way, you are encouraged to research particular music theory for Your path.  If you like Bossa Nova, what is it about the rhythm emphasis which makes it different from Tango?  What chords are commonly used?  Name some famous pieces (Jobim performing with Frank Sinatra, for example).  If you like Debussy, what was his deal with chord types?  What is a common fingering difficulty for students of his repertoire?  You see?  It's a personalised journey of encouragement and knowledge acquisition.  As for Water Pianism itself, a pretty deep understanding of the philosophies and their application, with particular emphasis on which philosophies apply most to you and how you might go about sharing them with others.  After all, Water Pianism is not a selfish endeavour, it is a self-mastery-to-benefit-others endeavour!

Finally, I'd like to share an idea that I have been discussing with a few subscribers, students and fellow Water Pianists:  creating a paid, specific and semi-personalised video and podcast collection of lessons, with homework, which pertain exactly to this new Water Pianism Syllabus concept to help get students to at least the first certification level as written above... and that's a very good level.  This may be ten videos, perhaps.  Although I have videos on the content already, it is not necessarily ordered and is not personalised for individuals.  It was also not created with a syllabus in mind but a random bunch of 100,000+ people.  This collection would be structured, personalised for different paths and involve homework.  You would progress at your own rate and watch each video in your own time.  There would also be written accompanying content and recommended reading/listening.

I would also create specific paid video lessons (45 mins upwards, perhaps) which dissect classical and jazz repertoire and help you learn a piece at then away from the piano.  You would then share your progress with the Water Pianists' Progress Playlist (which you can already do now based on my regular YouTube videos, check it out) but get specific feedback from me as per the syllabus and/or your own goals.  We could also discuss your homework in a call session or email exchange.  My ambition is to help you focus on you Mind, Body and Piano elements and to set you on Your path as soon as possible.  In other words, in the kindest way possible, I want to personally be part of your path for the shortest time possible so that I don't interfere or influence it, enjoying occasional positive progress reports/updates from time to time.

Thank you for reading thus far.  Your feedback would be most appreciated: danthecomposer@gmail.com