Time to Get Real


Face the facts...

I have over 310 videos on my channel.  That means that I have covered pretty much everything, sometimes more than once, that you could ever need to improve and achieve your piano ambitions.  I always take requests and do polls to see what people want and need, as well as throwing in some things I am sure people will enjoy.  That said, it's a lot of content and sometimes I struggle with new content.
I have two solutions for this:  First is my Video Management Website which is free to join and use.  Second is my Water Pianism Syllabus.  Consider this article a third solution to help you consolidate your learning and focus your attention on your weaknesses instead of getting lost in the ocean of piano content available (on my and other channels).

This article comes with a free PDF document to download and print off and a video demonstrating the content of the document.  I'm making this effort to help orientate everybody onto somewhat of a similar page, no matter your path, in terms of major scale mastery and finger independence.  Consider it a mini, free version of the syllabus for the casual learner.  Below, I explain the concept behind the document and give you some motivational thoughts.  The video is below and demos the content in one place to save you jumping around videos.

The Water Pianism philosophy emphasises the power of your mind, especially when it comes to the internal piano for major scale, chord type and chord progression mastery.  If you can't see shapes in your mind, you can't possibly play them at the piano.  Further to this, you can practise these shapes away from the piano when you don't have time to sit at the piano itself, giving you many more hours a day to literally practise.  Of course, on the other side of the coin is your technical ability.

You must understand that impressive technical ability is very easy to achieve; it just takes a different amount of time for different people, so don't compare; everyone's hand and natural abilities/difficulties are different.  It's easy to achieve because you only have ten fingers (quicker if less!) and each finger combination has a particular stretch to work up to.  All you need to do is get to the point where each finger combination, across both hands, no matter the hand, is as comfortable, fluent, precise, flexible, rapid and dynamically controlled to within 90% of every other finger combination.  Maintaining it for some level of endurance is also beneficial.

In other words, you are aiming for rapidity and precision, plus all the other things I just wrote, whether it's your stronger (right, usually) hand thumb and middle finger or your weaker (left, usually) ring and index, irrelevant of the interval being played.  With this in mind, whatever you play becomes easier - chord or melody line, either hand - because you've mastered the only thing required to play the piano: finger independence via interval mastery.  You can go through all the technical exercise books in the world, learn all the theory and know tons of chord types but at the end of the day, you need to know your weaknesses and bring them up to the standards of your stronger fingers, then carry them all too levels you would never believe you can attain, otherwise your playing suffers from hesitations and missed notes, not to mention the emotional detriment of not feeling good enough.
I'm here to tell you that you can, and will, attain them, if you adhere to my advice and use this document to get real about where you're at and where you could/should be.

In case you missed it earlier, the document is available here.  Feel free to print and share as much as you wish.

As you can see, it's simply two pages with a load of boxes, titles and spaces.  I am obliged to explain first, however: doing this is not your forever piano life; it's a few weeks or months.  It is a lot easier to maintain what you have achieved than to actually achieve it.  I rarely do technical exercises but if I do or have to for a video, they come out quickly, precisely and fluently, even if it takes a few minutes of eyes closed refinement to get there.  I've done all the hard work towards very refined finger independence and all the others things I wrote earlier and that's why it's easy to maintain.  It is of course my sole intention and passion to get you to this level, than highlight my own ability.

So, identify your weaker fingers by experimenting with the proposed technical exercise.  It is beneficial for any pianist of any level and of any repertoire preference.  Make a note of which fingers ache sooner, tense up quicker, require extreme concentration to make move, etc.  These are the ones to focus on.  Don't worry, the others won't suddenly dry up!  Find your natural limit with a metronome at which you can comfortably, without too much effort, execute the proposed exercise.  It may be 1 note per second (60BPM) - that's fine.  It's a starting point and everything in nature has a starting point.  One cannot pull a seedling to bloom; wisdom is found in the watering and enjoyment of growth. 
You will, upon ten or so successful, comfortable and no-conscious-interference repetitions, increase the tempo by 10-15BPM until you can execute at that higher speed which becomes your new natural limit.  Very quickly - and I really mean quicker than you expect - you will be at 120 and above, even with your eyes closed (which is very, very strongly recommended).  The difficulty you are perceiving to believe is real, is indeed false.  Little by little the bird makes her nest.  By all means print more for different exercises you'd like to get good at.

Use this opportunity to identify your weaker major scales and take this opportunity to master them.  I have a playlist with 12 videos to help you (linked above).  Just finally, once and for all, I beg you, learn the bloody things!!!  Combine major scale mastery with a variety of technical exercises and of course personalise.  Use both hands together as much as possible and vary your fingering.  There is no such thing as 'correct fingering' so remove that nonsense from your minds.  As a Water Pianist, you are able to play any major scale with any fingering combination.  123/1234 is just one possibility.  Why not 12/1234/123/12/123/12/12345?  It just doesn't matter.

Use this opportunity to identify chords you know (and I mean really know: the template, using notes of the major scale).  It's fair to say you probably know 1 3 5 (major triad) or 1 b3 5 (minor triad).  If so, great - play them in all inversions by highlighting the note values.  There are no inversions.  They don't exist.  There is nothing to remember but the base template so play it how you want:  b3 5 1 / 5, b3, 1.. it doesn't matter.  Add more complex chords if you wish.  I have so many videos on chords (109 apparently, at the time of writing).  See this playlist to choose one!

Use this opportunity to identify chord progressions you know or should know.  1 4 5 (blues).  1564 (pop).  (3)(6)251 (jazz).  Play around with variations of these using major and minor triads to see what you like. Don't worry about heavy theory, just get the root movement (bass note) and chord types going in various keys and personalise how you play them.

Once you've gone through all these things, you should be in much better shape to continue your piano adventures by adding repertoire or composing.  Your problem is that you're either spending too much time on repertoire and hoping the technique will arrive (it won't) or you're spending too much time on techniques that you can already do and shying away from those you can't, especially avoiding keys you're not comfortable with.

And so, as the title of this article indicates: it's time to get real.  So, how you doin'?

Good luck and enjoy!