Pianos can express such a wonderful range of emotions. Even before I started taking piano lessons at the age of 10, I had already heard for myself how a master pianist can make the simplest melody or chord progression absolutely gorgeous, just with the way he or she strikes the key–and I bemoaned my own inability to match this effortless grace in my early days of training. A pianist can glide across notes of joy, bang out a song of anger, sound soft sorrowful tones, strike quick, fearful notes, and even create the warm resonation of love–but it takes the knowledge of how intensely to strike the keys so that they give the right effect.
This makes the piano one of the most difficult instruments to master, in my opinion–and this comes from somebody who can’t wrap her head around the guitar or violin! It takes a real “feel” of the music to make the piano express an emotion.
Bad Playing vs. Good Playing: It’s All a Matter of Feeling
The above video is an auditory example of “bad playing” (mechanical, passionless, choppy somehow too strict on timing) as contrasted with “good playing” (flowing, passionate, human, slightly improvised timing). While it is important to stay in tempo, especially when playing in concert with others, there’s a decided lack of feeling when you try to adhere so close to the tempo that you become almost robotic.
This video, one of my favorite video game music arrangements for piano, shows how passionate playing can still be in tempo but express emotion. Slight rubatos here and there, harder strikes on the keys sharply contrasted with softer, gliding strokes, and the ability to let the melody ring out above the chords is what grabs me about this video–but what do you think?
If You’re Just Starting Piano: Some Tips
- Don’t be disheartened when you begin learning piano–you’re not going to sound like a master overnight.
- Listen to many different experienced pianists play, determine what you like and don’t like about their playing style, and then develop your own taste from that. Just like all other forms of music, everyone’s got their own style!
- Find sheet music for songs you absolutely love–that will make the “feeling music” part much, much easier to learn!
- Practice your pieces so that you know the rhythms and pitches inside out…then, allow yourself to slow down and speed up the tempo, just a bit.
- Listen to the melody of a song as it’s played. Which notes are louder? Which notes are barely there? Would you play it the same way, or would you stress different notes?
Piano can seem easy to learn at first and then startlingly difficult–but it can be mastered! Just be willing to feel the music rather than just play it, and you’re halfway there!