Bach, Mozart, Debussy and Schubert are just some of the musicians who’ve helped establish the piano as one of the most famous instruments in the history of music.
Many children begin practicing this instrument at a young age, learning how to play scales, hold their hands properly, and perform some of the most beautiful songs.
But, you don’t have to be Beethoven or Chopin to learn how to play the piano!
As music has evolved, musicians of all types have been tickling the ivories to create new styles, such as jazz, blues, and even rock!
What a loss it would be to limit yourself to learning only classical music. The piano is a fantastic instrument that allows a musician to move between all (or almost all) of the musical styles history has to offer.
Would you like to know why?
Of all the instruments in the world, more people play the piano than any other instrument!
Everyone has a friend, a cousin, or a friend of a cousin whose an expert at music theory and can play whatever piece you put in front of him or her by simply reading the score.
But, why is this instrument so universal?
First of all, the history of the piano is one of social class. The piano has long been seen as an object of nobility that one simply must have as a sign of culture and intelligence. A child that plays the piano is a well-educated child.
Fortunately, times have changed.
While the piano remains the preferred instrument of a certain elite, it has also become more commonplace.
Today, many parents sign their children up for music theory classes and piano lessons. Practicing the piano is an excellent way to awaken a child’s musical awareness. It is also wonderful for brain development.
The key is to coordinate the rhythm-playing left hand with the melody-playing right hand. It is therefore highly recommended that you practice the piano with your young musician.
Learning the piano is quite beneficial for children.
Many musicians began refining their motor skills and developing an ear for music from childhood.
Playing the piano can also help all types of musicians improve their essential musical skills. Whether they play the guitar, the flute, the harp, the violin, or the harmonica, developing a sense of rhythm, an awareness of dynamics, as well as learning correct posture and how to concentrate are important for all musicians.
What’s more, the piano lessons are sometimes used as therapy in certain medical cases to aid in the recuperation of the senses.
Everyone can play the piano.
Whether you are a beginner on the piano or a virtuoso, it is impossible to play out of tune, because you simply press on a piano key, a much simpler task than finding the perfect fingering on a guitar.
Of course, unless you have perfect pitch, you’ll need a bit of practice, some talent, and a few music theory classes to achieve those lovely chords.
But, keep in mind that many of today’s musicians and singers began by playing the piano.
Such is the case with Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and many other musicians.
Would you like to begin learning the piano but are not sure if it’s quite your style?
Or, do you enjoy a variety of musical styles, but wonder if the piano is the instrument for you?
The piano is the perfect instrument on which to begin your musical training. Learning the piano will equip you with the basics for any type of music. Whether you wish to play jazz, blues, rock, or pop, you must become familiar with solfège (treble clef, bass clef, sharps, and flats) and music theory (harmony, tempo, rhythm, improvisation).
And sometimes, learning to play Fur Elise or a piece by Liszt can teach you something about your own technique. It’s best to avoid limiting yourself to one style if you wish to make progress.
The piano is an essential instrument for any style.
The piano is a very comprehensive instrument, suited to any type of musical activity, giving each musician great freedom in terms of practice and style.
Piano music can incorporate many voices, or polyphony. Likewise, the piano can accompany other pieces or songs.
Plus, pianos are much more affordable today than they were a few decades ago. In fact, synthesizers have made all sorts of pianos accessible to just about anyone.
There are small synthesizers for teaching piano to young children or simply exposing them to sounds. But, you can also find more sophisticated synthesizers for use by amateurs or professionals on stage.
Synthesizers are usually recommended for rock or pop music. Such instruments allow the sound to be manipulated in a variety of ways.
Prices can vary widely among classical acoustic pianos as well. From grand pianos to upright pianos, prices can differ significantly.
Whatever your situation, finding a piano that suits you will be easy.
So, you’ve found the piano of your dreams, your partner in composition and rehearsal.
Now, it’s time to make some adjustments to achieve your desired style.
First, there is the sound. If you’ve just bought an acoustic piano, there is little to do. Your piano’s sound will be relatively uniform, even when using the damper pedal.
However, if you’ve opted for a synthesizer, it is important to choose the proper sound.
Your instrument offers many options. For example, you may add a vibrato effect or play with a sound resembling an organ.
You can choose the sound that fits you best.
The second aspect to consider is rhythm, which will serve as the base for every piece of music you play. For example, while a reggae rhythm is rather quick and steady, jazz pianists will use a simple and direct beat to accompany soloists or improvise their own solos.
Jazz pianists use simple and direct rhythms.
Tone is also an important factor that can distinguish one piano style from another.. In other words, you may choose to play in a major key or a minor key.
But, what difference does that make?
If you choose a major key, your piece will sound joyful and light. On the other hand, a minor key will give your music a more serious or sad feeling.
The piano is one of those instruments that seems to have been around forever! However, it was actually invented rather recently, in the 18th century by the Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori.
The piano has much in common with the harpsichord, the noble instrument of the 17th century. The strings of a harpsichord are plucked rather than struck like the strings in today’s pianos. Pianos are also built with a mechanism for controlling the force with which the hammers hit the strings. This feature is what gave this instrument the name “piano” (“quietly” in Italian).
In the 19th century, the piano was the honored instrument in bourgeois families. Later, it became more commonplace and evolved to suit such musical styles as the blues, jazz, rock, and the French chanson tradition.
Classical music is probably most often linked to the piano.
However, the term “classical” really refers to a period of history and not a style of music properly called “art music.”
Musicians such as Debussy, Ravel, among others are icons of classical music. Today’s piano students are learning pieces like Bach’s Prelude.
Jazz and blues piano
In the years following the 1850s, the piano became more popular than ever.
The instrument became easier to transport from one place to another, and two musical styles, jazz and blues, appeared for the first time. Originating with black slaves at the beginning of the century, jazz and blues were heard in bars and took inspiration from gospel music.
Then, pianists began to play ragtime, a cousin of jazz with a harmonic base and roots in romantic music.
Rhythm and blues and rock piano
Somewhat later, in the 1950s, R&B arrived on the scene with musicians like Ray Charles, followed by rock ‘n’ roll and icons like Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry.
Ray Charles, master of rhythm and blues.
Reggae first appeared in Jamaica in the second half of the 19th century.
After World War II, American troops brought jazz to Jamaica. Jazz soon transformed into R&B, which the local musicians reappropriated, introducing the idea of playing on the offbeat.
And so, ska made its appearance only to evolve into reggae. Synthesizers have since facilitated playing reggae music on the piano.
The birth of the great grandfather of the piano as we know it today took place in the 18th century.
Originally born in Italy, the piano was remodelled several times in Germany, before being industrialised in the United States. Formerly reserved for the elite and upper bourgeoisie, this instrument became popular during the second half of the 20th century.
It emerged from the evolution of the clavichord and the cymbalum, two stringed instruments.
Around 1770, the piano forte was born. It was the flagship instrument of the classical period in music from J.S. Bach (1685-1750) to W. A. Mozart (1756-1791) to F. Schubert (1797-1828). However, it was then not until about 1880-1890, a whole century later, that the piano as we know it was to be built.
At that time, there were over a dozen firms producing “modern pianos” in 1885, including Blüthner, Broadwood, Pleyel, Erard and Stein. In order to develop their image and position themselves in this new competitive market, firms sought the image of the great pianists of their times to gain in competitiveness, using the likes of Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin to lend their names to the great pianos factories.
Playing the piano soon became a worldwide pleasure and, thanks to research on excellence and quality of play, the piano industry is still flourishing to this day.
The era of technology has not dulled the life of this “noble” instrument: today, the electronic piano offers the same sounds as a straight piano but is mobile, lightweight, compact and removable.
The development of the electronic piano allowed the middle class to discover the instrument and to find piano teachers to learn how to play this instrument.
To help you start playing piano music in various styles, here is a short list of tunes you can practice to your heart’s content.
Moonlight Sonata, by Ludwig Van Beethoven is a very famous piece though few people may know its name. You may have heard it in Interview with a Vampire or The Pianist.
Let It Be, written by Paul McCartney and released in 1970, is a Beatles classic.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, it is one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Released in 2001, Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles became a radio hit.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the video in which the singer travels the world accompanied by her piano.
The bluesy Summertime by George Gershwin was composed for the opera Porgy and Bess and debuted in 1935.
The lyrics were written by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin.
Roots Rock Reggae by Bob Marley may not be the first song you’d think of when looking for something to play.
Nevertheless, there are many tutorials on the web that show you how to play Marley’s greatest hits on the piano.
There may be numerous keys, but the piano is, in its simplest form, black and white. There is nothing overly complicated about it: the notes go up as you go from left to right and all you need to do to trigger a sound is to tap on the key, holding multiple ones together to play richer, more melodic sounds.
This is why the piano is actually a relatively easy instrument to learn and teach, and a reason for this being such a popular first instrument for youngsters to learn. Some may not agree that the pano is easy, however, and many more will argue that the piano is not actually a percussive instrument!
The website Orsymphony.org states that:
“People disagree about whether the piano is a percussion or a string instrument. You play it by hitting its 88 black and white keys with your fingers, which suggests it belongs in the percussion family. However, the keys lift hammers inside the piano that strike strings (indeed, the piano has more strings than any other string instrument), which produce its distinctive sound. Which family do you think it belongs to? Wherever it fits in, there’s no disputing the fact that the piano has the largest range of any instrument in the orchestra. It is a tuned instrument, and you can play many notes at once using both your hands. Within the orchestra the piano usually supports the harmony, but it has another role as a solo instrument (an instrument that plays by itself), playing both melody and harmony.”
What’s more, the piano is a very psychological, instinctive and intuitive instrument to play, and not like your usual percussion instrument.
Because of how the piano responds to the behaviour of the way the person is playing it, it makes it easier to recognise individual musicians through this personalised sound created.
Would you recognise your favourite singer’s voice as soon as you heard it on the radio? Do you think it’s possible to identify a specific piano player from hearing them play a few keys?
Many would argue so, saying that certain piano players manipulate the keys in their very own special way to emote feelings and create atmosphere.
Below are some of the most distinctive melodies to have come from the piano.
1. Ludwig van Beethoven – “Moonlight Sonata”
“The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27, No. 2, popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata, is a piano sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven. It was completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi.
The piece is one of Beethoven’s most popular compositions for the piano, and it was a popular favorite even in his own day. Beethoven wrote the Moonlight Sonata in his early thirties, after he had finished with some commissioned work; there is no evidence that he was commissioned to write this sonata.” – Wikipedia
2. Claude Debussy – “Clair de Lune”
3. Frederic Chopin – “March Funèbre”
4. Ludwig van Beethoven – “Für Elise”
“Beethoven wrote his Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, better known as ‘Für Elise’, in 1810, but it wasn’t published until 1867, 40 years after his death.
It’s one of the first pieces learner pianists play on the piano; open a little music box, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear it’s charming melody. But although it seems like quite a simple piece, it turns out that ‘Für Elise’ is a actually a really sophisticated piece of music: well, it was written by Beethoven after all.” – Classic FM
5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – “Rondo alla Turca”
One of the first steps towards learning how to play one of these stunning pieces or creating your own beautiful symphony is to take lessons with a piano tutor or to try to teach yourself how to play using the various resources on offer.
Taking piano lessons online is a good way to learn how to play the piano.
The Internet offers great possibilities to learn from others, particularly by using sites such as Youtube or Dailymotion.
Watching piano tutorials may be one way to learn how to play piano pieces without having to pay for costly music lessons, but be careful: you have to be wary of certain sites because anyone can record and offer these “tutorials to learn the piano” when they aren’t really qualified to. What you need to look for is more than a good musician, it’s a good teacher.
Watching a tutorial to play a piano piece has many advantages:
While tutorials are good for progressing with your learning, it is recommended to only watch tutorials when you have already acquired a certain level of piano playing confidence.
Before switching to online videos, opt for traditional piano lessons, adapted to your level, with a competent teacher, one of which you can find here at Superprof.
With Superprof, you can find a tutor in your local area who is specialised in teaching the piano, or if you prefer the methods of a teacher who is not within easy reach of you, then you also have the option to sign up for remote learning where your tutor will communicate with you via email, Skype and more to help you to progress.
Your first lesson is absolutely free, so go ahead and see if you might be the next big thing in the world of the piano with the help of a dedicated teacher and guide!