Just as with sports, playing any instrument, especially the piano involves the development of a specific muscle set. These muscles should be warmed up before playing and should be strengthened on a daily basis to ensure perfection.
The muscle set for piano playing is mostly restricted to the fingers, hands, wrists and forearms. Though this may sound relatively insignificant when compared to an olympic tri-athlete for example, there is actually a huge amount of muscles involved in piano playing.
It has been recognized for years that one can become more fluent and apt at the keyboard you need to work hard at strengthening your finger movement. This is why there have been piano finger exercises around ages. Examples of these exercises also known as five finger exercises have been composed and compiled by several composers. Probably the most popular of these is Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises. Other well known finger exercises have been compiled by Schmitt and Czerny.
At the end of the 19th century it became fashionable amongst popular pianists and composers to see who could write and play the most technical and challenging pieces. Liszt was undoubtedly one of the greatest at this as was Chopin. Chopin wrote a series of études (studies) which are said to be designed for strengthening the fingers.
Care should be taken however. The German composer Robert Schumann could not work out why he (and everyone else) had trouble lifting up the fourth finger on each hand. The truth is that the fourth finger is lacking a tendon which the other fingers have allowing them to be lifted up independently of the other fingers. To this end Schumann had a special contraption constructed which would pull his fourth finger back a little further each day in order to strengthen it. The result however was catastrophic as he snapped the only tendon for that finger and lost use of it completely.
Check out this amazing video performance by Harry AKA ‘Harry the piano’
Harry presents himself and then announces that he is going to play the theme tune from harry potter in every style known to man. Well, I must admit, he almost does.
It starts off with a grandiose opening and then begins to sound a little like a silent movie on steroids. Later he goes into a string of other styles from Jazz to classical including ‘a la Chaz and Dave’ (London cockney pub music), a Chopin waltz and even in the style of Michael Jackson.
This performance is brilliant but a bit rough around the edges. It is totally improvised and the cameraman is shouting out ideas for the next style as the recording goes on.
This man is one versatile pianist who obviously dominates his instrument.
You can hear more from Harry at his website harrythepiano.com where you can download his CDs and DVDs or purchase them online. I heard some previews of some of the tracks off his CDs and they are not bad at all. A lot better quality than in the video, obviously well rehearsed, flawlessly performed and studio recorded.
Whilst searching for piano tutorials to publish on the blog I came across the OnlinePianist.com
This is a great resource for pianists of all levels who want to learn how to play actual songs and pieces of music that aren’t just in the public domain.
There is an extensive library of songs in many styles with literally hundreds of examples.
The songs are not exactly tutorials but if you go to the site you will see the innovative method they have used to offer their tutorials.
There is a keyboard onscreen which shows you the notes of the song as they are being played. At first glance it appears to be a video but actually it is more like an interface. The good thing is that you are able to adjust the speed of the playback and start and stop it. This way you can watch and copy in slow motion as you learn. Another really useful feature of the interface is that you can choose to split the performance up and view either the left hand on its own, the right hand or both hands together.
The basic interface is free and you get access to the hundreds of songs and pieces of music available however after a couple of plays you need to sign up via Facebook to retain access. There is a piad version as well that offers some advanced features.
I found this pretty cool app for the iphone and ipad which is now also available for android too.
Its a piano chord finder so you can take any melody and find the chords to it in a flash.
The idea is that you type in to the app the notes of the melody or the notes that you would like to harmonise and the app will tell you which are the chords that will go with that particular note. You choose the chords and build them up allowing the app to play the chords as you touch them.
As well as hearing the audio, which can be piano or organ sounds, you also get to see the chord as it should be played on the piano keyboards.
The way the app functions is quite basic as you don’t always necessarily harmonise each note of a melody. The chords at first glimpse are simple major chords but there is an option to change the chord database so that it will give you Jazz chords or Gospel chords as well.
All in all the app is a little clumsy to use but for those who don’t really know anything about harmony then it can be of great use… for those who do understand about music theory and chords then it can be entertaining for a while and as the app is free there is nothing to loose.
To find the app, you have to search the app store for ‘Piano Harmony MIDI Studio Pro’.
The famous pianist Jerry Lee Lewis rose to fame in the early 1950s with hits such as ‘A whole lotta shakin going on’ and ‘Great balls of fire’.
Lewis pioneered a whole new musical style which later became know as ‘rockabilly’. This was a mixture of his two great loves in music, first that of the then predominantly negro music, rhythm and blues with that of his other musical influence, that of country. The result was a sort of high energy boogie-woogie piano based sound.
His success carried on through the 1960s despite a huge scandal due to his marriage to his younger cousin. He still has huge record sales and is still touring to this day.
There are lots of piano tutorials available which will teach you how to play in the style of this revolutionary trend setting musician.
Here are a couple of the one I managed to find on YouTube.
This is a video tutorial that breaks down how to play the some of the basic riffs in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis
And this is another good one
And just to finish off, here is a clip of the great master himself from 1956.
In 1986 Jerry Lee Lewis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame due to his pioneering contribution to the genre of rockabilly.
The best thing of all is that the whole course can be tried out for just $1. The 14 day $1 trial allows you to check out all aspects of this very complete course so you can decide whether to continue and pay the the very reasonable $27 monthly fee.
The course offers tuition from the most basic level for absolute beginners to a fairly high intermediate level.
One of the best features of this course is that they have a large selection of song tutorials in video format so you can watch and play along whilst you learn some of the most in demand popular and modern songs available. If there is one thing I have learned from offering help on learning the piano it is that most people want to learn how to play real songs and this course certainly has this covered.
The inclusion of thousands of pieces of sheet music alone is worth the cost of the course. As you may have discovered, sheet music can be very expensive and to find free sheet music is a nightmare with hundreds of shady rip off sites all getting you to jump through hoops of signing up for memberships only to not deliver in the end.
Here is a list of some of the song tutorials that they have available.
There is a forum manned by a team of real piano teachers so you can keep in touch and get any questions or doubts answered by the professionals and there is also an online help system.
Just going by the amount of material that is available with this course I would go as far as to say that the course would be attractive to even the most experienced piano player just for the sheer amount of tutorials and sheet music available without even going into the course details.
This is a really useful tool for not just piano players but for all musicians. It shows you exactly how many sharps or flats there are for each different key signature whether it be major or minor.
You search for your key signature by name… when you click on the key then you get confronted with a different page showing you exactly how many sharps or flats that particular key has. You also get shown which is the relative minor (or relative major) along with a list of the most common chords for that key signature.
As well as showing you how many sharps or flats it will also show you which they are listing them on the musical stave as well as in writing.
You will find this resource extremely useful if you are starting to read music and are now playing in several different keys. It will quickly serve as a reference to show you exactly how you should be playing each song.