Playing yourself out

Pianists and other musicians understand that it can be very easy for your playing to plateau. Often it is more of an emotional plateau than an actual physical halt in progress but everybody who plays experiences this sooner or later.

For beginners it usually occurs shortly after they have managed to put their initial chords together and established their first rhythm patterns. The strange thing is many people become discouraged during this period because it feels like they are just playing the same thing over and over and not getting any better, when in actual fact it is in those moments that the real progress takes place.

Here is the crucial point where you have to keep practicing and playing the same chords or patterns over and over again without getting frustrated, or worse, bored of playing the piano.

But how can you do it? How can you keep going?

Keep these three things in mind:

1. Remember. Always remember why you started to learn to play the piano.

2. Inspiration. Search for your best source of inspiration; keeping track of your favorite pianists and composers and always listening to all kinds of music to get inspired.

3. Routine. Build your own practice routine, a routine that best suits your needs and what you are wanting to achieve.
Good luck with this!

Posted by Ben Edwards

Drum Machines

We have talked about the importance of using a metronome when practicing to improve your timing and I’m going to assume if you’re reading this then you know what rhythm is about.

Timing is one of the most important things in music, I am telling you this as a drummer.

The advantage for pianists is that they can play unaccompanied and therefore can keep their own timing, keep their own tempo and do whatever they like with a musical piece… but, have you had a jam with a drummer?

Piano and drums are two very different instruments, but in some ways they are very similar – the piano can be very percussive. A piano and drums combo can be a very interesting source of music composition.

You might have a friend who has a drumkit or who is keen to get into playing drums, if you don’t, you can buy a friend who is a drum kit itself, that’s right, just buy a drum machine! Who needs friends anyway? Just kidding…

Or, if you own a keyboard or a workstation, it should definitely come with some drum beats or even better, a drum machine to create your own.

What about a metronome?

A metronome gives you rhythm and timing but it can be a little monotonous. To spice things up a bit pianists can replace a metronome with a drum machine.

A drum machine of course has perfect timing but it will also give you a clearer notion of rhythm. You will find that playing with a drumbeat or drum machine will make you discover the magic of the beat itself – silences, notes, gaps, spaces; play behind the beat, ahead, on the beat, etc.

If you are interested… what beat machine to buy?

There are as many options in the beat machine world as there are in the piano and keyboard world. If you’re on a tight budget, you can get one of those cheap, plastic keyboards from a department store which have a built-in drum machine, yes, those keyboards that look more like toys – they will have a crappy drum machine sound but they will do the trick.

If you do have some money to spend, well, let me tell you that a good drum machine can really be a good investment. BOSS and Alesis have some really good options at affordable prices, Kawai is another brand that has some affordable options too.

Having a good drum machine will also help you to get into creating beats and understanding them, in other words, music composition. This is an ideal thing to have as a pianist and it can open your playing up to more a percussive style.

I hope you get the idea of what I mean… If you are keen on a drum machine and have some questions about a particular model or brand, comment it out and we will try to help.

Cheers to all!

Luis Tovar

Posted by Luis Tovar