Sonny's Piano Playing Tips

Piano Improvising Tip

  • It's a miracle. That's what piano playing is.
  • When truly improvising, the music that comes out reflects the essence of each person.
  • The piano is a vehicle for revealing ourselves to ourselves.
  • You can't force it.
  • The piano is a vehicle for self-realization.
  • When you start not knowing where the music that is emanating from you is coming from, then you have arrived.
  • In the beginning, keep your forays into improvisation upon melodies "close to the vest"... simple / just a few notes away from the original song.
  • It's not about playing jazz - - it's about playing you!
  • Mistakes are often your best source for new ideas.
  • You can't get the zone, the zone finds you....
  • Piano playing is about being yourself, enjoying what you are doing...it's not about being perfect.
  • Success is measured by how much enjoyment and pleasure you derive and share with others.

Places You Never Dreamed

The piano can take you to places you never dreamed possible........it's an energy box that can lead you into a kind of vortex of feeling and sound..... it's a singing machine...a magical muse....it can be like riding Pegasus the mythical winged horse ..it's like a true friend... always there for you......it's an instant de-stressor......a place to go fly......a letting go corner............breathe deep... relax from your head down to your feet ...feel each note as you play ....through piano playing you can connect with what you've always wanted to connect to .....yourself...life essence....core being.....true self.....surrender to playing the piano...let it take you...guide you....be free......and just play.

Relax And Have Fun

Many of us as children took music lessons that we found boring and too mechanical which turned us off to the beauty, joy and health benefits music has to offer. Today there's a new approach to learning how to play an instrument that emphasizes fun and enjoyment over being perfect all the time. Success is not measured by how fast or perfectly you play, but rather by how much happiness, joy and satisfaction playing brings you. The interesting thing is, when you take this more relaxed approach, your playing actually improves in leaps and bounds because the energy you were wasting worrying and being critical of yourself is freed up to enable you to play up to your full potential, This is the style of teaching we use at Sonny's Piano Studio.

Finding Your Groove

When you start finding the groove.... or how to flow on the piano you will find it will spill over into other aspects of your life....Actually when you find the groove, flow, zone in any arena of life it spills over into all aspects of your life... learn to flow while dancing, running, playing sports, doing yoga, martial arts or creating art .... learn to master one thing and you'll begin to understand the principle behind the art of flowing or mastering things in general... and you will find it easier to be successful at anything you apply yourself to.

Use What You Know

It's not how much you know but how you use what you know.... ... is an idea that very much applies to piano playing. You don't need a PhD in music theory to successfully play piano. If you learn some of the basic concepts of piano playing (especially the chord method and some improvisation techniques) and get in touch with your own inner musical flow you will be playing wonderful music in no time. Also, the expression less is more applies to piano playing as well...it's not how complex or advanced the music you play is that reflects your success but rather the feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction you get from what and how you play that counts.

Breathing.....

When playing the piano, try taking some slow, steady, deep breaths. You will find your ability to concentrate and flow will instantly increase and you will also find immediate improvement in your velocity and eye-hand coordination. Try taking several slow, deep breaths when you first sit down at your piano before you play a note. This will help you to relax and reduce performance anxiety. Breathing is one of the most overlooked aspects of playing the piano. As with many other activities which require concentration and physical movement, there is a tendency for people to try too hard and tense up which restricts full respiration which reduces full range of motion in your hands and causes an uncomfortable, anxious feeling due to reduced circulation and CO2 build up. When Playing the Piano remember to Breathe... Relax... Flow... and Enjoy Yourself......

Awaken Your Left Hand

Next time you sit down at your piano, try playing the melody line with your left hand. This will improve your eye-hand coordination and help you to play in a more fluid, relaxed and creative fashion. Whether you're playing classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues or improvising ...... spend a few minutes every time you sit down to play letting the left hand break out of the usual chord patterns routine and jump into the spotlight by playing melody. You will see an immediate increase in your left hand awareness, mobility and creativity.

Play What You Feel!

Sometimes when we sit down at the piano we are at a loss to think of what to play... well that is a good moment to take a few deep breaths and play what you feel! How does one do that, you may ask? Good Question! During these stressful times, you may feel nervous or anxious... well then play something which you play fast and energetically to burn off some of your tension. Perhaps you are feeling a bit blue... then play something slow and bluesy and release some of those blue feelings in a positive, creative way. Whatever you are feeling, play a piece of music or in a style that corresponds with the emotion and you will feel better. Playing piano is a wonderful way to release pent up emotions and stress....... it's a very valuable and therapeutic vehicle for maintaining your balance and helping others feel good as well.

Improving Hand Awareness & Playing Technique

Try this easy exercise to improve your eye-hand coordination and playing technique. Play Middle C with your right thumb, press the key down as slowly as you can... do it several times... feel the sensation of the hammer raising and then the click? Ever feel that before? Do the same with the index finger on the D key...then the middle finger on the E...ring finger on the F and pinky on the G...press down as slowly as you can....do the same with the left hand.... we are trying to increase awareness in your fingers as you play the notes on the piano. Now repeat ..only this time play the notes quickly... feel the sensation in your fingers as you do it. When playing the piano, always, of course, breathe and relax.... and also try and focus on the sensation in your fingers as you press the keys down ... play softly ... then play briskly.....press the keys all the way down and hold in the down position...these exercises will help you to express what you are feeling in your heart more freely through your fingers... and give you greater finger/hand awareness and improve your overall technique.

Relax and Feel

When I play piano, I attempt to get to a place where I'm locked into the feeling of the moment and the notes are emanating from that feeling without conceptualization or conscious thought. The true bliss and joy of piano playing comes from letting go and fully surrendering to the creative act in progress. I'm always amazed when this state of being blesses me with its presence and even more amazed at the music that comes forth. When I don't try to do anything, the more I relax the better it sounds, less is more. When I was teaching athletes to improve performance it was the same principle. Try too hard to hit a home run, you tend to tense up and hold or restrict your breath and you strike out. Surrender to the pleasurable feeling of the swing, to the process, to the moment. Breathe and relax into the swing and then you hit more home runs. This same principle applies to all movement-related activities.

Piano Creativity

Every time I play a tune / piece it comes out differently. I actually pride myself on that fact. Because I never feel exactly the same at any two given moments in time. My life is always changing and so is the moment I surrender to. Therefore, the music that comes out is always changing. Take Gershwin's "Summertime", for instance. I've played it hundreds, if not thousands of times since I was a kid and each time it comes out differently. Sometimes, it starts out like the original, then I begin breathing and relaxing into it, then away it goes (based on how I am feeling at the moment), sometimes playing with arpeggios in the left hand, sometimes jazzy or bluesy, maybe swinging or ballad-like, with walking bass line in the left hand or a stride chord left hand. Chord melody in the right hand, maybe octaves, even atonally then soft, then thunderous. Or really switch it around and play the melody with the left hand and the chords/harmony with the right hand. Maybe no melody at all, just improvisation on the blues scale of the key I'm playing it in, or in the relative minor key, different keys, melody and improvisation with both hands and on infinitum.

To Improvise Or Not To Improvise. That Is The Question.

Whether it be nobler to follow the rules and constraints of the accepted comfortable way that came before, or to set out on a new course totally without restrictions. Linked to what came before but not limited by it. The inevitable next step, a course based on one's own inner compass. A leap of faith into the unknown, overcoming the fear of letting go. Play from your heart, play from your soul, play from the seat of your pants, play with complete abandon. Combine all that you know, all your muscle memories and life experiences. Synthesize all that you are and just play. To improvise means to live completely in the moment and just breathe, surrender to the experience , let go, merge. Bruce Lee put it this way "When about to fight, do not anticipate the outcome, just be in the moment and breathe. You will know what to do when the time comes.

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