1 Secrets To Better Piano Playing by David Hicken

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1 1 Secrets To Better Piano Playing by David Hicken

2 2 Copyright 2015 by Enchanting Music All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to If you find this content to be valuable and want to share it, please direct people to purchase a copy from davidhicken.com. A lot of hard work, time, and expertise went into creating this resource. Your support is greatly appreciated!

3 3 PART I Introduction 7 Who this book is for 7 What this book is not 7 Why this book is necessary 7 Who am I? 8 Your Expectations 9 What is your ultimate goal? 9 Challenging yet rewarding 10 Make a commitment 12 Your Training 12 You need a mentor and a coach 12 How to find a great piano teacher 12 Do not rely only on your teacher 17 Tools of the Trade 18 Choosing a piano 18 Piano placement 20 Piano tuning 21 Additional tools 22 Things to do now 24 Memorize the piano keys now 24 Memorize the notes now 25 Memorize the intervals now 26 Make yourself comfortable 27 Correct posture 27

4 4 PART II Practicing 30 About piano practice 30 Practice every day 31 What you need to do 33 The importance of 3 x 3 x 3 36 Three steps for successful practice 37 Work in order of importance 39 It is all about the feel 40 How you will know when you have got it 41 Drill then distract 42 Think less 43 Hand shapes and positions 44 Moving through your piece 46 Pedal tips 47 Do not put off until later 49 Record one hand and play along with the other 50 Use your instrument s MIDI capabilities 51 A form of meditation 51 Master two against three 52 Be mindful when practicing 52 How to figure out complex rhythms 53 Reading Music 54 Learn to read music 54 Do not memorize your music yet 55 How we really read music 57 Mark your music 58 Pay attention to all markings 59 Do not look at your hands 60 Are you a fast reader? 61 Interpretation 62 The four elements of a great performance 62

5 5 Become a master of timing 62 Create big contrast 63 What your audience wants to hear 64 Make your melodies beautiful by shaping them 65 Technique & Fingering 66 Master your scales 66 The most important tool for any musician 68 Fingering 70 Curve your fingers 71 Avoid thumbs on black notes 72 Cut your nails 72 Avoid hand and finger exercises 73 Shake it out 73 Weight vs. strength 74 Leaning for balance 74 Playing octaves smoothly 75 Alternate fingers for repeated notes 75 Strengthen your weak fingers 76 Finger substitution 77 Four over Five 77 Fingering is often common sense 78 Trills - incorporate the thumb when possible 79 Should you learn Czerny & Hanon exercises? 79 Getting used to another piano 80 Using rhythms to tighten things up 81 Listening 82 Develop your ear 82 Listen, listen, listen 83 Listen to orchestral music - lots of it! 84 You do not need perfect pitch 84 No, you are not tone-deaf 85

6 6 Studying 87 Why learning the piano makes you smarter 87 Do not miss a lesson 90 Solfège 90 Improvisation 91 Composition 92 Harmony 92 Counterpoint 93 Orchestration 93 Memorize your key signatures 94 Why your teacher does not want to teach you pop music 96 The magic of the circle of fifths 97 Performing 97 Play for people 97 Develop a repertoire 98 Playing the piano is difficult because 99 Performances 100 Examinations, Recitals, Competitions & Masterclasses 102 Away from the piano 103 Look at music scores away from the piano 103 Work on your ear training 104 Listen actively to music 104 Use flash cards 105 Learn to love Bach 105 Arranging 106 Conducting 106 Tips for parents 107 Do not make it optional 107 Let teachers do their job 108 Praise, praise then praise some more 109 Feed them good music 109 Encourage a second instrument 109

7 7 Secrets To Better Piano Playing by David Hicken Part I Who this book is for This is a book for anyone who wants to become a better pianist. It applies to people of all ages and backgrounds, and although it assumes that perhaps you know something about the piano, it is ok if you do not, because it will help you get started on the right track. No matter what type of training you have had, (or lack thereof), if you have a desire to improve your piano skills, there is something in this book for you. What this book is not This book is not a gimmick. There are no false claims about being able to play a piece of music in one weekend, or learn a few songs overnight. It will not tell you to forgo traditional training, or claim that you can do away with scales and music notation. It will not fool you into thinking that there is some long lost, undiscovered potion that will make you play brilliantly. It will not put forward idle promises about being able to play well with minimal effort. Quite the contrary, this book will make it very clear that there is serious work and time involved in mastering the piano. But fear not! If you commit and stick with it, you will succeed, and this book will help you to reach your goals. Why this book is necessary A piano teacher can only cover a certain amount of material in each lesson. By the time you have played your scales and a few pieces, there is

8 8 little time for a teacher to explain exactly what you should be doing at home, and how you should be doing it. What should your practice session consist of? How long should it be? What can you expect after a few months? What challenges will you face and how will you overcome them? What tools do you need? What should you do when you get frustrated, and feel like giving up? These are common questions that rarely receive good answers. Music is a vast subject, and with so much to learn, it can feel somewhat overwhelming for the well-intentioned beginner. This book provides a roadmap that will put you on the right track towards success. It can save you countless hours of frustration, trial and error. It will help you to understand more clearly, the process involved in learning and mastering this wonderful art of music; something that will give you pleasure and enjoyment for the rest of your life. There is a lot of information here, and you should consider reading this book several times. It contains a wealth of essential information, much of which you may forget after the first reading. Come back to it again and again, and assimilate as much of this information as you can. You will be glad you did. Who am I? I was born and raised in England, and began piano lessons with my mother when I was three. I worked through examinations for the Royal Schools of Music in Piano, Clarinet, Organ and Music Theory and received the highest levels when I was twelve. I worked on my Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, and Associate of the Royal College of Organists diplomas when I was sixteen, and went on to study with Nicholas Danby at the Royal College of Music and Donald Sutherland at Peabody Conservatory of Music.

9 9 I signed my first record contract when I was eighteen and went on to release CDs of new age music, organ music and solo piano music. I have performed all over the world and given recitals at some of the world s most prestigious venues. I have conducted choirs, accompanied amazing musicians, written and published music that has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Notre Dame cathedral, and the Vatican. I taught my first piano student when I was nineteen, followed by hundreds more over the next twenty years. I have taught the children of Grammy winning producer, David Foster, Oscar winning film composer, James Horner, and Emmy nominated television composer, Snuffy Walden. Your expectations What is your ultimate goal? In purchasing this book, you obviously want to be able to play the piano, but just how well do you want to play, and how much effort are you prepared to put in? Perhaps you want to be able to play Pop, Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues, Classical, Folk, or Gospel. You will be able to play any of those styles, but let s get back to the question, what is your ultimate goal? Let me help you with the answer Your goal should be to develop the skills to do what I can do. I can sit at the piano with any piece of music in any style and I can play it. Maybe not perfectly on the first pass, but it will not take me long to have it mastered because of the skills that I have acquired. When you can do this, it opens up a world of possibilities. Just imagine being able to play absolutely anything that you want.

10 10 Additionally, I can sit and improvise (make up my own music), as well as write the notes down and make it into a full composition. It is very rewarding to be able to compose your own music and this is something that you can learn to do. I will outline in this book how you can acquire these same skills. If you do as I did, and do as I do, then there is no reason why you cannot achieve the same results. Of course, you are free to model someone else. If jazz is your thing, then find someone who plays how you would like to play, and study how they do it. Although it could take many lifetimes to truly master all of the secrets of the piano, you should set about learning as much as you possibly can, and strive to become the best that you can be. Do not settle for learning a handful of chords, or playing a few pieces by ear, but instead, choose to master the instrument. Anyone can do it, and all it takes is time and effort, as well as patience and discipline. These are the necessary prerequisites of becoming a great pianist. Decide what you want to accomplish and commit to it. When the great 19th century pianist, Franz Liszt was just a boy, he pointed to a picture of Beethoven and said I want to be like him! Who do you want to be like? Challenging yet rewarding Playing the piano and reading music notation is not easy, and many people end up making it harder than it really needs to be. Wellintentioned students often try too hard, and practice incorrectly because they do not have a clear and concise guide to follow.

11 11 The reason that learning to play the piano is difficult is because you are actually learning two very different skills at the same time. 1. Learning to play the piano, which is the easy part. 2. Learning to read music notation, which is the hard part. Putting both of these skills together is where the real challenge lies. The traditional approach to learning the piano is still the best, but most people are opposed to the work that is involved, and search for short-cuts. There are no short-cuts! You have probably seen ads for piano courses with all kinds of promises about learning quickly and easily, and telling you to forget about formal training. Have you listened to anyone play who went through those courses? I doubt it, because the courses simply do not work. Pianists who only play by ear, or only read chords are not dealing with the entire picture, and usually wish that they could read music fluently too. Playing by ear and reading chords will be part of your training, but your main priority right now, is to master traditional music notation. This gives you the ability to play absolutely anything that you want to play. The key to your success is patience. Keep chipping away, a little at a time on a regular basis, and you will succeed. Many people are impatient and want to have great skills immediately. They get frustrated when this does not happen, and often quit as a result. You must establish realistic expectations, and realize that this will not take days, weeks or months, but years. I promise you that the reward will be well-worth it in the end.

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