piano

There is an idea that some musicians share that the instrument a musician plays is related to the player’s personality and attitude, or can even change it transforming the person just like a superhero changes when they put ther suits on. It changes depending on the person but it can go one way or the other. The fact is that there is a connection between playing an instrument and one’s personality.

From the composer’s point of view, the music that is being made is very different depending on the base instrument for the idea, for example, if you begin to play something from scratch with a violin, it will definitely convey very different feelings than if it was played with a piano.

From Guitar to Piano

Alex Turner playing the piano

Many musicians that begin with one instrument and then learn another one feel this difference. One example in modern rock is with Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys, who has composed his song singing with a guitar, but in their most recent album, he decided to go with a piano as the main instrument to compose the songs. He describes it as

“The guitar had lost its ability to give me ideas. Every time I sat with a guitar I was suspicious of where it was gonna go. I had a pretty good idea of what I might be which is completely contrary to what I felt when I sat at the piano.”

In an interview with Radio X’s John Kennedy Alex Turner talks about how picking up an instrument makes him become a certain character and how the piano is a different “hat” than the guitar, he says: “It is what they describe in dramatics as the mantle of the expert”. He says that he remembers when he first picked up the guitar, he knew what sort of role he would play even before actually playing the instrument, so in a way the instrument determined a lot of what he as a musician was going to be eventually.

Reveal a New You

It may seem like it doesn’t really matter but it actually makes sense. But not as obvious as it may seem. If the general idea of music is to communicate feelings to the people who listen, you need to find an instrument that understands you, what this means is that it is in sync with what you want to say, this doesn’t mean the instrument you play is determined by your personality, what it means is that you choose a type of language that suits your body and mind in a way that you can be who you want to be.

This is actually a rather beautiful idea, not only because it pushes you to do new things, but because an instrument represents the greek notion of “aletheia” which means “uncover” “to reveal” and that is what the instrument does, it doesn’t change you, it reveals a part of you through music.

In an article by Jesse Scheinin, from bayareaparent.com these is an example of this:

A lot of the musicians I know had similar experiences. Theo Meneau, a trumpet player from Marin, says that these programs provided him with a “social outlet that was missing in the school system.”

Theo was initially drawn to the flute, which was appropriate since he is a soft-spoken guy. But playing the loud, bright trumpet has made him more confident and “able to be myself,” he says, even when his surroundings aren’t inherently comfortable.

Aspiring musicians have to take their time and find the instrument that is able to say what they want to say, and be who they want to be, and no teacher can know that, it’s a very personal thing that comes from trial, error, and dedication, but most of all, it’s a very natural thing.

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For many people, Jools Holland sounds like something familiar, and when they manage to trace it to something people usually remembers “Later With Jools Holland” which is a TV show from the UK hosted by Jools Holland, and focuses on bringing different artists and bands at the same time to perform live.

It’s a concept which is has managed to remain fresh since 1992, it features around five bands and an audience of around 300 people.

Young Holland

However Jools Holland is also a very succesful and talented musician. Before the show, Jools Holland or Julian Miles Holland already made a career as a pianist, playing from the age of 8.

In 1974, Holland joined Squeeze as their keyboardist, and released their first EP in 1977 (Packet of Three), and their first LP the next year. The band was very succesful, with hits such as “Take Me I’m Yours” and “Bang Bang”. Both songs were composed by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.

That year, Holland released an EP called Boogie Woogie ’78, which showed a side of him that focused more on R&B, and jazz. After that his solo career flourished and eventually left the band. He occasionally came back to the band but his solo career was very well established as well as his career as a TV host, first in “The Tube”, and then “Later With Jules Holland”.

Holland

Music and Shows

In an interview with “ukmusicreviews” Jools Holland spoke about his career and the show:

If I had to push you what has been the highlight of your career so far?

Well I suppose that would have to be this moment now we are chatting (laughter). A friend of mine once told me that the great gurus always say that if this does this and that does that then tomorrow will be the best day ever. However, I always think that paradise is now. I also get a great feeling whenever we play next. I suppose that if I was to look back and pick out one thing it would most probably be a small moment on stage when I feel totally connected with the audience at that one moment in time. It’s great when you see that they are feeling the music as you are and they are tapping their feet and moving in time to the music that you are playing.

That is the highlight for me. Being at one with a load of people who are getting the music that you are playing. You can’t ask people to love the music that you are playing unless you love the music yourself. That oneness with the people has been the highlight for me. That was a rather longwinded answer I’m afraid Kevin but I’m sure that you will understand what I am saying. If you can put that into one sentence, well done (laughter).

Later… with Jools Holland has now been on the TV for forty-two series. When you aired the very first series could you ever imagine yourself still doing it in 2016?

No not at all. If you had said to me when you and I bumped into one another backstage at Milton Keynes Bowl when I was trying to settle the argument between Sting and Tom trying to get Tom’s quid back with the help of UB40; if you had appeared to me in a strange veil informing me that you could show me the future and then have taken me into a tent, and you had told me that I would be running a big band consisting of twenty people that would tour all over the world and I would also have this TV show, I would have thought that’s not what I am planning. As they always say if you want to make God laugh then tell him your plans. Things just happen sometimes.

I am really pleased with the way that things have turned out and I am really pleased because I love what I do. I love the music we play but I would never have dreamed that would be the way that things were going to turn out for me. That also goes for Later…I presented The Tube for five years and that seemed forever when I was twenty. After that we started doing Later…and I thought that it was fun and that it would probably last for three series. The longer that it stays on TV it gets harder to believe. I also think that we have been fortunate to have some of the greatest artists in the world, sometimes at the beginning of their careers and sometimes at their last performances.

There is a very interesting aspect about how music can work in unexpected ways, even if there are connections with a show’s host and a performer, it’s a bit strange to be a musician and later find out that you’ll be very well known TV host because of that same musician side.

In the end Jools Holland is a musician, and every now and then he play the piano with his guests and manages to make the experience even greater with his talent.

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What do you do when a student shows up for the lesson with a friend in tow, and says (with wide, hopeful eyes and a big smile), “Can _____ stay for the lesson?”

It’s smart to prepare for these times. In fact, it can be a huge plus for your business to schedule a friend week or allow students to bring one friend per school year (or semester, if you like). This helps limit potentially disruptive visits and turn them into a positive.

If you need ideas for what to do with a friend at piano lessons, I have some here!

Get Acquainted

This may be the first time you’ve met this friend. To help both of you feel more comfortable, try this.

Ask a few questions from a list of possibilities:

  • what is your name (or age or grade)?
  • do you have a pet?
  • do you play an instrument?
  • are you married (ha!)?
  • what is your favorite (or most despised) food or restaurant, and why?
  • where would you like to visit?
  • what’s your favorite book?
  • what kind of music do you enjoy most/least?

Piano Bring-a-Friend Ideas

Your student could teach the friend a rote piece or a pentascale.

If the friend plays piano, choose an easy piece for them to play together, one reading treble staff, one reading bass staff. Switch parts.

If the friend plays piano, invite him/her to play a piece by heart.

Play a game together:

Give the friend a choice of rhythm instruments to accompany your student’s playing. Have him/her keep a steady beat, play only on beats two and four, only on the rest, etc.

Teach the friend an easy ostinato. Your student can improvise with it. Add a small stuffed critter to keep on the tops of their heads as they play, to illustrate posture. Now add a coin to the backs of their hands. Can they do this with a straight face?

Two improv pieces for the friends to try:

“Game On” by Robin Steinweg

The lower hand plays four 8th notes on each of these: A down to F, down to D, up to E.

The upper hand improvs on an A minor pentascale to create a video game sound.

“Mandarin Oranges” by Alyssa Hawkins

The lower hand plays a pentatonic scale repeatedly up and down (3 black keys, then the 2 black keys, up and back down). The upper hand plunks black keys to improvise a melody. Use the damper pedal.

Improvise a trio!

“Triumvirate” Put the friend on a repeating bass pattern in A minor and the student on an upper A minor pentascale. You, the teacher, improvise in the middle. Make sure the students know what triumvirate means. From the Cambridge English Dictionary: “a group of three people who are in control of an activity or organization.”

If improvisation seems scary, read this.

To make a week-long event of friend visits, check out Teach Piano Today’s “Bring a Buddy Day” package.

You can make this a Promo Opportunity for your Studio!

Photograph the visit. Post pictures on your Music Teachers Helper website. Consider videoing or audio-recording the friends making music or playing a game together. Send it to your student’s parents, and ask them to pass it along to the friend. Let them decide whether to post it on social media, but be sure to ask them to tag you and/or your studio if they do!

If something the friends tried sounded pretty good, you might want to invite them to perform together in your next recital.

Create buzz for your studio, and give your students even more fun– making music with their friends.

If you need ideas for bring-a-friend to guitar or voice lessons, see my article from August 21st at Music Teachers Helper.

 

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