Many musicians have turned their passions into careers through playing classical piano or modern music on piano. Think about Bach, Debussy, Chopin, Mozart, and Schubert who made classical piano famous. Or think about Elton John or Lady Gaga who whose modern music on piano is enjoyed so widely today. These pianists have all contributed to making the piano one of the most well-known and well-loved instruments available today.
It’s well known that children who learn how to play piano at a young age create important foundations for all music theory. In fact, learning classical piano can set you up to master any musical style on almost any instrument.
Learning how to play piano from a young age has other benefits like forming good technique, posture, hand placement etc. Once these pianists have grasped the foundations of music, it is not uncommon to branch out by learning other instruments and music styles.
Classical piano aside, it is a versatile instrument which is why there is so much modern music on piano today.
In terms of instrument types, there are grand pianos, electric and acoustic pianos, as well as the electronic keyboard, all of which have distinctive sounds. Each of these is suited to varying styles like Jazz, Rock, Blues, Classical, and even Rap. It may seem strange to think about a pop song on a grand piano, but actually, there are too many to mention.
There is the Grand Piano, the electric piano, the Acoustic piano, and the electronic keyboard and they all have their distinct sounds. While also all being suitable to branch out into new styles. Such as Jazz, Blues, Rock, and even Rap.
Don’t make the mistake of limiting yourself as a pianist by only learning classical piano and never progressing by learning how to enjoy other styles as you play piano.
How Pianists Practise New Styles
One thing is for sure, playing the piano takes patience, dedication, and perseverance. Great pianists know that it takes years to accomplish learning how to play piano with confidence.
Your first step should be to take lessons and learn the basics of classical piano. Aim to focus from lesson one because establishing good foundations for a future musical career starts with very humble beginnings.
How to Play Piano with Rhythm and Tone
Without rhythm at the centre of it, music sounds terrible. Not only that, it is the foundation upon which music is built. Some of the words you will hear when you begin your piano lessons will include beat, syncopation, meter, and tempo.
The tone is also a factor when finding your musical flow because it helps to differentiate the different types of styles played on the piano. For instance, when you play piano on a major scale it will produce a joyful and uplifting sound, however, a minor scale will produce dark, serious, or dark tones.
Remember that regular practice will be key to your success, and if you are serious about joining the world’s illustrious group of pianists, consider finding a private piano tutor near you.
Finding Your Musical Style
One of the most exciting parts about learning any new instrument is finding a style that suits you, and this is definitely the case with learning how to play piano too. When it comes to the various piano styles available, there are plenty to choose from!
These can range from classical music which creates elegant, yet complex sounds, reggae which creates a relaxed sound, and jazz which is characterised by an eccentric beat. Budding pianists would do well to understand traditional piano styles.
The Classical Music Style
This traditional piano sound is made up of many instruments but is translated well when the piano is played in a mesmerising solo. As you begin to play piano, you will find that classical pieces will make up the foundational pieces of your music education.
Examples of famous classical pianists include:
- Beethoven – renowned for his Piano Concerto Number Four.
- Chopin - famous for his Etude in E Major.
Gospel Musical Style
Created in the Christian churches of America’s deep south, gospel is music fused with hymns and has inspired much modern music on piano.
Famous gospel singers include:
- Mahalia Jackson – known for her contemporary song Move on Up a Little Higher.
- Aretha Franklin – famed for her song R-e-s-p-e-c-t.
What about modern music on piano?
Jazz Music Style
Inspired by gospel styles of music, jazz was created with the piano at its core. It is a fusion of a technique that uses both steady melody and improvisation to create a unique tune.
Famous jazz composers include:
- Art Tatum - known for the song Get Happy.
- Miles Davis - known for his work Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew.
Blues Music Style
Inspired by gospel music in the late 19th century, blues uses the major and minor pentatonic scales to create a very unique sound. Chord progression is the focus of the inimitable blues sound and provides the basis for many songs. Look out for the harmonica, guitar, and of course the piano at your next live blues gig.
A few famous blues music composers include:
- Pinetop Perkins was awarded a lifetime achievement for his musical contribution.
- Albert Ammons who found fame in the 1930s for his contribution to jazz piano and blues fusion.
- Skip James became famous for his fingerpicking technique that created a very unique style. He could play the guitar, play piano and write his own music.
- Memphis Slim is another who rose to fame by working with several bands as a singer, composer, and pianist. He is best known for his song Every Day I Have the Blues.
Other Noteworthy Styles
- Boogie Woogie as already mentioned above is a blend of blues and jazz piano music. While blues is mostly an expression of sadness, Boogie Woogie had a dance beat. It was included in other styles such as country and western as well as Chicago Blues and the West Coast Blues.
- Country and Western, which had its origins in gospel, rhythmic blues, and folk is an example of chord progression with an upbeat melody.
- New age piano makes use of polychords (two chords played at the same time) and has fewer chord varieties than other styles.
- Ragtime piano is characterised by irregular rhythm and stressed beats which have similarities to Jazz, but which even predate the Jazz era.
Unconventional Piano Styles
While playing jazz or blues may sound when you are first learning to play the piano, know that with perseverance these piano styles will sound great once you have mastered the piano. Remember that whether you are playing Coldplay or Chopin, all pianists have their challenges. The key is to keep practising.
Reggaeton originated in Puerto Rico in the 1990s. As the name suggests, it is an eclectic mix of Latin American music, Caribbean Reggae, Jamaican Dancehall, and Hip Hop. Over the years, this genre has become popular because of its catchy beats in Latin American countries such as Cuba, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. Lyrics that are almost exclusively in Spanish address hip-hop culture and similar subject matter as hip hop and rap.
Daddy Yankee, a Puerto Rican DeeJay, is known to be the king of Reggaeton and also coined the term in 1994 for one of his albums.
If you’re trying to learn the piano, why not try and play Despacito by Luis Fonsi.
More Unconventional Piano Styles
R&B styles like Halo by Beyonce
Rap and Hip Hop like Lose Yourself by Eminem
Electro, like Bangarang by Skrillex
Reggae, like One Love by Bob Marley
Thinking of the piano when considering the composition of a reggae or a rap song may seem unusual, however, most styles are suited to the piano. It can even bring a unique freshness to the music.
Whether you want to take up piano lessons as an absolute beginner or refresh the techniques that you learnt long ago as a child, consider a private piano tutor like those found on Superprof. When you use a Superprof tutor you have several benefits. Amongst these are that every tutor is credentials-verified and also has reviews on their profile pages. Also, most tutors offer their first lesson for free which means that you have the opportunity to check them out and decide whether their background and teaching style suits your own goals for wanting to take piano lessons.
Finding a tutor that suits you is key, for instance, if you want to master Mozart’s classics, don’t sign up with a tutor who is passionate about Jazz piano.
Finally, remember that the piano is a flexible instrument that is fully capable of new and fresh sounds. Why not think outside of the box and you never know, you could end up being another Bob Marley or Mozart. The important thing is to practise, play with all your heart and enjoy the process of exploring your creativity.
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