Should all musicians learn how to play the piano?
Seems to be a controversial subject, curious to hear your opinions!
Certainly all pianists should learn a second instrument.
My take on this, based on my childhood experience: There are benefits from it, but I wouldn't call it absolutely essential.
Heifetz, Kreisler and Milstein were all able to play piano - I don't know at what skill levels. I cannot, although I have been able to transfer music from a page to piano keys since I was 5 or so. I wish I could really play it. I did spend a year in my late 60s learning to read "2-hands" but was never able to just sit down and do it and sight-read at useful tempos. I think there is an age at which people can learn to do this fairly readily - my wife learned to play and improvise and to read music at home as a little girl because there was a piano in the house and lots of music. She took lessons as a young teen but the male teacher was not to be trusted - so that ended fast. We have always had a piano at home, since the year after we married and could first afford it.
I agree with Helen that piano is a universally useful skill for musicians (and basic piano proficiency is typically a requirement for just about any college-level music degree).
This reflects in the increasing specialization across academic fields...if we examine the training of musicians in the 17th century and onwards until recent times, musicians were fluent on multiple instruments in the same family, would sing, compose, write counterpoint, etc. Even in conservatories nowadays we still have to pass some kind of basic keyboard competency or take a freshman class on keyboard. Of course you can play your Don Juan excerpt and win a job without playing piano...but having basic keyboard skills at the least is really valuable.
One of my fellow pupils at school got an organ scholarship to Cambridge University. When he arrived there he discovered he was required to learn a second instrument. He chose the viola, but as far as I know he never played it after he graduated.
Everyone should play some piano simply because it is the ultimate theory instrument and every musician should also have at least a working understanding of theory.
It depends on the goal of individual musician. If arrangement and composition are on the horizon, the piano proficiency is a must.
Yes, and pianissimo, mezzo-piano, mezzo-forte, forte and fortissimo!
Heifetz, Milstein, and Kreisler all played the piano.
I don't know. I imagine that this fascination with the instrument is largely a cultural accident ( it is a large and expensive instrument after all...). Basically, we hold it up on a pedestal, because it's traditional, and we all know that the masses of humans generally aren't very good at scrutinizing these kinds of things.
Well, no one has explained the benefits of playing the piano for a violinist; not convincingly anyway. The fact that JH played the piano is NOT convincing--perhaps he was so good on the violin that he had time to play a second instrument. And frankly, one can pick up all the music theory one needs by playing solo Bach.
I agree with David. I honestly think these kinds of things just kind of scratch the right kinds of emotional itches, for whatever irrational reason. Kind of like how most of the security measures implemented by the TSA do more to make people feel nice than to prevent terror attacks, or how sham surgeries often provide relief for chronic pain.
I happen to think Lieschen is spot on.
Julia Fischer is both a virtuoso violinist and pianist. I think that the ability to play the piano is immeasurably helpful in music as it teaches up how to read more than one clef, and listen and experience harmonies, bass themes and finger dexterity. I don't think it is essential though.
I suppose then I ought to remove myself from the conversation.
Oh dear, that's a very narrow mindset to me...
Oops - I WAS wrong about the violinists I mentioned in my first post. I'm very sorry. My point was, as some others have mentioned, that you can become a great musician without knowing piano. But, knowing piano has great advantages.
It seems the piano is fast becoming the second most controversial topic after the shoulder rest. Amusing!
Though it's already been pointed out, I will also get on board by saying that Heifetz and Kreisler were very accomplished pianists. I don't know if Milstein was a pianist on that level but he played it well enough to help makes his arrangements. Grumiaux was so good on both instruments that as a young man he had trouble for a while deciding which to specialize in. And Julia Fischer's dual career is just amazing to me!
I think learning the piano would be helpful in developing a strong sense of rhythm (polyrhythms in particular).
Mike, I can't prove a negative; i.e. I can not offer evidence that piano playing is NOT helpful. The burden is on those who think piano playing is helpful to violin playing to show that it is.
Mike, I never said that it is entirely pointless to learn piano. If it speaks to you and you want to play two instruments, or have it as your first, then go ahead. My point is that it isn't somehow better than other instruments. I think a violinist would benefit just as much by adding the clarinet, or the hurdy gurdy. There are quite a few curricular practices that are either outdated or only work for a very specific kind of student, and this is one of them ( solfege is another example ).
I play the piano about as well as I do the violin. I have found what I have learned through piano to be immeasurably valuable to my study of the violin. First of all, as has been mentioned already, music theory on the piano is "visual." All the scales, intervals, chords, etc. are laid out right in front of you. I agree also that piano training improves your grasp of rhythm. Piano instruction has always emphasized sight-reading so that aspect of my violin playing is very strong. Second, I can accompany string players especially my own kids, that's just a really great experience. If the accompaniments are too hard I either get simplified editions like "Frustrated Accompanist" or I ask a pro to sit in for that one. And when studying a new violin piece it's very useful to be able to read -- and play -- what is going on in the piano score; even if it's a reduction that's helpful.
Well, I would say that the usefulness of the external keyboard for composition depends on the extent to which the player has become "one" with the piano keyboard. If ideas flow out of you into the piano faster than they do into a computer mouse, then you're better off with the external MIDI input. It's a bit like using voice-recognition software to take dictation ... you learn to speak a little more clearly...
Here is an example of a violinist playing piano and how it could come in handy.
That reminds me I need to have my piano tuned. It's pretty good considering it's been three years.
J Ray, to answer your question. I don't know. It depends on what you mean by significant. I fulfilled my school's requirement of secondary piano, and also took some lessons along with that. I reached probably an early intermediate level. I have also tried several other instruments. I have tried clarinet, viola, singing, and a smidgen of guitar, and recorder. And I can say that they were all equally hard, but in their own ways, but that none in particular made me a better musician than the other just by sheer virtue of its status as whatever instrument it was.
> it is an essential tool for music arrangement and composition.
Gene, I completely agree. Our 10 fingers are no match for the computer when it comes to efficiency in notation. An orchestration teacher of mine once told us how lucky we were to be able to have notation software instead of having to bang on the piano and write it all out by hand like he did, and he predicted that most of us would have quit composing early on if we had to go through all of the labor that he did in the writing process.
I agree that as an "input device" the MIDI keyboard is overrated -- unless one wants to capture very complicated, spontaneous polyphonic improvisations.
"Here's another interesting fact to ponder: Why has most of the greatest western music been composed by people who are principally keyboard players ... including violin concertos? Is that mere happenstance? Or is there something about studying the piano that develops one's musical cortex differently?"
Why has most of the greatest western music been composed by people who are principally keyboard players?
If I have "implicit bias" regarding the piano, it comes from having studied both violin and piano throughout my childhood and sporadically in later years. The piano is in many ways an incredibly limited instrument. Once you play a note, you cannot control how it decays, and it cannot grow. And there is no vibrato, and you have to accept whatever temperament has been set by the tuner. And yet I probably owe at least 80% of my overall musicality to the study of the piano, even though I enjoy playing the violin more.
I'm a beginner with the violin in his mid 20s who has played the piano since childhood (I've just finished Suzuki 3, and I'm learning vibrato and 3rd position).
I think with the possibility of piano excerps of the whole orchestra it is a must for every musician that seriously tries to understand classical compositions.
as a Violinist learning Piano helped me a lot.(Aural skills and Solfege/better realization and understanding of what i wrote when i solve a Harmony problem and....
Absolutely, yes. It's simply the easiest way to conceptualize scales, chords and harmonies. I wish my own keyboard skills were much better than they are.
I dont know if this forced year is really helping. It may built up frustration and what is a year of learning an instrument? At least I needed more than a year on the piano to get to the "usefull" stuff (and I wish I would play better).
Mohammad, it really depends what you mean by "learning piano." If you just want to get the point where you can read the grand staff and use that to understand harmonies and polyrhythms, then you can skip the Czerny and the Hanon and be satisfied with the low level of reading technique that you will get from slopping through the Suzuki or John Thompson books. But if you actually want to learn to *play* the piano at a reasonable level of skill, then you already know from your violin work that studies are indispensable. Your "skillful / scientific" teacher understood this. Of course we all know about hindsight, but one thing I wish I had done as a youngster is more Czerny.
Kudos to whoever mentioned Julia Fischer. She is awesome. I can't think of any other musician that has performed the Grieg piano concerto and Saint Saens 3 in one concert setting.
Marc, I think the idea is less to learn piano technique and more to use the piano as a tool to learn basic music theory. It is much easier to conceptualize what a major chord is when you can just press three keys and get it as opposed to trying to use a string or wind instrument to build that understanding. It's likely not a perfect system, but I can at least understand the philosophy behind it.
I had music theory lessons as a child and of course the piano was always part of it, but I never needed to play it myself for this. What I think of is on a higher level.
I personally think they should. Learning the piano will never hurt you and will only help.
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