David Hicken ~ Pianist & Composer

Advice For Pianists

Piano students should constantly listen to recordings of great pianists, as well as attend live concerts whenever possible.  There is no finer piano education than that of carefully listening to people who have already mastered the instrument.

Through careful listening, you will understand more clearly the subtleties of the instrument and its repertoire. Hearing people use different types of staccato and legato, as well as various aspects of dynamic shading, will allow you to incorporate similar ideas into your own playing.  You will learn more about the countless variations of damper pedal technique by listening to how others have used it, than you ever could from your teacher or your own practice.

Hearing different interpretations of the same pieces can be fascinating, and will help you to determine what you would like to add to your own performances, or leave out entirely.

There has never been a better time to listen to music than now.  Every pianist without exception should have a monthly subscription to Spotify, Apple Music or a similar service.  To have instant access to almost all of the greatest recordings ever made of the finest pianists, is absolutely priceless and well-worth ten dollars per month.

When you listen to your favorite pianists, pay attention.  Listen actively rather than passively, and analyze what you are hearing.  Listen to dynamics, articulation, balance between melody and accompaniment, use of the pedal, tempo as well as changes of tempo etc.  What about the overall sound and feeling of the piece?

By listening for these particular elements, you will learn a lot, as well as develop preferences which you will then incorporate into your own playing.

Some teachers may say that they don't want you to listen to recordings because you'll end up copying what the performer does rather than develop your own style of playing.  The development of your own style is inevitable and will come with time.  In the meantime, copy all you want and learn what works and what doesn't.

I suggest that you don't just find recordings of pieces that you are learning, but find music that is similar to what you are learning.  If you are working on a particular movement of a Beethoven sonata, listen to Beethoven's other sonatas as well as his other piano works and music of his contemporaries.

Now you're probably wondering which pianists you should listen to, and I could list dozens of amazing pianists, but a better approach would be to start with great piano music.  Begin by searching for piano music by Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Debussy and Rachmaninov.  Of course, there are many, many more that you could search for, but these composers will get you started.  Make a note of which pianists' recordings show up first and give them a listen.

When you hear the same pieces played by different pianists,  think about how they are different and why.  The beauty of services like Spotify is that you have so many recordings available to you of the same piece.  It's like having the world's best music university at your fingertips.  You will soon discover pianists that you love, and by listening to their other recordings, you will also discover other great composers and their music.

Happy listening!

David Hicken

All of the concepts that I write about here are detailed in my eBook "Secrets To Better Piano Playing" .  Click the image below to find out more.