You are neither too young nor too old to play piano and compose.
If you think otherwise, get that fairy tale out of your head.
A few geniuses began at age 3 and burned out in middle age.
Gustave Mahler, a modern symphonic artist and Jazz Guitarist
legend Wes Montgomery didn't start serious composing until they
were well in their 30's. Verdi was still going strong at 87.
Some of the great pop, jazz, and rock music of our time has
been written by musicians who consider the age of 25 as "over
Conclusion: forget about age.
What about music theory? Does it have anything to do with playing
the piano and composing a piece of music?
Sounds come first. Theory books and systems tag along behind,
explaining in words what you've already experienced by ear.
Composing is a "hot" creative act. Studying theory
is a "cool" analytical act.
Theory explains what is going on in a piece of music. It shows
us the machinery that makes the music tick. Training in theory
helps sharpen our understanding, and helps the player and composer
organize his or her musical materials.
Absorb theory for what it has to offer. But watch out for the
trap of "rules." In the early stages of playing piano
and writing music, rules can be helpful disciplines to help
focus our thinking. But given too much importance, rules become
handcuffs; break them if you know what you're doing.
Use your good ears to break through the endless blanket of
sound that surrounds our lives.
Direct you hearing. Sharpen your perception. Isolate
sounds. Listen, and make yourself aware of your sound-world.
A painting, a statue, and a building have a certain kind of
life. All of their parts exist at the same time. But music is
like a movie or a stage play: it unrolls slowly, bit by bit.
A movie begins, continues, and ends before your eyes. Music
does the same for your ears. Your piano playing and compositions
live and breathe.
Begin your sketches with a simple, basic idea: a sound you
like, a group of pitches, an interesting harmony, and attractive
rhythm pattern, an idea for lyrics, and so on.
Next step: think out a number of possibilities for developing,
expanding, exploiting, and contrasting your basic idea.
1. A group of pitches can be played forward, backward, upsidedown,
or with its order rearranged.
2. You can keep the overall shape of a pitch group (the way it
moves up and down), but change it by opening up or tightening
the distance (interval) from one note to the next.
3. The same pitch group can be varied by changing its speed,
meter, or rhythm... or by changing its "color" through
changes of instrumental register (high vs. low).
4. A rhythmic idea, no matter how simple, can be stretched,
tightened up, fragmented, or transformed into a repeated figure
5. A rhythmic idea can be applied to differnet pitch groups,
or used to give movement to your favorite chord progression.
6. A harmony can be intensified by adding "color" tones
(7th, 9th, added 6th, suspended tones, etc.); or softened by subtracting
chord tones; or given a refreshed sound by the way you voice the
harmony on the piano.
Try to keep a relaxed attitude toward you study of piano, and
an open mind about new ideas that almost always turn up while
you're experiementing with your sketches.
Above all, don't lock yourself into one way of thinking.
After a certain point, a piece may have its own ideas about the
way it should deveop; don't try to force it into a cookie mold!
Ron Worthy is a Music Educator, Songwriter and Performer.
To learn more "Trick of the Trade," go to:
http://www.mrronsmusic.com and http://www.playpianotonight.com
Copyright 2005 RAW Productions by By Ron Worthy