Me and My Piano

May 29, 2013 — 60 Comments

B&WPianoLarge

I started learning the piano when I was about 11 years old.  It’s a bit of a love/hate relationship for me.  My first piano book was “Me and My Piano Part 1”.  I couldn’t read music and no-one in my family could read music or play any instrument to help me along so I found it hard going with my 30 minute lesson a week at school.  I was given a keyboard for my birthday and this helped me to practice a bit more at home but I’ll be honest, initially I wasn’t dedicated to it 🙂

I continued with lessons at High School, with Music for Life, the extra curriculum provider of music lessons at school, and went in for my ABRSM Grade 1 piano exam in 2007 and I was pleased to get a merit.  My singing teacher Jayne Wilson advised me that it would be a good idea to practice more because a second instrument is useful.  I played the piano one day for my Stagecoach Theatre Arts teacher Jan Bartai GTLC (Hons) and she offered to help me to speed my learning whilst I was studying ABRSM Music Theory with her; it was a low priority for me on my list of things to do and with piano I feel, you really do have to practice every day to get fabulous.

I persevered with my practice and Jan Bartai pushed me to get to grade 5 standard ready for my ABRSM exam in 2010 which I also passed with a merit. It’s a good thing I did as I needed the skill for my AS level (lower 6th form ) Music exam.  I continued my piano studies with Val Eastham, a fabulous piano teacher at JRNCM (Junior Royal Northern College of Music) on Saturday mornings having been accepted to study singing there in April 2010.

I’m studying with Yoon Kim at RCS now; I have an extra lesson with a fellow student Marcus Kitchen but it is really hard work to me.  I watch friends at RCS who play like a dream and make it look so easy.  I have been in many festivals where the accompanist with just a couple of minutes chat with me on tempo and key and then they’re off playing the most amazing pieces.

I have many amazing pianist friends like Syuzanna Kaszo who won the 15th Stefano Marizza International Piano Competition in October 2012 she was my accompanists on several occasions and gave me fabulous advice.  I sing with Beth Jerem, a second year undergraduate and Danielle Didonato, a Californian postgraduate student at RCS who sadly is going back to America next month. To thank Danielle for all of her help this term I took her to meet my family and see some of England, specifically Cheshire before she leaves the UK.

I have a healthy respect for the skill needed to play at such a high level but for me I will have to plod along, waiting for that breakthrough moment where my brain actually tells my left hand exactly what to do at the right time.  I really need to make it as a singer because I’d hate to have to rely on my piano playing for a living 🙂

60 responses to Me and My Piano

  1. 

    Keep persevering Charlotte! I gave up at grade 4 but then I couldn’t sing either 🙂 Listening to piano music is still one of my favourite things though.

  2. 

    Great stuff. There is a book by Matthew Syed called Bounce in which he argues that anyone can become an expert at anything so long as they practise, practise, practise. In fact, he reckons it takes 10,000 hours of practise to nail something so obviously it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Sounds like you’re well on the way!

    • 

      That sounds like the sort of advice I get from my Mum, she always tells me to keep up with the practice and it will all come together. Although I did meet a chap on a train on my way to a master class at the R.C.M in London who recommended that I take an online analysis using “strengths finder 2.0”. This was right up my street as it suggested that I concentrate on my strengths more than my weaknesses. So maybe a little extra singing practice is in order 🙂

      Best Wishes
      Charlotte

  3. 

    Hi Charlotte is there anywhere on the net we can here you sing ? In the meantime thought you might enjoy this performance by one of our national treasures Delta Goodrem and an aboriginal singer and song writer Gurrumul. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq3VdXuqTnU I hope you enjoy it
    Mike

    • 

      Hi Mike, I am working on getting some recordings that I can post here on my blog. It has been really difficult to post any of my previous performances due to our child protection laws here in the U.K. as under 18s cannot be filmed during festivals, performances and competitions. I am hopping to get some of my repertoire recorded in the studios here at R.C.S.before I fly out to Italy in June and will post them if I am successful ( fingers crossed ).

      Hope to see you back here again soon.
      Charlotte

  4. 

    The piano is the perfect instrument to help you with your singing. Piano playing requires discipline, patience, determination and perseverance. All very important qualities for an artist.

    • 

      Thanks Paul, I know that I should put the extra time aside for my piano and it really has helped me with my sight reading this year. Having to be assessed on my accompaniment of a fellow singer this year has really made me see just how incredible a skill it really is when done well 🙂

  5. 

    I’ll try to record you during the summer so you can observe yourself playing to see if there is anything different you could do. I believe you should keep applying yourself to your piano lessons as they will help you in the future. x

  6. 

    I wish I’d kept up with piano! Turns out, every conservatory anywhere wants you to be able to play it at least a little… If only I’d known when I gave it up at 9!

    • 

      I know, luckily for me my Mum persuaded me to continue with my piano and I am so glad I did. I may not be the fastest learner when it comes to the black and white keys but I do understand the importance of it and appreciate those who can play so superbly. Thanks for commenting and I do hope you come back soon. Advice from musicians and performers from all musical disciplines is so vital if I am to achieve my goals.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  7. 

    Hi, Charlotte, and thanks for following my blog! I, too am impressed with your perseverance to the piano, even though it is your second instrument and not a favorite! As a piano teacher, you are inspiring me! I know my students my not stick with piano, but I hope their skills get them where they want to be.

    • 

      Hi there and thanks for visiting my site and contributing, I very much appreciate your comment. Please tell your students from me that it really is important to carry on with their practice, even if it is not as often as their teacher would like 🙂 It is better to progress slowly than to stop altogether and then later regret it. Being able to play the piano even to my current standard has proven very worth while so I will continue to practice; just like the tortoise in the fable “slow and steady wins the race”.

      Best wishes and come back soon.
      Charlotte

  8. 

    I always wanted to play the piano, but when I was a child my parents could not afford the lessons. I loved the piano so much, my mother bought me a small spinet as a wedding gift. So I would sit and tinkle the keys, but that was it. So years later when I retired, I took piano lessons. My teacher was excellent. I took lessons for 4 years which was long enough to be able to play Beethoven, Chopin, but also to know that my fingers were too old and weak to be really proficient. I’m sure you are probably very good at playing, but the sound is not quite up to your standard of excellence. But as you know, practice is the key to proficiency. Thanks for the visit and the like of my post “Bouquet on a Tree Limb”.

    • 

      Hi There, my parents always say the same thing to me, that my search for perfection in the things that I do makes me my biggest critic 🙂

      Thanks for visiting and come back soon.
      Charlotte

  9. 

    Wish I could play! I bet everybody says that- without the effort of learning, huh? Many thanks for following mine, Charlotte. 🙂

  10. 

    I started playing at ten, but I didn’t go all the way (and my fingers just don’t work that way–). I happen to have weak little fingers (plus crooked). Good luck in all your goals.

  11. 

    If you only knew what a fortunate person you are! You had the chance and the skills to become friends with an instrument. I remember watching with a certain degree of envy to the kids mum was teaching. She tried to teach me once, but it turned out into a complete disaster and singing? I never did it in front of her. I always joke that when it comes about music….unfortunately I could not be born without a father…
    I mortify my significant other from time to time these days and I sing at Karaoke. Fortunately there are a couple of songs that require little skills and I replace what I haven’t got with some theatrical skills. But I continue being sorrowful and a bit jealous of other people that display fabulous voices, some great sense of rhythm and so on. There is magic when you can express your feelings in front of piano, unleash all the passion on the keys.
    I think the key is in passion. If you find the love, the work will seem no burden at all. When you are in love, you want to spend as much time as possible with the other.
    Please, excuse me for barging in and giving unasked advice.

  12. 

    Piano is a hard instrument! I have been playing drums for years, and bass and guitar for about the last two and one half years. My fingers never want to cooperate with each other on piano. The one thing I learned with any instrument is practice makes perfect and you can never get worse with practice. If you have a voice, that is the greatest gift of all, because everyone wants to hear the vocals. 🙂

    • 

      Of the instruments that you play which is favourite ? I loved the colours of the chameleon in your last post they were so vivid.

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Charlotte

      • 

        I have always loved drums from early in my life, but as of late, I really am enjoying the bass. You know all instruments have something beautiful and cool about them. Thank you! I love chameleons.

  13. 

    Thanks for following my blog!!! I’m a muso too but a guitarist I’m currently trying to teach myself Piano and i have a lot of respect for for anyone who can play (along with an anger toward myself for not learning at a younger age lol) Have a great day!!
    Antony

  14. 

    great photo by the way!!! 😉

  15. 

    I Love this. What a humble and precious attitude , I have many students who are very gifted in one skill , but struggles in others necessary to make it their chosen career. Many teachings now focus on sticking with your strengths ( Good Advice) but abandoning the weaknesses. I refuse to condone that. It’s not in me. Would it be okay if I shared your blog on occasion ,as an example indeed, that success comes with, hard work? We all know it was not the killer dance moves that you could do in your sleep that will you will bring the most satisfaction, but instead that vulnerable monologue that you had to spend four times the hours on that will garnish the most pride.

    • 

      I would be flattered if you were to use my blog as an example for your students. I enjoyed participating in all of the performing arts at school up until the time I left at 18. For one of my auditions I had to perform a monologue and chose the “Roller Coaster” which I had to really work on to get the movement and excitement into the piece and at the same time inject the necessary humour. So I can definitely associate with your statement I do believe that whatever you do you should do it to the best of your abilities.

      I will continue to endeavour 🙂
      Charlotte

  16. 

    This is too much for me to infer from just one picture of you playing, so apologies in advance, this is just a thought: I see a definite break in the wrist on both hands. It’s difficult to play that way. The angle between lower arm and hand should be small at most: http://www.miamipianostudio.com/Piano-Technique.html If this is something interfering with your playing, you can adjust by going back to pieces and exercises you already know cold, and just pay attention to the comfortable position as you go through them–many times!

    • 

      Thanks for the advice I am always having to concentrate on my hand and finger positioning. But it is so hard to stay focused when a photographer shouts “smile” 🙂

      I will check out the link though, I appreciate all the help I can get and it is really useful to have someone analyse my piano playing as I am usually focusing on improving my singing technique. I think I will film myself playing and watch it back to see if any errors are creeping in to my hand and finger positioning. As for the suggestion of a song to analyse I will definitely get back to you on the offer.

      Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
      Charlotte

  17. 

    Charlotte, good luck with your musical journey, as to which it sounds like you’re well on your way. I’ve been learning to play the clawhammer-style for the past year and half and I can relate to your love-hate relationship with an instrument.

    Best,

    Brett

  18. 

    Your dedication is really inspiring, I used to play the violin and the piano but gave up both because I moved schools and left my favourite teacher 😦 I have a piano at home and sometimes still have a go though. I know it takes a lot of practice to perfect a skill (I know this from my drawing) but because you love what you do you have an edge over anyone. There were so many students at my school who were technically amazing but lacked any kind of passion – just so they’d have a Grade 8 on their CV. Good luck! Also thanks for visiting my blog and following earlier!

    • 

      Hi Gabriella, I definitely agree follow your passion and aim to perfect it whatever that happens to be. I liked the origami flowers on your site, my good friend from school, Sam, made me some lovely origami birds to take with me to the Conservatoire and they always make me smile 🙂

      I enjoyed doing textile art at school and appreciate the skill that all artists put into their work.
      Charlotte

  19. 

    Nice post! You should definitely stick with it and continue to practice. I’ve been a pianist nearly my whole life (only fourteen but hey, ten years still counts, right?), and year after year, I get the same feeling you had; the choice of giving up and the question of “will I ever be really good?”. I sing too, I believe piano has helped my vocals, and vice versa. Anyway, good luck to you (though I have a feeling you won’t need it) and have a great day! 🙂

    -Angelique

  20. 
    Left Hand Signal June 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for the follow Charlotte! Love your blog as well! Love seeing a classical singer with a successful blog-I studied classical voice in college (soprano as well!) but decided to go the more singer/songwriter route! Good luck to you!

  21. 

    All the best to you. 🙂 I do hope you become a better musician each day.

    thank you for dropping by my blog and following. 🙂

  22. 

    so now i have someone who understands i called my blog “Benvenuto Cellini” because of Berlioz…thank you for coming over!

  23. 

    Very inspiring and different blog! Good luck with your musical journey and we are now in contact 🙂

  24. 

    Your music was a lovely start to my day. Thank you.

  25. 

    That’s a pretty sweet photo of you!

  26. 

    Wow! That looks like a beautiful piano! What kind is it?

  27. 

    wow you are so talented!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s