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Top selling self-taught pianists?
#2262405 04/15/14 10:06 PM
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The recent Masters golf champion Bubba Watson never had a golf lesson. His technique is unorthodox, his follow through off balance, but the ball goes straight enough that he can compete at the highest level. I'd guess 95% of pro golfers had many years of instruction and private coaching. Bubba is the exceptional self-taught golfing genius. Barring injury, he may be on his way to the golf Hall of Fame.

Are there pianists like Bubba Watson? Entirely self-taught that would be considered the equivalent of Hall of Fame level? I'd guess that there are singers like that, guitarists too. But piano?

I would guess there aren't any that are under 50 years old playing classically pieces at that elite level. Perhaps back in the day, when piano was a relatively new instrument, but it is so codified now, that even exceptional talent and vision can only get a person so far.

Another way to phrase it, are there top selling pianists that are self taught? There are those that play piano a bit and sing (eg: Paul McCartney), but it is their singing that sells. I'm asking about piano.

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Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2262419 04/15/14 11:05 PM
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Your information on Watson is, at best, misinformed. By claiming he "never had a golf lesson," you would be saying something similar to, "A pianist who graduated from Juilliard never had a piano lesson."

Watson played on his high school team in Pensacola, FL. He then went on to play for a community college (I forget which one) before playing for then-defending NCAA champions the U. Georgia Bulldogs. They won the SEC title while Watson was there.

So, he was surrounded by great golf, and coached by outstanding golf coaches for most of his amateur life. Bearing that in mind, I'm not sure what you mean when you say he, "never had a lesson." wink

Last edited by Derulux; 04/15/14 11:06 PM.

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Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2262421 04/15/14 11:14 PM
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How about Vangelis? He apparently never had any formal training.

Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2262423 04/15/14 11:24 PM
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I think you could find through Google several jazz pianists with such classifications or at least whose only "lessons" were from other musicians often while on-the-job (Erroll Garner comes to mind), however I don't know of any classical pianists that fit the description.

Somewhat related, some of the most famous pianist-composers were self-taught teachers.
Originally Posted by Bernhard
Chopin: Self-taught teacher with a terrible technique (According to Kalkbrenner, the most famous pianist/teacher of the day who offered to "correct" Chopin's technique if he would agree to a four year intensive course).

Beethoven: Self-taught teacher with a technique that was frowned upon by traditionalists. Always breaking piano strings, this one.

J. S. Bach: Self-taught teacher much criticised for his inappropriate improvisations. He also shocked traditional keyboardists of his time by using the thumb when playing (oh, horrors, of horrors! Any one knows you should only play with fingers 2345. Using the thumb sucks!).

Leschetizky: Probably the most famous piano teacher of all times. Guess what: yes, self - taught.

Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Bobpickle #2262492 04/16/14 06:48 AM
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Yanni.
I believe he even started notating the pieces he was creating with his self devised notation in the beginning.

But again he is a multi-instrumentalist, but still in the non-classical genre.

Originally Posted by Derulux
Your information on Watson is, at best, misinformed. By claiming he "never had a golf lesson," you would be saying something similar to, "A pianist who graduated from Juilliard never had a piano lesson."

Watson played on his high school team in Pensacola, FL. He then went on to play for a community college (I forget which one) before playing for then-defending NCAA champions the U. Georgia Bulldogs. They won the SEC title while Watson was there.

So, he was surrounded by great golf, and coached by outstanding golf coaches for most of his amateur life. Bearing that in mind, I'm not sure what you mean when you say he, "never had a lesson." wink


This again gets into the Malcolm Gladwell "Outliers" theme of 10,000 hours and deliberate practice etc. According to you Bubba has these in his background.

Last edited by EM Deeka; 04/16/14 06:58 AM.
Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2262502 04/16/14 07:25 AM
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I don't believe George Winston had much, if any, formal training. Collections of his work are transcriptions from his playing.

Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Derulux #2262523 04/16/14 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Derulux
Your information on Watson is, at best, misinformed. ...

So, he was surrounded by great golf, and coached by outstanding golf coaches for most of his amateur life. Bearing that in mind, I'm not sure what you mean when you say he, "never had a lesson." wink


Thank you for that information. It is interesting. The TV commentators often use that line "never had a lesson" so maybe you can write CBS/NBC et al. The TV folks don't use the line with any other top golfer that I know of, so it may mean something or may just be something to say.

With your context it may mean, that most top golfers work closely with private swing coaches, and some had many years of formal lessons before joining a team. I may also mean that despite having several coaches no one ever corrected the many "problems" in Bubba's swing and technique because it was working for him.

Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2262531 04/16/14 09:01 AM
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Thanks for the other replies mentioning Yanni, George Winston, and some of the old time giants.

If there were alternate universes, it would be interesting to see how much early formal training would have helped or hindered them.

It is off topic for piano, but I think of young Joni Mitchell. Some might have insisted that she tune her guitar properly and perhaps prevented what became a unique Hall of Fame level career.

Last edited by Sand Tiger; 04/16/14 11:48 AM.
Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2262532 04/16/14 09:01 AM
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Michael Feinstein reportedly took lessons for a few months when he was five, then fired his teacher and was a self-learner from that point on. He also freely admits that he doesn't much read music, playing almost entirely by ear.

He's done okay for himself.


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Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2262576 04/16/14 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
Originally Posted by Derulux
Your information on Watson is, at best, misinformed. ...

So, he was surrounded by great golf, and coached by outstanding golf coaches for most of his amateur life. Bearing that in mind, I'm not sure what you mean when you say he, "never had a lesson." wink


Thank you for that information. It is interesting. The TV commentators often use that line "never had a lesson" so maybe you can write CBS/NBC et al. The TV folks don't use the line with any other top golfer that I know of, so it may mean something or may just be something to say.

With your context it may mean, that most top golfers work closely with private swing coaches, and some had many years of formal lessons before joining a team. I may also mean that despite having several coaches no one ever corrected the many "problems" in Bubba's swing and technique because it was working for him.

Yeah, I'm not sure why those commentators keep repeating it, either. After his first Masters (when I first heard the line), I decided to look it up to verify because it seemed like a really outrageous claim. Apparently, he's still very close with his Bulldogs coach, and I'm sure that's where he probably learned the most about golf. I really have no idea what the commentators are talking about -- probably trying to sensationalize him for the sake of ratings.

But coach or no coach, it was an impressive win on Sunday. I actually won a pool by picking him. grin


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Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2263641 04/18/14 03:16 PM
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A favorite modern composer, Zbigniew Preisner- Wiki Preisner Theme from the movie "The Secret Garden".


[i](Sorry ...... is this thread about golf players?)[/i]

Last edited by pianonewbie1; 04/18/14 03:20 PM.



Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
ClsscLib #2263647 04/18/14 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Michael Feinstein reportedly took lessons for a few months when he was five, then fired his teacher and was a self-learner


Really ??? at age 5? .........maybe his parents did the firing part with his wishes. -Humor-
smile




Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
piano_primo #2263653 04/18/14 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by pianonewbie1
Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Michael Feinstein reportedly took lessons for a few months when he was five, then fired his teacher and was a self-learner


Really ??? at age 5? .........maybe his parents did the firing part with his wishes. -Humor-
smile


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Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2263677 04/18/14 04:26 PM
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Not classical pianists, but I believe David Nevue is self-taught with regard to piano, although he has written about how studying music theory changed his approach to composing piano music. Also, he does not write his compositions on a musical score, and for pieces that he decides to sell as sheet music, he pays someone else to transcribe from his recording, and then IIRC he checks it for accuracy. There's also pianist Michele McLaughlin, who I don't know too much about, but in a short email correspondence that I had with her, she mentioned that she cannot read music, which to me suggests no formal training.

Other contemporary pianists that I can think of off the top of my head (Ludovico Einaudi, Joe Hisaishi, Ryuichi Sakamoto) all had formal music education, some with advanced degrees. Although all of the people I'm mentioning here compose movie music for full orchestras, and I don't think that's possible without formal training.

And then there's Billy Joel, who was trained as a classical pianist and has written a fair amount of classical, solo piano music.

I think piano lessons are (or were) so ubiquitous that it's rare to find a working/professional pianist with no formal training at all. Although I feel like I've read about pianists who had a little (or a lot of) classical training and then went on to compose and play non-classical styles. Hey, what about Jerry Lee Lewis, or Jelly Roll Morton? Does anyone know about their backgrounds?

I also wonder if there are any/many classical guitarists who were self-taught. Although a lot of jazz and rock guitarists are self-taught, classical music, piano, guitar or otherwise, seems not to lend itself to self-teaching....


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Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2263679 04/18/14 04:33 PM
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P.S. Wikipedia does not make it clear whether or not Jelly Roll Morton or Jerry Lee Lewis had any formal training, but given their backgrounds, it seems likely they had apprentice-style training, or what we might call these days on-the-job training. smile


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Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2263681 04/18/14 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
The recent Masters golf champion Bubba Watson never had a golf lesson. I'd guess 95% of pro golfers had many years of instruction and private coaching. Bubba is the exceptional self-taught golfing genius.

Another way to phrase it, are there top selling pianists that are self taught? There are those that play piano a bit and sing (eg: Paul McCartney), but it is their singing that sells. I'm asking about piano.


To extend your golfing analogy, to compete at a masters in golf for piano would be like competing at the Van Cliburn Competition or Chopin International Competition. The answer is no. Not only are every single competitor trained from a young age, they were trained often by other famous pianists who could trace their own teachers back to the old masters like Czerny.

George Winston or Yanni may sell well, but they are not in the same league as any conservatory student. If you study with a very good teacher, I would think even those who start as adults could exceed the rather pedestrian skills of Winston or Yanni after a decade of lessons and hard work. It doesn't mean you would be able to compose worth a darn, which is where these artists shine.

Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2263690 04/18/14 04:53 PM
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Also, separate from the question of genre, Winston and Einaudi are definitely top-selling (and probably sell better than many classical artists). Sakamoto I believe has won awards in the US for his music from The Last Emperor and maybe others, and Hishaishi is top-selling in many Asian countries due to his scoring of popular anime films.

Wait, all these guys are trained, and highly so. Cancel this comment :P because it's not about trained versus untrained so much as classical versus non-classical.


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Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2263707 04/18/14 05:19 PM
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-I overgeneralized, I was thinking in terms of composers/pianists not pianists “absolute”, but I thought Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis were both self taught pianists. I thought “The Bealtes” were self taught but not sure.




Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
4evrBeginR #2263754 04/18/14 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by 4evrBeginR
Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
The recent Masters golf champion Bubba Watson never had a golf lesson. I'd guess 95% of pro golfers had many years of instruction and private coaching. Bubba is the exceptional self-taught golfing genius.

Another way to phrase it, are there top selling pianists that are self taught? There are those that play piano a bit and sing (eg: Paul McCartney), but it is their singing that sells. I'm asking about piano.


To extend your golfing analogy, to compete at a masters in golf for piano would be like competing at the Van Cliburn Competition or Chopin International Competition. The answer is no. Not only are every single competitor trained from a young age, they were trained often by other famous pianists who could trace their own teachers back to the old masters like Czerny.

George Winston or Yanni may sell well, but they are not in the same league as any conservatory student. If you study with a very good teacher, I would think even those who start as adults could exceed the rather pedestrian skills of Winston or Yanni after a decade of lessons and hard work. It doesn't mean you would be able to compose worth a darn, which is where these artists shine.


No, poor analogy. Classical competitions aren't about an objective score based on how many shots it takes to get the ball in. That's why I asked for top selling. No self-taught pianist can compete and do well in a classical competition today. Piano competitions have become highly politicized and for the most part are about continuation of the piano culture. A self-taught pianist might have an outside chance at a popularity contest such as the TV show America's got Talent, but no chance in front of classical judges.

A near equivalent of Van Cliburn to golf, might be an audition for a golf swing clinic teacher or a person to do an instructional golf video. That person would need near perfect technique and a high degree of knowledge of what constitutes perfect golf swing technique. Someone like Bubba would finish near last in that audition, because his technique is poor, his swing unorthodox. Even so, Bubba is likely on his way to the Hall of Fame. It doesn't mean that good technique and extensive training are bad things. There are many golfers that have picture perfect swings, and train the traditional way with a coach, and many also have a chance at the Hall of Fame.

Winston and Yanni likely have careers worthy of Hall of Fame equivalency for music. I'm sure they have heard the criticism a thousand times. I don't believe the criticism is true in a general sense, only specific to what classical judges and teachers look for. There are many who try to imitate them, but few have reached near their level. They play differently from the classically trained, but at a very high level in their own way. It is a lot more than composition, it is about performing. They are both famous performing and recording artists. If they didn't play at a high level, they couldn't hold the attention of an audience.

Take an average performance degree graduate that may like Yanni's music. Train and rehearse that graduate and have them perform works by Yanni. That pianist will likely have a hard time holding the attention of any decent size audience. The degree holder doesn't have the "it" factor. While they have technique that is on paper better, or better suited for Chopin, it often doesn't translate to holding the attention of an audience.

Last edited by Sand Tiger; 04/18/14 06:50 PM.
Re: Top selling self-taught pianists?
Sand Tiger #2263854 04/18/14 09:03 PM
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Didn't Glen Gould claim to be "completely self taught?"

If you've ever seen George Winston live, you'd know his technical ability is on par with most classical concert pianist.


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