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Joined: Feb 2019
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So my theory is this:

The pianists who go on to become "great"* (or maybe just "good" depending on your definition) have one or two things in common:

  1. Start playing the piano early (as kids or young adults).
  2. Get a musical degree.


There's probably an overlap between #1 and #2, but the main point is that it's the pianists that are taught in most/all aspects of music and not just the piano. Ear training, rhythms, music theory, improvisation and so on.

Said in another way, those pianists that focus primarily on the piano never really make it as far even if they're diligent and serious about learning.

What's your experience?


* I don't know if there's some kind of international assessment scale, so I can't describe precisely what I mean by "great". On the top end concert pianists for sure. On the lower end those who get top spots in competitions, church organists (I know they might not be great pianists, but they have the ability to learn fairly complex pieces for a keyboard-based instrument on a weekly basis) and the linkes.

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Drop these theories! Huge self-taught pianists have existed and still exist in history. It's all a matter of talent and PR. Talent from God, PR from fate.

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I don't know how you'd define "great." But certainly virtuoso levels of skill do not require and may not even benefit from having a degree.

Playing piano is an athletic performance. Like, plumbing or fine carpentry perhaps, in that it requires fine motor coordination beyond most of our comprehension.

(I would not necessarily put concert pianists at the top end either, but that point is arguable)


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And, some that began lessons young and even study in college do not go on to become great.

There is no perfect formula.

I heard the Bible verse- PROVERBS 22:6 KJV "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it"
taught as such-

find your child's bent/their passion/their interests. Help them grow and learn and develop. Guide them. But do not force hours of stressful lessons of classes on them. There will be times to push, and times to pull. Parenting is hard.

You may want a concert violinist. You may get a fiddler.
You may want a doctor. You may get a physical therapist. You may get a stressed college drop out who becomes a shop clerk.

teach your child how to learn, and appreciate.

Let them know you love them and show them the world.

Good luck!


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The 1 thing I must emphasize is the passion (love) of music. I know a few people who took music lessons as a child (the parents' decision). They had the talent to pass conservatory levels but at the end of the day their pianos sit at home as a piece of furniture. One man who took piano lessons years ago got his kids into piano / violin. After a few years they all quit. The father admitted he hated piano that he haven't touched the instrument after passing his last music exam. An intelligent man with no interest in music.

The people who took up music as a degree needs a lot of passion. Takes a few years of training and a lot of money.

I tried piano unsuccessfully at age 5 and started learning as an adult 3 decades later. Not a virtuoso but nonetheless someone with an interest in music, I would practice (play) once a day, 365 days a year. I met people who are amateur pianist in the sense that they are Classical trained who perform regularly but did not take up music as a profession like a dentist or a doctor.

Today people are living longer. Many older adults & retirees get into playing piano. We enjoy playing music as much or even more so than young people who got enrolled into a music program by their parents.


Moderated by  Ken Knapp 

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