Welcome to The Piano Handbook, a new kind of book that aims to introduce you to all aspects of the piano, and piano playing, in a single volume. The piano has emerged as the most exciting and important medium for creative music-making in Our culture. As a result, it has a uniquely rich musical heritage. I’ve tried to reflect that richness in this book, on several levels.
Firstly, although The Piano Handbook is primarily a tutor, to be used either for self-study or with a teacher, it gives you the world of the piano as a whole. It guides you through the process of learning to play in a wide range of traditional and modern styles. It introduces the piano’s enormous repertoire, and the vast choice of recordings available by great players. And it directs you to the many books written On more specialised aspects of the subject. Ir also tells the story of the evolution of the piano and its impact On western musical culture. In short, it aims to give you the broadest possible foundations for your own personal exploration of this wonderful instrument.
Secondly, The Piano Handbook takes a completely new approach to learning the piano, intended to reflect its special characteristics. The amazing versatility of the instrument – its ability to bring complex music within the grasp of the individual player – has made it central, not JUStfor performers but for composers. That’s why playing and composing have repeatedly come together on the piano to produce exciting approaches that treat playing itself as creative, in live performance as improvisation and in the privacy of the composer’s studio. In this book, you’ll learn to play, compose and improvise side by side, and you’ll see how closely related these aspects really are.
Thirdly, this approach means you’ll be able to compare and contrast techniques used by classical masters like Bach and Mozart with those of jazz and rock greats like Bill Evans or Jerry Lee Lewis. You’ll also discover that those techniques are there for you to use in your own way, to help you unlock your own creative and musical potential. In other words, you’ll learn about each different style in a way that take it on its own terms, giving it the respect it deserves as a culture or genre. That leaves you free to choose the elements you wish to take further, as you discover more about your own strengths and interests.
The approach I’ve taken in this book reflects my experience over many years as a player, composer and teacher. I’ve found rhat the best way ro learn is generally to begin with things you want to learn. Too many modern reachers force young people ro srruggle with music they can’t relate to, and which offers few obvious opportunities for self-expression and realising one’s creative potential. It’s one reason young people reject active involvement with their own musical heritage, in favour of Walkmans and computer games. Teachers are left trying to lure them back with watered-down imitations of popular musical styles that are actually less creative than the classical music that drove them away in the first place. Perhaps you have experienced something like this.