Do You Always Play What’s Written

I’ve always had a way of thinking about playing what’s in front of us. For classical music (and by that I mean Baroque, Classical, Romantic etc) I always stick to the notes on the page. For anything else like TV themes, pop tunes and other such repertoire, I tend to stick reasonably close to the melody but the accompaniments are normally made up.

This isn’t a rule written in stone. It’s just the way I feel about playing the piano. I think what’s developed this approach comes from a couple of things. The first, I have a classical background when it comes to my learning. Thou must play exaclty what’s written or you will be struck down.

Secondly, teaching over the years has helped me to be slightly more flexible. I’ve had plenty of students who have wanted to play their favourite tunes. Whether it be TV themes, video game music or whatever else. Often, if you aren’t used to learning by ear, you’re at the mercy of sheet music. What’s tricky about this is you’re stuck with what’s written.

Instead of just giving up at the first hurdle, it’s good to have an understanding of musical structure. Things like chord progressions and harmony. This means you can take a piece that you like and arrange it in such a way where you can play the music at a difficulty level that suits you. The added benefit is, as you improve as a musician, you can return to your favourite tunes and add more to them.

Next time you hear some music you would love to play, maybe the next Taylor Swift tune or something equally as exciting, try buying sheet music for it and just see what you can do with it. Think of the sheet music as a starter guide to the tune and you can build on it from there.

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