January 21, 2015 by Tony Lee
In the First Part of New Resolutions from a Pianist, we discussed serving the music, serving the setting, and serving the moment.
This is New Year’s Resolutions From a Pianist Part 2, the second part of a three part series. I’m sharing some of what I learned in 2014 as a pianist and some of the resolutions and steps to growth that I’m going to take in 2015 in the hope that we can learn and grow together this year.
This year I resolve to play with authenticity—whatever my skill level.
I’ll be honest, this resolution scares me. It takes me out of my comfort zone because there are settings in which I am immensely comfortable and settings that scare the pants off of me. This resolution also gives tremendous hope for every level of pianist/keyboardist, because it means that even beginners can tackle any tune at some level. Here’s how I plan to do this:
Play what I (you) know.
If that means that two notes of a suspended chord work over the whole tune, then play those two notes. If that means playing the melody instead of some fabulous, juicily-creative lick, then play the melody. If that means playing only the bass notes, play the bass notes. If that means taking full advantage of a moment to shine and showcasing technique and flavorful vocabulary won through focused practice, then take full advantage! Show up, and authentically play what you know—at whatever place in your musical journey you happen to be.
This year I resolve to take musical risks.
One of my favorite authors talks about her daughter being scared of coming in last at a swim meet; she quelled those fears by telling her daughter, “All you have to do is show up, and get wet.” You don’t have to be the most creative, the best, or the first when you play, but you are accountable to yourself to take risks that push you. Here are some ideas for musical risks to be taken in 2015:
Play with musicians who are better than you.
Take on a project/gig/performance opportunity that makes you nervous.
Begin creating your own music—write a tune and share it with someone.
Play for people who know more than you and be open to feedback.
You may even come up with your own musical risk. Whatever the case may be, take musical risks with me this year!
This year I resolve to create space.
Here are some places and ways I would like to create space this year:
Create space in my music. Use rests to create juicy rhythms. Don’t play every note—or everything you know all the time. Allow for punctuation in musical sentences.
Create space for learning. Set aside time to learn. When a concept or technique simply isn’t coming along as I’d like in my practice, set it aside and let it breathe. Then come back again with the mental space to absorb what I’m trying to learn.
Create space for others to be heard. Enjoy hearing what others are doing musically—whether playing with them or listening to them. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and others is the willingness to listen to their artistic ideas. You are enriched and they get to communicate. No one learns while talking.
Create space to listen. Keep a running list of artists and albums to be digested. Musical listening requires focus. I want to set aside time this year to listen every day with a mindset of focused savoring of the sounds and not passive consumption.
Join me for part three of my New Year’s resolutions as a pianist!