April 21, 2013

Making sense of playing the piano

Tomoko knows that playing the piano isn’t just about touch; it involves other senses.

Nevertheless, the sense of touch is a good place to start the discussion. When Tomoko greets a new student, she says, “If you have 5 fingers, all the possibilities of the piano are yours.” Of course, she realizes that the piano involves both hands, and that the left hand is usually neglected. Tomoko asserts, “You need a good touch. How you take off, how you connect to the next note, is important. Playing the piano is not just how you pound.” Tomoko realizes the complexity of touch. “The quality of touch is like quality of voice. It is so difficult to teach, but once you get it, then it is wonderful.”

Listening is another vital sense; “You have to listen first.” Tomoko tells students, “Go listen, and then try.” She is referring to professional performances, including those that are recorded, as well as to peers. She then  tells parents, “You have to try to listen to your child’s playing, even if you don’t like the music the child plays.” She also thinks that people need to listen to more classical music. She notes, “You can be poor, but can listen and sing.” Tomoko recalls her personal experience when she arrived in the United States, “I listened very carefully because I didn’t want to miss even a comma as I tried to speak English.”

Eyesight is also usually needed for playing the piano. Tomoko says that the player needs to read each composition carefully: analyzing quality, rhythmic sense, articulation, phrasing, feeling, and flow. She also suggests watching performers.

As for taste, that is more of a figurative sense. But it’s still a natural sense, according to Tomoko.