5/30/2015 05:23:00 pm

Why Piano is the BEST musical instrument

Photo and text by me
Of course, almost every musician would say that the instrument they master is the best musical instrument: the hardest to play, producing the most beautiful sounds.

True, string instruments require a certain level of skill because it uses bowing techniques, vibrato, exact pitching, and much more. 

True, woodwind and brass instruments require a pair of strong lungs to produce music, and your lips need to produce an embouchure. And because instruments like Oboes requires reeds, they are admittedly a lot more work. You have to make your own (unless you're willing to spend $15+ on a reed which apparently lasts for 2-3 weeks), and the condition of the reed depends on your surroundings, the temperature and humidity. Because of this, the oboeist Kuoroki in Nodame Cantabile stated, "There is no perfect reed".

However, I would like to emphasize and remind everybody that the pianoforte is the hardest instrument of all, yet is the most beautiful instrument. 

Sure, many say it is easy to play the piano. You just sit at the bench and use your fingers to hit the notes. That is like blowing a note on a flute and saying that flute is easy to play. But compared to, say, a violin, it is easier to hit an incorrect key and get noticed by the listener. I must say it is harder to get the precise key on a string instrument, but it is only off by a tiny bit. 

There is much more complex rhythm and decorations in a piano score, which is more challenging for the piano player. Your fingers are trained to be fast and agile, and sometimes the score makes you reach for both ends of the keyboard. Your fingers also have to stretch for sometimes more than an octave. 

Furthermore, the left and right hand,  as well as each finger has to be independently coordinated. Your brain is trained to multi-task. You could be playing trills on the right and quavers on the left, or quintuplets on the left and semiquavers on the right. Sometimes you have to hold down a complex chord with some fingers and playing quavers with the rest. If you don't play piano, you probably won't understand what I'm talking about. Being able to sight read well on a piano is a truly commendable skill.

And there's also pedals. It has to be precise and just the right amount, the right depth. When playing piano you need your hands, fingers, eyes, and feet.

If that isn't all, you have to ensure that the tone is right. You can't press down a key too hard, and depending on the mood of the piece, sometimes you have to dance on the piano, sometimes you jump, and sometimes, your fingers are like a can of worms (as my piano teacher likes to say). Your tone can express grief, anger, joy, fear, or even surprise, and the responsibility of expressing the piece correctly is placed on the piano player. You need precise phrasing, articulation, dynamics.

And when you go for a piano exam, audition, or performance, you have to quickly get to know the piano and get used to it. Unlike instruments like violin, trombone, oboe or bassoon, you can't carry the piano around. So the piano at home that you practise is different from the one you perform on. The tone is different, the feel is different, so you better get used to it quickly.

I like to think that a piano is an orchestra itself. That's probably why the piano is not part of a standard orchestra (not playing piano concertos). 88 keys and 10 fingers, 3 pedals and two feet.

To master the piano, and by master I mean play works of great musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, or even Rachmaninoff well, you need to invest hours of practise and you definitely need a mentor, even if you are a genius in music.

What makes it harder in today's society is that piano is a very popular instrument to pick up. But not many finish the whole 8 grades (for ABRSM or Trinity Guildhall exams), and not many can really master it (I for one am working hard towards it). There is competitiveness among piano players, because there are many in the society compared to oboeists, or double bass players.

People who learn a couple of pop/rock songs on youtube and conclude that piano is an easy instrument to play, think again.

It's time to close the computer and go work on my Prelude and Fugue, Nocturne, Sonata and Intermezzo. And also learn the piano parts for some songs for the band. 

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