FOR PIANO PLAYERS
If you are an aspiring pianist who desires to play creatively with style, this manual is written especially for you.
Maybe you’ve already gone through many years of piano lessons and are so frustrated that you are at the point of quitting. The practising time at the piano does not seem to pay off. You’ve hit a threshold and do not know how to improve on your piano skills. You’ve been stuck for a long time. I have full sympathy for you. Try this radical approach. You need to see music in a whole new way.
You may have played piano for years, but you haven’t a clue what to do when it comes to improvisation. Many piano players are usually petrified when they are asked to play something on their own. They say they can’t. They are only able to play what they have memorized. This manual will provide a starting point for you to create your own music. Your heart will be captured beyond imagination. It is not as difficult as you were led to believe.
Church pianists often play straight from hymn books and follow the score note-by-note. To their annoyance, they are unable to play spontaneously in a way which leads the congregation to sing dynamically. I struggled with this for many years and wondered why that is so. The reason is that hymns are written as a four-part chorale (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) and not for pianists. What a revelation that was for me. This manual shows you how to play outside the box, to transform the traditionally written hymns into creative piano playing by using color chords.
I hope you will find my method fresh and fascinating. I wish you every success as you gain new insights to take your piano skills to the next level.
If you have no knowledge of music, I have good news for you: you can start playing the piano today with this method.
I am one of those who never took piano lessons, yet I functioned as a church pianist right away. You ask, “How can that be?” I started off playing with only one finger. That’s how my journey began. I only knew how to locate middle C and played the C scale. That’s all you need to know to get started. I am including a bonus chapter in this book to help total beginners to understand the basics of music notations. I also put in a Virtual Piano Score Video for each song so that you can have fun following the virtual piano playing the lighted treble clef notes. You will be amazed at your progress in acquiring the sight reading skill.
To play well, one needs to understand some music theory, but don’t feel that you have to understand a lot of music theory before playing. In my approach, music theory is introduced one step at a time to help serious students to progress in an orderly fashion. Each theory comes in bite-size pieces with hands-on practice. I assure you that you are on the path to understanding music quickly. If I had learned these concepts from the beginning, it would have saved me many years of frustrations.
I want to empower beginners to acquire professional sounds right away. All the techniques are simplified in such a way that your fingers and hands can coordinate easily. Mastery of piano skills requires practice and finger muscular memory takes time. This will not happen overnight. But you also don’t need to struggle for years to play like a pro. You need a clear knowledge, a disciplined mind, and creative practices at the piano so that your time is well used. Let your time at the piano be intense, energized, focused, effective and satisfying. Soon all the neat tricks that you have put into practice will become part of your style and you will never lose them.
Jump straight in and enjoy playing beautifully. Your life will be ever more enriched with excitement as you find yourself playing your favorite songs, not sounding like a beginner, but with style.
FOR SONG TEAM MEMBERS
This manual is also suitable for song team members. You may wonder why this is so when they are not even the pianist. The task of a pianist is not just hitting notes on the piano. The same goes for a person singing hymns; they are not merely singing words. Our task is to communicate a spiritual message through songs to move our listeners into the presence of God.
In these pages, I talk about how music works in a song. Music works through three elements: melody, harmony and rhythm. Every time you sing, you need to find the flow to express musical drama through these three elements. Every singer and player needs to get into the spirit of a song by understanding the lyrics and the structure of a song.
I analyze the structure of each song, its melodic lines, its distinctive rhythm and chord progressions so that you know how to put expression into your singing and playing. Music moves dynamically. You need to know how to phrase musical sentences, as well as to identify the climax of a song. Good piano playing and singing always incorporate appropriate harmonic tension and relaxation in the delivery. When people sing and play musically, the congregation gets involved with the music.
You will be amazed what will happen to your song team members when they start using this manual. Don’t be surprised when you see them playing the piano also. This is good news for all music directors! Soon everyone will be inspired to be a church pianist! They want to play the piano. This is what is happening in Tsuen Wan church.
Many members in the Tsuen Wan congregation are not piano players, yet you see young and old gathering around the piano after worship service every Sunday. I am usually in the corner of the church for a long time playing the piano for them. Brothers and sisters with no knowledge of music are inspired to want to play the piano. Time and time again, I have referred them to other piano teachers. But they keep coming back to ask me to teach them. I owe them this book. I confess, like Jonah, I’ve been on the run to escape from this unwanted assignment. I have now woken up, as it were, thrown out from the belly of the fish onto dry land to embark on this important mission.
Before this time, the Lord was already working in my heart. It all began when sweet little Cheryl would come running up to the piano as soon as the pastor said “Amen” to the closing prayer. She would sit on my lap, and I would play the piano for her. She would listen attentively. Her eyes would sparkle as she watched my hands moving from left to right and right to left. I would whisper a few words into her ears. She would laugh and giggle. She would pull my face towards her rosy cheek. Little was I aware that our piano lessons had begun. She started this as soon as she learned to walk.
Today she is seven. She still sits on my lap as I play the piano for her, but she is no longer passively watching. She sings along as I play. She tinkles the ivories with her dancing fingers while my hands go to the extreme left and right of the piano. After our piano lessons, I sit her on the bench, and she is on her own playing the piano while brothers and sisters continue to enjoy their fellowship with one another. I walk away, watching this little girl imitate my right hand octaves, trill the notes with her delicate fingers, run glissandos from right to left with her palm, and then stretch her left hand to play the deep basses. What a scene! This little girl is making music. She is like a little Mozart.
Brothers and sisters in my church do not have formal music lessons, but they have the desire to play the music they hear in their minds and souls. A sister called Karen wanted very much to play the piano. Like many parents, this dream was first fulfilled through her two children. The opportunity for her to play the piano came later in life. Last year, while she was practising the piano at home, her next door neighbor heard her music and was deeply moved, so much so that the neighbor visited our church to give her testimony. Music played from the heart truly touches the lives of others.
And so the stories continue.
This instructional book is not just about music nor piano, but a spiritual journey for all who want to embark on it. You are going to have a blast! Is your heart tugging now?
Maybe you don't go to church and you don't know these songs. These songs are very easy to learn. What you learn here about piano playing can apply to all genre of songs. The most important thing is to digest the principles that you learn about music theory and understand how to apply the piano techniques into playing many other songs. If you can play one song well by applying the music principles and techniques, you can actually play hundreds of songs. Your result is manifold IF you know how to approach piano playing correctly.