A piano can tell a story

“There are eighty-eight keys on a piano and within that, an entire universe”

James Rhodes

I found this quote a while ago and it really struck a chord (no pun intended!).

When learning the piano growing up, I always loved how I could pick up a book of music and be transported to a different world. Each piece told its own unique story.

In a similar way I think that’s why I loved reading too. I could bury my head in a book and my imagination whisked me off to far off lands and fantasy realms.

The great thing about music though, is that your imagination is less constrained than it perhaps is in a book. Books spell out the landscape and what the people look like in a more defined way whereas composers paint the soundscapes letting your own imagination fill in the details. I guess you have a little more freedom to interpret the music how it feels to you.

I’ve had some great conversations with students about the stories behind the music they are learning and it is fascinating hearing their own interpretation. This week, for example, one of my students was preparing ‘The Reef’ from the ABRSM grade 4 piano syllabus and we got quite poetic thinking about what it might mean.

Having pondered about how the dynamics might convey a sense of the waves crashing up and down in the sea and how the weather perhaps changes from dramatic to calm, there was a great difference in their performance. Once the imagination kicks in, the music becomes more than just notes on a page.

I did a similar thing with a younger piano student in ‘Secrets of the Suits of Armour’ from ‘Who Ate My Cake‘. We thought about these guardians of the castle marching up and down the corridors protecting the King. Their armour perhaps clanking loudly as they marched in unison and footsteps in perfect timing with each other.

It was almost as if I could see that spark of inspiration light up in their mind and it made a huge difference to how they played the music.

Do you use storytelling in your teaching?

Who Ate My Cake?

A mystery adventure with sheet music and online games

The Mystery of the Lost Diamond

A mystery adventure with sheet music and online games

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