The Most Important Instrument To Learn – The Piano

As a musician, the most important instrument that you can learn is the piano. Discussion on how piano and guitar theory are related.

Steinway Concert Grand

My first step into my music career was learning to play the trumpet when I was 10 years old. It came naturally for me and I enjoyed the instrument. When I turned 11 years old my sister began taking piano lessons. One day I sat down at the piano and my sisters beginning piano book was on the piano. I opened it up and proceeded to play the entire book in one afternoon. That book was John Thompson’s – Teaching Little Fingers To Play. It was easy to read and learn from and my soul as a musician drank it all in. Naturally my parents had been listening to me working on that book and suggested that I may want to take piano lessons along with my sister. I did and from that point on the piano became the musical root of everything I have done musically since.

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A Good Show Is A Collective Effort

   I always figured if I practiced long and hard enough that I would become a good enough musician that my skills would guarantee a successful show every time I played. So I practiced and I became a good musician but I found that a good show doesn’t just depend on musical skill. A good show is a collective effort between several different factors.

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Am I A Good Musician?

When comparing yourself to other musician’s it’s all about perspective.

Prince - The Complete Musician
Prince - The Complete Musician

If you’re like me you’ve probably pondered the question “Am I a good musician?”. I know that for me, I’ll just get to the point where I think I’m a really good musician and then something will happen and humble me back down. I’ll go hear a great band or jam with an unbelievable guitarist and I’ll be back in the practice shed trying to get better at what I do.

It’s not a bad thing to get humbled like that if it motivates you to do better. We all feel like giving up from time to time but what makes you a great musician is rising to the challenge. I’ve always been able to use those times where I’m blown away by another musician and use them to make myself better. You can learn so much from other musicians that it’s in your best interest to search out musicians that are already great to see if you can learn from them.

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Take Care Of Your Hearing With Musicians Earplugs

Pete Townshend - Rock Induced Deafness

   One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to young musicians is simply to take good care of your hearing. I was diagnosed with a hearing loss when I was 16 years old and had only been playing in a band a couple of years. I was still pretty careless with my hearing for much of my early career. Finally the hearing specialists started telling me I needed hearing aids. That got my attention and I’ve been very careful with my hearing the last 15 years or so.

   The best thing I’ve done for my hearing is to get a pair of custom molded, sonic filter type earplugs made specially for musicians. I have the Westone ES49 Custom Fit Earplugs. Mine are a light tan color and are barely visible from the audience. They sound fantastic and because they are custom molded to my ear they’re extremely comfortable.

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Surround Yourself With Better Musicians

Whaddya mean I suck?!?

   I’ve had a lot of guys tell me that they think they suck badly after they hear me play. I know, I’m stroking my ego quite a bit there but now that I’ve been playing for so many years I’m a pretty good guitar player. The thing is, I remember when I was just starting out playing in bands. I felt so far behind the others that I didn’t think there was any way I’d ever be as good as the guys I was playing with. It would have been very easy for me to say “That’s it, I suck so I’m hanging it up and quitting.” but I didn’t do that. I kept fighting to get better. When you play with other musicians that are better than you are then you can use the situation to your advantage.

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Can I Play Your Guitar?

No you can't use my microphone!

Man if I had $5 for every time I’ve been asked “Can I Play Your Guitar?” I’d be rich! I’ve had people stumble up to me at gigs drunk out of their mind and ask if they can sit in with the band, and of course play my guitar to do it. I once had a guy grab my 2nd guitar off the stage while I was playing and play air guitar with it. Lucky for that guy he was a visiting Japanese dignitary at a marketing convention that didn’t speak any english. I think he knew enough from my reaction to quickly put my guitar back. I guess some words are universal. So when somebody asks me “Can I Play Your Guitar?” my policy is to simply say “No”. There are several reasons I’ve learned to just say no over the years.

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The Quest For Good Tone

Pink Floyd - Capturing Good Tone at Live 8

   What is good tone? Well, the dictionary defines it as “The distinctive property of a complex sound.” I define tone as “The sound that brings me the most pleasure to listen to.” As a guitarist, I’m especially tuned in to the tone of my guitar. My guitar’s tone is the result of my guitar, amp and player’s touch working together to create that “distinctive property” that is the most pleasurable for me to listen to.

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Support Your Kids Talents

   One thing I’m really grateful for is how much my parents supported my musical ambitions. They paid for piano lessons when I was really young. Bought me my first good instrument, a Cornet. Then when I said I wanted to play guitar they got me one for Christmas. That alone changed my life forever. When I needed a bigger amp after I got in a band, my parents bought me one. It was such a good amp I still have it today, 24 years later.   Continue reading “Support Your Kids Talents”

Learn Music Theory

I can’t stress enough how important it is to know some music theory. It’s really not that hard to understand music theory and once you get a basic knowledge you can apply it in many ways. Having a working knowledge of music theory has helped me in my songwriting and my ability to communicate with other musicians. Music theory is like learning to speak the language of music and it’s a very easy language to learn. Once you know it then you can really communicate with higher level musicians. Knowing how to determine what key a song or chord progression is in has helped me immensely when I’m jamming with other musicians. Continue reading “Learn Music Theory”