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Classical Piano Lessons
Tim P Manger

Classical Piano Lessons

Why learn Classical Piano?

As a teacher of piano, Tim believes that to learn the piano and it's subtle nuances, students should seriously consider studying some of the amazing periods in history, that helped shape and mould the piano's look, feel, and sound.

The term 'classical piano' or 'classical music' is used loosely to define nearly 400 years of music history, of which only 70 years was strictly in the 'classical' form (the period from 1750 - 1820). For the purposes of accuracy and relevance, we will look at the varying musical periods briefly.

Each musical period offers a treasure trove of playing styles and subtleties, some of which are discussed in greater detail below. If we were to restrict ourselves to the true 'classical period' only, students would miss out on an overwhelming plethora of pieces and works, as well as an exceptional variety of historical musical manuscripts, developments and creativity.

Baroque Piano (Harpsichord) - 1650 - 1750Baroque Piano (Harpsichord) - 1650 - 1750

The Baroque (derived from the spanish 'misshapen pearl') period in western musical history, saw the Catholic Church dominate the styles and musical themes of the age. The art of the time was also largely influenced by the Catholic Church, and musical composers were compelled to write music to a strict code of non-secular ethics.

Producing gigantuan composers such as J.S. Bach (and the entire Bach dynasty for that matter), Handel, Telemann, and Scarlatti just to name a few, the Baroque period saw the rise of several keyboard instruments, specifically the muti-manual church organ and the harpsichord (cembalo), which was primarily used as a basso continuo rather than a solo instrument.

The piano does not receive much of a mention in Baroque times, because it wasn't invented until the late Baroque period to early Classical period. In fact the piano, designed largely to supercede the dynamically restrictive harpsichord, had little influence on composers until the late 18th century. The first pianos (or pianoforte as they were aptly named) were predominantly upright or spinet versions, with wooden internal frames, a softer tone than modern pianos, and were named according to their dynamic range (piano et forte) 'soft and loud'.

Classical Piano - 1750 - 1820Classical Piano - 1750 - 1820

Arguably the most popular period in piano music history, the Classical period boasts composers such as Mozart (and the entire Mozart dynasty), Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, just to name a few.

By the time the 'Classical' period arrived, composers were writing an overwhelming library of works for the piano (pianoforte), which in it's own right was undergoing constant modification and improvement as a solo instrument. The speed and action of the pianoforte was continually developed throughout this period, including the introduction of the 'grand' pianoforte in the 1770's.

The sheer body of works available to both teachers and students, originating from this period is breathtaking, giving modern day pianists a fantastic insight into the composers and musical advances of the period.

Romantic Piano -1820 - 1900Romantic Piano -1820 - 1900

As music became richer and more extravagant, it became known as the 'Romantic Period'. A period that produced great composers such as Chopin, Liszt, Debussy and Tchaikovsky just to name a few.

Music from this period in piano history is often epic in stature, with incredible dexterity, flourish and technical brilliance required. Towards the end of the Romantic period (the late 19th Century), composers such as Ravel, Debussy and Rachmaninov began developing a new style of sound that had never been heard.

For the boffins of the period, this new sound was akin to looking at one of Pablo Picasso's early 1930's paintings, and comparing it to a 'Golden Age' Rembrandt. As the musical inflections of the period began altering rapidly, so too did the historical genre.

Contemporary Piano - 1900 - Current DayContemporary Piano - 1900 - Current Day

The contemporary period in piano playing once again created a new series of challenges and dizzying heights for pianists. With composers such as Khachaturian, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Gershwin, the piano became (and has become) an instrument of boundless extremities, rather than an instrument of strict form.

To put a box around the definition of piano music from this period is almost impossible. The music is as diverse as all the periods that came before it, with genres such as jazz, incidental, and rock music having an influence over a composer's final work.

From the rich sounds of the neo-romantic composers, to the often discordant and ethereal sounds of the contemporary period, students will be able to embrace challenges and creativity on the piano that are unlike any other life experience.

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