-by Harry the Piano
May I begin by wishing all of you most sincerely a very happy and prosperous New Year and one that enables us to put the difficulties of 2020 firmly behind us all. If you are looking for something with which to make this year entirely different from the last, can I recommend to you something that personally and professionally has brought me nothing but joy – the piano! New Year’s resolutions are often about giving up things that we consider bad for us. Surely better to change the angle of attack and take up something that is uniformly good for our stress-levels, the enjoyment both of ourselves and others and moreover something that will continue to sustain us throughout our lives. I can assure you as somebody who both loves the instrument and has earned his living from it (two things that don’t always go together by default) that I am not exaggerating!
If I were to sell the piano to you as something that can genuinely improve your life, I might perhaps start by saying that it truly never has been easier to engage with the instrument. The old traditional ways of learning are still in place – and some would say still the best! – Namely engaging a professional teacher, learning to read music and perhaps taking grades (old-fashioned piano exams). However this is most definitely not for everybody and with the advent of YouTube there are literally thousands of free tutorials for every level of piano-playing. Every song that you may hear on the radio, every film theme or other signature tune in whatever style may take your fancy is readily available via simple sheet music for a minimal cost. One can take online courses in rock music, pop music, jazz, classical or any genre that a few short decades ago did not exist. Backings from professionals to play along with are staple ingredients in every electronic keyboard and music writing software from the most basic to the most complex can be purchased for a range of outlays to suit all pockets. There’s even good old simple trial and error (don’t knock it, it’s the way Errol Garner learned to play the piano who turned out to be one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time and wrote one of many piano players’ favourite tunes – ‘Misty‘!) is up for grabs.
I’ll share with you a brief story of when the power of the instrument dawned on me. When I was eight years old, my parents – unimpressed with the school that I was attending – had me transferred to another where I knew nobody. I had been having piano lessons with a church organist, a rather strict old lady for a few years up to then. I was making some amount of progress but was not entirely enthusiastic about the whole business. About that time the film ‘The Sting’ was released and the music of Scott Joplin became wildly popular. You could not turn on any radio or pass any TV without hearing ‘The Entertainer’ being played. I became obsessed with this, firstly picking out the tune on the piano and then spending hours until I could approximate some sort of version of the accompaniment. One morning in assembly in the new school – I still can’t quite believe how or why I mustered the nerve to do this – I simply sat on the piano stool as we were all filing into the hall and started to play it. I was expecting to be chucked off at any second but all the teachers and children went quiet and I played the whole thing which must have lasted about a minute but felt like an eternity. When I finished I received my first ever (and to this day most gratifying) round of applause. I think it’s fairly safe to say that it was at this point my fate was sealed!
The piano and the electronic keyboard of the modern age represent the best value for money and give the greatest return on the investment of any New Year purchase that you may be tempted by. Get to your local Kawai showroom and see for yourself!
About the author
Lauded by Jonathan Ross as ‘The best damn pianist in the civilised world’, Harry’s extraordinary talent has taken him worldwide with solo cabaret shows in the Albert Hall, Moulin Rouge and festival appearances from Barbados to Adelaide as well as headlining on the maiden voyage of QM2 alongside Dame Shirley Bassey and The Opera Babes. Resident pianist for five years on the Big Breakfast (Channel 4), he then musically directed BBC TV shows for several years and is now a regular on The Now Show (BBC Radio 4), Friday Night Is Music Night (BBC Radio 2) and the go-to improvisor for In Tune (BBC Radio 3) amongst other things where presenter Iain Burnside noted ‘You can’t be a pianist and not be a fan’. His ability to play any tune in any style on request has led to over 3 million hits on YouTube and appearances with everyone from Simply Red to David Bowie and Andrea Bocelli to Charlotte Church.
‘His phenomenal talent, charm and wit are a delight’ – Stephen Fry.
‘Spellbinding. Uncanny. Genius.’ – (Times. Independent. Guardian.)
For more about Harry the Piano, visit www.harrythepiano.com