Millions of notes, thousands of hours of practice and just eight fingers and two thumbs! It ain’t easy tinkling the ivories.

The musical mastery of the world’s great pianists almost defies physical logic. Light as a feather one minute and thunderous as a herd of hippos the next, from slow and stately to faster than a woodpecker on speed in under 60 quavers.

But this instrumental wizardry comes at a price! Here are the truths pianists know all too well.


You play a lot of notes

You’ve got 99 problems, and having 88 keys is one of them!


… Except when you’re an “orchestral pianist”

You’re resigned to the fact you’ll probably have to count 285 bars rest before suddenly playing something difficult and exposed… thanks a bunch contemporary composers!


You’re at the mercy of concert venue pianos

It’s piano roulette when you’re a gigging musician, but it’s invariably either a clapped-out, barely salvageable mess, or such a gorgeously maintained dream you can’t bear to part with it.


Going out of tune is a huge headache

 

Lucky Mr Clarinet only needs to give that mouth piece a little twist… you need to hire a specialist to come in for two hours. Sigh.


You are expected to practise all the time and yet be a flawless sight reader…

That Rachmaninov concerto will never be right unless you spend countless hours on it… but in the meantime, play my accompaniment perfectly first time. Thanks!


… And that includes instantly transposing anything into any key.

“Mind playing this in A Flat Minor? Why are you crying?”


You are Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to page-turning

When you’re doing the page-turning for someone else, you hope they’ll be cool with the odd lapse, but you’ll give some world-class withering scowls to anyone who misses a turn when you’re playing.


Listening to recordings of the great pianists is pleasure and pain in equal measure

They sound so good… too good! Cue internalised shame spiral of self-doubt and unshakable insecurity about your own abilities before heading back to practice for a few more hours…


You lose points for playing with the music

If only you’d learnt another instrument, then you’d be allowed the music. Sadly you opted for the piano, so get back to that practice room and don’t come out until you’ve memorised all 48 preludes and fugues of The Well Tempered Clavier. Yes, BOTH books…


There are also some pretty great perks to playing keys

It’s not all dingy practice rooms. You can impress everyone at any random pub with a piano, you can wear piano keyboard ties and get away with it, and you get to play some of the most incredible music ever written.

Now stop reading this and get back to practising!

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