The piano is a universal instrument.
“Universal” because it is widespread, practiced and appreciated throughout the world, but also because it allows you to play almost all the global music repertoire.
That’s right: whatever the genre, origin or sound of the piece, the piano will be the right instrument to reproduce it.
For this reason, the piano is a magical instrument.
But, of course, we can ask ourselves this question: in the age of digital and 2.0 music, are all genres still suitable and adaptable to the piano?
It’s not as obvious as you’ll see…
Why can everyone (or almost everyone) play the piano?
As we have just said, the piano is a universal instrument. It is not by chance that it is strongly recommended to all ages, even to children who wish to make their entrance into the world of music.
The piano plays an important role among musical instruments!
The piano is the Swiss army knife for musical instruments!
It’s true that the flute is the dominant instrument in the school curriculum, but we have to admit that it’s rather difficult to transport a piano from home to school, so it’s almost an obligatory choice!
Outside of these contingencies, the piano remains, according to the specialists, the most widespread and most general instrument suitable for developing all the qualities required by the musical technique.
It is also what helps to maximize the musical awakening of a child and to restore the passion for music to an adult.
Because the piano is a bit like football in a musical version
This will probably not please the fervent defenders of the sport most loved by Italians, but sometimes you have to surrender to the evidence.
Wherever you go, wherever you are, there’s no match: it’s the round ball that dominates other sports.
This image of “universal sport” is also applicable to music. Fads come and go, as do styles.
The same goes for instruments. Fads pass, disappear, then come back. But certain values remain.
And the piano is a safe bet. A certain value because it is an instrument accessible to everyone (even the youngest ones who discover music with toy keyboards).
Wherever we are and wherever we go, there are pianos, people who learn to play it and, of course, virtuosos of the instrument.
This is one of the facets of the magic of this instrument, which has many more…
It wasn’t always like that: initially, playing the piano was also a social issue! Owning it in one’s own living room was a source of pride and a display of culture, elegance, savoir vivre.
Today the piano has become a universal instrument, but it has not always been so: once only the wealthier classes could afford such an instrument.
There were times in history when having a piano was to affirm a social status!
Over time this trend, fortunately, has changed, opening the magic of piano music to all classes, not just the elite!
The piano has its own codes and culture
Within this vast family, this vast world that is music, the piano is distinguished by its independence. A bit like taking the image of the Vatican, an independent part of the great city of Rome.
The history of the piano marks a first difference compared to all other instruments. For its richness, its twists and turns and the different paths taken between the first creation and the contemporary version.
By the way, haven’t the great music composers been pianists in the beginning? Bach, Mozart, Debussy or Schubert are just a few names!
If it is not revealing element this…
Over time, the piano has become a true independent musical entity, distinguishing itself from the mass as they have failed to make brass or percussion.
The only instrument to keep the dragee high on the piano for its almost mystical popularity is the guitar. These two are in fact also the most widely used instruments in the world.
Which musical styles are essential to the piano?
Let’s see now if all musical styles can be played at the piano.
And before taking a look at those that are the subject of debate, let’s review those that are practiced by all lovers of keyboards.
Classical music, of course
This is obviously the “noble art” of piano practice. A passage that is almost obligatory for all pianists. The classic is LO piano style par excellence.
Classical music goes perfectly with the piano!
A bit of classical music?
Until a few years ago, you only learned the piano through classical music.
Nowadays it is mainly the “old-fashioned” teachers who proceed with this type of method.
But with the global return of “vintage” fashion, there is no doubt that classical music will remain a reference style for the piano. And who knows, will also return to the forefront in the way of teaching it.
Among the greats of this genre we can not forget Mozart, an artist who was also one of the greatest geniuses in the history of music. Among his bequests we find 18 Sonatas for piano, 12 variations for piano on “Ah vous dirais je maman”.
And of course Beethoven, one of the most important piano composers of all time, who investigated all the possibilities offered by the instrument, freeing up a rare creativity and talent.
Blues: piano music?
Blues is one of the most popular genres of popular music in the world and it started from the songs sung by African-American slaves who work every day in the plantations of the United States of America.
When asked “Is the blues a style suitable for a performance with the piano?” just think that there is a category called “Piano Blues” that encompasses the different blues styles that have as their common point the use of the piano as the main musical instrument.
Among these, the boogie-woogie!
Do you want the name of a great blues pianist?
Well, here you are satisfied: Ray Charles was!
Blues music also includes the “Piano Blues” category, so it’s definitely a style that can be practiced with this instrument.
Ray Charles, the living proof that blues is piano music!
The soundtracks of movies or TV series, the newcomers
In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, this musical style became indispensable. Making its forerunners (like John Williams, the composer of Star Wars) music legends.
Nine times out of ten, the writing and composition of music for cinema or television is performed on the piano.
The piano is the reference instrument (also) in this area. This style is therefore essential today.
An example of film above all?
Roman Polanski’s pianist who pays homage to nothing less than Fryderyk Chopin.
The notes of the Polish composer echo throughout the film: Notturno in C minor, Notturni no.1 Op. 72 and no.1 Op. 48, la Ballata no. 2 Op. 38, the Ballade no. 1 Op. 23 or the Prelude no. 4 Op. 28., the Ballad no. 1 Op. 23, one of the most famous of Chopin, find space and punctuate the unfolding of the plot.
The pianist was played by Adrien Brody, a very good actor but not so good musician: to play in his place, just as stuntmen usually do for the dangerous scenes of films, was hired Janusz Olejniczak, one of the greatest interpreters of Chopin of our time.
So even in the case of soundtracks, there’s no need to open a debate!
Which styles leave the most room for doubt?
If the musical genres we have seen before do not suffer from any contestation, we will see that it is less obvious for what will follow. Realizable? Unreachable?
You will see that the adage “wanting is power” is not necessarily always utopian or abused.
The rap, the R’N’B. Do you really generate taboos at the piano?
All of us, hearing “street” songs, thought they were impossible to play on the piano. It’s a widespread idea.
Even rappers can be great pianists, like Dr Dre for example!
Who said rappers aren’t capable of playing the piano?
You need to know one thing. Most r’n’b rappers or singers are real music lovers, with an established and very broad musical culture, which includes and sometimes even starts with the piano.
They often rely on this same reference music to create their own sound.
Piano and street music are therefore not incompatible.
The proof? There are pen transcriptions, on the stave, of the scores of some of the most important hits of all time of this musical genre: from Keep Ya Head Up by Tupac to South Bronx by KRS 1, from Check the Rhime by Q-Tip to Nuthin’ But to ‘G’ Thang by Dr.Dre passing through Hip hop by Mos Def, Zulu Nation Throwdown by Queen Lisa Lee, Figaro by MF Doom and I Ain’t No Joke by Rakim.
Electronics: not only noise, but also melody?
The electronic music that emerged in the 70’s is often considered as a less musical style, played by musicians more at ease with a computer than with a real instrument. And yet…
Today you can adapt a piece to the piano. Any. We can suddenly see that a piece of electronic music has more or less the same musical structure as a more classical piece.
Even electronic musicians use the piano to compose!
DJs often compose on the piano!
So it’s a playable style. Most DJs compose their music with real or virtual keyboards (like David Guetta or Kygo).
The electronics is a style that can be played largely on the piano, of course. Even this style, therefore, does not pose limitations.
Ryuichi Sakamoto, the famous Japanese composer and experimenter (one who knows about electronic music!) in an interview with La Stampa declared:
“In January I turned 60 and my partner gave me a piano as a present. For me it’s the newest musical instrument, every time it’s a surprise”.
Let’s say there’s little to add!
Piano and reggae
Reggae is a musical style inspired by the ska that was born in Jamaica and arrived at success thanks to the figure of Bob Marley.
Are you wondering if this style fits well with the piano?
The answer is yes, and the practice of piano in reggae pieces has also been favored by the appearance of synthesizers.
This further possibility of style is the confirmation of the versatility of an instrument that not by chance is the most loved in the world, at all latitudes.
But then, where does its possibility of exploration stop?
The “marginal” styles, the piano exception in the musical panorama?
Beyond the margin. These are the only styles that cannot be adapted. And for good reason. In fact, they have more to do with noise than with real music. An incessant noise. And at the piano, playing this kind of thing is complicated.
Genres like hard-tech, trance and minimal are impractical for a pianist. Unlike house or underground.
In some cases it’s up to the musician to be able to reproduce some styles, in others it’s just an impossible mission!
There are some musical genres that, with all the good will, are not really suitable for the piano!
It is true that in some cases the ability to reproduce a style at the piano depends on the skill and talent of the musician as well as his ability to explore genres completely different from his and those already established.
But there are styles in which, even with all the good will of the world, a perfect knowledge of the piano and a solid experience, this is simply impossible.
In the end, can you play everything on the piano?
We can thus effectively see that the piano, in its universality, allows a musician to explore 90% or even 95% of the global musical universe.
But as in any good experience, there are some exceptions that confirm the rule.
So, to the question, “Can we play all kinds of music on the piano?”, the answer is no.
But we have to recognize that, before finding a totally impracticable style, we had to look hard.
Thanks to this little excursus through the musical genres we have a clearer picture of the situation and we can see that, to close as few musical doors as possible, the piano is and will remain the most effective instrument and the richest in possibilities.
A versatile instrument that conquers anyone who loves music and this regardless of which style is his favorite.
An instrument, the piano, that succeeds in that undertaking that seems to be more and more difficult in today’s world, at any level: the undertaking to make everyone agree and to really become an “instrument” to make everyone enjoy the pleasure of music.
Are you now ready to put yourself to the test?
If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to sign up for a piano course and start taking your first solfeggio lessons!