“I played better at home!”

“I played better at home!”

I hear it at least once a day.

For the most part, it’s true. But why does this happen? Nerves?

One of the things that you learn quickly as a pianist is that not all instruments are the same. Unlike almost all other instrumentalists, pianists have to learn to adapt to a new instrument in every performance. My teacher used to call it an “occupational hazard”.

So when I hear this from my kids, I only have one answer – “Get over it. It’s part of being a pianist.”

The smallest nuances in the key weight, pedal tension and balance of the voicing in the strings are something pianists must learn to adjust to as they play. This reminds me of the story of Keith Jarrett and The Köln Concert

“The concert was organized by 17-year-old Vera Brandes, then Germany’s youngest concert promoter. At Jarrett’s request, Brandes had selected a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand piano for the performance. However, there was some confusion by the opera house staff and instead they found another Bösendorfer piano backstage – a much smaller baby grand – and, assuming it was the one requested, placed it on the stage. Unfortunately, the error was discovered too late for the correct Bösendorfer to be delivered to the venue in time for the evening’s concert. The piano they had was intended for rehearsals only and was in poor condition and required several hours of tuning and adjusting to make it playable. The instrument was tinny and thin in the upper registers and weak in the bass register, and the pedals did not work properly.” (Wikipedia: The Köln Concert)

Keith agreed to play after debating the situation and he decided to adjust his approach for the performance. He played “ostinatos and rolling left-hand rhythmic figures…to give the effect of stronger bass notes, and concentrated his playing in the middle portion of the keyboard.” (Wikipedia: The Köln Concert)

So what happened?

He turned an uncomfortable piano into the greatest selling jazz recording of all time and arguably the greatest piano recording of all time. That’s what great musicians do, don’t let your kids do the opposite.


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