Updated: Oct 16, 2019
What if you could ask one of the great musicians any question? What would you ask? I suppose it would depend on the day and what you were currently working on, something that is relevant to you at the moment, and something that would enhance your musical journey.
I got to ask one-of-the-greats a question last week. His name is Victor Wooten. Haven’t heard of him? That’s because you’re likely a piano player and not an electric bass player. What does a bass player have to teach us? We are all musicians and Victor is a multi-grammy award winning musician who happens to be a pretty amazing writer too. His book, The Music Lesson, is now is now part of the music curriculum at Berklee College of Music Boston MA, Evergreen State College, Olympia WA and California State and University-Chico Chico CA and it is a delightful read!
What did I ask him? First of all how did I get to ask him anything at all? I was at NAMM last week. The North America Music Merchants convention. It’s in LA, it’s big and it’s noisy. Imagine a thousand bands playing all at once in the same building kind of noise (I brought ear plugs). You get to see all the latest stuff and play on Fazioli pianos and pianos shaped like Pandas!
They have great seminars (in quiet rooms) and it was at one of these seminars I asked Victor Wooten (in front of 500 people) his thoughts on instrument size. My question went like this “When I teach piano to children and adults with small hands (most have small hands) I feel like I’m strapping size 15 shoes on them and asking them to go for a run. What are your thoughts?”
I was at NAMM to talk to the digital manufacturers about making an affordable, weighted, digital piano with a 5.5” octave (your piano has a 6.5” octave). Aside from writing books on Piano Chords I also have a piano with narrow keys that has made playing the piano so much more enjoyable. The keys fit my hands.
Victor replied that, as a teacher, I shouldn’t tell my students they are playing an instrument that isn’t right for them, especially if there are no other options (at the moment!). A teacher creates possibilities and inspiration not blockades in learning. I agreed with him and I do keep my size 15 thoughts to myself in lessons. BUT THEN HE WENT ON and said that HE played a slightly smaller electric bass with lighter strings in order to achieve the magic that creates his grammy winning music. So his final thoughts were NO I was wrong and YES I was right. I was thrilled!
So many of the establishment in the music industry (an amazing number of men with large hands) think it is a crazy idea to introduce a narrow-key piano into the piano world. They are only available as a retrofit currently but when you eventually see one in your local music store, TRY IT! Give it a really good try. Plop on some headphones and sit down and play for at least 15 mins. I digress... more on this in future blogs.
If you think narrow-key pianos would be amazing for kids to learn on or if you have small hands please sign the PASK piano petition. (I've signed it and it takes 1 min). They need 5,000 signatures to let the piano manufacturers know that small hands are a real issue on the piano and we want to play Oscar Peterson 10ths and Rachmaninoff too!