“I just woke up like this” is the theme of selfies parading around the internet allegedly portraying their subjects in a make-up free moment, just out of bed. Forget about the foundation, the falsies, the hint of lipgloss, or the fact that this is in fact the 322nd photo that has been ‘spontaneously’ taken. It’s a trend on the internet, but it’s not limited to the world of influencers and glamour.
Recently Dimitar laughingly showed me a video of somebody learning an intermediate piece from scratch in ‘one hour’. Aside from some unusual things like putting the score inside the piano -something most pianists only do when they’ve memorized a piece- and the fact that he never wrote anything down – that would be rare when you’re learning a piece from scratch- there was one clear factor that made this video fake. In the first minute, he sounded terrible. And you might say, well yeah, he’s just learning the piece. But that’s just not how it works. In order to understand why, I first have to tell you, there are people that learn pieces at warp speed. Dimitar has a colleague that can sightread entire concertos, with stunning technique. But you see, people that are talented in that area, and have backed up their talent with an insane amount of work, sound amazing from the get-go. If you’re truly watching somebody able to learn a piece in an hour, you will hear amazing sightreading and near flawless technique. There might be struggles in a few areas, and some work to increase tempo, but that’s it. Somebody doesn’t go from “shit to fit” in an hour.
The question that’s on my mind is, why do you want to fake it? Why not just post a beautiful selfie, or post a video of you playing a piece beautifully? Why add the insincerity? Why so desperate to be a ‘genius’? What’s wrong with not being a genius? And moreover, all the geniuses in the music industry I’ve ever met, worked harder than any other people I’ve known. They would be deeply offended by the idea of ‘simply’ being a genius. In the brilliant words of MMA fighter Conor McGregor:
“There’s no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent doesn’t exist, we all are equals as human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that’s that. I’m not talented, I am obsessed.”
– Conor McGregor.
The idea of ‘I just woke up like this’, ‘I’m just sightreading’, ‘I don’t use steroids bro’, pops up everywhere. If you don’t know anything about the field, it can be an easy trap to fall into. Moreover, there’s something magical about giving so much weight to talent. Like magic tricks, we often don’t want to know how something special is created, we want to see the magical illusion. Something which some people immediately take advantage of, to gain praise and adoration.
Unfortunately, this is often followed by people giving up on their own things because they think there must be something wrong with them. My favorite Youtuber learned this piece in one hour, but it took me 100 hours, therefor I’m clearly not cut out for this and should quit.
How many people have given up on piano playing because they thought they were untalented? I shudder to think about it. But I can tell you, after talking to Dimitar about our message on social media, we both immediately said our priority is to give a genuine message. So here it is: If you want to play those beautiful classical pieces that you love like Debussy’s Clair de Lune, Beethoven’s Moonlight or Liszt’s Liebestraum, you’re going to have to put in a lot of hours, weeks, months, years. I’ve been playing piano for 27 years, and it’s never gotten easier for me. Piano playing is laughing and crying, struggle and euphoria. It’s something that goes deeper than ‘I just learned this look at me’. It’s the journey of a lifetime.