The Pianist’s Sketchbook

Cover of "An Illustrated Life: Drawing In...

Cover via Amazon

The other day I was browsing through An Illustrated Life – drawing inspiration from the private sketchbooks of artists, illustrators and designers, by Danny Gregory. it’s the type of book that when you flip through the pages, I can guarantee you’ll want to run out and get a sketchbook and a set of pens and start doodling and sketching.

It got me thinking. Why should visual artists have all the fun? Why don’t classical musicians seem to want to pull back the curtain and show the world what inspires them and all the hard work that leads up to the final polished performance. What would be the musical equivalent of the artist’s sketchbook? The musician’s doodlings? The pianist’s process?

Well, I think I found it…. on Twitter. I’m lucky to have found some of the most creative and friendly musicians on Twitter. A tweet about a piece of music sends me right to IMSLP to download the score. Another tweet about a concert and I’m off to read reviews and find clips on YouTube. And a tweet about a productive practice session sends me right to the piano bench.

Here are just a few of the pianists on Twitter who have inspired me to take the leap and start my own musical sketchbook of pieces that are still a bit raw, the collection I call my “Go Play Project.”

Erica Sipes (@ericasipes) has recently been blogging and posting a video diary of her preparation of Beethoven’s 3rd piano concerto for an upcoming concerto competition. Her careful methodical practice has convinced me to pull in the reigns and take the time to check fingering and details and practice slowly in a way that no piano teacher or coach ever seemed to be able to do.

Jocelyn Swigger (@jocelynswigger) is keeping an audio practice diary as she learns ALL the Chopin Etudes, an goal many pianists probably have, but how many of us ever follow through? Hats off to Jocelyn and thank you for sharing the invaluable details of your practice.

The most popular pianist on YouTube, Valentina Lisitsa (@ValLisitsa) pulled back the curtain last summer when she live streamed her daily 14-hour practice sessions. Now if that wasn’t enough to inspire you to go running to the piano I don’t know what would.

And as far as tweets go, I find that James Rhodes (@JRhodesPianist) shares his love of piano with his Twitter followers in the most authentic and genuine way. In my opinion, his twitter feed comes very close to being the musical equivalent of an artist’s sketchbook.  How can any pianist not want to move away from his or her computer screen and head for the nearest piano after reading tweets like this and this and this?

Take a listen to this week’s addition to my “sketchbook” – Chopin’s Fantasy Impromptu, Op. 66.


8 thoughts on “The Pianist’s Sketchbook

  1. I love your playing. I have had similar ideas, although you are a far more advanced player than I am. I like the idea of tracking my progress as I learn to compose, giving others the inspiration to do the same.

  2. Agreed. I also really appreciate Twitter and all the piano people I am following and particularly how readily James shares his piano life with us all. I find I am appreciating Twitter far more than Facebook suddenly and not quite sure why but maybe I have just got it worked out a little more now.

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