The Art of Meditative Piano Playing

I love rainy days (and nights). Right now I am at a tire shop waiting for my tire to be repaired. I am listening to the rain pounding on the roof, a sound which I find particularly soothing. Which reminds me of playing.... scales?

Yes, the thing that many pianists endure so that they can get to “the good stuff.“ Sometimes all I need in a stressful moment is a few minutes to play scales (The same can be said for playing arpeggios and other similar exercises). Practicing technique slows my mind, lowers my heart rate, and calms my body. ”Why?” I’m so glad you asked.

  1. Scales are predictable. Life, especially these days during the pandemic, is incredibly chaotic and unpredictable. Predictability removes stress from the mind and body.

  2. Scales are repetitive. Doing the same predictable thing over and over provides the opportunity to sink deeper and deeper into what you are doing, much like Taizé chant.

  3. Scales are foundational. Practicing technique is going back to the basics. You are distilling music down to its basic structure, which helps you find the core of your soul and body.

  4. Scales remove distractions. Practicing scales forces me to focus on a few things at a time: even tone, even tone of all notes in the scale, even rhythm, relaxed hand and body posture, and regular breathing.

What are your thoughts? Does practicing technique help you to relax, or does something else work better for you?

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