Music is nothing without context.
Let’s assume for a moment that Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson are all alive, and let’s now say you give them prime billing in Lola Montez (local niteclub) on a pre-pandemic Saturday night, the chances are that even this much-vaunted trio will bomb.
Because what this particular crowd are expecting is chart hits pumped out at high volume, not jazz. Not even some of the best jazz that has ever existed.
Put them in the local theatre, however, and the chances are that the gig will be sold out months in advance, and you would hear a pin drop while they were performing.
When it comes to practising (so as you can be as good as Oscar Peterson (!)), similar rules apply. You need to remember the context of your practice.
If it’s so as you can perform something professionally, well then you need to be able to play it without mistakes. Repeatedly.
If it’s so you can accompany someone at a sing-song, well then you can afford a few mistakes as long as you catch up. So your practice can reflect this.
And if it’s so you can play yourself, for yourself, in your own time, well then you get to set the rules.
And while these rules can of course change, it’s worth thinking about it each time you sit down.
While you’re here, I’d like to provide you all with some context for my next show.
It’s called “Not a Theme Night”. Mainly because we can’t include many of the hallmarks of a usual theme night right now. No big gang of musicians on stage, no live audience, and no theme.
However we still have a pretty damn good line-up, and plenty of uplifting songs and toe-tapping tunes to raise the spirits. And, this time all artists are presenting their own choice of material, which has led to huge variety in the set – some relevant to our times, some brand-new material, and some real surprises.
It’s almost ready for your viewing, and will be presented in two parts – one out on Feb 19 and one on Feb 26.
More context in the video below, and you can get tickets here.
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Or if you’re interested in learning how to play piano, you can sign up to the Piano With Kieran newsletter here.