Why you should play what you love

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of songs from my childhood. I’m talking everything from greatest hits from bands like Chicago and Earth Wind & Fire, to old Broadway soundtracks like West Side Story, A Chorus Line and the like. Listening to some of these songs have brought back memories I had forgotten about, and some songs almost (kind of a corny way to say it, but …) “transport” me to when and where I used to listen to (or in my case, play) them most often–in my car, in my bed with headphones on, at my piano, playing along on my drumset with headphones, with an old girlfriend, whatever!

Chances are, there are more than a few songs that remind you of happy memories or make you feel the same way. It’s small tokens like songs I hold onto dearly, as do many others.

So, I started playing some of my favorite songs on piano. It brought the joy back into playing. Now, whenever I’m feeling like I need to hit the “refresh” button, I pull out a few of my favorite tunes I don’t normally play, just for my own enjoyment.

Through the years of playing piano and teaching others, I’ve noticed that, while some songs can really teach a lesson or skill that all players need to know, if the musician/student is not playing songs they enjoy, they tend to lose interest. And now, that includes you: if you aren’t playing songs you enjoy, you might start asking yourself, “what’s the point?”.

Thankfully, we now have the internet as a resource. I encourage you to search for piano fake books— these books use lead sheets, which means you’ll be able to understand the notation right away for all the songs you know and love. Some fake books even come in a Kindle version, so you can prop your Kindle or other tablet/device on your music stand and play away, without worrying about waiting for a book to arrive at your doorstep or your nearest bookstore.

Or, you can always give yourself a new challenge and pick out a song by ear. There are songs we know like the back of our hand, and I know that my students get to a point of being able to play by ear once we’ve worked on chord progressions long enough! I’ll give you a hint too–lots of popular songs have no more than 3 or 4 chords in their chord progressions, so chances are good you’ll find that many of the songs you’re trying to play will use the same chords over and over again.

Go ahead— take a leap and try playing some of your favorite songs today!

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