How to Become a Concert Pianist?

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Last updatedLast updated: May 21, 2021
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Being a concert pianist is a serious career, and most concert pianists will have received a high-level education at major universities and/or music academics. To fully master the art of playing the piano, you must spend many years to improve and develop your skills.

When looking at how to become a concert pianist, you must undergo strenuous training that includes quick note reading, developing a sense of rhythm, making music, and mastering techniques. Being a talented musician is just the start, as you’ll also need marketing, management, and organizational skills.

In this article, every aspect of becoming a concert pianist will be discussed, especially in the area of how to practice on a proper instrument, perform in concerts, and setting goals. At the same time, this article will teach you how to create a long-term management team, participate in competitions and market yourself properly. Let’s get started!

Training

How to Become a Concert Pianist?

Some people start their piano lessons at a very young age, while others discovered their talent naturally later in life. If the intention is to become a high-quality pianist someday, then it’s better to invest in piano lessons as soon as possible.

While being educated at the university level will help in getting opportunities, it’s not an essential step. It’s more important that you have the drive and determination to succeed, whatever age you are.

Training involves numerous sacrifices and overcoming fears, such as stage fright and being the only reliable pianist on stage. During training, the concert pianist will have to practice solid techniques while creating their own style.

The type of training you receive can often depend on finances. If yours are limited, then there is a considerable amount of resources online along with countless books available. While these can be great, getting expert tuition would always be preferable.

Quick note reading

Whether you are getting ready for an audition, preparing for your debut, or accompanying someone to sing, sight-reading or quick note reading is essential for developing. This is an ability to decipher notes, allowing you to quickly break down all these notes into rhythms, dynamics, and harmonies.

A pianist who is quick in note reading can pick up unfamiliar music, often error-free. This is the skill that has to be fully mastered because most concert pianists are expected to be perfect at all times and meet strict deadlines, even when learning new music.

In a fast-paced concert, the intense practice may still not be enough if you’re unable to read notes quickly. Having good note reading skills, you can pick up difficult or impromptu music very quickly. This will also allow you to take commissioned works and enter prestigious competitions.

Sense of rhythm

The pianist doesn’t have to just play beautifully at the concert, but they also need excellent rhythmic skills too. To control a consistent tempo is as difficult as maintaining tricky rhythms. If you’ve ever attended a classical music concert, you’ve probably noticed that every pianist has been quite precise in their sense of rhythm.

Being able to control the music’s rhythm can help the audience identify the feelings they should feel in the moment. The right rhythm can stimulate a powerful emotional connection and social interaction between the musician and the audience. Without rhythm, other accompaniment may lose their tempo, that even the listeners will find it challenging to grasp the emotions of the music.

Making your music

To make your music, such as finding yourself in a diverse genre or composing a new song, is also a challenging part of the training. Most concert pianists should know how to coordinate the notes together, so they can make good music. To become proficient in this area, the pianist should know the fundamental theories about music.

For instance, he should know how harmonies work and how it can affect the interpretation of a musical piece. Although not all pianists ended up becoming composers, it can be a great way to find their niche in music and how they can expand their musical range. Knowing how to make music can give you a greater understanding of how emotions are structured throughout a piece.

True artistry comes within your heart, and making your music can give you a greater appreciation for the craft, even if you struggle to get your compositions heard. The most gifted artists always have their ways of interpreting music. You can even take existing pieces of music and put your own spin on them.

Technique

Perhaps the biggest challenge to becoming a concert pianist is mastering techniques, and this is considered to be the attention-grabber for the listeners. If you can execute a chromatic run to perfection, you will draw attention from the audience.

To develop a flawless technique is a difficult thing to attain because you have to make playing the piano a career choice instead of a hobby. Mastery of the techniques will only come through regular playing almost every day.

Every pianist should remember to maintain a firm grip on all areas, such as formula patterns, doubled chords, and triads. For example, when a musical sheet is too difficult to understand to others, a consistent technically-mastered pianist can execute the music easily.

Many beginners build on their skills, but mastering their techniques is another level. A good pianist can figure it out by themselves while making it easy to play difficult passages. Therefore, techniques need to be practiced and refined consistently. Most concert pianists have a dedication to perfecting their techniques over time.

Exercise your whole body

Before you play, you should learn how to warm up. This includes loosening up your arms, shoulders, wrists, fingers, and neck. You want to learn to get rid of all that tension and relax on the stool. Warming up your body will allow you to have a high level of dexterity. Without warming up, you are more liable to make mistakes, and you will be more prone to getting soreness in your hands.

It’s essential to take care of yourself while playing the piano. While it may seem like a placid activity to some, the risk of serious injury is real. Warming up playing a vital role in preventing such injuries. You should also listen to your body and not play through any pain.

If you struggle with dexterity at the start, then there are a range of hand exercisers available that can increase the strength in your fingers. If you do start to develop any issues, then it’s a good idea to focus on your hand positions to see if there are any fundamental flaws.

Identify your technical weaknesses

Learning an unfamiliar piece is exciting, but it can also bring frustration, especially if the technicality of the original composer is higher than your current ability. Whenever you feel uncomfortable with doing these techniques, don’t feel down and instead see it as an opportunity to learn.

If there are any flaws in your technique, then that’s what you need to focus on. It can be tempting to just repeat what you’re great at, as you know it’ll sound great. Unfortunately, you’re not going to get better with a method like this, so you should identify your weaknesses and work on them.

Practice on a proper instrument

It’s hard to practice to be a concert pianist if you don’t have the right tools available. It’d be no use a Formula 1 driver trying to practice for a race by driving a regular car. Likewise, you’re not going to be prepared unless you have a good enough instrument.

Does this mean you need to spend $30,000 on a new grand piano? No, it doesn’t. There are things you can do. One of those is buying the best digital piano you can afford. This will give you the three crucial things you need, which are a full keyboard, pedals, and weighted keys.

If you have those, then you can get a realistic feel for the grand piano. This would give you accurate practice and allow you to effortlessly go between different pianos. While a high-quality digital piano is great, there is even more you can do.

Check if your local area has practice rooms. There are places out there where you can book a room for an hourly rate to play a high-quality instrument. This is a great way to practice on a grand piano. There may also be places where you can rent them out too.

If you’re currently practicing on a 61-key keyboard without weighted keys, for example, then you’ll need to upgrade as soon as you can. Getting the best Yamaha digital piano can be a great idea as they are high-quality and are affordable for most people. Whichever model you get, make sure you’re practicing on a proper instrument.

Many professional musicians recommend the Yamaha YPG535 model for live performances. It feels like an acoustic model and is easy to carry to the concert. Also, you might want to check the Casio Privia PX-870 that costs a bit more but comes with a starter bundle.

Identify the top piano brands

Two of the most famous piano brands are Steinway and Yamaha due to their commitment to sound quality, how durable they are, and also the consistency. Owning these piano brands might cost you a significant investment, but Yamaha is more budget-friendly than Steinway.

As a developing concert pianist, you should have a quality piano. If you have a higher budget, you can look at getting an upright piano. Used pianos can be affordable, and this will also help to teach you about the tuning and maintenance they require.

If you can’t afford to buy an acoustic piano, then the digital ones can be a good alternative because they feature realistic mechanisms, which produced almost the same sound like the real acoustic piano. Even though it’s not as perfect as the grand piano, you still have to consider what’s fit for your budget.

With Yamaha, for example, many of their digital pianos have the actual recorded sound from their legendary grand pianos. They’ll also have keys that replicate the weight, action, and response that you’d get from an acoustic piano key.

Performing at concerts

How to Become a Concert Pianist?

Once you have successfully mastered your techniques and have gained a high proficiency level, you can then work towards playing concerts. Here we take a look at the steps you should take to start performing at concerts.

Plan a concert program

One of the best ways to showcase your talent is to do a concert program. To start with, you have to study some famous classical musical scores so that the audience can assess your technicalities. Whether it’s a big solo concert or an intimate debut concert, try and think of how many people would be interested to hear you play. At the same time, it’s a great idea to create a promotional video that can be posted on social media websites.

Contact venue organizers

To perform a concert, you must find a reliable artist representation who can handle most of your needs during the concert planning. Most of the time, you should consider looking for a venue organizer to minimize the load on your shoulders. The venue organizers and promoters are the ones who should lead the event and deal with any issues. You can either contact them through email or phone calls, and you should indicate what type of concerts they would be organizing.

Prepare your sample materials

Before you contact a venue organizer, prepare all the things that you need. You have to get a professional press kit, where all your sample materials, the list of your accomplishments, and professional photos are gathered together. When either the organizer or the promoter asks, your information is good to go.

Organizing your sample materials, signed photographs, and concert souvenirs will help you, and the promoter can market you better in public. After your concert, it would be a great idea if you have prepared some cd recordings to be bought by the audience.

Negotiate the talent fees

Once you have contacted a good organizer and promoter, you have to negotiate the artist’s fees, which will be generally be based on the sales of the tickets and cd’s collected on the backend. Other percentages of the sales would go to the recital hall rental fees, stage manager and promoter’s fees, and piano rent.

This can be slightly different for church concerts as the money received is usually based on donations. In these situations, the venue is usually offered for free, with the artist receiving minimal remuneration, with most of the money going to church charities and organizations. While not lucrative, this can be a good way to gain experience, bolster your portfolio and increase your exposure.

Book travel and hotel accommodations

If you start to get recognition, then requests will come in for you to play at events. If this opportunity comes knocking at your door, then you also have to negotiate the travel and hotel accommodations to be excluded out from the sales that you’ve made. Your expenses may be paid for.

It’s crucial to keep all of the receipts for travel and accommodation. If your expenses aren’t being paid for, then they will be tax-deductible. You’ll most likely need to do this yourself if you don’t have a manager or agent to do so. If this is going to be expensive, don’t be afraid to say no to the opportunity.

Creating a management team

Many classical pianists may need an artist representation or a management team to take care of everything that they need. Their role is to stay with you during your career and organize your schedule. They are also the ones who help in booking concerts and events, negotiate the talent fees, make important phone calls, and responding to fans’ inquiries.

As a concert pianist, you should only need to think about the schedule of your practice and other preparation for the performance. Another benefit of having a representative is that they can easily manage your workflow.

Most events won’t promote your mere talent unless you have someone on your side to market you. Here are some ideas on how you can create a reliable management team.

Getting artist representation

One of the biggest requirements of why you needed an artist representation is because you have limited connections that could help you climb the ladder of success. At the same time, having an agent can increase your chances of playing at a number of events, along with arranging press conferences, pre-concert promotions, and promotional photoshoots.

A good artist handler with the right connections can also help you in managing your financial matters, such as your talent fee and sponsorship. This management not only just it into the hands of a specialist but allows you to focus on your music.

Find agent through co-artists or searching the web

If you have a good relationship with other artists, then they might suggest a potential agent for you. They can also offer you to get in with the same management as they currently are, so you can easily get to some events and exhibitions.

Agents can also be found on websites, where you can search for a local artist representation within your area. Whenever you’re looking at an agent, it’s good to see if there have been any reviews from other artists. Don’t be afraid to ask around and look at a few different options.

Meet them in person

One of the best ways to tell if a person is well-fitted to your needs is to see them personally. This is where you can have a long conversation with them and set up proper expectations and values. Remember, you’ll be paying for their service, and they’ll be working for you. You’ll know if a person is good enough to work with you if they value your rules and follow your wishes.

Know the terms and conditions

A management team may ask you to sign a contract which ties you into their terms and how much they are going to be paid. Before signing into a contract, ensure to read everything to avoid any issues in the future. If you have any doubts, then don’t be afraid to walk away and consult with other musicians. You could also approach another company to see what they can offer.

Do not commit immediately

If you are starting a relationship with an agent, then you should be careful about the terms of the contract. Some concert pianists have trouble getting out of the contract if they found out that their agents are not getting them the right type of work. It can be tempting to sign the first deal that’s placed in front of you but take all the time you need to make the right decision.

Communicate regularly

Both you and your agent should be in contact regularly about your schedule. You need to speak with them at least twice a week to check in about the developments of your career and if they have any updates.

You should try and maintain a professional relationship and understand that it won’t always be easy for them to find work. This is why it’s always a good idea to continuously work on your own self-promotion. It should also be clear about what your goals are and what you’re looking to achieve.

Participating in competitions

How to Become a Concert Pianist?

One of the highlights in a concert pianist’s life is entering an international competition. From there, you will attract media, even if you don’t win the first prize. The entire process of entering an international competition is rigorous, and most concert pianists will prepare for this moment years before they enter. Most competitors are also very skilled when it comes to their techniques, that’s why it’s no joke just to get into the competition.

One of the biggest reasons why concert pianists decided to enter international competitions is because they wanted to win a particular artist or management that could help them grow as a piano artist. At the same time, there will be automatic recording projects and extra opportunities for winners.

With video technology emerging nowadays, many international competitions are now streamed online, so people around the world can see their performances. It would also help them gain fan bases quickly.

Below are the examples of popular international competitions that you can join in.

International Chopin Piano Competition

The Chopin Competition is usually held in Poland, which is dedicated entirely to the famous piano prodigy Frédéric Chopin. This competition started in 1927 and has been held every 5 years.

International Ettore Pozzoli Piano Competition

The International Ettore Pozzoli Piano Competition is held in Italy every 2 years and is considered to be one of the oldest piano competitions in the world. This was initiated in 1959, where Maestro Maurizio Pollini bagged the first prize. The 50th year of this competition was held in 2009 in Italy and won by an American pianist named Maestro Christopher Falzone.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski International Piano Competition

Another piano competition is the Ignacy Jan Paderewski International Piano Competition, which was founded in 1961 and held every three years. The competition is a remembrance of the famous Polish pianist named Ignacy Jan Paderewski. In 1994, the Ignacy Jan Paderewski International Piano Competition became a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions.

There are many more piano competitions around the world, but there are likely to be some in your local area. You can start with these before expanding into a more acclaimed competition. They can be a great way to put your name on the map.

Social media promotion

The power to promote in all forms of social media is free. Therefore, you can independently create a page of your event and post all the updates on the page. When you share it on Facebook, it can draw a considerable amount of attention from your friends and other connections.

Instagram and Twitter can also be great avenues for promotion. You can start to build a following, which can increase your reputation and increase the number of opportunities you get. It’s vital to keep the activity on these accounts high, which will increase your engagement.

For an aspiring concert pianist, it can also be a good idea to create a YouTube channel where you can either show off your own compositions or play along with existing pieces of music. Not only can this gain attention and subscribers, but it can also be a great reference point to showcase your musical ability.

With different types of social media platforms, you can use one to promote the other such as putting your YouTube video on Facebook or perhaps linking to your Instagram picture through your Twitter account. This is an area where many concert pianists don’t excel so that it could be a good opportunity for you.

Adding more classical pieces to the repertoire

While there is plenty of room for contemporary music and original compositions, there is still a huge hunger for the classics. Having a deep knowledge of the classics gives you a broader portfolio and makes you more employable.

The more classical piece you add to your profile, the more attractive you’ve become to the audience, organizers, and agents. It’s the right way of increasing your chances of being booked for future events.

As you gain your reputation, you can usually have more flexibility with what you perform. You will also be in the position to be more selective with the events you play at. As you are growing, however, opportunities may be more limited, and you want to take every chance you can get. Adding more classical pieces to your repertoire can only help.

Communication with famous pianists

Whenever you can, you should practice the art of networking. As you travel to more events, you’ll get to meet other pianists who may be further along in their journey. This is your opportunity to stretch out your world and pick their brains in any way you can.

It’s always a great idea to reach out to people who have the same passion as you. You can ask them about any techniques you are struggling with if they have any agent recommendations or perhaps any general advice for an aspiring concert pianist.

Gaining friendships with fellow musicians may also open doors that otherwise would have stayed shut. It is always good to introduce yourself and open up the conversation. You’ll find that most people are more than happy to help a fellow pianist.

Setting goals

To become a concert pianist is a lifelong ambition, where you have to dedicate yourself to your passion at all times. Success can be attained if you’re consistent with following your goals. With every step of the way, it’s good to challenge yourself.

Setting goals can be in mastering certain techniques, practicing for a set time per day, or perhaps you want to earn X amount of money by a certain point. Setting goals helps to keep you focused and continuously on the right track.

There will be struggles and disappointment along the way. Being a concert pianist isn’t as easy as many people think it is. It can be a struggle to get yourself heard in the early stages, but if you set goals and stay patient, you’ll give yourself the best chance to succeed.

Final thoughts

If being a concert pianist is your lifelong ambition, then you need to be prepared to work hard to get there. If you think that it’s worth it, you should invest your time, effort, and soul in it. It’s not going to be easy, and they’ll be plenty of challenges along the way.

Your career may take some time to build, so you have to embrace every opportunity. Set yourself attainable goals and try to find the right people who can help you along the way.

Hopefully, by now, you have a great idea of where you should get started on how to become a concert pianist. There is plenty to consider, but it all begins with putting in the hours of practice. Once you’ve reached a high proficiency level, you can start getting your name out there and start your journey to becoming a concert pianist.

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