Can Classical Pianists Play Pop, Rock & Other Genres?

Many classical pianists get to the point where they tire of constantly practicing alone, giving solo recitals, or missing out on the social or commercial aspects of popular musical genres. This is understandable. There is tremendous demand for rock music and other contemporary styles, so if you have spent years perfecting your playing at the piano, why shouldn’t you be able to participate?

The good news is that if you have a solid grasp of note reading, music theory, and technique, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to learn popular styles relatively quickly.

To learn more about piano lessons in Columbia, MD at Soundcheck Rock Academy, please get in touch – we teach beginners and advanced pianists, and our teachers can help you improve in any genre you’d like to specialize in.

Can Classical Musicians Play Pop and Other Modern Music?

Yes, classical musicians can learn how to play rock, pop, jazz, and other musical genres. In fact, many professional classical musicians actively “moonlight” at jazz clubs, live music venues, and other places where pop music is in demand. You will simply need to devote some time to learning the idiosyncrasies of your chosen genres.

Many Popular Mainstream Musicians Were Classically Trained

Did you know that Billy Joel released a book of classical piano works in 2001 entitled Fantasies & Delusions? It’s true, one of the greatest songwriters of all time took piano lessons just like many of us “regular pianists.” The music is much more advanced than the piano parts present in his mainstream hits, and it’s not hard to see how his background in classical music enabled him to write pop tunes.

Many do not know that Lady Gaga was a classically trained pianist as well – in fact, she was accepted into Julliard’s pre-college program when she was 14 years old. Elton John was also a high level classical pianist before launching his career.

Those interested in voice lessons in Columbia, MD may be interested to know that Katy Perry studied opera in California before transitioning to the pop world, and many other singers followed a similar path, Kelly Clarkson being one.

Guitarists aren’t off the hook either; Jack Bruce and Michael Angelo Batio, among many other guitarists, received substantial classical training before launching contemporary musical careers.

Classical Musicians Have Already Conquered the Hard Parts of Music

If you received a few years of classical training on the piano (or guitar), you have already learned all of the notes, learned to count, mastered time and key signatures, and can play music with both hands simultaneously. If you have reached the point where you are playing advanced repertoire like Rachmaninoff, Liszt, or others, you’re even better off. You should also be able to identify chords and inversions.

If you can play scales and chords by memory or when reading them on the staff, you’ve already won well over half the battle.

So How Can a Classical Musician Learn Pop and Rock?

Firstly, you may need to dig into music theory, if you haven’t already. You should learn what a common chord progression is in 12-bar blues, for instance, and you’ll want to analyze some rock tunes while you listen or look at a fake book. You will want to identify things like, “ok, now we are in tonic, and that was the V chord, and now we’re back on tonic.” You will also need to familiarize yourself with five-of-five chords, since they are extremely common in rock music. It shouldn’t take you more than a month to get comfortable with common rock chord progressions.

Secondly, you’ll need to learn that less is often more. Transcribe a popular Foo Fighters song on the piano, for instance. You’ll notice that there are actually very few notes being played, but the texture sounds rich because of the instrumentation and use of power chords.

Classical pianists often get frustrated with how rock tunes sound under their fingers, but that’s because the temptation is great to “fill in” power chords with too many intervals, embellish melodies with corny arpeggios, and other classical idioms.

Get Started With Music Lessons at Soundcheck Rock Academy Today

If you want to take drum lessons in Columbia, learn how to play saxophone, or anything else, we would love to hear from you. We teach private lessons and run a popular rock band program, and we would love to get you involved.


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