There’s something about classical music…

20 07 2011

Brass instruments: the sexiest of them all! (photo from

There’s something about classical music that just makes me happy. It never fails to cheer me up, gives me a boost of energy, or just get me chirpy, jumpy and excited all in one go!

I’m not exactly sure what it is that makes classical music special for me, but I think it has something to do with its somewhat unpredictable nature. Pop songs are catchy and they do pump me up, but I can only listen to so much of pop before I drift into a state of high-degree boredom. (I’ve often put my iPod on shuffle, hoping to dig up some obscure piece of amazing pop lurking in the obscure realms of my library, only to end up forever skipping one song after the next.)

So what is it with classical music? Like I said, it’s their unpredictability. I love that feeling when you think you know the melody, when you think you know which note will come next, but the composer has cheekily slipped in a little tweak and gives you a humongous yet pleasant surprise. It’s just so thrilling when a trumpet comes at the least expected moments (FYI: I maintain that brass instruments are the sexiest instruments of the lot), or when the timpani (which I believe to be the second sexiest instrument, after all the brass ones) comes rolling in from nowhere!

Then there’s the joy of following the music. I’ve been listening to Tchaikovsky’s wonderful violin concerto lately, as well as Beethoven’s piano concertos, and rather than just listening to it, I’ve decided to try to follow the music using the concerto’s complete score. The International Music Scores Library Project is great for this.  All I have to do is type in the name of the piece, download the PDF file, and read the music on my laptop while listening to the concerto on CD. It’s a most relaxing thing to do after dinner – put on the music, flip open the laptop, throw yourself onto the sofa and enjoy!


2 Things I’ve Learnt From Playing the Piano

18 06 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly had an urge to play the piano again. I had decided to stop playing the piano seriously a few years back because the three hours of daily practice bored me, but I now had this desire to touch those keys again and hear the music flow from my fingers…

So I opened up the piano and sat down. I took out some Beethoven that I had played years before – sonata no. 8 – and started cautiously weaving my fingers around the notes. It was a little bumpy to start with, and I knew that my piano playing was a tad rusty, but soon enough, the sonata began to sound good enough to be called ‘music’.

It felt good. There I was at the piano, steadily feeling more and more confident as the notes slid over each other. And as I sat there playing, I thought: what have I learnt from all those years of playing the piano?

1. “You become a champion by fighting one more round.”                                                     As with anything, practice is what nails it 95% of the time. I was playing a Dutch card game with a friend once, and she said to me – “The game’s about luck, but also about how you play your luck”. The concept is similar enough with playing the piano – sure, a little talent helps, but it’s also about how you develop that talent. Playing the piano taught me that if I wanted to do something be better than other people, I had to do more than they did, practice more than they did, and fight one more round.

2. Work smart and work hard.                                                                                             Practicing three hours a day was ‘working hard’, but practicing three hours a day without a method wasn’t ‘working smart’. Playing the piano taught me to practice smart. There’s no point in playing the whole piece countless of times – it would be smooth but mediocre at best. The trick was to spot out parts that I had problems with and work on those in isolation. Then I would repeat that one part five times until I got it perfect each time, before moving on to the next problematic section. Now I use this method in a whole range of other areas: golf, running, studying etc. – and it works great.

Now I’m off to play some piano.


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