Creativity Found

Mark Deeks – playing piano your way with That Piano Guy

May 23, 2021 Mark Deeks Season 2 Episode 4
Creativity Found
Mark Deeks – playing piano your way with That Piano Guy
Show Notes Transcript

Mark Deeks wants to shatter the myth that in order to play the piano you need to have started as a child, learnt scales and arpeggios and classical standards, and practised daily. He wants you to play piano for you, for your own enjoyment.
He's even given podcast listeners a special discount for his Piano Startup Academy, which you'll find at the end of the episode.
In this bonus podcast episode Mark talks about his experiences in the world of music, and how he can help you learn to play the piano using the type of tunes you want to play, and at a pace that suits you. 

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Clubhouse: @clairewaitebrown and Creativity Found Connect club

Music: Day Trips by Ketsa https://ketsa.uk/under Creative Commons License
https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ketsa/Raising_Frequecy/Day_Trips

Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk

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Claire Waite Brown:

For this bonus episode, I'm speaking with Mark Deeks about how he can help you tap into a particular form of creativity in a whole new way. And without judgement. Hi, Mark.

Unknown:

Hello, hello, hello. Thanks for having me.

Claire Waite Brown:

You're welcome. Your contribution to finding creativity is in helping others. How do you help grownups pursue a particular strand of creativity.

Unknown:

So I'm a massive believer that many times adults have blocked off the possibility in their mind that they would ever have a musical hobby. Usually, because of something they were told as a child, your fingers are too fat, you are tone deaf, you will never be able to do that is too hard. It takes years to get any good at that there's no point do do your maths exam. And one of the things that makes me really upset about that is they've been told that on the basis of what it might take to become a professional art, when in fact, what they actually wanted to do was just have some fun. So there are countless people in the universe, who, if I had a quid for a time, and you want to said to me, I was wanting to play the piano, but I'd be on a beach. And it's just, it's just really sad people who spend 3040 5060 years of going, I always wanted for the piano, but and the rest of that sentence is something that just isn't true. All the rest of that sentence is something that has been established in their mind, on the basis of something they heard as a child or something they've heard someone say during their life. But that is the context of becoming a professional at it. And they don't want to become a professional piano player. They don't want to be a professional singer, they want to be able to chill out with a musical hobby, after they've put the kids to bed, after they've come in from work on a weekend instead of something else for 10 or 15 minutes. And that's a very, very different conversation. It's a very, very different conversation of frames everything completely differently. You don't need to practice as much. I don't even tell you to call it practice, call the play as a change for start. And it's a I just encourage people to use it in the same way as they might mindfully approach anything else in the other language we use around going for a walk or the language used around or yoga or meditation. No, musics the same. Why why we've had to sort of make it this all or nothing. You must be a professional although was no point is beyond me. So yeah, that's what I'll help do I help grownups to do I help people who have had a lifetime of thinking I'd like to be able to do that and have decided they can't do that based on something which is just not the point.

Claire Waite Brown:

Oh, brilliant. Tell me how music came into your life was it in childhood in education?

Unknown:

Well, there was a piano in the house. When I was a kid, my mom and dad had both attempted to play it and both failed in their own ways. So my dad can play in one key, which is actually musically a very difficult key without being able to read or write a note of music, he can play by ear in one key in one of the last keys you should be able to do so. It makes no sense. My mom, my mom had taken lessons when I was extremely young, because she'd always wanted to do it and found it really difficult. I started lessons when I was five. Apparently I was sort of transfixed. As a child I could reach the keys and I could get a noise out of it. So you know, this was entertaining to a little boy was when I was five years old. My parents like oh, well, perhaps we should let him have a go some lessons and see how he gets on. I wasn't forced to go I just thought I'd see how I got on. And then my mom always tells the story that when I was six, I was better than so she gave up. And so it was only it Literally now in her 70s, that she's become one of my clients, I don't charge her for the record. She joined my membership. And now she loves it because she feels like she's found a way that she can just do it for fun, and she can relax and she can watch the videos as many times as she likes. She doesn't have to hold myself to a lesson every week. And so yeah, I didn't have a musical childhood as such. There was there was a piano in the room I seemed quite interested in, it seems to come pretty naturally to me. And I sort of rattle through the grades. Yeah, I got my grade eight when I was 12. And here we are.

Claire Waite Brown:

Did you want to pursue that? After education? Were you going for a musical continued education or musical career?

Unknown:

My mom quite often tells a story that people would say to sort of quietly in the street I you could you can let him sort of study there's not a level or university or slightly he seems to enjoy it seems to be quite good at so why would you not? There was always this air, I think that some people will identify of, you know, what are you going to do for a proper job? You know, a lot of creative arts, people have to sort of ride the gamut of that line of questioning. In fact, I don't often share the story heard, which was this story popped into my mind, I remember being about 14 or 15 years old, at a break time of lunchtime at school. And this boy who I thought was really posh, I went to quite a posh school, I hated being a posh school. I didn't hate being a PA school. It was great in a lot of ways. But I really didn't, I wasn't one of them. Like we weren't rich at all, I'd had to get like this blazing scholarship to get in. So I was quite, I'd come from a very sort of, quote, unquote, normal background, but I was surrounded by little kids from a lot of wealthy families. And this boy said to me, like, what what do you want to be when you grew up, and I really wanted to be a DJ, I really wanted to be a radio presenter. And I said, I wanted to be a DJ, which causes, you know, quite creative thing and being involved with music that way. And he literally said to me, you know, for a proper job, I got him up against a wall. It's the only time I've been violent in my life. I've never been violent before or since I just totally sort of hit him or anything, sort of like pushed him say, What do you mean a proper job? Just because they want to be a lawyer? Yeah, I had this little sort of burst of teenage angst for about five seconds, and then it passed. Yeah, I guess I always wanted to be around music in some way. Because I seem to understand that I'm awful at loads of other things. I have terrible practical skills in terms of, I can get lost in a box. And I just, I can't work out how things work. I can't fix things, I can't mend things. I can't put a picture on the wall, my DIY skills are non existent, I get lost in the town I live in most of my wife's total amusement. I mean, my dream job would have been to just write about football. But I never really pursued that. I just give my football opinions to anyone who listened to which unfortunately, my wife and she doesn't like football. So I have a different story. But yeah, music. All I really understood, it always seemed to be the path that I was destined to go in some form.

Claire Waite Brown:

How did you do that? Then? What did you do after you finish school.

Unknown:

So I did a popular music studies degree, which in the mid 90s, was 96. Howard University has quite an unusual thing. So popular music education was quite a new thing at that point. Music Education until that point had been, you know, very sort of classical and traditional based, I guess, in many ways. But you know, in the mid 90s, started to see popular music courses starting to arrive, there weren't many in the country. But I ended up going to a place called Breton Hall, which was part of Leeds University based at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Claire Waite Brown:

And then what was the plan after that? And did it go to plan?

Unknown:

I don't really plan, I don't know what the plan is, I have no plan really much to everyone who comes into contact with me frustration are far too creative a brain for plans. I have huge difficulty with fiction. So I don't understand fiction I deal in reality, so that the, the, the concept of visualising something that is really just doesn't work in my brain at all. So I just, I have an idea, and then start working until it happens. But that is how my brain works and has worked on everything. So I mean, I've got a PhD in heavy metal music, which is, you know, everyone thinks it's hilarious. Because, you know, what's the point, Matt? It's difficult to disagree. But I needed to know what the last point of that was, before I can even start writing it. I need to know what the point is. I need to know what the the goal is, in terms of you know, what is the last sentence almost, I remember being like that at school when I was trying to write science experiments. And that's certainly what the point of it was, I couldn't begin. And when I know what the point of it is, then I'll just start working. But planning is a really alien concept to me. I don't I don't understand fictional books, or films. Like if I never watched it, or the film my life, it would bother me. Because it's fiction. What's the real source point? If it's a real story, now I'm interested, but if it's fiction, that's just not how my brain works. I realised on a creative podcast, that's revelation. But music works to me like I couldn't talk music till the cows come home. But I struggle to visualise stuff. Like if someone when someone says you imagine you're on a beach, I'm not. So how can I do that? So my brain just doesn't work in that way at all. visualising is just really foreign concept to me.

Claire Waite Brown:

That's really interesting. I've never heard of that before.

Unknown:

It's really frustrating. I'm play piano blindfolded, frustrated. Yeah. That's, that's where my brain is.

Claire Waite Brown:

Amazing. That's Yeah, that's really interesting. So without any plans or any foresight, then how did your musical

Unknown:

career progress? And tell me what you've enjoyed and what you haven't enjoyed? For most musicians, I guess this is applicable across the arts is that is the constant wrestling between something that is your passion? And how on earth do I pay the bills. And so I remember sitting in a class at university, which was a class of songwriting on the surface with the conversation and sort of kothar rails, but the guy said to me, if you got the phone call tomorrow, to be the keyboard player for the Backstreet Boys, because the Backstreet Boys were huge at the time, to be the keyboard player for the Backstreet Boys on a tour, and they're gonna pay you 10,000 pounds, would you do it? And I was like, No, absolutely not. I want to make my own music. When we're famous, be famous for my own music, you know, this is, you know, my, you know, it's my creative thing kind of thing. And the thought of selling out, as is always the expression of selling my soul to the devil, taking the money for playing key words for someone else, particularly to someone who was cool. But of course, then you leave University and you're like, No, do I need some money? It's the constant wrestling as, as an artist, for want of a better expression of do we follow the dream? Or do we do we take the work that makes it pays the bills. And so I always describe my career as a traditional musicians career in reverse. So most musicians will when they're young attempts to try and make a living out of their music, in some form, write songs, or being bands or getting their bands and trying to get some gigs or sell some CDs or when CDs were a thing. And most musicians will attempt to do that for a bit. Because, you know, they've got the young dream, and they got the fire in the belly, and off we go. And rightly so I do it. Absolutely. Why not? And then they'll go, this is quite hard this, unless unless they've had some kind of real break, most musicians will go, this is really difficult to make a living. What else can I do? At which point most musicians will then fall into teaching of some form or another be instrumental teaching, be classroom teaching. Now University lecturing, whatever it is, there will be some form of teaching, you're sharing their skill. And most musicians will then use that as at least a part of their income for the rest of their lives. I did the reverse of that. So I started teaching when I was 15. So by the time I got to the end of university, I was bored of teaching. I got offered my first proper in inverted commas teaching job, just a few weeks before I finished my degree, and it was 18 quid an hour. And I went, well, yeah, why would I not take 18 grand an hour. And it was a total fluke. I was in the staff room of my music lecturer. He was a great lady from Trinidad and Tobago called Geraldine corner. And she was famous actually for doing the carnival Messiah, which was a Caribbean Carnival version of Handel's Messiah. And she took a phone call from the local music teaching service. They were desperate for a singing teacher. Because the singing teacher had gone on a cruise ship to sing, and just left them in the lurch. And so I happened to be in the office when she took this phone call. But when she was being asked, Do you have anyone who could come and help us out? And she sort of waved to me said went there with and said, I've got your job interview, and you put the phone down suddenly one of the thought of a piano player taught taught second in my life, what you're about. And she said, Oh, you'll be fine. So I rocked up with this interview. And the first thing he said to me was, can you play piano? I said, I said, Yes. Now you're talking my language, said, Great, you start one day, and that was it. Believe it or not, I've coached choirs for the last 23 years. So I ended up being a singer teacher first and sort of gradually sample, by the way, I actually can't do piano teaching as well. Perhaps I should do some more of that. Yeah, that was how it started.

Claire Waite Brown:

Oh, amazing. That's so funny. Did that continue in the same vein,

Unknown:

not not as one to one singing teaching. I did it for a few years. But I never felt comfortable in being a one to one singing teacher because I had no knowledge of like proper singing technique and breath control and the mechanics of the throat and the voice or wherever I could coach performance, I could teach people to sing in terms of a performance aspect. And that's always what I've ended up doing now. I've spent the last 23 years coaching community choirs. I've got my own singing company called sing united, which is my community choir in Newcastle. We've got 150 seconds. Yeah, ranging for choirs as soon as something has ended up playing a huge part in my career, because I really love being around the energy of people who are doing it just because they love it, they feel it. These are not professional singers. These are Joe Bloggs from ordinary jobs. They just have a passion for it and he can't bottle up. That's something that you can't inject into performance that they're planning for. nationals who are weary of the slog, and they just perform because they know how to and they might be great at it. And they may well be very talented, but sometimes they're not feeling it. And when someone feels the music, now it's got 10% you can't teach. And so being around community projects is really exciting like that. I've worked with choirs of all sizes are conducted 300 singers and an orchestra at the same time. And that's the thrill. Let me tell you, the Royal northern Sinfonia at the stage gates at 300 singers the inspiration choir, good stuff does. Does your soul go that? I mean, Todd? Well, I don't get me wrong. I was a little flustered. By Well, it was great. So yeah, community singing has ended up forming a huge part of my career.

Claire Waite Brown:

And now you want to help adults play the piano as well, as you've already mentioned, why do you think grown ups in particular might need your help?

Unknown:

I guess they were talking about before. So I mean, I've played piano all my life. And it turned out that I was alright at showing other people how to do it. And as I said, I will start I started doing one to one piano teaching when I was 15. But I quite quickly clocks that I preferred teaching adults can teach children I have taught children, I just, I don't particularly want to teach children one to one, I just tend to prefer the banter of to dealing with adults. But I guess, through my sort of late 20s, and into my 30s, I felt a little bit out of love with piano teaching one to one, even when it was adults, just because you know, adults are busy. Adults are busy. And they're going to come up with 1001 excuses for why they haven't practised that week. And that's just a really tedious conversation after a while, sort of fell out of love with one to one teaching for a while. And then sort of wondered whether I could do something online and coach people in a group in some way. And so you're thankfully I did that pre COVID. So I kind of had a head start on lots of other music teachers who were suddenly going, Oh, God, I've got to take my music teaching online. So I set up a membership in the end of 2019, called piano legends. And I love it, you know, this is like my baby now. So it's basically pre recorded videos. So I can record the content anytime I want. Obviously, we do live q&a is we do live master classes and stuff. But the bulk of the content is pre recorded. People can access it anytime they want, because they're just paying a small subscription to access it. And they will say things like, this is judgement free, this is a judgement free way to learn, because Mark can't see me unless I want him to see me. And I we have a members group. That's a huge part of what we do. And I encourage them to post videos that they're playing. So I can give them feedback. And you know, just prop their phone up on the end of the channel or on a book or something. I don't know how tidy Your house is, or how much makeup you got on just show me your hands. And I will tell you whether it's any good or not. But it means that they can watch when they want watch as many times as they want. They don't feel stupid about asking questions, because they just watch the video again, I never need to know. And then when they're ready to like say, oh, I've done this, even if it's just a few notes, great. We're not trying to make a professional it. As I said at the beginning, this is sort of about having something that's foreign and going well, I want to look at that after this elder student or whatever. It's really nice to have that community and the community aspect is a huge part of it. In fact, yesterday, we just started what we call the candidate amnesty thread, the kind of amnesty thread is right, let's get the confessions out the way who's not playing why what you didn't do much of what, what were you frustrated, let's get it all out in the open. It's just a less pressured way to do it. And if you haven't played the piano for three weeks, simply the piano for three weeks now, what it's like kids family jobs, it happens. But let's see if we can find a way to sort of as a collective support each other and it's not just them having direct access to me, it means that the others can go I it's great that you've done that and now I'm inspired to go and have got this tune and you know, our community aspects of it really helps because learning an instrument can be a really learn something to do as I guess it can be in any art. There's a lot of solitary work involved. And, you know, having that community aspect is a really, really huge part of it. I approach it in in the language of well being you know, let's let's not have the pressure to be amazing at this. You can feel the benefit of having a hobby like this entirely separate two. Are you any good at it? They are two different questions. The success of your skill is not what results in the is this doing you any good? You get the you get the better first, you know, I've got complete beginners who report sleeping better within a week. I've got a fat lady. I cleared it with her that she was okay for me to share this because she said it publicly So, but I checked with her eating disorder has stopped since she started playing the piano. She was binge eating every day for a year, then started playing piano for 10 minutes a day and hasn't been eaten in six weeks. I mean, that's extraordinary. I mean, I I'm always clear to say I don't call it this from any kind of medical training whatsoever. This has nothing to do with my medical knowledge. I don't have any music therapy knowledge. I'm not a therapist, but I know that if I can help people to put music into their lives in an unobtrusive, positive way that is not dependent on success. And I know that I have countless anecdotal evidence of people saying this is the impact it's having on My wife, and I separate from all the animals on the planet. And that's a really important distinction to make.

Claire Waite Brown:

sounds absolutely fabulous. Sounds like such a joyous and fun and safe way to do it to, to tap into your own musical energy. How can people contact you and find out more?

Unknown:

Brilliant, thank you? Well, I mean, it's a choice of two ways. If you're someone who likes a book to dive into, then I have a book called not another piano book. And the subtitle is how everything that stops you playing like a piano legend so far, shouldn't. And it's not a book on how to play the piano. It's a book that dismantles every reason that you haven't done it yet. It's a motivational book, there's a little bit at the end, which is like now you can start wiggling your fingers like this kind of thing. I mean, there's a little bit more to it than that. But there we go. But the general concept is, hear all the stories you've told yourself, here, all the things that you've heard about learning the piano, and here are all the reasons that they are nonsense. So let's just dismantle them. So if you're a book reader, not another kind of book app, not another kind of book calm, which is a nice, easy way to remember it. Alternatively, if you just want to have a go, he said, Well, I said, sounds like something I'd like to have a go. Or even if you haven't got an instrument, then just send me a message on Instagram, and we'll get you set up, you can have a golf for free for seven days, see if you like it. And if you don't, then at least you know, but don't wander. Now, don't wonder about it, just do something about it. And if it's not for you, great, that's fine. Go draw, or take a portrait or whatever it is you want to be. But it's something that's worth having a go and at least finding out. And if you don't have an instrument, send me a message. I've got all kinds of links ready to go for beginners, don't let the cost put you off. Because people think you need to spend 1000s of pounds on an insurance make it worthwhile. You just don't. The links I've got set up, like 200 quid and you're done. If you don't have 200 quid, it's fine. Start saving or send me your postcode on Instagram. And I'll tell you what, what's available in your local Facebook marketplace. I did that for people all the time, because I just don't want there to be any barriers. But let's let's get over the barriers. If you're the barrier outside out fine. Let's go. So if you'd like to connect with me on social media, then look for marketing's music or use the hashtag that Piano Guy and you can find me on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook and indeed on clubhouse marketing's music or that Piano Guy.

Claire Waite Brown:

Fabulous. Thank you so much Mark,

Unknown:

thank you very much.