Why Playing the Piano can be like eating Fish and Chips

by Jumperding

My feelings on playing the piano and why sometimes I need to take a little break from it.

There is a time when creativity wanes and a time when it thrives. For me creativity is like a tank of petrol that gets burned and consumed during creative outbursts. For me, there are two big killers of creativity: one is burnout and the other apathy. These are my personal feelings on the former of the two.

A recording I made at the piano with the now defunct 'Paul Carter Jazz Band'. Article starts below.

Playing my instrument too much is like eating too much fish at chips, only my head in this case is the thing that starts to feel bloated and stodgy. In fact, perhaps this is not an ideal comparison in my case. When I’m in the UK, I can do fish and chips for dinner about once a month, and it’s great. Go without fried food for a long time and my body seems to crave a little grease. I say it’s an unfair comparison, because there’s no doubt I need to play and sing more than once a month. I play the piano at home most days and three gigs a month seems to be about right. Any more than this and I start to loose inspiration. Not everybody is like me of course, I’ve met musicians who are happy to go out and play everyday, and seem to go on and on like a well known brand of battery. For me,  I need space away from music. It’s as if I need to pull the plug and let the sounds out of my metaphorical brain bath. Actually, I often take myself on walks in between sets to do just that very thing. I’m sure there are some people who see me walk out the door of the bar or restaurant and wander off half way through a performance (on my break of course) and wonder what I’m doing. To answer anybody’s curiosity, I’m clearing my head, so I can make room for new sounds in my second set. I’m like this with conversation, too. In order to enjoy a conversation, I need to have little gaps, otherwise the tide just keeps coming in and suddenly I’m flooded, with sound.

Perhaps this idea may be alien to some people, but it seems to be the way I am built, which is deeply ironic when you consider I’m a musician. I’m a musician who can’t deal with too much sound!

And yet, it’s not so daft when you think about it; musicians are ,after all, a breed of being who are sensitive to sound. It may be true to say then, that as much is our capacity to enjoy sound so to there is a similar capacity to be bothered by it.


It’s interesting, I can feel when I need to play just as I can feel when I need to stay away. If there is no desire to play, then not much good will come from my sitting at the piano; however, when I sit down at the piano hungrily, I devour the instrument wholly, self expression takes it’s own natural course and I get up from my stool feeling satisfied, you might even say healed. If I’m sleepy before I started to play, I’m awake by the end and renewed with a new energy and purpose. If I’m feeling confused or doubtful, I go to my instrument, and I come away feeling reassured. That’s what playing can do for me: It can leave me with a satisfying energy that stays with me for sometime after I get off the piano stool. And perhaps that’s where the ‘fish and chip’ analogy becomes well and truly unstuck, since, while devouring my instrument may leave me feeling elated, eating a heavy portion of chips and battered cod, usually leaves me ending up feeling like I probably shouldn’t have.

Updated: 06/12/2015, Jumperding
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Mira on 11/14/2015

I'm listening to your piece again and reread your article as well. I often get saturated with words the way you do with sounds. Often in the evenings I want to read but feel I'm too tired for words. It's probably better this way. We have a chance at achieving some sort of balance, as Frank said.

Jumperding on 11/14/2015

Thanks for your kind comment, Mira. Light and Breezy sounds good or light and Funky depending on the gig!

Mira on 06/15/2015

I like the sound of your band. I can see why in order to improvise you need to a certain state of grace. I imagine you need to feel light and breezy :) Nice playing!

Jumperding on 06/15/2015

Hi Sheila, with regards to the piano, I suppose it depends on what I'm doing and how much I've been doing. If I'm improvising, or just letting loose on a song I know well, then this is usually energising, I'm sure this is probably the case with your singing too. Freely expressing yourself with ease is indeed a wonderful thing!

Jumperding on 06/15/2015

Frank, you're absolutely right. 'Balance' is the key word here, and it seems we all 'balance' differently!

frankbeswick on 06/13/2015

Everyone needs a balance in their lives. For example, some people write everyday, but others do not and need some space to reflect. It seems to be the same with your piano playing. Just be yourself.

sheilamarie on 06/13/2015

I'd love to be able to play the piano and feel energized. I feel that way after singing, but playing the piano is work for me. It would be great to get to your level.

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