Minimum Viable Piano as the key to our musical growth

Have you ever felt that everything about playing piano was difficult? That nothing comes easily to you? Or that you’ve been stuck at the same level for a long time?

If so, you may want to try applying the Minimum Viable Piano concept to your musical development.

Briefly, I got the idea for Minimum Viable Piano (MVP) a few years ago, when I was inspired by the business term “minimum viable product.” Basically, minimum viable product means that you can set up a new business fairly quickly, with a small amount of your product. Then, you can expand your offerings as you receive requests for various products or services. The main idea is to get started as small as you can, and then expand to meet the needs of your customers, with organic growth.

I realized that all the piano “pros” have done this, especially those who learned to play before Operation Theory Overload got started in the 1980s. (By the way, you’re hereby part of a historic event, having just read the term Operation Theory Overload the very first time it’s ever appeared in print. Congratulations!)

Let’s say that you’re learning rock or jazz music in, say, 1951 or 1961. Even though you know a few advanced chord voicings, you focus mostly on simply learning as many tunes as you can, using simple chord voicings and using techniques that you can actually play in tempo. You spend a few years doing this, having lots of fun jamming with your friends, listening to music both live and on recordings, and yes, practicing the advanced chords while you have time to do so. And since you can actually play songs in tempo, you begin to get gigs and you improve by light years every month, and gradually you find that it’s easy to incorporate the advanced chords into your playing.

This is MVP: you play something simple and “do-able” over and over until you get so good at it that your fluency begins to feed itself. This well-proven path was taken by everyone from Bill Evans to the Beatles.

But today, it’s different for many pianists. Operation Theory Overload has been telling us for decades that we need to start with “this bass line” and “these hip chord voicings” or else we won’t sound good. The result is that pianists who would otherwise enjoy jamming with their friends find themselves unable to play an entire tune in tempo, since they’re constantly struggling to play things that are too hard for them at their current level.

Besides being incredibly effective, another benefit of MVP is that it actually places at the exact point where we can continually challenge ourselves, a little bit at the time, and keep ourselves right at the edge of learning something new while at the same time playing in tempo and with musicality.

In other words, we sound great and grow musically at the same time!
Minimum Viable Piano: it’s how I learned and how I still play every day.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”


PS – If you’d like to see me play Minimum Viable Piano, check out my video on Bill Evans’ minor blues tune “Interplay:”

If you’d like to learn from a series of fun and inspiring lessons designed to help you along the way with Minimum Viable Piano, you may enjoy my video course:

Once you log in, you can either start one of the many courses on the site, or follow one of the curriculums I’ve put together.

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