When a person thinks of famous musicians who play the piano, the first names that come to mind are Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. The reason why these musicians are so well-known is that their pieces are the most commonly used classical pieces taught to pianists when learning piano.
In fact, Beethoven’s Fur Elise is the common option played by Level 1 piano players as it presents with several different piano playing methods, while still being a simple piece. Of course, these individuals are not the only famous pianists to grace the musical world.
While these classical music legends have been self-taught, there are many other pianists who are self-taught playing in other musical genres. This article will discuss musicians from the jazz, gospel, and country musical styles.
1. Art Tatum
Art Tatum is a renowned jazz pianist born in 1909. Unfortunately, Tatum died in 1956 at the young age of 48; however, during his lifetime he gained popularity as one of the greatest jazz musicians in the 20th century. While his mother was a pianist, Tatum chose to teach himself to play the piano by ear as a young child instead of having his mother teach him. One of the reasons for this is because Tatum was completely blind, but he continued to influence a generation of jazz pianists as he aged.
2. Walter Wilhelm Gieseking
Walter Wilhelm Gieseking was a composer and self-taught pianist born in Germany in 1895. He began to play piano at age 4 and while he was not blind like Tatum, he did have a unique ability that influenced the way he played – he had a photographic memory. Using his photographic memory, Gieseking was able to learn new pieces when not at the piano merely by studying and memorizing the sheet music. Once he sat done to the piano, he was able to play the piece flawlessly without the need for sheet music. Gieseking died in 1956.
3. Floyd Cramer
Floyd Cramer was born in 1933 in a small town located in Arkansas, USA. The importance of this musician is his development of a piano playing style known as the “slip note style”. The “slip note style” involves a movement where one note slides into the next and is used often in the country music genre. Cramer began teaching himself to play the piano during his teenage years and he went on to have a successful recording career. After his death in 1997, Cramer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
4. Gene Harris
Gene Harris was a self-taught pianist born in 1933 in Michigan, USA. He is well-known for his influence in the jazz industry producing a style known as “soul jazz” – a style that combines blues and gospel. Harris played for audiences for over forty years and influenced many artists before dying in 2000 from kidney failure.
These are only a few of the thousands of famous piano players who are self-taught. While some of the musicians had natural talent, it is still possible to learn with some dedication and will – that may be you!