You may hear that “feel” is important in piano playing. Does what you just played “feel” good? And a written paragraph on what I think feel is won’t help you as much as some listening. But maybe while you are listening, keep some things in mind. To me, feel is the result of great time, great technique and great dynamics. These 3 fundamentals all come together at once to create great feel. Note choices, melody, chord voicings are less important, but still important. And none of this is going to do you any good unless you start with your heart. Your heart has to lead the way to great feel. Your mind is going to have to take a backseat.
Great time: This is step one for me. Work with and without your metronome. Use drum rudiments (covered in another post about paradiddles).
Great technique: You’ll need to physically be able to communicate your ideas and that is done through your technique. Technique is not just expressed in fast phrases. You use your technique in the slow playing too Think of technique like the work-outs gymnasts do so they are also able to have the strength and stamina to do their actual bar, beam, or floor routines.
Great Dynamics: This one is easier, and harder. Easier because we can all play softly and we can all play loudly. But it’s easy to forget about dynamics if you don’t practice that way or perform that way.
I practice these 3 things all the time as I also work on the note choices, learning melodies, chord voicings, and more. I practice this with my basic scale review too and that makes scales a lot more useful in general. I like to kill as many birds as possible with as few stones as possible.
I think one of the greatest compliments a piano player can get is that he has great feel. It means they were able to let their heart lead the way, because they have great time, technique and dynamics. I’d rather get that compliment than to hear that someone was impressed I played something fast.
Side note on dynamics: A compressor is often used to limit the dynamic range of an instrument. It can be found on a lot keyboards as an effect. No matter how hard you play, it’ll only go so loud. No matter how soft you play… you’ll still hear it just fine. The only reason I bring this up is because there is a lot of talk about what constitutes the best compressor for this application or that. But we all have the ability to be our own compressors. We control our own dynamics. You can limit yourself however you want. Try to play from very soft to just soft. Try it from soft to medium soft. And so on. Finish up with loud to very loud. Play an entire song at each dynamic range and see if you can stay in it. You are working out and getting your internal compressor in shape. Then when you go to record you might be better able to find that sweet spot of dynamic range yourself… loud enough to be felt, soft enough to not overpower the band. A good engineer might not even use a compressor on you. Or he might recognize that you don’t need a lot of compression. Or he may still compress you a lot for effect. But you will have done your job. And it’ll feel good.
Obviously, we don't know everything. But we do tend to think differently. Here are some of my thoughts on piano and maybe some on life. I play piano for Tracy Lawrence, produce new artists, write and practice piano.