When did you start playing the piano? Did you take lessons? Are you classically trained?
I started piano when I was eight years old, in Livermore, California (where I grew up). I took lessons all through high school from a wonderful teacher. I also played the trumpet growing up, and learned the organ in high school, though piano is and has always been my main passion in music. All of my training in piano was classical.
When did you start composing music? How did you learn to write music?
I started writing music when I was 15. I am self-taught as a composer. I just started improvising a lot, and then I learned to play by ear around that time as well. I then started writing songs constantly—I would write songs all the time and record them on my phone and listen to them while walking home from school. I also experimented with writing some lyrics back when I was in high school, but it soon became clear to me that instrumental music and comedy were my passions at the piano. I put out my first full-length album, Flood of Keys, when I was 16. I would take copies to school to sell to my friends. I still consider that album to have some great songs, though I don’t have it publicly available (at this time).
When did you start playing backwards? How did that come about? How long did it take you to learn?
So the initial idea was actually for a talent show when I was a teenager. I went to a church youth camp and saw that they had this amazing talent show with like 1,500+ people there to watch. I wanted to perform in it the next year, so I came home after the camp and spent three months learning to play The Entertainer backwards and on the floor.
The most challenging part was the transitions—learning to go from sitting at the piano to being down on the ground and back up again. That’s what I spent a lot of time learning to do.
Who are your favorite pianists/artists/composers/performers? What is your favorite song to play? What artists inspire you? Is there anyone you seek to emulate?
From the classical genre, my favorite composers are Chopin and Rachmaninoff, no question. So much good music from them. I played a lot of them when I was doing classical music as a teenager. And my favorite Rachmaninoff piece is Prelude in G minor. My favorite Chopin etude is probably the Etude in E Major (the slow one).
As for my favorite song to play on the piano, that is really whatever the audience wants to hear—I am an entertainer at heart and love to play what people enjoy. But as far as songs others have written, my favorite to play would be Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. Of my own compositions, my favorite to play is probably Champs-Elysees. Of my arrangements, it’s probably some of my Disney ones (in my new Disney Medleys for Piano Solo book), or my Phantom of the Opera arrangements.
As for who my favorite artists to listen to are, I am a big fan of Michael Jackson. He is near and dear to my heart. I also love Frank Sinatra. Along with that though, I’m a huge movie soundtrack buff. I listened to soundtracks for years and years. As for more popular music, I’m a big fan of artists like Imagine Dragons, One Republic, Coldplay, and the Killers.
As for performers, two of my favorite performers are Jason Hewlett (a famous motivational speaker and impressionist entertainer) and The Piano Guys. Both are friends of mine and have been wonderful mentors. I am also very inspired by Victor Borge, the great piano comedian. And then I love the vibe of people like Jimmy Fallon and Ellen Degeneres.
And I love all things Disney. I have cried listening to Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast. And I get emotional walking up to Disneyland. I love it that much. Walking down Main Street USA is my favorite part.
Advice for Piano Students Old & Young
What's the best way to get started in piano? What advice do you have for those wanting to learn piano? Am I too old to learn to play? When should my kids start playing? Should I start them at a certain age?
The best answer to this is "yes!" "no!" "everything!" "anything!" To be more specific, it's never too late to learn to play or to get back into piano. As for when to start lessons for kids, that really depends on their interests. Personally, I didn't start until I was 8, and many start younger, but I am happy with when I started. I think the important thing is to enjoy what you do. Obviously, it takes practice to learn to play fun songs, but some people don't enjoy piano as much, and maybe they should try sports/dance/art/video game design or some other great outlet. I enjoyed piano and it was great for me, but I'm a firm believer that when you pursue what you love, you'll be successful.
How can I find a piano teacher? Can you recommend a good piano/keyboard?
Here is a great way to find a teacher - through the Music Teachers National Association, of which I am a member. Click here to find a teacher through them.
Check back for product reviews coming soon. I have had great experiences with many different piano and keyboard manufacturers.
For Fans & Aspiring Musicians
Jason Lyle Black often receives questions for advice and help in the music industry. Here is a list of interviews, videos, and FAQs to help you in your musical journey!
If you'd like further help, feel free to consider a private mentoring session, which is available when Jason is not on the road. These mentoring sessions are available on Skype and can be purchased here. For more info, please reach out to Jason's assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you get started in music? How did you make the decision to pursue music as a career?
Interview with Steven Kapp Perry in May 2016, on BYU Radio. Listen here.
Interview with Doug Wright on KSL Newradio, June 2016. Listen here.
Interview with mormonmusic.org in May 2016, upon release of Piano Preludes. Read here.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to have a career in music?
"The Truth About Success" - article by Jason Lyle Black on LinkedIn, early 2017. Read here.
"The Power of Mentors" - article by Jason Lyle Black on LinkedIn, late 2016. Read here.
"Becoming a Professional Musician" - YouTube interview, late 2015. Watch here.
"Notable Peeps" - Entrepreneurship discussion/music business interview, mid 2017. Listen here.
Check back periodically as more articles and interviews will be added in the future!