If any musician shows what can be achieved from studying a broad base of music it is Ray Charles.
The very fact that he was referred to as ‘The Genius’ is testament to the huge talent of this celebrated pianist.
As a musician Ray Charles merged genres to create songs full of vigour and intricacy that found mass appeal with fans of all music.
The foundations for this success though were sown in a childhood spent diligently learning to play the piano. Fascinated by the instrument from an early age, Charles was initially taught to play as a small child by a family friend.
Losing his sight by the age of just seven, Ray Charles continued to develop his musical interest at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, which he attended from 1937 to 1945.
Mastering the piano
While natural talent and aptitude surely played a part in Ray Charles’ virtuoso piano playing, he worked hard to master the instrument.
With the help of his teachers, Ray Charles learned to read music using Braille – not an easy undertaking, this required reading with one hand and playing with the other before playing the piece with both hands.
He also worked hard to learn classical music from the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. This grounding in classical techniques will have certainly served him well in adapting his comprehensive understanding of the piano to the modern styles that interested him.
Adapting his piano knowledge to play blues, jazz and country music, Ray Charles laid the foundations for a legendary career as one of the most influential musicians of all time.
So proficient was his piano playing and mastery of genres that he is credited as a soul pioneer for his work merging rhythm and blues and gospel music together.
Some studies have suggested that Ray Charles’ exceptional abilities were enhanced in part by his hearing sensitivity being heightened by the loss of his sight.
What is for certain is that Ray Charles was a rare and exceptional pianist – and it was years of dedicated practice at the piano that gave him the skills to play music that brought joy to the world.
If you are looking to start playing the piano, get in touch with Broughton Pianos to find out what models are ideal for beginners – pop down to our showroom in Stourbridge to see the current stock.