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If you ask anyone in our Facebook Group to name a fellow member who has inspired them, Toivo Kuparinen will definitely be one of the people mentioned. An avid fan of a challenge, Toivo shares his practice milestones in a form of contagiously passionate performances of advanced song arrangements (above is his rendition of “La Valse d’Amelie”). Watching his videos, it seems he can achieve anything he puts his mind to, but that is not where he started. We’ve asked Toivo a few questions to learn more about his early encounters with piano lessons and how Playground has helped him to unlock his potential.

Playground Stories - Toivo Kuparinen - YouTube

How has playing piano impacted your life as a whole?


Playing piano is extremely challenging, but it feels good to learn. I was always fascinated by piano, how it looks and sounds, it is an extremely powerful instrument. This is now my passion and there is no going back. Getting better every day drives me forward to learn more complicated pieces, and it feels great when I realize that I can actually play every song that I am working on.

Did you have lessons before Playground? What was your experience like? How old were you when you had your first lesson?


I had some lessons when I was child, from ages 8-10. After that, it took me 26 years to buy my first keyboard in April 2017 and it was a 61 lighted key keyboard. I never forgot how to read sheet music, but after 26 years it was challenging to start. I watched tons of tutorials on YouTube and read a lot of theory. I practiced scales every day for several hours. I also practiced a lot of exercises for hand independence. I played a lot of easy songs. My real challenge is that my right ear is nearly deaf and it’s ringing all the time. But I somehow forget that annoying ringing when I play piano.

Last year in August I was thinking that there must be an easier way, and I started to search for online piano learning software, and found Playground Sessions. Then I upgraded my instrument as well.

What was the first song you learned in Playground?


I played some lessons in the Bootcamp, and my first song was “My Heart Will Go On” by  Celine Dion. It took me about 2 months to play it. And it was awesome! I never thought that I can play such a complicated piece in just 7 months after buying my first keyboard.

Were there any people in your life or figures in the music industry that inspired you to pick up piano?


There was one man in my childhood who told my mother that I had perfect pitch and he recommended lessons for me.  He was a pianist and piano teacher. I was learning very fast at that age. After I turned 10, my family and I moved to another country, and we had to start everything all over again. In Finland it was extremely expensive, and still is, to take lessons. And I had to learn a new language. So my piano journey had to stop for those reasons.

As an active member of our Facebook group, how is it contributing to your piano journey?


One of the best things PGS offers is the great Facebook community of users from all around world. It surely has a huge impact on me, it is inspiring to see all of those performances. Knowing those people is awesome. I am hoping that more people start to share their experience.

If you had to pick one feature of the Playground Sessions experience that has helped you the most, which one would it be?


The best one is the moving cursor. It helps a lot to play in tempo when practicing.

Do you have any advice to anyone who just signed up for Playground?


Don’t be too hard on yourself, if you can’t do it 100% keep going forward, and come back, try it again later, you will be surprised. Share your experience, this is a learning environment, feedback is as important as playing piano. Everyone starts from the middle C. And there is really no stupid questions.

Any songs you’re working on right now, so that we look out for your next video in the group?


I am learning Prelude in C major, inspired by Chris Vance.

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Our CEO Chris Vance is not only the visionary behind the organization, but also the ultimate Playground Sessions success story. Struggling with the inconvenience of private lessons, and realizing that all of his practice time between lessons was alone, without the feedback from his teacher, Chris decided to build Playground Sessions, so he could more easily learn piano at home, have more fun, and importantly have real-time feedback even when practicing. Watch his performance of Prelude in C Major by J.S. Bach below and learn about his piano journey in the Q&A! 

Bach - Prelude No. 1 in C Major - YouTube

Q: What drew you to piano?

A: I always loved the sound, and wished I could play. It just felt like if I could play I would really be able to express myself through music which just seemed to make sense to me.

Q: Did you have piano lessons prior to starting Playground Sessions?

A: Not really. I tried for about 4 weeks with 2 different teachers but I just failed at it. The traditional approach didn’t work for me. I was 35 years old when I first gave it a shot.

Q: How did you feel after playing your first song? What song was it?

A: I found David Sides on YouTube and was inspired by him, I wanted to play like him! The first song I learned was Apologize since that was one of David’s biggest hits! I felt amazing. The song sounded amazing, and I was amazed that it was coming from me. And of course it feels great when other people are amazed by you!

Q: How did learning piano change/improve your life?

A: Are you kidding me? It’s a huge part of my life. I play every day. Whether I’m having a good or bad day, the piano always makes things better for me. There’s no way I could live without it now. I’ll play for the rest of my life. The best investment in me that I’ve ever made. 

Q: What is your next practice goal?

A: I like to play around with songs in different genres, and I’m always thinking about the next song i’ll play for Quincy Jones!  

Q: Any advice to people who want to learn but don’t know where to start?

A: Jump in!  You won’t regret it. And most importantly, you can 100% do it. Don’t let your own doubts, or what you’ve been told in the past have any influence over you. Trust that you’re human, and with the best tools today you can be your best self through playing music!

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