During my first piano lesson at music school, my new teacher said to me that playing the piano is the "art of tonal gradation". It was not until I started truly understanding the piano as an instrument that I took this on board. The piano is different to almost all other instruments. This is of course true in many ways, but I am referring to one specific reason.

When a violinist plays a note, he or she can within microseconds, decide if the note was too loud or quiet and instantly do something about it. Like so many other instruments, they can alter the sound after it has started. The piano can NOT do this. Once you have struck the note, there is nothing you can do about it. It will decrease in volume over a period of time according to its own natural decay.

This is important to understand because it means that as a pianist, you have to hit every note perfectly - first time, every time. As far as the typical 'playground argument' of "my instrument is harder to play than yours", many people who try to use the argument that the piano is easy because you just "press the notes and all the work is done for you" show that they understand very little of what is involved in piano playing. If that is indeed a person's real opinion I would go so far as to venture that they don't even fully understand their own instrument. I will settle the argument right here - all instruments are difficult to play well for their own reasons.

Tonal gradation is the concept of enabling you to play musically by "grading" the speed at which each key is struck. Try playing a one octave C-Major scale. Start at the lowest possible volume you can play. With each note, increase the volume - the last note of the scale should be the loudest. This is not as easy to do as you might think. Imagine doing this over two or three octaves. This is tonal gradation and it is vital to master this if you want to make your playing lyrical and beautiful.

This really is the essence of what playing the piano is. As pianists we are at a little bit of a disadvantage. Thinking again about those people who think that we simply press keys and the sound happens; for me, this is what makes piano playing difficult. We are entirely disconnected from what goes on inside the piano. There are so many moving parts in a piano and we are blind to all of them - we really are feeling our way through the playing process. Most other instrumentalists are directly connected to their instrument - the really good musicians will tell you that the instrument is like an extension of their own body.

Us pianists have to make do with the keyboard alone which is a barrier to true connection to the instrument. What's more - this barrier behaves differently (even if it's minutely different) on every single piano you will play.

Your control over the keyboard; your ability to grade notes correctly and accurately is EVERYTHING in piano playing.