Playground stories: Toivo Kuparinen

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.

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.

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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.

Click here to explore our Facebook Group for more inspiration from the Playground Sessions community!

5 thoughts on “Playground stories: Toivo Kuparinen”

  1. Davide Violante


    I was reading this blog for the first time and the amazing story of Toivo Kuparinen.

    I agree on all he said about, ways to learn the piano and not to be hard with yourself.

    I am a bit stubborn and often go through challenges that are above my skills, and getting stuck in a loop of not being able to complete a song successfully.

    I have spent 8 months on playing House of the Rising sun advanced level and in the end never scored above 90% and I think the best way would have been getting back to it at later stage.

    Reading this blog today has confirmed what I was already thinking


    1. Mariya Stepanenko

      Davide, thanks for sharing! If you feel stuck, sometimes the best thing to do is to just take a break from the song you’ve been working on and play something else for a little while. When you return to it, you will have a fresh perspective that will help you get further. There’s certainly no need to be hard on yourself. Just enjoy the journey and recognize how far you’ve come!

    1. Mariya Stepanenko

      Thank you for reaching out. Performance anxiety is a very personal and sensitive matter, so it will require some soul-searching to find the solution that will work for you. But in my experience, shifting the focus off of yourself and your fear to the music you are making in the moment is probably the best strategy I’ve found. I would also recommend recording your performances starting with small, manageable chunks to gradually get more comfortable. Hope this helps!

  2. OK….. I am 71, played the tuba semi-professionally and a quintet for a years. Have a music degree., Still play the tuba and am learning the electric bass, little by little. Yes I would like to play some popular tunes on the piano but also 2 part inventions, simple mozart and Beethoven too.. Of course practice is mandatory, I get that!!! I am looking at options from individual teacher for adults to programs like yours; Do you think it would work for me with the work necessary to become moderately proficient…..Thank you……Bill Miller

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