the good news is, i’m going to start taking piano and music theory lessons again in may with my piano teacher bill, who happens to live on the first floor of my building. i can just walk downstairs with my pencils and notebooks and my metronome and then come back upstairs and bang it out on my wooden upright for another hour. i’m convinced that if i practice everyday for an hour, maybe i’ll be back up to speed by the end of the summer.
i was steady at it like a little machine until it came time to really use my left hand. most of the time, it felt as though the hand was brand spanking new, or that it belonged to someone else. eventually, i found myself practicing guitar more. i think this last song cycle that i will record soon reflects that switch sonically.
bill is a really gifted pianist and arranger/composer, and he plays out occasionally. the thing is, he’s buried alive in academia, with a PhD over here and a Masters of some sort over there. meeting him and figuring out how brilliant he is, and then taking lessons every week two flights down was like having manna rain down from God.
and to think, i get to start all over again and dig into theory and practice with a new focus and vision. very exciting stuff.
okay. now i have to call my piano tuner and schedule something immediately. nice guy. when he came over the first time, i expected some little old man with sock garters and a bad cough, and a tuning fork. what i got was this lean, strong, 30-something professional on a 15 speed bike—with a computer instead of that fork no less. and he didn’t charge me an arm and a leg.
i’ve run out of money so i haven’t had a piano lesson or any theory in awhile. but hey, i’m still a musician. i’m still writing songs and i’m working out ideas. that piano is still sitting in my living room, like some kind of white elephant. very annoying
- so i’m forcing myself to practice for an hour everyday. it’s kind of like working out - the necessary thing to do, to maintain what i’ve got and grow further. mostly i’m hammering away at finger excercises: playing scales on both hands comfortably and knowing how many sharps and flats are in each key, and then being able to say what those sharps and flats are. playing the scales smoothly isn’t enough anymore. i’m also transposing songs here and there and getting better at writing out my own ideas. (i let my musician friends check them to make sure i haven’ t made any gigantic mistakes.) but i still can’t play with both hands. yet.
i’m learning music theory and piano technique and i’m practicing a little every day. my teacher is pleased with my progress but the important thing is, i can understand a lot more of what’s happening around me in all three of the bands that i’m in. i’m absorbing it, it’s sinking in. it matters to me in a way that it never did before. maybe because i really need it now. maybe i always did and i just didn’t know it.
the other day i had an audition and i realized on the way there that the song was in the wrong key so i transposed it on the subway. once i realized what i did, it kind of freaked me out. i figured i botched it but the accompanist said it was perfectly fine. wow.
i feel so empowered, even though i’ve only just begun, really. this will add so much more dimension to everything i’m doing as a musician/vocalist. in a way, it’s like someone turned the lights on. how did bix biederbecke make it and never learn how to read? no wonder he was so insecure…
by the end of the year, i hope to be playing the blues with both hands. my teacher says if i keep this up, it shouldn’t be a problem.
i had my second lesson this past tuesday. we meet for about an hour. my piano teacher is thorough, efficient and fun. he’s teaching me theory and concepts. i’m finding that i know a lot of what he’s telling me
- like finding the 12/8 in the 4/4 - but i didn’t know how to name it.
so now i know the circle of fifths and i know how to play them. i’m practicing proper fingering technique and finger excercises that will build my hands up and train them to hold the keys properly. so far, i’m touching the keys like they’re someone else’s hands on the end of my wrists and all i can do is plunk them down like i’m frankenstein or something. all of that spazz has to be trained out of me. at least i’m learning.
now i have to get past my shyness about practicing when my roommate is home because i don’t want him to hear how horrible i sound.
my ex gave me a piano for christmas a few years ago. whenever i look at it, i am reminded of my promise to myself and to him, to learn how to play it. right now, it’s turning into an extremely expensive piece of furniture. i feel like a chubby girl with a basement full of workout equipment and i’m sitting around feeling lousy about being fat instead of doing something about it.
music goes flying through my head all the time, like a strange transistor radio that i can’t shut off. instead of keeping it at arm’s length or minimalizing it somehow, i’ve decided to stop moving forward armed only with what i know innately and learn music theory
- something that most musicians don’t know, surprisingly enough - and formally learn piano, the long way around.
interesting thing—just when i decided this, my neighbor who plays piano beautifully volunteered to give me lessons for a nominal fee. see how God works?