M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Saturday, September 06, 2008  

Ivory Garage

If it were easy to own or play a piano, I don't know how I got this close to my forties without ever managing either one. How do so many other people do it?

Trash has always wanted a piano, and so have I. But it just hasn't worked for us in this house. We don't have room. Too many books.

But given the way M. Edium reacts whenever he's around a piano, we realized that we needed to make it work somehow. He might have great potential and we wouldn't even know it. And besides, what are children for, if not to allow us to vicariously live through them and serve as a vessel to compensate for our own failures? It would be cruel of us to deny M. Edium that chance.

Funny thing about pianos, though. Not only are they large and heavy, they're also really expensive. How would we feel if we spent a couple of mortgage payments on something that would only end up as another, highly space-inefficient bookshelf?

So Trash got on Craigslist. Do you know people are literally giving away pianos over there? Seriously, they're like, come and get it, it's yours for the taking.

Sadly, it's the "get it" and "taking" parts that gave us trouble. Because even when they're free, that doesn't make them any less large or heavy. And the guy you're getting it from is already giving you a damn piano for free, so it's not like it's his problem to get it over to your house.

We gave Chao a call. As a musician whose been in more bands than Eric Clapton, he's got a trailer that we thought we might be able to use. He was happy to oblige and we all went over to the piano donor's house. Some of us were still trying to figure out how we were going to lift it up in there without any kind of ramp, jack, dolly, or helicopter when Chao realized that it was too tall by one inch to fit in the trailer anyway. We could have taken the top board thingy off, but that still would have left us with several millimeters of extra wood. Even that I could have dealt with, but I didn't want to spend the time and leave a big mess of sawdust on the guy's garage floor. Besides, I figured that we could lift it or aim it into the trailer with the required degree of accuracy, but probably not both.

Fortunately, we had also called Trash's brother, who owed us one from when we helped moved his piano to Iowa. And back. His wife referred us to the piano mover they'd hired when they moved within town a few years ago, and the next evening, a couple of guys were rolling our new-old piano up the driveway into our garage, where it will live until Bitter vacates the guest bedroom and we either hire them to move it into the house or construct an elaborate series of ramps to do it ourselves. Odds on which one we go with?

Part of the service was a quick on-site cleaning checkup right in our driveway. He pulled out a big leaf-blower, and you would not believe the amount of dust that flew out of that thing. How many dust-collecting surfaces can the inside of a piano contain, anyway? For a second it looked like the inside of it was on fire. Then he adjusted the pedals and played it for a minute to check that it's in tune. I hope it enjoyed that, because that's the best it's going to sound for a very long time.

So right now there's a piano in our garage and I'm banging clumsily on this keyboard when I'd almost rather be figuring out how to bang clumsily on the other one. So as someone who's going to be picking it up relatively late in life but who already plays several other instruments and can read music, how long do you think it might be before I can learn how to do stuff like play with both hands at the same time, or find "C" without having to do a bunch of math in my head, or perform a beautifully improvised piece of my own composition while suavely participating in a witty conversation? I know Bill Murray learned in, like, a day in that one movie, but those were special circumstances. Considering everything else that's going on in my life, I'm thinking I'd better give myself at least a week or two. And perhaps another day to learn how to suavely participate in a witty conversation, period.

After all, the clock is ticking. M. Edium's fourth birthday is coming up next month, and if I want to ruin his childhood with this I'd better get a move on.

posted by M. Giant 8:57 AM 7 comments


It's funny that you wrote this now--my husband and I spent this week looking at pianos (him) and talking with piano movers (me) to figure out whether we can get one into our 4th floor walk-up apartment. Sigh. The stairs are out of the question and we're waiting to hear from the "crane guy" about whether the power lines on our street will allow crane delivery through the living room window. I am terrified and will need to be sedated if this ends up happening.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 6, 2008 at 9:18 AM  

Play with both hands? A couple of weeks, maybe less. You already play an instrument that requires your hands to do two different things at the same time.
Find Middle C? Less than a day. It's the white key immediately to the left of the two black keys right under the logo-decal or -plate.
"...perform a beautifully improvised piece of my own composition while suavely participating in a witty conversation?" Years, I'm afraid.

Howsoever, I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that you, Trash, and M.Edium will all love having it, even if all you ever get good at is picking out Jingle Bells.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 6, 2008 at 9:24 AM  

We went through two years of lessons before we let the kids drop out (I just didn't have it in me to make them practice when they didnt want to). So we had 2 piano-school dropouts by age 7. But we still love having the piano in the house, even though no one can play anything more advanced than "Twinkle, Twinkle".

Per your other blog, have an outstanding time at KSC. Definitely the best part of our Orlando trip last year, and we don't even have a space junkie in the family.

By Blogger liz, at September 6, 2008 at 11:35 AM  

Um.... a wooden piano left in a garage for a month in Minnesota in the fall? Uh. Please, please, please spend money on a good tarp for the duration, and a really, really good piano tuner/refurbisher once you get it into the house. For serious. Pianos are actually very delicate and even minor changes in temperature will screw up the strings. PLEASE. With love from the daughter of two professional pianists.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 8, 2008 at 10:23 AM  

Presumably, this piano has been saved from the junkyard by being hauled away for the price of the transportation. I'm sure it will forgive you if it is tuned well enough to suit the family. The piano my family had growing up was tuned basically never, and we loved it and learned to play it anyway. Get it inside when you can, have it tuned, and enjoy it.

By Blogger Linda, at September 8, 2008 at 4:24 PM  

I changed my major to music my junior year and had to start from scratch to play well enough to pass the piano exam required for all music majors, no matter their major (mine was voice). It took me about 2 years to learn all major and minor arpeggios and sight read 4-part hymns. Because I was Baroque challenged, and couldn't learn to play a Bach 2-part invention, I failed the first time and the next year was able to play a Bartok Microcosmos book 3 piece instead of the Bach.

That was with a teacher, and practicing every day year round. But you may be better with the manual dexterity part. And you won't be trying to play Bach for two years before you change teachers and they let you play 20th century stuff. It's amazing how much difference it makes if you really like what you're trying to play.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 8, 2008 at 8:04 PM  

How cool is that? Good on ya, for getting this. I can *almost* get the foot pedal to act properly on the Rock Band drum set, so maybe there's hope for not-that-young guys and new instruments.

I need to check out the other blog. KSC? When? Ohh, he is gonna FREAK at the Rocket Garden. Or maybe be bored silly.

I'm nerding out by proxy, and we went like two years ago. Dude, ask my wife. I got choked up when they played Apollo 11 audio while shining stage lights at the reconstructed control room. It was maybe the cheesiest thing I've ever seen, and also one of the most emotional.

Dunno about how much hand-eye coordination any 4-year-old can possibly have, but there's a thing where you can use a control stick to land a virtual LEM. It's Teh Awesum.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at September 8, 2008 at 8:54 PM  

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