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Tuesday, March 23, 2010  

Off Key

So because it's been a while since I blogged about my plans to become a piano god, I thought maybe I would update you on where I am on that project: nowhere.

Okay, short entry. Thanks for reading!

Fortunately, there's actually a little more to it than that. Yes, it's true that while I have spent a negligible amount of time working through the first few pages of a method book or two, my piano playing is far below the level of any self-respecting professional, amateur, beginning, quadruple-amputee, pre-verbal, or non-human musician you've ever heard. It's rather humbling. I picked up both the saxophone and the guitar way faster than this. Whether that was a function of the fact that I was under twenty, with a brain whose neural pathways had not yet calcified into the hard-wired "read-only" status it's in today, or the fact that I did not then have two jobs and a wife and a kid and a house to keep up, I leave for the theorists to debate.

Let me know what you decide, theorists.

Then around the beginning of the year, something happened that I thought might help me get through my road block. We finally got M. Edium signed up for piano lessons, and on Monday evenings he's been going to a place close enough to walk to (not that we have many times). I had no idea how kids with no musical experience (beyond incessantly pressing buttons on toy radios, boom boxes, iPods, and instruments as a baby and toddler) are supposed to start. I mean, it hasn't been that many years since he first learned the sounds that letters in the alphabet make, but now he's supposed to figure out what sounds the letters in the scale make? Instinct tells me to start by teaching him "A," but you can't even play an A-major scale without getting into flats and sharps, which hardly seems fair. Especially since I can't do that at all myself.

Fortunately the teacher and the book she picked out for him seem to take an instinctive, visual approach. He learned how to play simple melodies on clusters of black keys before even being introduced to the concept of white-key notes like D and C. Students "learn along with" two characters in the book, a pair of cartoon animals named Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear, who compose four-bar, one- to three-note symphonies for students to play despite not knowing themselves what A is yet.

Which is actually where he is right now, after six weeks of lessons. I was kind of hoping to pick up a little bit myself, taking him to lessons and helping him practice during the week. And it's actually working. Between those lessons -- and my years of deep musical background that includes not only a class in music theory but real-world experience playing in bands marching, concert, and garage -- I can now play simple melodies on clusters of black keys and can now identify white-key notes like D and C.

I actually cheated a bit to see how difficult things get at the end of the book. By then, Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse have at least touched all the natural notes in the scale, despite refraining from cramming more than a couple of them into the same piece. I considered practicing those without M. Edium, but I feel like I should wait for him. Even if those "parent or teacher accompaniment" bars printed underneath the exercises for a more experienced player to join in on make me feel like a failure as both.

But we'll get there eventually. One day I hope to be able to actually play something with both hands, even if M. Edium accomplishes that before I do. I just hope it happens before a) M. Edium moves out or b) Beethoven Bear goes deaf and Mozart Mouse succumbs to syphilis.

posted by M. Giant 6:12 PM 0 comments


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