A blog about learning to play the piano...

I always said that if I ever had a piano, I would take lessons. So here we go...

Lesson 40: In service of the music…

Y’know… I hate having to write these lesson updates when I’m in a horrible mood. Here I am… grumpy as hell from all sorts of little problems, personal and professional. I mean, for God’s sake… I’m having Oreos for lunch at 5 in the afternoon. And I’m just snippy and cynical when I really shouldn’t be. 

But here we are.

My lesson itself wasn’t all that bad. Especially considering that I almost asked to cancel. I was in a horrible mood. So was my teacher. It just seemed like a recipe for disaster… that particular kind of disaster that leads to screaming matches and tears.

But it wasn’t a disaster. I played through my lead sheet piece and we talked about some decisions that I made regarding chord voicing and substitutions. Lead sheets are both exciting to me and scary. They’re exciting because “Yay new and very useful thing to learn!” but they’re scary because they put so much of the decision making in my hands and I don’t always fare well with that. I’m a very literal and instruction driven person. But it’s all good, and this should help me break out of that.

We worked on the second movement of the Beethoven Sonatina… it’s in about the same shape as last week. The beginning’s a little cleaner but I just need more time with it… and to learn the little coda-ending-thingy.

We talked a good bit about musicality and technique and how the two are inextricable from each other, and moreover, the latter has to be subservient to the former if you want to actually make music. Hitting all the right notes with all the right fingers is pointless if it’s not musical. You’re not making art. You’re doing data entry.

And I use that analogy because the piano still feels sort of like an abacus to me. It’s very kinesthetic and external, which is good in some sense. I can see what I’m doing and more easily endeavor to change it, unlike voice where I have to just feel and think and believe in fairies to make an adjustment. But I also have the problem of applying this… I can’t make music if I can’t hit all the right notes. And it gets frustrating to the point of tears sometimes. Especially because if I can blow my own horn about any aspect of my music making ability, it is the fact that I know how to be expressive. Feeling and planning and executing phrasing is something that is second nature to me on any other instrument I’m comfortable with. But on piano, it’s like my brain doesn’t have enough RAM to make it happen at the same time that I’m trying to play all the right notes.

But I’m sure like with most things, it will come with time and diligence.

And more oreos.


A harpsichord c1620 with some split keys to accommodate Meantone Temperament.


A harpsichord c1620 with some split keys to accommodate Meantone Temperament.

(via thepianoblog)

We now know that 24 hours without sleep, or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1 percent. We would never say, ‘This person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!’ yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep for work.

Insights from the doctor who coaches athletes on sleep. Pair with the science of what actually happens while you sleep and how it affects your every waking hour. More on sleep here. (via medicalschool)

A reminder for my musician friends.

(via medicalschool)

I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good, either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.

—Roald Dahl (via jessthecoconut)

(Source: larmoyante, via mindelann)

I’m not the only one with adorable pets that interfere with music studies.
Look at the cute… love the cute… no theory… just cute… pet the cute…

I’m not the only one with adorable pets that interfere with music studies.

Look at the cute… love the cute… no theory… just cute… pet the cute…

(Source: superziggy)

Lesson 39: Minor fall, the major lift…

Miserable lesson was miserable.

I have no idea what the hell was going on with me today. I worked really hard this week and felt like I made some real progress, but for some reason, today I just fell apart at the keyboard. Screwing up fingerings that I hadn’t screwed up since I first started the piece… completely forgetting to use pedal even though my foot was on the damn thing the whole piece. It was ridiculous. I don’t even know what happened…

So you know what? I’m going to go plant a garden.


Music is specifically healing. I know that I am alive today, and essentially well, because of it. Healing through music is not always miraculous in the instantaneous sense, although a powerful musical experience can change a life in an instant. I have experienced this myself, and seen it happen to others. Music’s healing power is most often a life-long process, which is finally no less miraculous!

—David Maslanka

The only road that I have ever known…

I picked up a stagehand gig today doing both load-in and load-out for the touring show American Idiot. Which meant my lesson had to be moved to Saturday.

Hooray for money and more time to practice. Now for tea and a shower.