Practicing The Piano

When I was younger it was my dream to play the piano. No, that’s wrong. I have never dreamed about anything I’d rather be doing or wanted to become, at any point, ever. Unless dream means imagine and wish and fantasise – then maybe I have ‘dreamed’ in this way, but not much. Anyway, it wasn’t really my desire, or not my strong desire, to play the piano. My sister was learning, and Mum had learnt as a kid, and it was deemed to be a good thing, and perhaps I feigned keenness – not sure – but I said, when presented with the opportunity, that yes, I did want to learn, and would be happy to take on this endeavour and favour this discipline with my considerable skills.

I’m sure something was said about practice being important, and I’m also sure that I replied something about that not being a problem. What I am certain about is that I had no idea what the expectations of practice would be, how much was required to make progress, and how glacial that progress would seem, at least in the first few years. If I’m super-honest I didn’t really like it. I found learning about notation interesting in a code-cracking kind of way, not in the sense that I wanted to do the cracking, but that the code was shown to be something logical, with predictable patterns, and that music on the page like that can be read, just as words on a page can be read. I suppose I was happy for someone to read it to me, but unwilling to learn how to read it myself.

But it was graft and it wasn’t glamorous and I didn’t find it interesting. In fact I started to not like it at all. Dreading my weekly lesson, with all the pretence of having practiced and worked and improved a bit, and protestations of having truly done work during the week, and not just lazed around watching bad afternoon TV when I got home from school and bugger all else. The best time – it was worth bottling – was leaving the lesson and knowing that there could not be a longer period before the next lesson than right then, at that moment. The next day would be a day closer to the next lesson. In twenty years the period immediately after a tutorial presentation would fill similar emotional territory in my outlook: thank God that’s over, I don’t have to talk in a tute again all semester – hooray!

For some reason, and this is as perfectly understandable as it is slightly cute and silly, my idea of learning the piano was that I should be selecting things I would like to play within a very short time and be able to play them. I found theory – the detail, not the idea of it – unsatisfying, and that’s being mild. And the realisation that all musicians have to practice, all the time, and some professional musicians, possessed of great skill and experience, still struggle to play some pieces was not a happy realisation – not that I realised it fully at the time, but instead was dimly aware of a dawning truth. The experience taught me a few things, perhaps only a few, but important things. Respect for those who actually do have a dream and pursue it actively and in a concerted, thorough manner is a conclusion I have settled on (I often think these people are wankers as well, to be honest, but single-minded determination is, on balance, laudable). And you can’t but respect someone who is known the world over, listened to constantly on radio and CD and in concerts, and who knows they need to do a certain number of hours every day. Sure, it’s their job, and in a way it’s like saying that I deserve praise for working out which train will get me to work on time and making sure I pretty much always travel on that train, but, um, you know what I mean.

And most of all it has shown me the difference between loving what you do and just doing something to get paid. In most cases the mathematicians and musicians and all of those other jobs I would much rather not do, love what they do so much that they do it in their spare time, because that’s what they do: it defines them, in a good way, not in a negation of personality traits kind of way (although Jimi Hendrix used to go everywhere with his guitar, and that could be construed as an individual needing a crutch to be a full personality – by mean people, perhaps – but not by me: I’m a fan of Jimi’s).

And so what do we have? The realisation that I can be quite lazy if I don’t see the point to something or it becomes clear that return for the time and effort spent doesn’t seem large enough. Perhaps I learned something about me in all of that. I passed some exams and stuff but when it became taxing and a proper challenge, the take home message is I’m a quitter. And I mean that in a good way: learning when there is no point going on and learning how to know that means you can also isolate the things which are important and fight for them. That’s a good lesson.

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Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. konnitiwa!


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