So, like I don’t have enough to do, I bought one of these:
It is a Yamaha P115 digital piano, with a graduated weighted action that is meant to make it feel like the real thing. I have a real piano back in Philadelphia (a six-foot Weber grand my father bought in White Plains, NY before I was born), but it did not make the trip over here to Brno for obvious reasons. Fortunately the people renting our house there actually play, so at least someone is using it…
Anyway, I digress. Why, a reasonable person might ask, would I go out and buy a piano to practice, when I already have a perfectly good vibraphone sitting right here that would happily absorb any practicing I could throw at it?
Here it is, looking a bit surly like a jilted lover…
Bogus reasons for buying the piano are:
- The piano can be practiced with headphones on so as not to wake up my spouse early in the morning. This is actually a real concern since morning is the only time I can get my shit together to practice, but my poor wife would gladly suffer the noise if it meant I was actually practicing the thing. So, not a real reason.
- Taking a vibe to jams is a serious pain in the neck, but people are happy to let you sit in on a piano. Also sort of true, but again, if I really wanted to play out on the vibe, I would figure out a way to make it work.
- Piano skills are more versatile. Also probably true, but this isn’t the real reason either.
The real reason: The piano and I have unfinished business with each other.
It will come as a shock to those of you who know the disciplined, driven, regimented person I am today, but when I was a child I had no self-discipline whatsoever.
No the second part really is true. I liked the piano, I enjoyed playing it, I loved to play it for other people and make them happy. I just would not ever make myself sit down and practice the thing. It’s funny because then, as now, I don’t mind practicing at all. As a kid, though, I simply refused to get around to doing it. There was always something else to get in the way. So, even though I must have had nine years of lessons starting from age 6, I never got very good at piano. Weirdly, I did go to a proper conservatory and major in music performance — but it was in percussion, which I did not take up until I was 16. Hence the vibraphone.
So, years went by. I wound up with my father’s piano because somehow my mother got it in their divorce settlement, and I periodically went through bouts of “Hey let’s learn to play jazz on this thing, why not?” which then inevitably tapered off. Readers will be forgiven for thinking hey isn’t this just another one of those cycles?
Well, I am determined to prove you all wrong. It’s all about this unfinished business, you see. When I was young, and I had all the time in the world to practice, I squandered that time and failed to achieve something that I have really always wanted to achieve, from the first day I saw my father sight-read Scott Joplin rags out of the big book he had. So now, when I have no time at all, but maybe a bit more self awareness, I have decided to give it another serious go. My deal with myself, before I bought the instrument that is staring me as I write this, was that I would only allow myself to have it if I practice it every day. Meaning, every single day — at least every day I am not traveling. (This is a fairly big loophole that I’m not quite sure how to close and will probably have to live with.) Every day is going to mean getting up earlier in the morning and forcing myself to sit down on that bench and really, actually learn how to play. I mean, play well enough that I can hang on the bandstand with a real jazz combo, which is serious business. Every day is going to mean being careful to go to bed earlier so that I’m awake and alert when I get up to practice. But, every day also means that you progress like a rocket compared to how long it used to take me to learn anything practicing for an hour the morning of my lesson (only).
I’ll let you all know how it goes…