It was a battered old upright even when I first began tinkering at it. The paint was chipped and fading, keys stuck and it was perpetually out of tune, most probably because it sat in the damp basement.
The basement was a good place for a piano student though, as it had a door that kept anyone unstairs from hearing me practice. My brother’s drum set was down there too, but the door did nothing to muffle the sound of his banging. I don’t guess piano practice is painful to listen to, except for the constant repetition, compared with say, the clarinet, which I gave up in favor of the piano. I was pretty bad on the clarinet; good at making those awful squeaky sounds, but not much else.
I took lessons for a number of years; I already knew how to read music fairly well, but then had to learn to read two clefs at once and cooordinate my eyes and hands to play both parts at the same time. It amazes me that anyone ever learns to do it; it’s that hard. I never could seem to practice enough to satisfy my very strict teacher and never did learn to play much beyond a simple version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Serenade. Eventually I stopped going to lessons, probably because of some boy…
My brother Brian seems to have the most musical talent of the bunch of us; if you think of drumming as requiring musical talent, that is. He plays the trumpet like my dad did, and the guitar some and thinks he can sing, too. What always got me though, was the way he could sit down in front of that piano and play songs just by ear. His fingers were in all the wrong places and he mostly jabbed at the keys, but he could play real music as opposed to those silly songs I had to practice or those awful scale exercises meant to improve my technique.
What about you – did your parents send you for instrument lessons? Do you still play? Like me, maybe you wish you’d stuck with it?
I’m still determined to teach myself the tinwhistle. Though it does sort of remind me of the squeakiness of a clarinet. Worse, so far.