Thursday, December 29, 2011

Enter Piano

It has been musically quiet on the home front these past two days, except for two brief set downs at the Piano. Now for me, after forty some years of playing music, finally I have myself a Piano. I have before now been without the experience of access to the keys at my leisure. In truth I have had very little exposure to the keyboard throughout life. One of my aunts had a Piano when I was very young, but for a few years, there after the Piano was absent from access to me, except for those brief hours separated by years, where a place that I was for a small space in time provided a Piano, allowing me small instances of opportunity to play. It was never enough to gain more than a slight knowing of that which they offer. Then later in life there was an electronic keyboard in the house I lived, and I did fool with it some, though at that time in my life I was wanting only for the Guitar, thus it was simple to most generally avoid its keys. Yet for those few months I did come to experience that which the keyboard offered, as far as the evident way one can observe and learn the structure of music, quite effortlessly. This is due to its structure and the way that structure relates to music. The keyboard offers a straight forward view of the score of music as the white keys dance with the black, the musical key structure becomes evident. At least that is what it seems for me, personally.

Like so many other learned intellectual activities in life, the reading part of music has always had the interference of my dyslexic vision. Although it may not actually be considered a visual problem the fact remains that when seeing symbolic script of any sort that I am aware of, it is to me problematic for my brain to interpret that which is before my eye. This is likely the influencing factor that has prevented my becoming fluent in the use of musical notation while playing music. Actually two other pieces of history need to be stated in order to accurately depict my own earliest experiences with music. My first exposure to anything resembling structured music and performance of music, started when I was of the age equal to that of early grade school. At that time I sang with a church Children's Choir. There may not have been any formal use of written musical score, though the lyrics were presented in a musical score type of manner, employing stanzas that had repeating lines of verse and the use of a coda. When I entered the 5th grade then, I started playing a clarinet with the school orchestra, if one could actually call it an orchestra. That class did introduce me to musical scores. It also introduced those goofy tricks to learn the staff, spelling "face," and that "every good boy does fine." I must admit that those two tricks disallowed me the ability to understand the staff as an even flow of the alphabet, that simply repeated. To me the staff was always F A C E or Every Good Boy Does Fine. I took on the mind set that the staff was only about the limerick or riddle, that abstract use of symbolism rather than the fluid flow of the alphabet and its consecutive notes. It took about fifteen or twenty years of actually playing music for that fluidity to become evident to my mind. I realize that is partly due to the dyslexic tenancy though it was also due to the teaching technique and my personal issues with visual symbolic imagery.

And finally 6 months ago I purchased my first, and my very own, piano. It is a quality instrument made by Yamaha, an electronic Piano, though it is one with few amenities. In this short time I have learned quite a lot, bringing out an ability to be familiar with and play the instrument, and also in understanding the musical key structure. The key of B major, or C major, then the minors, etc. It is vastly helping with my ability to understand why chord patterns fit together verses those which present ugly sounds rather than that of melodic harmony. Now I have always intellectually understood these qualities through their sounds, yet I had no ability to fluently articulate any reasoning to support the innate understanding I could hear.

This evening I played the piano some. My ability to play the instrument has a long way to go before it evolves into a natural fluent form. I still struggle knowing where all the notes are. Yet with the piano I can grasp the identification of each note. This is a condition that after forty some years I am still unable to do with a Guitar. That to me is puzzling, considering the amount of time I have invested in playing the instrument, writing musical compositions of various forms and performing, near flawlessly for so many years. I have always used the technique of memorization for playing music, for knowing songs. Still I am unable to fluently read musical score, although now I truly believe that the reason for my seeming inability to do so comes from the mix of that seeming incompatible teaching technique and how visual imagery interacts within my brain. Still I long to play the Piano with the kind of fluidity I am able to play the Guitar.

I set out to state that I had sat down at the Piano tonight and played a short pattern that I invented quite spontaneously. It proved further that I am developing a better feel of fluidity with the instrument, as well as putting it together with the understanding of musical structure. I notice the need to play the F# out of how it fits in the structure of the key, in the moment. Since I don't use written score I play otherwise, by putting my fingers to the keys, possessing that innate sense of why this fits over what will never fit. I still struggle with changing chords with any rapidity while retaining an understanding of where the other hand's fingers might need to go to keep the melody going. Piano is far different from Guitar, yet so much the same. Both use the same musical structures. A little practice every day will provide me with the ability I seek though I still lack possessing such skill. Tomorrow or even later tonight I will have another opportunity if all remains equal.

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