A little over nineteen (19) weeks ago, a friend living across the street was moving and he couldn’t take his old upright piano to his new place. He’d gotten it free from a friend and so I got it free, aside from splitting the cost of piano movers (needed even just for across the street) and a piano tuning, as it hadn’t been in a while.
So we got a piano in our living room.
I started playing at least a little bit of piano everyday. Some days it’s just some scales or Hanon exercises, but most days I work on a song or two (usually out of an adult piano “method” book) or, when I got a little more practiced, spend some time picking a song I haven’t done and try to sight read (because that’s a skill in itself). I learned to read written music quite young as my elementary school had music class everyday from early grades and I learned different instruments at different times, including trombone in high school so I could be in marching band but not in the color guard. While pianos were always “around”, I never learned it formally until college and I never really gained much fluent skill on them.
But here I am nineteen (a nice prime number) weeks later and it’s been everyday. I even got a small portable battery powered keyboard so when we went camping I could keep it up. I don’t think I’ve every practiced anything every day for that long.
I’ve had a tough couple years due to some issues with my health (both physical and mental) and I’ve frequently doubted my own ability to do anything as a result. Or sometimes just finding any kind of meaning. It’s perhaps a bit dramatic to say a piano saved my life, but there’s no way I can check that other universe where we didn’t get a piano this summer. I have other instruments in the house, but they are the kind you have to get them out of a case, possibly tune (autoharp, sigh, so many strings), and so on. They also weren’t ever a kind of childhood dream. In my child mind, a piano in the home is somehow an expression of the height of artistic sensibility. Now, a piano is the kind of instrument that is right there with fewer “too tired” reasons to not at least play a little bit.
I’m not going to be sharing recordings of my playing anytime soon, but I’ve definitely gotten more competent and confident at piano. I also understand some ways music fits together that I didn’t understand so well before. Being able to clearly know my own progress without much external validation has been helpful for me to feel okay many days and get other kinds of work done. Since I’ve learned instruments before, I have some notion of how to analyze my own performance to improve it (record it and review and work on the less musical parts!) Someday I’ll find a teacher, but for now this works.
Obviously, of course, no matter how well I’m playing each day, I can enjoy the sound and feeling of piano strings vibrating around me. Even scales feel like a communion with so many people who lived before me. Sometimes scales are all I can manage. It’s enough.