Friday, February 22, 2008

What's this all about?

I am typically not big into the whole New Year's Resolution thing. I figure if a thing is worth doing (lose weight, quit smoking, finish that scale model of the Eiffel Tower using only toothpicks), you may as well get on with it, regardless of the date. It's not like January 1 is that different, from a cosmic / eternal perspective, from any other day. Nevertheless, a couple of factors came together at the beginning of this year, causing me to decide that 2008 will be The Year of Learning Piano for me:

  • I like music. A lot. I'm listening to music right now, in fact. I played saxophone 25 years ago, so I know to FACE the spaces on the Treble clef while Every Good Boy Does Fine. But other than that brief stint of band-nerdness in middle school, I am not a musician.
  • More importantly, I always wanted to learn to play the piano. Says so at the top of this blog, in fact. Just never had access to one. But Life's Little Instruction Book claims, as plain as day, that you are never too old to learn to play the piano. I always figured I was going to test that little maxim out, it was just a question of when.
  • We're living with our in-laws, who, it turns out, have an ancient piano. We'll reserve for another day discussing this piano, and how it was acquired by a family that does not play piano. It's old (100 years, at least), it's probably not worth what it would cost to get rid of it. But the important thing is, for the first time in my life, I have daily access to a working piano. Likewise, you'll have to come back another time to find out why on God's Green Earth my family of five (soon to be six) and I are living with my wife's parents. (Short story, we're building a new house. I am sure this will come up again some time.)
  • My oldest daughter (just turned six) started taking piano lessons at the local park district.

I "helped" her with her first two lessons. And by "helped", I mean I played them myself. Extensively. Over, and over again. "Ok, daddy, I understand..." "No, you don't. Let me do it again." None of these pieces ever required using two hands at the same time, mind you... oh no, hers is for the "I have never touched a keyboard before, and I barely know how to read" crowd. But after cruising through her entire book in just two weeks (it's the Schaum Green Book for those of you scoring at home), I decided to go out and get an adult piano book. As best as I can tell, the difference between a children's piano book and an adult one is that the children's book has pictures on the tops of the pages. Pictures of flowers, bunnies, fish, or choo-choo trains. The songs pieces are pretty much the same in both books.

(BTW, that little strike through is very important there... pianists don't play songs, they play pieces. I've been warned on this.)

So a few weeks ago, I went out and picked up my very own copy of the Alfred's Adult All-In One Piano Course (Book One). It starts with the assumption that you know absolutely nothing. It tells you that the piano has keys, the ones on the left make low sounds, and the ones on the right make high sounds. It tells you that "(the) piano keys are named for the first seven letters of the alphabet beginning with A." You look at the keyboard, and, wouldn't you know it, that leftmost white key is indeed an A. After overcoming the shock of learning that middle C isn't really in the middle, you then get to play some notes.

As an aside, if you are looking for this book, or one like it, DO NOT JUST WALK INTO BORDERS OR BARNES & NOBLE. Go to a music store. Unless you want to play the guitar (I do, just not today), these stores will not have anything to help you learn.

This blog, then, is where I am going to track my progress. And my daughter's, too, which will be the more interesting journey, I bet, when all is said and done. Tomorrow, if I remember to make an entry, I will let you know how far I have progressed. But other stuff, unrelated or tangentially-related to piano, is sure to come up, too. After all, my wife and I are expecting our fourth child in August. We're building a house (I mentioned that, right?), and it's arguable that this would be an interesting enough topic in its own right to blog. But the fact of business is that our builder is so professional and organized, there really isn't much to discuss. If we can settle the issue about whether kitchens should have tile or hardwood floors in time, we should be in this house in July. (By the way, thoughts on that question? Tile or hardwood in the kitchen? Discuss amongst yourselves, and get back to me.) July is also about when I think I will be done with this Alfred's Book. Maybe earlier, hopefully not later. After that, there will be plenty more to discuss... there are two more books in this series, and if I (we) get bored of it, there are other series to take up... Thompson's, Fabers', and maybe others. I'll take recommendations. Heck, maybe we'll even vote on it or something.

And also, there is my daughter's learning to talk about, too. What's not to like here?

So that is all for now. I hope this is fun for all of us. Let me know if there are any questions. That will save me from having to come up with something interesting to discuss next time.


Michelle Himes said...
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Anonymous said...

Hey, great blog! (This is IrishMak over on PianoWorld, btw) We're going with tile in the kitchen remodel here, fwiw. I never did get Alfred's first book, since I sang for so long before taking up piano 3 years ago, my teacher figured it was going to be too elementary. But I did Alfred's 2 and am now into the third one. Good series, IMHO.

Looking forward to reading more about you and your daughter!