First Starting Out
Unlike many of my fellow classmates when I was growing up, I was never encouraged to take piano lessons. It wasn’t surprising. My mother had few fond memories of her own experiences. She had been taught by a Sister Francis, a member of the convent school she had attended. I even remember the Sister’s name, sadly for less than reputable reasons.
As many would nod their head in shared commiseration, it only very rarely went well. The dreaded click of the metronome accompanied what my mother could only consider as her private torture. Periodically, an incorrect key would be met with a sharp thwack on my mother’s hands by the sharp end of a ruler. My mother did well in her Royal Conservatory tests. Still, the experience evoked no unceasing love for the piano.
I spent elementary school and high school in the band, playing the clarinet. For a short time, I even played the baritone horn. It was a different section of the band I wanted to explore. So, why not, I thought.
Growing a Love of Music
Yet, there was no true love drawing me to music. I could certainly play. Plus, I learned the very basics of music theory. Still, that was that. Other loves pulled me a away from music and I didn’t look back—until now.
Now, is about three and a half decades later and again, I’ve heard the faint call of music. I have two friends who are naturals, both gifted musicians. Music entered their lives at a young age, there remaining and becoming central to their identity. They both have a feel for the music.
All I can say is perhaps knowing them encouraged me to listen once again to music, but with a different ear. And all of a sudden, I heard the delightful arrangement of notes. The melodies had a lovely ring to them now. It’s something from which I’d grown distant.
I initially began taking singing lessons, which was fine. Although, nothing beyond a perhaps innate discipline drew me to practice. I have a passable voice. Still, I felt no pull. Then, I thought, maybe I could play a musical instrument. I pondered the guitar or piano. Eventually, the latter won out.
Taking the First Steps
My first step was to purchase a keyboard. I was restricted by the amount of money I wanted to spend. In the end I settled for a 61 key keyboard and opted to save money and follow lessons from the internet and books.
Every night, I unzip the bag I’d bought for my keyboard and happily practice. I’m lovingly tugged by a genuine wish to learn. At first, it was simply a delight to finally have an understanding of just what exactly are all those black and white keys. More and more, I’m witnessing the breadth of this instrument.
If you’re at all interested in trying to learn a musical instrument, realise it’s never too late. Whether you’re twenty through to ninety-something, it’s always an option. Whether a guitar, piano, violin, bagpipes or anything else, your first steps are crucial.
Those first lessons leave us saying, “ah, that’s how it works!” We’re often left acknowledging how learning to play an instrument wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. As well, it’s vital for us to just take our time. There’s no rush, no examinations for which to prepare, nothing.
Learning to play piano, a door opened into this vast world. “Middle C, you say?” Ah, I get it. For violin, it can simply be an initial introduction to the bow. There’s more to that thing people push to and fro when playing.
Those maybe branching out into the guitar will get an initial lesson on frets, strings and one or two chords. There’s some rhyme and reason to where they place their fingers while holding a guitar. Regardless of the instrument, these are the first steps toward understanding the language.
Learning the Language
As any musician will contend, music is indeed a language, some even say a universal one. Daily, we’re able to grow our lexicon, expanding a knowledge of chords and notes. And when instructors speak of muscle memory, it’s true!
There are times when I’m trying to play something I’ve learned and I can’t quite get it right. Then, I almost force myself to not think about it, allowing my memory and intuition to take control. Miraculously, it works! It’s magical.
My mother assured me once that I had “an ear” for music. I’m not sure what that means exactly. All I know is I truly enjoy learning. The tinkle of the piano notes makes sense and every step I take, every new method I learn adds to my knowledge. Each moment I practice, I touch, sometimes ever so fleetingly, that true zen of music. It’s all about heart.