I had mentioned in my last post that I was learning to play the piano. This has been going on since January this year, and was a decision made on various factors. The main reason I wanted to learn piano (or any instrument at all) was because, after enjoying listening to classical music so much, I wanted to also know how to play it. I suppose it’s not too dissimilar to the desire to write being born from a love of reading.
All through primary school, weekly music classes were mandatory. For younger children, if I remember correctly, this consisted mostly of singing and learning about rhythm. From Grade 3 or 4, we were made to buy recorders, and were taught how to read sheet music.
For one reason or another, I could never grasp any significant meaning in the lines and dots, no matter how many times I tried to tell myself that a dot here represents C, and one here represents G. In truth, I only managed to not fail music class by painful practice, and all but memorising the order of the finger positions that comprised the given examination song.
(Full disclosure: I don’t think there was such a thing as a “fail”, but they would say you “need development” in whatever you failed at. Even so, and even at such a young age, I don’t think my pride let me fall below the “acceptable” standard. And if not my pride, there was still my parents to deal with.)
After primary school, however, music class was no longer compulsory. Having seen that I had very little aptitude for it, I was glad to put my recorder to rest, and never look at sheet music again. Still, I think there has always been a small part of me that lamented my lack of ability in this one area. Maybe it was that pride again?
Fast forward all these years, and I’ve made no attempt at learning music, having long ago relegated it to the infamous Too Hard Basket. But I have thought, now and then, how nice it would be to be able to play something. Perhaps not so much in years gone by, but in the last year or so, when I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music.
Funnily enough, for a long time, the instrument I wanted to learn was drums, which is not something heard a lot in classical music. However, after finding out how expensive drum sets are, and how expensive drumming lessons also are, I soon started moving away from that dream.
My favourite instruments to listen to are actually cello, oboe, bassoon and other mellow-sounding instruments that tend to reside in a lower register. (I don’t actually know if that description is “technically” correct, but whatever, this is an amateur’s perspective.)
The thought of learning any of these instruments, however, was quite daunting — not just thinking of the cost, but also wondering if I could really commit to the learning and the practice; and what if I was really not any good at it?
So there I was, early this year (or perhaps late last year — I forget when I really started to think about this in earnest), wondering what instrument I could actually learn. Presented with a quandary, I did what most people do: I asked Google, and I spent an afternoon searching for what were the easiest and hardest instruments for beginners.
After skimming through several lists with accompanying rationales, I had the impression that piano and ukulele/guitar were the best instruments for beginners. However, guitar being rather mainstream (in the sense that I’ve known a lot of people who play it), and ukulele not really being featured in classical music, piano seemed the better choice.
(Violin also came up a lot, but it was also featured in a lot of lists of most difficult instruments, so I reluctantly moved away from that idea. Maybe one day, if I ever master piano, I can try violin or cello…)
Besides all this research, luck has given me a person who has played piano from a young age, and — even better — is a willing and patient teacher. So all that was left to do was buy a piano and get started. (Tip: electric pianos are less expensive than proper pianos, and don’t need tuning!)
Between then and now, I’ve learnt a bit, and practised a lot, and am pleased that, while it’s still hard, it’s not impossible. Reading sheet music remains the most arduous part, but at least it’s not as daunting as it once was!
Apart from little nursery rhymes and things of the sort, I can also play the beginning of Ode to Joy, Brahms’ Lullaby, and I’ve now started on Beautiful Dreamer. It’s really not much, but it’s a start, and I’m quite chuffed to be making any progress at all.