Thursday, October 9, 2014

Another Box Ticked on the Life List

Years before the movie, "The Bucket List," i had something i called a Life List, which were things i wanted to do before i left the planet. All sorts of things have appeared on that list over the years, and a surprising number have been realized. Not all are noteworthy, and some have been there for quite some time.

I've mentioned before how i am mechanically retarded, yet that never stopped me from listing that i wanted to build my own harpsichord and learn how to play it. This seemed farfetched even with my overactive imagination, but its closely related "learn to play piano," seemed a bit more realistic, much the way that my going to the moon is a greater probability than my going to Pluto (which i still consider a planet).

I'd forgotten about wanting to learn to play piano; it's been on the list even before i ever started writing things down on it, but one thing and another occurred, and i never lived in a space where i had access to a piano or even a keyboard all the time. I could pick out melodies and read G (treble) clef, but that was as far as it went.

I've also mentioned how i'm on facebook. I joined only after a fife and drum acquaintance encouraged a group of us on a email list to join, as it would be a great way to stay in touch during the off-season, and have since reconnected with some childhood friends and acquaintances. I've also joined some local bartering and selling sites and have found any number of things.

Earlier this summer, there was an ad in the paper for a concert where sea shanties and other folk music was going to be performed, and on a lark, i went. I had a lovely time, and Kat, the presenter had an open house at her gallery down the street from the venue after the concert. I went, and she invited me to stay afterwards as the musicians who performed, herself, and her husband were going to have a sing along, did i want to join? Yes, i did. I didn't have an instrument to play, having left my penny whistle at home (my fife wouldn't have tuned with any of the other instruments)so i sang along, sometimes harmonising sometimes not. Kat sat at the piano and played. She has a sweet singing voice, and watching her play the piano while she sang reminded me of that long ago item on the Life List. It was a cross between a pang and a yearning.

About a month later, i saw a number of ads for pianos. Some for free (you haul away), others for a nominal fee. After the fourth one, i decided i needed to pay attention to these ads, but the one that had called to me most was now three weeks old, and i felt funny about calling, sure that someone else had scooped up the piano.

While on facebook, i happened to click on one of the local bartering sites, and there was a listing for a piano in exchange for helping out at the church where the piano was. They were renovating, so plenty of ways to help out.

Before i could think twice, i sent a message saying i was interested. But, being mechanically retarded, i didn't feel comfortable helping with the renovations unless it was grunt work. Could i possibly give them some money instead so they could buy some nails or something to help with the construction?

This was a satisfactory substitute, and the woman said they really just wanted the piano to go to a good home. A parishonner's mother had died and left the church a baby grand piano, so they didn't need this upright one anymore.

I asked if the piano had wheels and its dimensions. Yes, it had wheels, and the dimensions were perfect. I could get it through the door. My friend, J, was going to help me move it. We could do it, because after all, it had wheels.

Of course, the day i went to get the piano, the skies looked threatening, so i was sure to have tarps on hand to cover the piano. I had borrowed my neighbour's trailer, and it had a ramp, so i envisioned that we could push it down the ramp onto 2×10 boards and lay them like railroad tracks to the door. Getting it up the slight incline then over the back steps through the house would be the toughest part, but i had a good bit of line, we could tie it round, and one could push while the other pulled.

When i got to the church there were quite a few folks working on the renovations, so a group of two men and two boys moved the piano onto the trailer quite easily. One was impressed by how i could back up the truck. Well, it was easy since we'd taken off the trailer and moved it to the spot and then i backed the truck up. One of the ladies there liked my truck and had a few questions about it. How much could it tow? 6300 lbs. What was the mileage like? about 20 mpg, a bit less in winter, but i'd gotten it to tow the boat, which it does beautifully. The mileage concern wasn't the driving force in my decision to get it. A few remarked on the tiedown system in the truck's bed. Yes, it's quite handy.

And so they bade me well, i gave them some money and thanked them, and away i drove. I called J when i got back, and we discussed the Plan to Unload. I won't bore you with all the details, i'll say simply that on paper it looked like a good idea but reality demonstrated something a bit different. It took an inordinate amount of time to get the piano halfway to its destination when J had had enough. I thanked her for her help, could see that she was really done in, and after she left, i moved it myself a bit more, but couldn't manage the incline by myself, and i'd never manage the up over the steps and through the back doorway. A couple sailing friends were free, and within 10 minutes of their arrival, the piano was in the house. I now understood very clearly why movers ask if one has a piano when one is moving households and why there's a premium.

After that, i went online to facebook and right away saw an ad for music lessons on one of the local pages. I called, left a message, and wanted to see if there were other places, perhaps one a little closer. There was. And before i could call them, the other called back. We talked a bit, and i could tell that this man would be a good teacher for me.

So, four days after the piano came into the house, i went for my first lesson. That was in early August.

I've been playing nearly every day since then. Sometimes only 15 minutes, but i go over the new material i need to work on, over the material i've already worked on, or both. The cats have decided the piano is all right. They both love the bench, Phoebe likes sitting on the top of the piano from time to time, and only once has each cat walked on the keys. Each looked surprised that they could make the noise.

In the first few weeks, each cat would sit when i played, as if to make sure i was practicing. Now, they sometimes sit with me, and sometimes ask me for food, or to be let in or out, much the way they do when i'm on the phone.

Bass clef is still a strange, new world for me, and in some places i've written the names of the notes to help me know where i need to be on the keyboard.

I'm still in the key of C major at this point and getting into the world of syncopation. Currently, i'm all thumbs; i know what it should sound like, but getting my fingers to coordinate is the struggle for this week. I've a feeling this will be a struggle for a little while yet, but i'm okay with that. I didn't have any illusions of being a prodigy, i just wanted to be able to play. And now i'm learning how.


  1. Lady Magnon played when at school. She passed all her 'grade' exams, and became a reasonably competent player. Since those days she hasn't played at all, so I was quite shocked when she sat down at a piano a few years ago, and managed to read some music quite well.

    I don't know what your 'new' piano is like, but don't forget that they can always be painted.

    1. My new piano is an old upright, probably from the 1930's. Dark wood, probably walnut, and it has a light touch. My teacher also tunes pianos and he tuned mine. Said he could tell by looking that it hadn't been abused, although it had been some time since it had been tuned and should be tuned again in the spring, as the strings don't want to keep tune since it's been awhile.

  2. Replies
    1. Joanne, it just came together so quickly that i feel it was meant to be. And i am enjoying it, for which i'm glad. After all the hassle of getting it in the house, 'twould be a shame to find that it wasn't all that i hoped.

  3. I am so impressed! You are obviously following an inner voice. My inner voice agrees with what my first and only piano teacher told my Mother in a note sent home after my first lesson: Maria is not musically inclined. It is best if she not continue with this endeavor.

    1. My opinion has long been that some musical instruments call to us more than others. When I tried playing guitar, I was all thumbs. I worked at it, but it was still a slog. Then, I picked up a fife and was playing in three weeks. Being an adult beginning music student is interesting.

      Himself is not musically inclined although he loves listening to music. I don't listen to it nearly as often as he does, but I do enjoy playing it.

  4. Good for you for doing something that is on your bucket list. It's on my list too but somehow I doubt I'll get to it for various reasons. I did take up the fiddle for a short while a few years ago thinking it would be a bit easier to move, lol. I had to stop that for now but perhaps will take it up again one day.

    1. Welcome, Joyful! I love to hear a good fiddle, but my feeble attempt at trying to play guitar made me doubt that i'd have better luck with a violin. Much easier to move than a piano, i'd agree, although I think the learning curve a bit steeper.