For almost 12 years, I took piano lessons. And they were all from the same woman. Nearly every week, she’d actually come to our house, sit down on a chair next to my piano stool, and for 30 minutes, we’d hash through some collection of three or four songs that I’d been working on practicing that week.
She got to know my likes in music that I liked to play, and, I think, got to know my physical abilities on the piano–I had strong, large hands, and could easily reach an octave-and-a-third with my thumb and ring finger.
My mom, being the supportive soul she was and still is, would occasionally go shopping during lunch at work at the Schmitt Music downtown, and would come home with music for me to play. On one occasion, it was Dvorak (interesting, but I think he hated musicians), on another Samuel Barber (the only person who could put an octet against seven beats–something I needed to run past a guy in high school who was a drummer with perfect pitch. He tapped it out with his drumsticks on the desk in history class one day…). And one day, mom came home with a collection of Scott Joplin music, probably because I had an album of some of his music, and actually really liked it.
I usually disliked classical music, unless it was unique and didn’t drag. And ragtime never disappointed. Never. So, honestly, seeing that much black on a page of music usually intimidated me, but made me happy because it was something that would challenge me, and if I could nail it, it would be a kick to play.
The Maple Leaf Rag up there was one of my big coups. I got good at it. I even had it memorized at one point, and, just because I could, I could fly through it at top speed.
But that was a good sixteen or twenty years ago. I liked playing the piano. I hated practicing. I loved playing what I wanted to play. And I hated taking the time needed to keep in practice. So, I stopped playing. And practicing.
In the time since, I have missed playing. I miss being able to sit down and just rattle through the Maple Leaf Rag like it’s nothing. I miss having that same hand strength and agility. I miss just grabbing a book of music I’ve played before and tapping through some of it.
A couple of years ago, I bought myself a nice Casio keyboard. I’d intended for me to use it a lot more than I have. But I haven’t. And I don’t know where my box of sheet music has gone–a collection of most of the music I’d played for those 11+ years. It might be in storage. It might be in the garage. It might just be gone, lost in the myriad of moves over the years. So, I’m starting over.
Although, the keyboard came with two songbooks. And one of the songs in one of the books, subtitled in Japanese, is the Maple Leaf Rag. I decided tonight, sitting in my den pondering the things I have in my head that I want to do, and ignoring the things I should do or need to do, that I’d start practicing again. Specifically, I’d practice that song again. Just to see if I could get back to somewhere near the level I was at so long ago.
I can report that there’s some muscle memory there. My fingers know where to go, or mostly where to go. There are points where I definitely need to practice. But I can report one thing: it’s fun to play that again, even if I did labor through the second page and need to hit that hard when I practice this weekend.
So, to those of you who have…um…encouraged me to get back to this, I’m back. Including this song, I’ve got 2 songs that I want to relearn, and one brand new one to learn, so I’ve got a goal to stick to. I’ll even record some of the progress sometimes and post it here or over on Tumblr…
See you later.