Rediscovering the Piano

The piano was one of my first loves. When I was three, I wrote my first song on it: “All My Bombs.” I grew up in the Cold War-era, Russia still an existential threat. But in those keys of the old player piano, there was magic. I loved to slide open the horizontal drawers and watch the hammers hit the strings as I plunked notes.

As a kindergartener, I begged my mom to give me lessons, and for the next two years I worked through a couple of piano books. But as a second grader, I decided to teach myself.

I learned a portion of Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca” when I was ten, playing it at a talent show. (I didn’t win, but that’s another story.)

For part of my high school years, I took lessons with my choir director. I made progress, but the guitar entered my life at sixteen, and I bought my first electric.

In college, I took two years of applied piano as a music major.

All this to say that I had my bursts of time focused on learning piano, followed by periods where I didn’t. And from the time I finished my bachelor’s degree up until I moved to Texas, the guitar was where I devoted my musical energies and focus.

A funny thing happened when we moved to Texas almost seven years ago. The church we joined had no need of additional guitar players. What they needed was another keyboard player. So I agreed to play keys, albeit reluctantly, grateful for the opportunity to play with other musicians.

Time passed, and my guitars gathered dust in the closet. Instead, I was playing our piano more, and when I got a Korg SV-1 Stage Digital Piano, I started playing even more, the headphones the key after our kids were in bed.

Primarily, I worked through jazz charts in a fakebook, but in the last six months, I’ve turned my attention to classical pieces. I’m not entirely certainly why this shift has occurred.

My Spotify Top of 2018 identified Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier as what I listened to the most, and I wrote an earlier post about learning from that collection. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Debussy piano pieces, as well as Satie pieces. I picked up the 3 Gymnopedies sheet music last week and have already started learning them.

I believe part of what draws me to classical pieces is that I want to grow as a musician, and in some ways, it feels as though a switch has been flipped. I could spend an hour working on three measures, not minding it at all.

My daughter has been taking piano lessons since August, and her books often have accompaniment parts, which I’ve begun learning. So she is also playing a role in this “renewal” I’m experiencing. The two of us are sharing one of my greatest delights, and now, the piano is becoming one of hers.


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