I took piano lessons for 13 years. From age 4 to 17, every week I had a lesson. Every week I practiced, some weeks more than others. And I got pretty good. I memorized dozens of pieces. I played at church. I played in recitals. I played for guild auditions and competitions. I loved playing the piano. I still do love it. There are times in my life that I’ve been so stressed out, upset, frustrated, angry, etc., and I’ve been able to sit down at the piano and transport myself to another world, coming back to reality much calmer and more content than I was before. I’m absolutely convinced that learning the piano helped me succeed in school. Learning to read music so early in life helped me pick up other instruments, as well. Playing the piano is a skill I never want to lose.
But I haven’t played too much since I left high school. At SMU (during undergrad), I would occasionally go down to the arts school and find a practice room that was unoccupied and play for a half hour or so, but in the 10 years since I left college, my “practice” has gotten even less frequent than it was then. I don’t even have much music any more – much of it stayed at my parents’ house when I moved out, so I just have a few 3-ring-binders with photocopies of some of my favorite songs inside.
Then last Christmas, Steven bought me an electric piano (it’s not a keyboard…), and I started playing now and then. It’s still difficult to find time, but the biggest struggle is that I’ve been uninspired by my music pages of photocopied music. So for 2013, I set a goal of learning two new pieces – just two – and last week I bought new piano music for the first time since high school.
Tonight when I sat down to practice some of that new music, I realized that there’s a big difference in learning a piece now than learning one when I was in high school: namely that when I want to know how something is supposed to sound, all I have to do now is type in the title and composer on YouTube and I get a concert performance. It’s incredible. No wondering just how fast this might go, or struggling to figure out the rhythm in this section – just look it up, and in seconds you have a near-professional performance to inspire you, a well-played performance to get the music in your head. All for free, and all in an instant.
YouTube is SUPER-helpful in this regard.
But it’s also SUPER-hard on the ole’ ego. Because when you type in the title and composer on youtube, the concert you get is often played – just perfectly – by a 9-year-old.