It’s really hard to believe, but it’s been over 20 years since I first started learning to play on my late grandmother’s piano! I’m not a professional pianist, but I still play on it every other day and have it tuned every 6 months, so when I got married a couple of years ago and moved into my own house, my parents let me take it with me (if only because I’m the only one who played often enough on it). 😀
Most parents start their children on the piano when the latter are at age 5 or so, but I started a bit late at age 10 (not sure why, but I didn’t bother to ask since it didn’t matter), and it wasn’t because I asked for it. I was kind of a bumbling kid – if you asked me anything at the time, my answer was, “Okay.” So my parents at the time asked if I’d like to learn how to play the piano, and the answer was, well, “Okay.”
Sadly, I kind of went through the motions when learning to play the piano. I wasn’t excited to play the songs (classical songs like William Tell Overture arranged to be simple enough for beginners). I didn’t have much of a talent for it (look up the term “perfect pitch”). In fact, I can’t even read the piano sheet once and play on the spot (look up the term “sight reading”), and I’m the type to need extra practice to master a song. And practice? Well, I’d much rather be playing video games!
But, over the years, I did somehow get all the way to Grade 6 Theory and Grade 7 Practical (my teacher planned to cover Grade 6 Theory in 2 years and it took me 1 year to complete Grade 6 Practical, hence the grade discrepancy).The final grade possible is Grade 8 (after which is music college), so I suppose reaching Grade 6 / 7 is like reaching first year of high school, which sounds incredible when I put it that way!
I stopped my lessons around 19 years old due to personal reasons (another story for another time 🙂 ), but I still play pretty often. It was around then when I found out why I hated practicing:
- I like songs that move my heart and make me imagine! The game soundtracks I love listening to actually tells a story through music, and I couldn’t feel that when I play classical songs (yep, I played a lot of classicals and didn’t really enjoy it).
- My piano keys are actually a little harder to press compared to other brand pianos. Because of that, it’s meant for “smoother” songs (for the lack of a better word) rather than jumpy songs. (But this is more of an excuse than anything else, since it’s the only piano I ever owned.)
- Despite many years of lessons, I still can’t visualise the songs in my head just by reading the sheet or do sight reading, so I need extra work.
- I can only really play a song when I can fully express myself in the song, and that only works when the song is ingrained in my muscle memory. That means I needs extra practice to master a song, so I need loads of motivation to continue practising.
“But hey, you’ve played the piano for more than 20 years! Obviously you did something right!”
Yes, indeed! It turns out I was just going about it the wrong way! These are what I learned after many years:
- Don’t like classicals? That’s okay, just play game music with piano sheets from the internet! (There are loads.)
- Can’t play jumpy songs? That’s okay, just play “smoother” songs! (I like those more than jumpy ones anyway.)
- Can’t visualise the song in the head? That’s okay, just listen to it on YouTube and then play!
- Can’t read the sheet while playing? That’s okay, just take baby steps, memorise the sheet and practise!
- Need extra practice? Can’t help you there, you’ll just have to practise. 🙂
And now, 20 years later, I still love the piano. Doing practice exercises may sound boring, but it feels as though I’m meditating (if a stray thought comes into my mind, I’ll press the wrong key, so it is kind of like meditating). I may lose motivation during practice (which is why song take me a few months to learn), but once I get there, it’s great! I keep getting that rewarding feeling of playing a song, expressing my heart through it.
My normally noisy mind have no place to butt in with thoughts – no self-degrading thoughts, no judgmental thoughts, nothing. It’s a serene world, just the piano, my heart and me.
And did I mention it’s great to express anger / bad mood with it because you get to bang the keys in loud songs? 😀
So even though I’ve stopped my piano lessons, I’ve been playing at least once a week, at most daily. It’s to the point if I don’t play for too long (illness, busy, etc), my hands will start to itch with the urge to play. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn the piano; thanks, Mum and Dad!
Also, I just found an interesting piece of info on pianists today!
- They are more balanced
- They are more logical multitaskers
- They are more free to express their authentic selves
- They are able to use their brain’s energy more effectively
- They are well practised at conversing (though not in a language we are used to using everyday)
Haha, that’s really cool! I knew about the more-balance part (since playing piano requires 2 hands and using both trains both sides of the brain) and the expression part, but I never knew the rest! I may not have put in as many hours as these professional pianists, but I hope I have some of the benefits too. 😀
Sadly I don’t have any recordings of my playing on YouTube to how (I mess up terribly when I know I’m recording), so I’ll just post videos of the actual songs played by experts. My skills may not be as great as that, but I play these songs with my own style and my own expression!
Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand
This is played during the game’s opening cinematics, where the characters are on the last leg of their journey to Zanarkand, but there is nothing but sadness, yet there is no choice but to move forward. “Listen to my story. This may be our last chance.”
Genso Suikoden II: Reminiscence
This is played during the opening credits, after the main protagonist and his best friend – after having made the promise to survive and meet each other again – risk death by leaping into the rushing waterfall to escape the enemy soldiers. “If we make it, but get separated… let’s meet again here. Promise me…”
Wild Arms Alter Code F: Introduction (Feeling Wind Version)
The original soundtrack is played during the opening cinematics, a preview of the game’s ending where many of the characters are gathered at a beautiful flower field, awaiting the arrival of the three main protagonists. “At last, we meet again.”
This is the piano version, released on the piano arrange album, Wild Arms Music: The Best ~Feeling Wind~.
Legend of Mana: The Great Virtue of Gathering Mana’s Spirit ~Theme of Mana~
This is played during the prologue, where the story of the legendary Tree of Mana (the game’s equivalent of Yggdrassil) is told. “I am love. Find me, and walk beside me.”
Xenosaga Episode I ~Der Wille zur Macht~: Warmth
This plays during a heart-warming scene. 🙂
And, finally, I saved my current favourite for last!
I can’t remember the scene this is played in, but I’m sure it’s one of those happy-but-sad moments – this game portrays the story of two terminally ill young adults in hospice care, living the last few weeks of their lives.
I hope you enjoyed a preview of these soundtracks that I play on the piano!
Now that I finished this post, my hands itch with the urge to play so I’ll be heading off to the world of music – just my piano, my heart and me. 🙂
A Short Self-Compassionate Letter to Self
You may not have the talent, but that doesn’t matter as long as you love it and enjoy yourself! What’s better than having a moment to yourself, doing what you love? 🙂