Learning a new skill can be both daunting and inspiring all at once. As a song writer who has had to rely on others to play an accompanying instrument, it seems totally sensible to learn such an instrument myself. The recorder – which I play- is not really a good idea in this instance. (Unless I turn myself into Bobby Mcferan and do multiple things with my mouth musically all at once.) Finding good instrumentalists and guitarists who like what I do and are happy to do it with no money attached is about as productive as looking for hens teeth. So, thankfully the conditions have now come together for me to start learning the piano. Well, sort of……
I say sort of because , I don’t have a piano ! However, we did invest in a three quarter length keyboard which plugs into my laptop. The keys are not weighted and there are no pedals and of course, I don’t have all the keys. I also don’t have a stand to put it on or a piano stool to sit on. So, you could say it is starting off a bit half mast…..but I am setting sail anyhow and making the best with what I have got.
I have also, most delightedly, managed to have the funds to embark on this. I was awarded a grant by Help Musicians to go and learn Kulning in Sweden for musical development and cross cultural composition. This was an amazing and productive experience and quite by good chance there was £500 left afterwards, as the course and air B and B were less than expected due to more people attending the course. So, Help Musicians are happy to let me use this left over grant money for further development and learn the piano.
Now I want to learn the piano as quickly as I can to maximise time and money. I don’t want to just learn pieces called “The Jolly Milkmaid” or “The Campbells are Coming” or even a pretty minuet by Mozart. I want to learn it so I can compose with it and hopefully help it make my song writing fly. I therefore wanted to find a teacher who right from the start would encourage the free flowing improvisational part of learning. Eventually through the F- List I managed to connect with the most wonderful teacher. I won’t say his name as I have not yet asked his permission if he is happy to appear in my blog. But, he is connected to a London music college, is a composer himself and worked with lots of contemporary artists. Perfect! He is also extremely empathic, kind and encouraging- even more perfect for me, who can sometimes have trouble information processing. Lofty, critical people don’t gel well for me to learn a new creative skill.
We had an initial chat and I instantly warmed to him and he was happy to take me on, regardless of the half mast piano situation. I have also come up with the ingenuous idea of asking the village hall committee if I can practice on occasion on the village hall piano from time to time. Unfortunately the village hall does not have wifi so I can’t have online lessons from there.
So,, we set a date and we duly set forth on my new musical adventure. We dialled in on What’s app and my husband set my phone up on a tripod on a perilous pile of cushions so he can see my hands and the keyboard with me peering peckishly forward from time to time to look at each other face to face! The first challenge was to get my hands at the right level to play the keyboard. I am rather small and the stool rather low, so slowly a great pile of cushions were amassed from all round the house. Eventually, I was like the princess and the pea perched on a wobbly pile of miscellaneous cushions! The lesson was a great start and I have various things to do for homework- all the usual things like scales and playing “Merrily we roll along”, but in addition to this he has also set me the challenge of song writing with the little I know from largely messing about by myself for the last nine months. The instructions were to write a song with a walking bass line in the left hand, chords in the right and the melody held by the voice.
There has been a gale the last few days in Scotland, and I am on holiday. So, I have lots of time to excitedly make a start. Learning the piano can be a bit like rubbing your head and tummy together at the same time, so I tongue in cheek decided to write a song about what it is like living in a dyscalculic and slightly dyspraxic head, when doing that is very hard! It felt like a funny irony! And, I have done it! I have written my first song where I can accompany myself! The feeling of self empowerment is enormous; probably more even than going into the studio and making Tipping Point. Of course, it won’t look like that to the exterior world but inside my head it makes an enormous self empowering confident difference. I was always told as a child that I was too dyspraxic and dyscalculic to learn the piano. But, I no longer listen to self limiting proclamations. It is time to throw away such nonsense and just determinedly plod along. The song has these chords : E minor, A major, F# minor, B major , B7 and D major and E major , so I have also unconsciously used modulation. There is a walking bass line- from time to time- with sometimes a syncopated feel in the melody above to help create word colour., you will see why with the words below
Here are the words to my very first self accompanied song….. It’s called :
” Discombobulation and Diversity”.
Don’t, don’t put me in a box
For I’ll spring right out again
Tram lines don’t suit me at all
Tram lines don’t suit me at all.
For there are more ways to be than one
There’s a thousand, thousand ways to be
A thousand, thousand ways to be
Let’s celebrate, let’s celebrate diversity.
Maps can be upside down or inside out
One and seven just confuse me
And logic is just a maze to me
For there are more ways to be than one
There’s a thousand thousand ways to be
let’s celebrate , let’s celebrate diversity.
V3 ( melody goes swooping off like a bird)
I might live wild and hungry as a bird on high
But I’ll show you a different way to see
Living through heart wisdom and creativity
So, let’s celebrate, let’s celebrate diversity.
And, do you know….it all kind of just flowed out of me, just like writing melody lines does. The worst thing is writing it down……it’s all a load of letters in blocks at the moment above the words on numerous pieces of paper.I can put it on to the stave but I won’t be able to write the rhythms…..the dyscalculic bit of my head is like a sieve with that. So, I will just use the words syllables to show the rhythms. And, it is even an alright sort of song in a simple way. Hurray – what a delightful start!
Now, this is not yet a door way or a path way- but in time it could be. There is a lot of body learning first. But, I am a good plodder so I will plod my way slowly to that door.
In the meantime I send out a wish and a prayer for instrumentalists, connections, opportunities of all kinds to flow my way. Soon, I slide into the sweet somnabulence of summer as I go to visit my second sister in Cornwall…maybe allowing things just to be will encourage the magical powers of manifestation to flow.
So, off I go to Cornwall along with my half mast keyboard to practice my song until that has a flow too…..