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PASSION FOR PIANO
30 August, 2011
First of all, I have to report good news in Squirrel Wars. We saw the squirrel the other day, as he lay, flattening his body on an upper branch. He glared at us, but then slowly made his way down the trunk of the tree and disappeared behind the side of the houses. We didn't think much of it but noticed later that day that the neighbor's tree seems to have branches falling off of it. In fact, today his sidewalk was covered with squirrel droppings and we had only a handful. I am hopeful that he has finally moved on.
Now, the living room clean-up in preparation for painting and new floor is progressing. Walt is doing the lion's share, I sheepishly admit, and he is finding some wonderful things.
The other day he was cleaning out our "music cabinet." This is the cabinet in which all of the sheet music, some of mine in the days when I dabbled a very little bit in playing the piano, and some of my father's jazz books.
My father had a passion for jazz piano. He had a huge collection of records, 99.9% of which were all recording by jazz greats. His favorite was Art Tatum and I think he had every record Tatum ever recorded, from the time he discovered him before 33-1/3 long playing records were invented. He frequently told me that my fortune would be his record collection and that there were so many rare records there, I could get a lot of money selling them.
Unfortunately, he died a year too late. About the time I was looking around for someone to buy the records, the word "remastered" had come into being and nobody wanted scratchy old records when they could get cleaned up CDs of the same recording. A guy finally gave me a pittance and "did me the favor" of hauling them all away.
Now, he may well have sold the lot for a fortune. I was just glad to be rid of them.
But in addition to having a passion for piano, my father also desperately wanted to share his passion with other people. He developed his own method of teaching people about piano chords. He had never taken lessons himself--well, he had taken lessons, but stopped and since he had a natural talent, he was able to play by ear. He felt he could teach others to play that way too.
He cut cardboard into various lengths and drew keyboards on them. He would then put them anywhere on the piano and if you played the keys indicated, you had the chord that was written on the guide.
Along with the guides came detailed written instructions for how to play them.
"The course eliminates the necessity of reading all the notes in a song sheet. Having learned how to form a chord, it is only necessary to be able to read the single melody line and play the chord indicated in the gitar squares above the notes. The only other requirement is the ability to understand the time values of the notes in order to play the tune in the right tempo."
Oh how he wanted me to be able to play using his method. I remember his showing me how the guides worked and then beaming at me as it made the right sound. He particularly loved augmented chords, I remember, and positively glowed when he played an augmented something or other.
The method might have worked, but I think a basic requirement was the kind of love that he had for music and chord progression (I'm sure Steve Schalchlin would have "gotten" it) and an ability to be able to hear enough to be able to play by ear, the way he did. I had neither of those talents and none of the interest.
He also could never give you a short lesson. The deeper he got into his subject the more excited he got, the faster he talked and the more information he threw at you until you couldn't remember anything at all.
Piano was so special to him that I really wanted to love it the way he did, but I just didn't and he moved on to try to teach other people who said they wanted to learn from him, but I don't remember anybody ever taking more than one or maybe two lessons. It was overkill for musical novices and he could not understand that.
It kind of hurt to dump all of his hard work into the garbage, but what was I going to do with it after all these years? I have children who already have his innate sense of music and who don't need these guides. And heck, I don't even have a piano any more. So...good for me...I tossed it all (after taking a photo, of course!)
PHOTO OF THE DAY