When I was a kid I used to play the piano. Quite successfully, I suppose. I had proper lessons and all that, took exams, learned to read music, do theory tests, the whole thing! Got to grade 7 in the end.
then for some reason that I can’t remember, the piano had to go. And that was it, I never played again for donkeys years.
A few years ago, a neighbour was wanting to get rid of her piano, so I offered to give it a home. After much effort, I enlisted a team of lads from work to bring it round, got it settled in and sat down to play. Sadly, I’d forgotten how to do it well. OK, I can still read music, and knew where all the notes were, but was so rusty and out of practise it sounded bloody awful. Add to that the fact that the piano was so badly out of tune, that even if my playing had been good, it would have still sounded like Les Dawson on a bad day….
So my enthusiasm waned and the piano sat there for a few months gathering dust until I decided to throw it out.
But I always thought back to playing as it used to be and how much I enjoyed it.
So this year I have just treated myself to a keyboard – an electronic, digital piano. Now that is completely new to me. I learned on an old upright piano, with hammers and strings!
This time I have been practising and my fingers are finally getting supple enough to fly up and down the scales like they used to. I dragged a few music books from the attic – mostly classical, some Scott Joplin, and am getting quite good again at the old sight reading and playing.
But I don’t want to do that. Learning in such a regimented way makes it almost impossible to improvise and that’s what I want to do. Not sit there and play the notes exactly as they appear on the page, but play freely and without the constraint of music. But I can’t do it!!
I sometimes think it’s easier for people who don’t read music and learn to play by ear – I need the flaming music in front of me.
Anyway, I’ve just bought a book on how to play improvised blues and jazz, so we’ll see how that works out. Going slowly at present though. I reckon it’s going to be a long haul…
If anybody has any tips on improvisation, please pass them on!