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Do you play the piano?
Old 04-15-2008, 01:27 PM   #1
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Do you play the piano?

A sister thread, http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...eap-34846.html has brought a couple other pianists to the fore. So I thought I'd start another thread... What level player are you, what's your background, what do you like to play, what type of instrument do you have, what are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?

Starting with me, since I started the thread. I play for my own enjoyment and that's it. I took maybe a half dozen lessons when I was ten. I was contrary enough to not practice, so I'd go to lessons and sight-read, which I did moderately well. The teacher and my parents decided it wasn't worth me taking lessons, so of course I started playing once I stopped taking lessons.

I can't do scales to save my life. I have moderately big hands (spanning an octave and a third isn't too uncomfortable), so chords are pretty easy. I sight read very well, but I don't have the patience nor technique to work a piece up to any sort of performance level. Often, I'll start at the beginning of a book of music and play through to the end over the course of a week or two.

I play a lot of ragtime. When I'm not doing that, I play a lot of Mozart sonatas, some Beethoven sonatas, a Mozart piano concerto every once in a while (20, 21, 23). If I feel like mangling pieces, I'll play some Rachmaninoff preludes. I'll cycle through the Bach Well-Tempered Clavier every once in a while.

I have a Baldwin upright, but that's basically bit the dust (tuner won't tune it), and several keys don't work at all. It looks like we'll be getting (extended loan) a gorgeous rebuilt 1916 Steinway B grand piano from my MIL, who has been playing her harpsichord instead of the piano.

So, what's your piano story?
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Old 04-15-2008, 01:28 PM   #2
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I can play the radio.
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Old 04-15-2008, 01:41 PM   #3
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I played classical piano and took theory classes from ages 6-17, and wanted to become a pianist when I grew up (oh well! ).

I played Mozart's Concerto in A Major (K.414, the "little A Major") at 14, and the Grieg Concerto at age 15. I absolutely loved piano. No, actually I was almost obsessed with the piano and practiced with the fervor that only an obsessed adolescent can exert.

I haven't touched a piano since I was 18, though. At first that was because I was so deeply disappointed and hurt that I could not pursue my dreams (parental conflicts). And then, as an adult I moved so much that I have never had a piano in my own home. Sometimes I "play piano" on a table, imagining the table edge as a keyboard and hearing it in my mind.

But NOW - - ER is next year, and those high end Yamaha digital pianos are fabulous! I plan to buy one, and play my heart out for another 40 years.

It may sound strange but I think my hands still are stronger and more ready to play piano now than they would have been otherwise, due to all the hours and hours of scales and Hanon when I was little.

I do not play anything but classical on piano. I am one of those snooty classical types.
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I do not play the piano
Old 04-15-2008, 02:12 PM   #4
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I do not play the piano

I wish I did.

I begged my parents everyday for weeks on end to buy a piano when I was about 10, but we couldn't afford it. They did buy me a guitar when I was 13.

I guess I could buy a piano now but I don't have the time to devote to learning to play.
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Old 04-15-2008, 02:13 PM   #5
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I wish I did.

I begged my parents everyday for weeks on end to buy a piano when I was about 10, but we couldn't afford it. They did buy me a guitar when I was 13.

I guess I could buy a piano now but I don't have the time to devote to learning to play.
You will have time in ER, though!! Keep it in mind, and I hope you pursue piano at that time.
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Old 04-15-2008, 02:42 PM   #6
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I played from ages 6-12 or so - it was my first serious instrument, though I never got to the point of playing concertos. Sometime around age 10, I started taking violin lessons as well and soon became more enamored with the string sound. Every few years I'll try to read a beginning Suzuki piano book and laugh at how awful I am. Still play lots of violin and viola though.
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Old 04-15-2008, 03:35 PM   #7
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I've never played anything and I can't really read music. But, I am curious about pianos...the electronic kind. Can you teach yourself how to play one? Just easy music of some kind? Play by numbers?
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Old 04-15-2008, 03:39 PM   #8
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I begged my parents everyday for weeks on end to buy a piano when I was about 10, but we couldn't afford it.
I envy you. My parents forced me to take piano lessons for several years. I despised everything about the experience.

The grass is always greener!
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Old 04-15-2008, 03:44 PM   #9
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Piano is my avocation. Its how I'll fill several hours a day when I'm ER'd.

I have a 6'7" Bosendorfer I bought new in 2005, and a Yamaha digital. I use the digital for silent practice or rote passage work. I often play it very early in the morning. On weekends I spend quality time with the Bosie.

My father was a very accomplished pianist, he had wanted to be a professional but the Korean war interrupted his studies. I played only a little as a kid, I'd say I'm basically an adult starter but have been playing for a fifteen years or so.

As for my level I'd say I'm a reasonably accomplished amateur. Sample pieces I've learned in the last couple of years include Ravel's Sonatine, Chopin's G minor Ballade, Beethoven's C minor variations, Schuman's Symphonic Etudes, some late Brahms. I just picked up some Schubert recently.

Very cool to see other pianists here.

W2R - I do hope you pick it back up!

Kronk - I used to have a Baldwin upright myself, when I first moved to NY. I grew up with a S&S in the house, my father has a 1936 M. I would have inherited it had I not bought the Bosie. Now it'll go to my sister.
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Old 04-15-2008, 03:45 PM   #10
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Growing up I learned to play the guitar and drums. Played drums in high school and in the jazz band in college. Learned to play keyboards while in the band, never had any piano lessons. While I still have my drums and guitar, I mostly play the piano now. Go figure. I have a Yamaha baby grand, Ibanez guitar and Luwig drums. Play mostly jazz and pop music.
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Old 04-15-2008, 04:06 PM   #11
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Boy, I had a tough time with my piano lessons. My dad was a violinist, so I was immersed in the sounds of music from infancy. My parents noticed that when I was three I'd play scales and melodies I had heard on any pianos I would encounter. So they started me on lessons when I was five, but there was something so contrary about me I never enjoyed one minute of the too structured, creativity killing lessons, and did not sit down to practice happily or often. So therefore, I never developed any technique or fluency or instinctive way of playing.

Also, multitasking is not a strength of mine, so while I have a great ear for melody, I am tripped up immensely by having to do two melodies at once or melody/harmony together. Just too many fingers moving too many different ways. I really took off once I started playing a melody instrument in the band, and that is where I directed my career.

Anyway, if I ever play piano nowadays, it takes me a long time to figure the whole of a piece out. I can get it if I really work at it (albeit with bad technique), kind of like cramming on one song, but then I can only hold one or two things in my head that way and play them mostly memorized.

I would love to be able to do ragtime, but my hands only reach one octave, dammit! I am sooo jealous of Kronk and the big handedness!
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Old 04-15-2008, 04:34 PM   #12
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Took lessons when I was a kid - was better at memorizing than sight-reading. Never quite got over the hump to be good enough at sight-reading to make it stick.

Was good enough to help youngest daughter however during the years she took lessons and she, being more talented, progressed beyond me. Then we got her a piano teacher that helped her "get" chord theory - and now she can play and improvise just by knowing what chord the song is in. I think it would be so cool to be able to play like that! She taught herself guitar and now has three guitars that she has purchased with summer job earnings (including a Les Paul Studio guitar).

I've toyed with the idea of taking lessons again. Would love to have a baby grand but I doubt that will happen.
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Old 04-15-2008, 04:36 PM   #13
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Piano stories--I got your piano stories. 1955--neighbors across the street in an old junky house had a mid-sized grand piano that fell through the 1st floor to the basement--mom got it for cheap and it wasn't really that damaged. We were all forced to take lessons ($2 per wk from local lady--even though grandma was a piano teacher and could have done it for free). Older sister had the talent--could play a ton of show tunes from memory and made money in high school playing for the Lions, Elks, JC's, luncheons. She also played for the high school musicals. I was forced and hated it. Had to play in the state music contest every year (graded by different ages)--to get me to practice, mom said I could quit if I got a 1st place (she knew I didn't have a prayer.) Practiced more than usual and lucked out and got a 1st place (it's the old Superbowl/Disney story), all my friends and relatives gathered around for congrats and asked what I was going to do now. And I said "I quit", and I did.
Reflectively, it gave me the basics ( being able to read music etc.), which allowed me to play trombone in high school and participate in all the choirs. In college you got 3 credits of 'A' for every semester of choir, as long as you weren't ever absent--did that for 4 years, and believe me, I needed all those 'A's to keep my grade level up and graduate. 3 daughters--bought a used Baldwin Acrosonic Piano in the mid-nineties (back in the 70's they were supposed to be the best spinet)--they all took lessons for a couple of years. Piano sits next to the de-humidifier, and has remained in pretty good tune. I have 3 books of Christmas music that a 4th grader could probably play, and every year at Christmas time, I dig the books out and play--especially on Christmas day--gives me great memories.
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Old 04-15-2008, 07:23 PM   #14
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all my friends and relatives gathered around for congrats and asked what I was going to do now. And I said "I quit", and I did.
What a funny story!

I recently had some back pain from playing too much piano. When I switched from piano bench to chair, the pain went away. This experience really made me appreciate being able to practice for long hours. Since then I've enjoyed it even more. Every day starts with two hours of sight-reading practice, followed by 0-4 hours of jazz practice.

My current quest is to become a good sight-reader. You can read about it here. This may be the most difficult thing I've ever done.

My Yamaha P90 is designed for portability. It has fully weighted keys with graded hammer effect (whatever that is), and feels just like an acoustic piano, yet it only weighs 38 pounds. My homemade rolling case helps me schlep it around.
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Old 04-15-2008, 07:33 PM   #15
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I would love to be able to do ragtime, but my hands only reach one octave, dammit! I am sooo jealous of Kronk and the big handedness!
Do you know the trick of putting your fingertips on the edge of the keys? When I started, I could barely do octaves, but with this trick I can easily do tenths.
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Old 04-15-2008, 08:09 PM   #16
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Al - I'm a memorizer who wants to become a better reader. I bookmarked your blog, I'll definitely follow along.

BTW, I had a P-120 at one point. Like the P-90 (P-80 really) but with built in speakers. I now have a Clavinova CLP-230, which has an even better action.
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Old 04-15-2008, 08:44 PM   #17
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I play, classical repertoire only. Mostly Chopin, I'm moving towards the Etudes, and Rachmaninov after that. I was a professional orchestral musician when I was younger, I self taught myself piano a few years ago (easy if you play at a high level already, even on a different instrument.) I want to FIRE to get more time to play and perform.

Bought myself a brand new 6' 4" Walter. Quite the frugal choice, $24k, today you can't get them for less than 28k-29k. It's a real sleeper, consumer level Steinways set you back 60k and they're not very good. Masons are too aggressive for the home (in my humble opinion), and Bosies are too pricy for me. The Walter is pure quality and sings beautifully, wonderful piano, if you prefer an 'American' full throated tone.

The only one I would otherwise consider would be a Fazioli. $120k in the states, but I played one in Stuttgart and the shop owner said he'd let me have it for 60k Euros shipped. That was before the drop in the dollar
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Old 04-15-2008, 08:54 PM   #18
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Charles Walter makes a good piano. A friend of mine has one of their uprights.

I test drove Fazzioli when I was shopping. THey are nice.
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Old 04-17-2008, 01:04 PM   #19
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How about the flip side? How do you really become a memorizer? I can't memorize anything to save my life. Of course, I suppose that the fact that I will read through a piece (dang the mistakes, full speed ahead!) and then not play it again for a few weeks has something to do with that. On a more practical note, do you memorize more by muscle memory, or can you picture the music in your mind as you play it?

I've sometimes thought about actually working scales and exercises (and hopefully becoming middling decent in the process), but somehow I don't have the self-discipline for that. GMIL was a concert pianist and would sometimes spend hours a day just on scales. Can't imagine.

I definitely prefer the frivolous side of piano music, things that I can sight read through at a decent clip. The ragtime is really fun to just bang away at. Maybe I should look up Maurice's playing list and check some of that out as well.
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Old 04-17-2008, 02:56 PM   #20
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How about the flip side? How do you really become a memorizer? I can't memorize anything to save my life.
Being very nearsighted helps (especially since I had no glasses at the time I was playing piano). I had to lean forward and squint at the music, which was uncomfortable, and you'd be surprised at how fast you memorize when comfort is involved.

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I've sometimes thought about actually working scales and exercises (and hopefully becoming middling decent in the process), but somehow I don't have the self-discipline for that. GMIL was a concert pianist and would sometimes spend hours a day just on scales. Can't imagine.
The results are a huge motivator for that. They aren't inherently fun, for me, anyway.
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