After seven years of not touching a musical instrument, I’ve recently, tentatively, started to pick up the piano again.
I’ve had a long and winding relationship with music. My mum’s side of the family has and had a heavy interest in musical instruments. My grandfather (who I never had the pleasure of meeting) was a fairly popular Welsh musician, who composed and performed numerous songs. My uncle (his son) also composes music.
This influence, and both of my parents’ residual shame that they never learned how to play an instrument themselves, resulted in me, their eldest child, being pushed (read: shoved) into the art of music. At around seven years old, I began my first piano lessons. Of course, I remember little from them – they were fun, I suppose, but I didn’t seem to have the passion for it.
I’ve always been fairly capable in terms of replicating something I hear on an instrument or through my singing voice, so I generally did well in my lessons. But due to me aforementioned lack of passion, I never practiced. In my piano tutor’s house, I would merrily play along; but sitting in front of the keyboard at home, I would protest in every way a seven-year-old thought possible.
After a couple of years of this, I’d had enough, and asked to stop the piano lessons. My parents relented – it was obvious my heart wasn’t in it. I remained instrument-free for a few more years, until at the age of ten, I decided to play the clarinet.
I believe my main reason for this was because my best friend also played clarinet. Clearly, I was taking this seriously. This stint lasted only three months, wherein my parents decided they did not want to pay multiple hundreds of pounds to buy me my own clarinet when I barely played. I wasn’t too upset by this decision.
My next musical foray was the violin when I was around 13 years old. It’s hard to remember my reasoning for this, but I believe it was because I wanted to be feminine. I’d long been the (forgive me for using an archaic term) “tomboy” type, but as I’d gotten older I’d begun to envy the girls who wore skirts instead of trousers to school, had long hair in a ponytail, and played the violin. So of course, I chose the most intensive part of that to start my transformation.
Alas, I had the same problem once again – I had no desire to put in the effort required to become proficient in the instrument. I essentially only played it during my lessons, or perhaps for ten minutes of practice immediately before each one. Again, this adventure was short-lived.
My major musical endeavour was, in fact, percussion. In my unending genius, I had chosen to do a GCSE in Music, despite not being more than a novice in any instrument. Not wanting to make ‘vocals’ my instrument of choice, I opted for percussion.
In this context, it involved the xylophone, timpani (kettle drums), and drum kit. I again took lessons in school, and it was honestly the instrument I enjoyed the most. Unfortunately, a different problem had arisen by this stage in my life: I was cripplingly self-conscious.
I struggled to play in front of my (very kind) percussion teacher. Choosing a GCSE in which one is graded on perfomances for my music teachers was perhaps not my brightest idea at this stage in my life. However, after practising heavily with my friend (and the only other person in school who played percussion), I managed to get through the pieces, and they miraculously earned me a good grade. I promptly dropped percussion shortly thereafter.
That brings me to today. I’ve recently reacquired the exact same keyboard I had originally, from the age of seven (it has a floppy disk drive!). I’m aiming to go at my own pace, and explore music the way I like. Rather than aiming for graded exams, or sticking to a syllabus, I’m going to learn songs I enjoy. So far, it’s working.