At the very least, it would have taught me to read music. But now I can't even play my clarinet in the city band because everybody else can read the notes. And I can't!
Playing a piano etude is like patting your head, rubbing your tummy and scratching several other body parts all at the same time. Meanwhile, you've got two hands on the keys – playing different things – of course, while your eyes are supposed to read and interpret all of those notes on two separate levels.
It's too much for me!
I marvel at folks who can take a piece of paper covered with what to me are so many fly specks and make beautiful music out of it. So, I'll just skip the lessons and tell you about the piano and how it evolved.
The Smithsonian Institution says the first piano dates back to 1700. Others insist that Italian harpsichord-maker Bartolomeo Cristofori invented it in 1709. (The harpsichord and the clavichord are distant cousins of the piano.)
But whatever its origins are, the piano was only for the rich until the mid-1800s when it became a household item and much family life revolved around the piano in the parlor.
Franz Liszt, incidentally, was one of the early pianists, but all of the classical composers – Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, etc. – wrote music for the piano.
Most everyone had an upright when it was mass produced and millions of kids begrudgingly had to take lessons. But not me!
Before they were digitalized, most pianos made music when keys activated tiny hammers which struck metal strings which were tune accordingly. It made the piano a percussion instrument.
They even had mail order pianos and assemble-it-yourself models. All you had to do was attach Part A to Part B, etc., and you had your own "orchestra in a box." (I'm glad I didn't get one of those because I'm not good at building things. After all, the action of standard piano has 3,500 different parts.)
A regular piano has 88 keys – 52 white ones and 36 black. I always enjoyed the one about the fastidious mother who would only let her son play on the black keys because they didn't show dirt. The sharps and flats sounded awful!
Today they are mostly plastic, but before that the black ones were ebony and white ones ivory (which led to the expression "tickling the ivories" for what Fats Waller and Duke Ellington did.)
I liked the player piano best. It made music automatically by inserting a punched paper roll. I could play one of those – until they replaced the paper with computer discs.
Actually I'm glad my mother didn't make me take piano lessons. They would have interfered with baseball, that would have been disastrous!
© 2008 Robert F. Karolevitz