4/2/2017 – Wanting to play again

Watching Hibike! Euphonium religiously for the past two years, as well watching Kimiuso, rewatching Nodame Cantabile, and reading Piano no Mori, got me thinking about why I still haven’t gotten back to playing the piano.

I must have stopped playing the piano, on a consistent basis, about five years ago, when I was a freshman at UCSB. By that point I had finished taking private lessons since A) I moved away and B) I would have to pay for my own lessons from that point on. I could not afford to continue. 

That would be the first of three major reasons why I lost interest.

The second reason was a toxic combination of hating hard work and expecting perfection. If I wasn’t hitting the ground running on a particular piece that interested me, there was very little chance that I would ever practice to the point of performance-level quality. I like to believe I have the talent to play and the gift of memorizing notes quickly, but when it came to practice drills and technique I was noticeably lacking. Sight reading, too, I disliked with a passion.  The more complicated the piece, the less likely I was to nail the fingerings at the suggested tempo, even less when trying to play with both hands. The disappointment and frustration of how long it took to learn more complicated pieces, compounded with a lack of guidance and peers, quickly turned into many attempts at playing without any meaningful results.

The third reason nagged me ever since I reached my junior year in high school. Most of the more well-known or preferable pieces for me have sprawling arpeggios and large chords, mostly at a brisk pace. It would have required me to stretch my hands to cover 10 white keys or more. Most pieces only required you to go as far as 8 white keys, since that’s an octave and most chords rarely go farther than that, but the more complicated the pieces the more intricate things get. It would make sense for both hands to be able to reach beyond 8 keys if I wanted to 

As the pieces got more difficult, I realized that my right hand was starting to have trouble reaching across just 8 white keys. My left hand was fine, reaching just farther than 10 keys. Comparatively, the span of my right hand seemed to have quietly stunted in growth. I look back now and think that’s a silly reason to quit playing altogether, but you have to remember that I strive for perfection. Knowing, inherently, that I’m not built to perfection on an instrument I had been playing for most of my lifetime, an instrument I knew I had the talent for, damaged my confidence significantly over time. I probably could have talked about it to my piano teacher, my parents, or perhaps any of my friends who play the piano, and see if there was anything I could have done to mitigate it. But certainly, as consistent readers would know ad nauseum by now, I wasn’t looking to admit weakness back in the day. 

That, along with the impossible workload of university, allowed me to stop playing entirely. However, ever since I dropped out about four years ago, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands. The piano would always be available, sitting outside my room, waiting to collect the sound of a new musical piece once I had the time to motivate myself and reinvigorate my passion. 

Instead, the piano would collect dust for years. It would eat an annual piano tuning expense without much justification; no one was even playing it. Without the drive I previously had, without the confidence, without any guidance, I started to become scared of playing again. I was making mistakes whenever I tried to start up. The technique exercises were still boring and uninteresting. It was taking me far too long to both nail down and memorize new pieces at higher difficulties.

I’m sure you’ve heard before that it becomes harder to relearn an instrument the longer you’re not playing. Right now, I’m experiencing why that’s considered a universal truth. Your hands forget very quickly, even if your mind remembers all too well. And even now, my memory of the music I so diligently memorized in high school is starting to falter.

Regardless, playing the piano is something I want to do again. It’s going to take a lot of time before I even get close to the level I was at as a senior in high school. I may even be forced to play music that’s clearly of lower difficulty than what I’m used to, meaning the pieces I actually want to play will have to be set aside for even longer. I’ll have to play every day, perhaps for a half hour. Perhaps even an hour. Perhaps two hours. More, even. All I do with my time these days is look at weebshit on Twitter and watch pro players be bad at League of Legends (and also be bad at playing League of Legends, myself). And my right hand is still being stupid. I could be spending that time more wisely. I would be better off not being scared of my own disappointment.

I want to do this. Now it’s a question of whether or not I would, and could, do this. 

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