June 06, 2013 GMT
Piano Rag



Did anyone see this back in February?


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Learn To Play Day, every March.
I had never heard of it.


But there was an advert for it shining out of the local free paper, like a beacon.
A message.
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."
Probably the 3rd or 4th time I've used those words in this blog.
It'll appear again I'm sure.


Since the early 80s I've had an electric piano.
And an electric piano designed in the late 70s, appearing in Practical Electronics as a kit of parts, is a very crude device indeed by today's standards.
(As an aside, for a year or more before that, I had an ordinary upright piano, which by dint of incredible age (1800s) and worse condition, was even cruder. Hence I swapped it for an electric version, with the added advantage of headphones and undisturbed neighbours).


I'm sure any competent and accomplished pianist could have produced magnificent renditions on both instruments - but I couldn't. And doubt I ever will...... but you never know.....


For the last 10 years or so I've fancied an upgrade. Something 'digital' as they say now.
Up in Manchester last year I wandered into the big Yamaha showroom - pianos not motorbikes - (something's gone a bit awry with the topic of this blog). I was amazed at the quality and specifications of modern digital pianos, and the prices in comparison with what I paid back in 1982.
I used to glance in the window of the local piano shop now and again whilst walking from the bakers to the hardware shop. "Just looking."


Then in February that same local shop placed this advert.

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A personal message aimed directly at me!

So it had to be done. Straightaway. I booked my first ever piano lesson, 15 minutes for free.


On the evening before 'Learn to Play Day' my head was full of anticipation, but it relented for a moment just enough to allow a much more useful thought to come rushing in like a steam train.
"Potter's!"
It's in the next town, where I bought a beginner's guitar for my son Richard about 25 years ago.
It never took off, but I still have that guitar.
I phoned first thing the next morning. Did they have any guitar lessons left?
No.
"What about violin?" I asked.
I'd never even touched a violin let alone put bow to string.
But the student was ready, the advert had appeared, and the answer down the phone line was, "How about 3pm, or 3:30?"
So I nipped over there after the piano lesson at Vivace.


Within a week I had a magnificent digital piano installed in my front room,

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incorporating all the latest mechanical as well as electronic technology.
Being an octave-and-a-half wider than my old one, a well-worn armchair had to go to make room.


And I now have to own up to having chucked two pianos, over the years, in the skip.
That's one more than the score for motorbikes.


Here's an old photo of the old one, with the guitar purchased from Potters all those years ago.

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And a peek at the 1970s circuitry and crude mechanical key mechanism. Just for those interested, you understand.

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A close-up of the out-in-the-open-air switch system. An early attempt at some sort of touch-sensitivity, with silver contact springs that tarnished black instantly (vertical in centre of pic), ruining any effect that the designer may have attempted to create.

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Now, somehow, weekly lessons and daily practice have been stuffed into life's rich tapestry.
So that old adage that I heard many times at work in the 1990s, is truer now than ever.
"When you retire, you'll never ever know how on earth you ever had the time to go to work. Ever."


And don't even mention the violin....
In 15 minutes from absolute scratch, the excellent teacher at Potter's had me playing a 4-note scale and able to hear if a note was out, although not yet the ability to correct it - probably lots of years to do that.



This time of year Caterham is a real buzzing place. You don't have to go up to town for the best entertainment (even though, down here in Whyteleafe, we allow people from up the hill to use our three railway stations).
No, we have our own 'Street Pianos' right here, on the street.


Here's one Vivace put out earlier, right opposite the library.

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I hope neither piano nor Aprilia end up in the skip.....


And I take my hat off to Vivace (as you can see in the pic) for this great community spirit.
Just after the photo was taken, a mum and two small daughters had an impromptu open-air piano practice. In fact, it was the mum who took the photo.
Thanks.



So now I'm planning next year's Learn To Play Day.
"Up in London," the proprietor of Vivace told me, "they take it really seriously. People plan and phone around as soon as the date is announced, squeezing in as many bookings for 15-minute lessons as they can."
That's me! Violin, saxophone, guitar, banjo, xylophone, bass, accordion, bandoneón, flute....


Can we get more days in the week please?




Posted by Ken Thomas at June 06, 2013 07:30 PM GMT
 


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