Playing piano will make you popular, unless you do what I did.

When I was about eight years old, I started piano lessons. I really have no idea why I started taking them. There isn’t a conversation in which I remember discussing this with my mom. Honestly, my first memories of piano lessons are of simply being in a room the size of a closet with a 30-something prude who would put check marks and smiley faces next to the exercises that I had mastered in the book.

I still shudder at the thought of those check marks.

Every week, she would assign something as homework for the next lesson, the same way I do now with my band students. For some reason, that check mark was really intimidating to my third grade brain. It was as if she were standing behind me as I practiced, scolding me for bad hand position and missing accidentals.

My main memory of piano lessons actually has nothing to do with the piano. The adult in me says that my audience might not find it as funny as I do, but the child in me says keep typing, so here I go. My family was always very open in our home. We never felt the need to stifle our enjoyment of potty humor and thus, we never apologized for rude noises at home. During one particular lesson, my worst nightmare came true. It turns out that a piano bench, with its flat wood structure and hollow middle for storing music, is a wonderful amplifier for noise. Yes, I farted during a piano lesson.

My teacher looked as shocked as I felt. I’m sure she thought about ignoring it for my sake, but instead she asked, “What do you say?”

I didn’t know.

Normally at home, the response would simply have been to laugh. Now I realized, all too late, that there was some sort of protocol in civilized society for this situation, and I had never been taught.

“I’m sorry?” The look on my teacher’s face indicated I had guessed the wrong response.

“Say excuse me.” And I did.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this little foray into my two year stint in piano lessons is that I never really learned to play the piano. Our piano ended up being repossessed and I had to stop lessons. My piano lessons were a great primer for the instrument I ended up playing for life, which is the flute. Don’t ask me why I chose the flute. I’m pretty sure that I only chose it because it didn’t require reeds and I was trying to save my mom money. (Our family’s financial situation was bleak, to put it mildly.)

So here I am, 16 years later, and it has occurred to me that I should have learned a cooler instrument. I mean, seriously, how often is the flute featured in popular music?

Anyone says Jethro Tull, I’ll cut you. My mom bought me a couple CDs when I was in middle school and I couldn’t stomach it. Now, the Marshall Tucker Band is a whole different story. Badass.

Overall, you never hear the flute used in a cool way. Piano, though, is used all the time. It’s versatile. It’s…just cool.

Allow me to cite some examples of why I probably should have stuck with the piano lessons.

First of all, Matt Bellamy of Muse’s Rachmaninov-inspired piano intro to “Space Dementia”:

 

 
Regina Spektor’s ballad “Samson”:

 

 
Amy Lee of Evanescence begins gently, but turns “Your Star” into a collage of crunching guitar and arpeggiated piano:

 

 
One of the greatest piano rockers needs no introduction for “Crocodile Rock”:

 

 
Ben Folds is one of my inspirations for improving my piano skills. Here’s “Zac and Sara”:

 

 
And yes, it’s cliche, but I have to include the original piano rocker, Ludvig van Beethoven. “Moonlight Sonata” is one of the pieces that inspired me to teach music.
 

 
Had I not stopped piano lessons about 17 years ago, I could have been pretty good by now. And much cooler. I guess I need to start practicing again.

Just don’t expect to see any check marks on my music any time soon.

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About Facetious Firecracker

I observe the world and say what everyone is thinking, but is too afraid to say.

Posted on July 8, 2012, in Humor, Random Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Okay, I’ve played my share of instruments… I grew up playing the cello, with personal lessons and orchestra at school and the whole thing. I got pretty good, and I still own a cello, but these days I can barely bang out Mary Had a Little Lamb! Then I tried bass guitar… finally settled on a basic acoustic guitar, which is the coolest instrument… and I’ve gotten okay at it over 25 years or so. That is the absolute best hobby instrument. You can entertain a small group even if you’re not that good at it! Took banjo lessons for a little while too, until I broke one of my fingers. Anyway, sorry you had to experience farting while playing the piano… that’s pretty funny! Maybe the best response would have been something like “I was trying to tune a B flat!”

  2. I had my heart set on throwing out Jethro Tull, but I’m afraid of knives.

    I wouldn’t sell the flute so short. It’s an awesome instrument. Besides, it’s never too late to learn something new. But you should probably learn by sitting on a beanbag chair.

    • I actually have a beanbag chair, so I think I have everything I need to learn a new instrument. The flute has its moments (I used to play Marshall Tucker songs with my mom’s band in jr. high) but the piano is so much cooler.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a young flute player (in the 70’s), I was told that I couldn’t be a music teacher, because I didn’t learn how to play the piano! Not only have you proved the nay-sayers wrong, but you trashed Jethro Tull, too. You are perfect 😀

    Also loved your post about being a music teacher – sent it to all the music teachers I know.

    Keep up the great work.

  4. As a fellow flutist who also got stuck with piano lessons (I made it all the way through high school, but remember virtually nothing now), I can commiserate with you on the Jethro Tull. However, I challenge you to look up beatboxing flute on YouTube. That guy is definitely making flute look very cool.

  5. I forgot all about beatboxing flute guy. Yeah, I saw him a couple years ago. He’s definitely cooler than me, but I don’t think beatboxing is as classic or versatile as the piano.

  6. Oh my that is hilarious! I loved the line, “I’m sorry?” Ha!

    I am impressed you play the flute (also wished I had played cello like Steve!) My mom played piano and she finally got her upright when I was around 10. I plinked around on that thing for years, learned slowly. Loved playing piano in general. When I went to college I took lessons from this amazing Japanese woman who clearly thought I needed improvement. She’d constantly hit my fingers with her rolled up sheet music and yell, “MORE FEELING! WITH FEELING! FEEEEELING!” I guess I was so focused on hitting the right notes, I wasn’t feeling enough. I stopped taking lessons after one year. I still play (should practice more) and I still find enjoyment in piano. One of my faves is George Winston, he is incredible.

  7. As someone who is totally not musically inclined, mad props to you for 1) sticking piano out for the 2 years, which for me would be unheard of seeing as I lasted 6 months, had a shit fit and signed up for art lessons instead, aaaaand 2) for mentioning Muse, who are amazing and rock hardcore. Also, I love that you farted at the piano lesson.

  8. Yeah, that really sucks about the finances at the time :/ We saw Muse in Boston a couple of years ago. Silversun Pickups opened. Incredible show.

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  1. Pingback: Why My Freshly Pressed Experience Has Deceived You « Facetious Firecracker

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