By Jim Schneegold
When I was a little boy, I loved the sound of the piano. While growing up I used to listen to my dad play in our attached garage. I would sit in the living room, which was just on the other side of the attached garage.
I could hear every note. My eyes may have been watching TV but my ears were glued to that piano.
I remember thinking it would be the coolest thing if I could play like that. There were days I would purposely drift toward the kitchen, down the three steps that led to the area where he was playing. I would pretend I was looking for something, but the truth was I wanted to watch his hands hit those keys.
It must have been after the 57th time I tried that trick that my dad said the words I wanted to hear: “Do you want me to teach you something?”
I suppose a part of me tried to act cool but I shot over there as soon as the word “teach” reached my brain.
He immediately sat me down so I could try for myself. I was really nervous, but I didn’t care. At first he played a chord and asked me to hit the same keys. If I made a mistake he would place my fingers on the keys I needed in order to produce the sound he had just played. I was only 10 then and had all the time in the world to learn.
When there was no one home I would place a Beatles record on the stereo and play only the first note. I would stop the record and run the 20 feet it took me to reach the piano, all the while humming that first note.
After finding the starting note on the piano I would spend hours and hours figuring out the other notes until I was happy with what I had been working on. It didn’t have to be perfect; it only needed to sound good to me.
After playing alone in the middle of the day, I was ready to play what I had taught myself with potential listeners in other rooms of the house.
Now instead of being the listener on the other side of that wall, I was the one being listened to. I had no intentions of being validated but I wanted others to know that all my practicing was not in vain. In my head I imagined everyone running to the garage, but in reality nobody came out to listen.
I’ll always remember the day when my dad drifted into the garage to get something (sounds familiar) and before he left the garage he said, “That sounded good.” I smiled in self-appreciation and went back to playing.
Years went by where I practiced and practiced in silence. I loved the sound and I was so proud of myself for doing this.
I have a piano in my home today. I don’t play it much anymore. However, if I ever want to learn a song I know I can always go to YouTube and see a video of almost any song I might want to learn.
A part of me thinks that this shortcut is cheating. But it’s my way to recreate a memory from the past.
My dad died many years ago, but sometimes I when I’m learning a new song, I think back to the old days of where it all started.
And in the middle of my playing, I imagine him looking down and saying, “That sounded good.”