The legend goes like this:
I came home from church one December day when I was four, and plunked out the melody to a Christmas carol we had sung in church. Therefore, I was a musical prodigy and thrust–completely willingly, I must add–into piano lessons.
I must have been pretty good, because I recently found the books that my first teacher made me play from, and they are challenging. I’m making my current students learn these pieces I was playing at 6 and 7 years old, and it isn’t easy for them. And perhaps it wasn’t initially easy for me either–I just don’t remember.
Fast forward 32 years, and I am back in piano lessons. Because as great as my piano teachers were at making sure I could sight read anything placed in front of me, they were less good at making sure I could play anything by ear.
This is why, despite my many piano achievements in the three decades I’ve been playing piano, I could not play “Happy Birthday.”
But all that has changed, my friends. I am now the proud possessor of the secret chord progression that is “Happy Birthday.” I can play it in multiple keys. I can embellish the left hand accompaniment. I can, if I think hard enough, use chord inversions to make it sound prettier.
Today, my piano teacher–who is also a dear, dear friend–told me that I was doing great, but then she said, “You need to get brave. Get out of your comfort zone. And stop worrying about whether or not you’re right. It’s a good thing for you to see what it might be like to fail.”
Scary. But true. I only do things that I KNOW I’ll succeed in doing. (Exception: see any posts related to grad school). This playing by ear business is so not my strength. But I’m doing it.
And next week, not only will I be able to play “Happy Birthday,” I’ll be able to play “I’ll Be Workin’ On The Railroad, too.”
I’m taking requests.