Saturday, October 27, 2012

Both sides working together

So I sat down at the piano today for the first time in a few months. Between travel, work and plain ol' laziness, I haven't had a ton of time/desire to play in a long time. It was rusty, but not awful...

I only started taking an interest in the piano when I was 16 or so; as such, I am not nearly as good as I wish I was. It takes me months to get a song to the point that I could maybe sing along with it and I've never been confident enough to play in public because, quite frankly, I've never perfected a song, or even come close.  It's something I regret about my childhood, having a mom who taught piano (and tried to teach me) and being too petulant and willful to practice. Frankly, something I'm looking forward to with the eternities is being able to have as long as I want to practice and perfect the piano.

[Vaguely depressing rant over]

So I sat down, pulled out some music I'd been working on, and plunked my way through it.  It was pretty terrible, but it always has been, so I broke it down. I played right hand first, then left hand, then put them together, then broke them apart, and so on until I had it to where I was satisfied with my night's work.

To cap off my sesh with the ivories, I tried playing a song I memorized in high school, a really simple, beautiful melody that's easy to sing along to. I haven't played that particular song in probably a year, so it was rusty. I tried to remember the notes and harmony, but was having a lot of difficulty getting it quite right. Trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I played my right hand and then my left, but it just didn't sound right.  I started the song over, this time using both hands, and something clicked. The song came together with near-perfect order and fluidity.

The interesting thing about this song is the way the melody occasionally transfers from the right hand to the left. To those familiar with the piano, this is unusual. In most cases (at least for novices like me), the right hand almost exclusively handles the melody and the left hand provides the beat and harmony. Playing one hand at a time is difficult, because your brain has to transfer from remembering the melody to the harmony, then telling your fingers what to do.

Play both hands at the same time, however, and your brain knows what to think, because even though there's more for it to do, it can do it cleanly, remembering all portions of the music in one long strand, rather than fractured into sequences of melody-harmony-melody. It's only when both hands work together, guided by a mind that knows how to direct them individually, that music is made.

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