Friday, January 15, 2016

Soul Food

So far, I've managed to play the piano every day in 2016. That's fifteen straight days, and I don't plan on stopping soon.

I've never been very good at practicing my craft, and that's one reason I'm not a concert pianist (the other being that my hands are tiny). Dr. Burnham's biggest beef with me in five years of clarinet instruction at Chico was that I didn't spend enough time in the practice room--and I didn't. I admit that. But practicing? Practicing is soul-crushing.

I love to play. I just hate practicing.

Tonight, I sat down at the piano to play through the theme song to "Hill Street Blues," and something occurred to me: I'm not practicing. I'm simply playing my piano. I'm playing through a piece I enjoy, stopping occasionally to fix mistakes and repeat difficult spots to help smooth them out. But it doesn't feel like practicing, it's simply making music and enjoying the process of watching it all come together.

How marvelous.

So I grabbed my ukulele, which I'd propped up against the side of the piano when I brought it home from work tonight, and started playing that, too. I haven't worked on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World" in ages, and I didn't work on it tonight--I just played. And occasionally fixed a mistake here and there. I sang along.

When music is approached like this, it's not a chore anymore, it's a joy. There is great joy in making music, in putting a sound out into the empty space in front of you and hearing it interact with other sounds. Weaving notes together into harmony, and singing words out above it all. It's so easy to lose that joy when you're striving to be good at something.

It seems the best strategy is to just make music, and let greatness come to you. If you invite it in, it will come.

Fifteen straight days of playing "Hill Street Blues"--some days several minutes of correction and focus, and some days a simple, quick run-through before bedtime--has smoothed out many of the rough edges. I have more smoothing to do--I can't bear to call it "work"--and I know that as I continue my playing streak, this song will work it's way into my fingers even more, and soon, it will be as smooth and simple to me as Beethoven's Fur Elise or Joplin's The Entertainer, two favorites I never practiced...only played.

No comments: