It’s 3am, which adds to my sleep problems. But the reason why I’m up so late (early?) is because I was playing piano.
In fact, this whole month, all I’ve been doing is playing piano.
I’m not even good. I just want to get good <i>enough</i> - more on that in a minute. After I arranged SkyFall, the following night I planned a 5 hour block for arranging… but then I looked at my piano and said “ok 2 more minutes on piano and then I’m arranging”.
But the arranging never happened.
As many of you know, when I was in college, I majored in jazz guitar. Then I got carpal tunnel from practicing 12 hours a day. So then I switched my major to music composition instead. But after my hand healed in 1.5 years I actually grew to be a much smarter person. I wasn’t just a better musician, I was actually more understanding of everything around me. My music was better, I was nicer, smarter, and more interested in my surroundings.
So I started playing saxophone because the ergonomics didn’t give me finger pain. After my hand healed, I played piano in my last 2 years of college so I could compose and “see” the music laid out better.
Then, after graduation and all the final exams were done, I pushed piano aside and just composed every day on my computer (I used to hand write all my scores, but since everything was digital now, it just made sense to do it on my computer). I was a binge composer, and I was unstoppable.
This was great for my music, but really bad for my musicianship. I always say that I’ll always be a student til I die. It’s not like you can just “turn off” the desire to learn - it’s inside of you.
So fast forward to 2013 and here I am incredibly upset. I could have been playing piano for 10 years at this point. I would be able to hear a melody in my head and write it down faster. I would be able to play songs by request at a friend’s house or at parties. Not that I care about being the center of attention, but there’s something cool about spontaneously making something and seeing people smile from it or collaborate with it.
So I’ve been playing catch up, and becoming comfortable with not being too hard on myself for being a “late bloomer” on piano - because this time I’m not giving up on it! Hell, I didn’t even start music until I was 16, so 28 at piano isn’t too bad. And I’ve never been discouraged by starting late - the only time when it’s too late to do something is when you’re dead.
Besides, it’s not a sprint. If it were then every 5 year old who started guitar would have crushed me by now. It’s a marathon, and the single reason why I’ve survived in this cutthroat world of music is because I wake up every day and stay in the race.
I know I can’t have everything. I can’t play piano for 8 hours, paint, tap dance, read books, play basketball, write music for 8 hours, collaborate with all the artists I want to, and study TV scores or sift through vinyl records at a local shop down the street every day. There’s just not enough time.
I also can’t be upset about the simple choices I’ve made like giving up piano years ago - because to change even 1 simple thing in the past changes all subsequent events thereafter. Even something as miniscule as if I brushed my teeth on March 12, 1996 for 32 seconds instead of 33 seconds - EVERYTHING CHANGES!!!! That extra second brushing my teeth maybe makes me stop at a red light while I’m driving, which then changes everything again. And so on and so on.
So all these crazy events led me to what I have: an awesome community. a weekly music library, cool friends, playing guitar, and a better understanding of the world around me.
So if it’s any wonder why I’ve been so quiet this month, the answer is simple: piano.
It’s the one thing I can’t believe I let go, so it’s been nostalgic and therapeutic for me to revisit it. It’s a wonderful instrument, and I would reccomend everybody to dabble in it - if only for a few weeks.
There’s nothing like working on your craft at 3am when the world is asleep and it’s just you and the earth. For me, that’s always been the best time to write music. And as I sit here smiling tonight, I’m glad to add ‘playing piano’ to that list now, too.