Annual leave - week 1 of 2

Posted in: Music, Real life

And so my first week of two weeks annual leave has just finished (and to start it off I began this sentence with a conjunction to piss certain people off with whom I had a discussion/argument about it earlier this week). There's nothing particularly special about the leave; I'm not doing any travelling or visiting any distant relatives, I'm just taking some time off now that the project I've been working on for nearly 2 years has finally been released to the customer. That transition took place over Queen's Birthday Weekend (a long weekend 3 weekends ago now, for which I was also working), and I seriously feel like I need a break.

I was supposed to have written this blog post yesterday, but as part of a ceroc friend's birthday celebrations I went (indoor) rock climbing with them and then lost all function in my arms. Heck, once I got home I couldn't even pull my socks up my legs without getting my fingers locked into some tight grip/claw shape because I didn't have the strength to straighten my fingers into their normal position.

So in this first week of leave I've managed to go rock climbing, discover I have very little upper-body endurance, and return to dance classes. I've also cleaned almost every corner of my apartment (there used to exist a thin film of dust and Farmbake cookies that settled over the carpet like geological strata - not any more!) and do a little more work on this website to make it more responsive. Mainly though, I've been shopping around for a new digital piano to upgrade from my existing keyboard: an old 5-octave Yamaha keyboard my parents bought me for my 15th(?) birthday to help me with the whole self-taught piano thing I was going through at that age.

It was the first instrument I learned to play (if you discount the ones that the numerous primary schools I attended taught all their kids) and really stuck with, even if it was an on-and-off sort of thing. I'd learn the occasional tune, practice and play it to death until I could play it blind-folded and annoy my family who had to put up with hearing the same songs over and over again, then move on. When university came around the piano-playing took a back seat to my studies and I picked-up the guitar which I thought of as an easier way to take music with me. I stuck with the guitar for several years until my guitar buddy and I stopped our practice sessions. Then, without much motivation to continue the guitar, I returned to the piano.

Compared to the musicians I listen to or those I pay to see at the occasional concert/orchestra, I'm not very good, and being self-taught means I lack all the theoretical background any normal music student would have received during their life. For example: I only learned what constitutes a chord, and how to make a triad, last year in an after-school beginners keyboard/piano course that I signed-up to because I was accused of having too much free time. What I thought of as a chord or triad, I saw as a pattern on the keys of a piano; what I knew in my head for a chord progression, I saw once again as numbers and a series of patterns that followed some sort of hidden formula or rule that to me just sounded nice.

Music for me was a series of patterns, numbers, and shapes. Without the theoretical/educational background, I didn't have any other way to express what I saw.

A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics

It was only once I started hanging-out with musicians or other musically-inclined people that I gained names for these things - I no longer had to refer to things as 'that pattern' or 'that hand shape' and I could use the names given to them by other musicians and feel a bit smarter for speaking the proper lingo.

I learned to play songs that went beyond the old Yamaha's 5-octave range a long time ago, but couldn't afford the next step up. If I couldn't get away with transposing the entire keyboard down/up an octave to compensate for the lack of keys, I would imagine myself playing those notes and the sounds they'd make during the song as I played it. I'd also grab some time on a proper piano whenever I could: sneaking a go on the super-expensive grands that sat on the floor of a local music shop during my lunch hour, or shooting out after dance classes to play the terrible-sounding upright that lived in the room next to where lessons were held.

Now that I'm on a break, have some money, and am back into playing the piano now that work has calmed down significantly, I've been digital piano shopping. Hopefully I'll have something before my second week of leave is up :)