I recently had an awakening of sorts, musically.
I had an experience where I was asked to do something, and I thought I could do it “my” way, but that didn’t suffice. And I was left wondering if I’ve ever really been a musician.
I play piano by ear. Always have. I tried taking piano lessons when I was 7 or 8, but my mind worked differently. I remember asking my piano teacher if I could show him a song I wrote on the piano, but he insisted I just play the scales he’d asked me to play. So my young self was like “Psh, I’m so far ahead of you dude. Forget this.” And I quit piano lessons. And started writing.
But not writing, per se. I didn’t know what I was doing. I could never put anything on paper. I just knew I could make pretty sounds on the piano. So I did that.
I started playing things I’d heard before. Basic stuff.
I started picking out my favorite songs on the radio.
I continued composing my own music, and often adding words to it.
And soon what I’d learned was irreversible. And I was fine with where I was.
Up until now, I have been totally content doing what I do. I’ve won 1st place awards, won scholarships for songwriting, and had many different opportunities to share my gifts. My skill level has helped me share my thoughts and feelings and messages with others and that has been a blessing.
But I Still. Don’t. Know. What. I’m. Doing.
When a piece of music is placed before me, I look at the title, not the notes. I look up the song on my phone to see if I’ve heard it before, to see if I can play it. And I play it in the key of C.
But that doesn’t always cut it, I’ve found.
I sat down with Mark on Sunday night and vented my frustration to him, and he helped me come to the conclusion that I have a lot of work to do. I have not put in the hours, the time, the frustration, the pain… any of the stuff that makes musicians phenomenal and successful. I’ve just taken the easy way out, because it has worked for me. But talent is not enough to make me successful. I need the knowledge to back it up.
So I e-mailed my old trusty friend, Cody Bowers. He’s known me since high school, and knows how my brain works musically. So I knew he would know what I needed to do. He’s also a phenomenal musician and is out in the real world now doing operas and being all fancy and successful.
I braced myself for a lot of “I told you so’s” and “you should have been paying attention in music theory instead of writing songs about that boy you liked” but what I got was a game plan for how to take what I do to the next level.
I don’t need to start over. I don’t need to waste my time learning to play yankee doodle according to some guys Piano for Beginners book.
I need to learn how to write my own music. On paper.
I need to learn how to play my own songs in the right key (not cheating by using the transpose button so I can write everything in C major).
I need to stop taking short cuts. I need to do some work.
So, that’s what I’m going to do. Time to get to work.